Everybody loves a good parade; this is especially true at Walt Disney World in Orlando, where four new parades are strutting their stuff as part of a special 15 — month 100 Years of Magic celebration that launched in October 2001 and runs through December 31, 2002. The “100 years” stacks up as a big birthday salute to Walt Disney himself, the man behind the magic, who was born on December 5, 1901.
Pinocchio represents Disney's animated classics of yesteryear in the Share a Dream Come True Parade at Disney World
“We're doing an event based around the birth of Walt Disney and what he stood for,” says John Haupt, managing producer for Walt Disney Entertainment. “The parades are an extension of Walt's incredible creativity, and are designed to honor his legacy. As we did early research for the parades, we looked at all the areas that Walt worked in during his lifetime, from animation and live-action films to television and theme parks. Each parade represents a different aspect of his work, and mark the key milestones in his career.”
The parades take place throughout Disney World, from Share a Dream Come True in the Magic Kingdom and Tapestry of Dreams at Epcot to Disney Stars and Motor Cars at Disney-MGM Studios and Mickey's Jammin' Jungle at Animal Kingdom. Each of the parades captures the flavor of Disney, while testing new technology and design techniques, from Disney characters inside giant snow globes made of strong acrylic (as used for fighter jet windshields) to a large networked audio system with over 400 speakers along Epcot's parade route.
The parades travel through time, from the first days of Walt Disney the animator and the early versions of his world-famous mouse to collecting dreams for the future. “Like Walt,” says Haupt. “He always had one foot in the past and one in the future.”
TAPESTRY OF DREAMS
A revised version of Epcot's millennium parade Tapestry of Nations, the new Tapestry of Dreams is based on the concept of dream seekers collecting children's dreams and having them come to life. “The idea is that the dream seekers collect dreams for the future in dream nets during the parade,” explains Lynn Holloway, a freelance art director and scenic designer based in Charlotte, NC who designed the scenic elements for the original parade in collaboration with puppet designer Michael Curry and Disney's in-house costume designer Marilyn Sotto.
The basic scenic elements are rolling dream-catcher units, which replace some of the rolling percussion units from the original parade. The new units are designed with a metal armature that Holloway describes as “a Victrola horn, yet open like a spider's web, reaching straight up into the sky. Hanging from it are 900 wind chimes all tuned to the key of ‘C,’” he notes. “They create a soft, pleasant sound.”
The rolling units are also decorated with acrylic cut-outs that represent what a dream might look like, a rather ethereal design concept. “There are colored beads and ribbons,” says Holloway. “The key was to keep it all light with lots of textures, colors, and patterns, yet not in any specific style. It's more like my idea of what dreams look like, with squiggles, curves, and celestial shapes.”
Spandex panels with holographic treatment on the surface, backed with colors ranging from blue and aqua to purple, fill in some of the openings in the metal armature. The fabrics mimic those used by Curry on the oversize puppets that “people” the parade, to coordinate the design of the puppets and the floats. Holloway also added fabric sails on the “tuggers” that pull the dream-catcher units. “There is also a medallion at the base of each unit with fabric pennants pulled up toward the acrylic dream images to pull it all together,” he notes.
In the center of each of these dream catchers is what Holloway calls “a great mass of feathers in hot colors, such as yellows, pinks, and oranges, like the tail of a big bird. The feathers arch toward the rear of the unit and spread to open like a peacock's tail. There is a Jules Verne — style wheel to articulate the spread of the feathers.” The feathers are attached to eight metal arms made of carbon-fiber rods with movement arcs that originate in the armature. “They undulate and blow in the wind. They look very alive,” says Holloway.
The large puppets in the show are the same ones Curry designed for Tapestry of Nations, yet refurbished with bells and chimes added. The puppets are as tall as 18' in height and are “worn” by actors with special backpack harnesses and control systems.
The costumes for the non-puppet characters in the parade were once again designed by Sotto. “We worked rather independently, although Marilyn sent me samples of her fabrics which helped inspire what we used, and it all magically worked together,” says Holloway.
“The costumes for Tapestry of Dreams are an extension of Tapestry of Nations,” says Sotto. The lead character for the new parade is Leonardo Columbus, who arrives on a float surrounded by Cosmo and Elfin. “The Dream Catcher is a combination of Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, and Christopher Columbus, with a shock of white hair like Franz Liszt or rock star Billy Idol,” Sotto adds. This adds up to a vaguely period character who wears a large mantle à la Henry VIII made of clear sheets of custom-designed bendable plastic developed by fabric designer Jean Teten in San Francisco.
The Dream Seekers who walk along the parade route interact with the guests to collect their dreams. Their costumes have a silver-spangled space-age look with large plastic ears to hear the dreams and headpieces made with crystals and iridescent plastic. Elfin wears a brightly colored leotard in pink and aqua with a combination of earthy elements and leaves mixed with glitzy delicate fabrics and rhinestones. This elf-like character also activates special “magical moment” pins worn by guests along the parade route. Many of the characters are adorned with what Sotto refers to as “the all-seeing eye,” or eye of wisdom, a custom-made jewel that looks like a moonstone, yet is made of plastic resin.
The audio for Tapestry of Dreams utilizes a large, networked system that covers Epcot's World Showcase Promenade, where double parade units float along, one on each side of the lake. Technically, the sound system is the same one used for Tapestry of Nations, with the audio crew making sure all of the equipment was working properly. The biggest changes were in the parade music, with new elements by Jonathan Barr added to the original score by Gavin Greenaway.
The loudspeakers are hidden in torches (12" two — way custom EVI boxes) in the Epcot lake as well as pageant poles along the parade route. Some of the pole-mounted and are required to cover a 360° area as guests tend to cluster around the poles. In these situations, additional 12" coaxial speakers from EVI are used. In fact, most of the speakers along the route are by EVI. “Maintenance is easy with just one company to deal with,” says Joe Knapp, audio design director for Walt Disney Entertainment. “We don't have to stock a lot of different spare components.”
The top of each pole has a triangular structure wrapped with black mesh and dressed with banners so that the speakers (as well as lights and other show technology) are hidden from sight. Inside each of these structures are two 12" custom EVI units and a dual 12" EVI subwoofer.
The audio control booth is atop the Mexico pavilion, where two AKAI DR16 playback units are located. The AKAI decks (one primary, one backup) are slaved to SMPTE timecode to run the show. “If either deck fails it switches to the other,” says Knapp. “On heavy days we can have 30 to 50 thousand people in the park. We want to make sure they aren't disappointed.”
The show uses two channels. “Stereo is all we need,” says Knapp, who explains that he goes from consistency rather than tricks. A Midas XL88 mixer splits the audio signal; it is then digitally routed from the control room via fiber optics to each of 14 electronic equipment rooms (there is also an analog backup system). Knapp refers to this as a “very fault-tolerant system that can solve its own problems using redundant fibers or sending the signal in another direction.”
Each equipment room is equipped with a Peavey MediaMatrix which sends the signal to QSC CX1202V amps, then to the loudspeakers. “These amps work well in a lot of situations, and can drive 8ohm, 4ohm, or 70V loads,” notes Knapp. A QSC control system monitors the amps, and can power them up or down and check for faults. The same system runs Illuminations — Reflections of Earth at Epcot as well as background music and a parkwide emergency public-address system. “It has been running 24/7 for two years with very few failures,” says Knapp.
“We don't want the sound to differ from area to area,” adds Knapp. “We are looking for consistency. That's why it's good to be able to place subwoofers in the poles and torches, so that high and low frequencies reach you at the same time and everybody hears the parade music at its best.”
SHARE A DREAM COME TRUE
Snow globes come to life in Share a Dream Come True, the new 30-minute parade that winds through Disney's Magic Kingdom. “The floats are based on snow globe fantasies,” says Manuel Cordero, art director and scenic designer for the parade. “The idea is to bring them onto the street as a performance.” Each of the globes that has live performers inside measures 8'-6" in diameter and is air-conditioned from the deck of the float (the air is also regulated to avoid condensation in the globes). The parade is led by Disney animators walking or riding bicycles.
Each float has a theme, or story, based on the cast of Disney characters. The first float has various versions of Mickey Mouse, from his early incarnations to his present-day look. There are a total of 11 Mickeys — 10 statuettes, including an animated Steamboat Willie, who looks as if he is actually steering the float behind a ship's wheel, and the live Mickey of today.
The second float celebrates the early years of Disney animation, while the third float honors “adventures in flight,” with the float designed like a hot-air balloon with characters that “fly,” such as Aladdin and his magic carpet.
The parade also features a dark and gloomy float with Disney villains (from wicked witches to Cruella De Vil), followed by a three — part Princess float on a long trailer unit, with Cinderella, Belle, and Ariel each in her own snow globe with her Mr. Right. “These are tied in visually by the fairy godmother, whose huge cape holds the globes together,” notes Cordero. “This is the ‘they live happily ever after’ float, and it is very spectacular.” The floats are also tech-friendly; for example, Cinderella's large pumpkins are loudspeaker covers. Belle's snow globe is the shape of a bell jar. “It was fun to play with the size and shape of the globes,” notes Cordero.
Cinderella and her prince; photo by Rosemond Gréaux
The final float is a crystal fantasy version of the Magic Kingdom castle, with a double-decker snow globe in the center (like a double scoop of clear ice cream), plus turrets and a stairway to heaven theme. “This one has a mystical, aerial flavor,” Cordero adds. “It was inspired by an image of a crystal castle that Disney has used. This is an abstraction of it.” The castle float used Mirrorplex, an acrylic mirrorlike material with gold and clear panels juxtaposed to create a prismatic, light-catching effect.
There is a carousel under the deck of the castle float that rises into place to reveal miniature Disney characters riding unicorns from Fantasia. Nine smaller globes, 2' in diameter, make it look like clouds surround the castle.
Each float is surrounded by additional Disney characters who walk along outside the snow globes to complete the theme, such as the Seven Dwarfs accompanying Snow White. Each theme represents scenes from Disney's popular movies with romanticized versions of the characters. “The parade has a very warm feel,” says Cordero. “The tone is set by Mickey in the first float.”
The floats are self-contained units powered by battery packs, with drivers hidden in the design. On the Mickey float, for example, the driver is in a big film reel with see-through metal mesh on the front. The floats were built at Disney World with some of the specialty items outsourced, such as an inflatable Chernabog from Fantasia built by Inflatable Design Group in San Diego. The snow globes were built by Custom Plastics in Canada, using a strong acrylic that looks like glass. The “snow” in them is a Mylar product ejected by floor fans. “It is not hyper-realistic,” says Cordero, “but it evokes the idea of snow.”
Costuming this parade allowed Sotto to create a wide variety of styles. The animators who lead the parade wear 1930s clothes, with the men in wide pants and spectator shoes and the women in pleated skirts and maryjanes, some wearing smocks and bearing art palettes. Many of the costumes are inspired by images from the Disney films, from animal costumes to walking brooms from Fantasia. The broom costumes have rope around the waist to tie straw brooms to broomsticks, with holes for the actors to see through. Blue tinsel buckets complete the costumes.
On the Princess float, Cinderella is dressed in pale blue and white, while Ariel wears a wedding dress in frothy sea colors. “Her dress is polyester, which holds up better and looks just as nice, with a silk bodice of iridescent aqua,” says Sotto, who designed Ariel's skirt with huge petals or fish scales on three layers of large fishnet with golden ropes. The puffed sleeves with bows are in pink and mauve. “I had to weigh down all the skirts in the snow globes due to the fans from the air conditioning,” notes Sotto.
The audio along the parade route uses an old system that has been updated. The loudspeakers are Clair Brothers R2 units with Intersonics subwoofers, and are driven by Crown Macrotech amps located in equipment rooms around the Magic Kingdom. There is also one centrally located DACS, (digital animation control system) or a central control hub for all of the sound, lighting, and video in the Magic Kingdom. Equipment here includes a Peavey MediaMatrix system as well as a Neve Logic 2 mixing console. The automation system uses custom software written by Scientific Systems, Disney's in-house software creator, and runs on a DEC VAX computer.
“There is manual override in case of problems with the VAX,” says Knapp. “If that fails, there is an old Yamaha PM2000 analog console as a last-chance backup. You can run the parade on the Yamaha in a simplified version, but it means a lot of jumping around and moving a lot of faders.”
Playback is via a solid-state playback system from Nuoptix in West Lake Village, CA. All of the information is stored on compact flash cards (small memory cards like in a digital camera) that can store over an hour of audio. “We store a few minutes and loop back to the beginning,” explains Knapp. “You hear the same music over and over again while the floats are in motion.” The parade audio uses three cards: an opening fanfare, travel loops for the floats, and a finale. Prerecorded lines for some of the characters in the snow globes are also on the cards.
Each float has its own musical theme based on the character aboard, and based on Disney movie music orchestrated for the parade by Ted Ricketts. There are eight custom EVI full-range 10" two — way loudspeakers on each float, with a total of 16 loudspeakers on the Princess float. There are also two 18" EVI subwoofers on each float, with six on the three — part Princess float. There is also a Nuoptix system on each float with the float's music on additional flash cards. The seven Nuoptix systems (one for the parade route and one on each of the six floats) are synchronized via a wireless timecode system.
The final image of the parade is an etched-glass copy of a famous black-and-white photograph of Walt Disney walking through the Magic Kingdom castle before Disneyland opened in 1955. “The conceit was to find the hidden ‘Walts’ in the parade. This one is obvious, but the others are harder to find,” explains Haupt. This also seems like a fitting way for Walt to keep an eye on the generations of characters he launched when he put pen to paper and created that ubiquitous mouse, the leader of the pack.
HOORAY FOR HOLLYWOOD
In Disney Stars and Motor Cars, which takes place at the Disney MGM studios, a legion of Disney characters turns out for an old-fashioned Hollywood parade; the gimmick here is the characters have cars that have been imaginatively themed to fit their owners' identities. It's a concept that evolved considerably, says Lynn Holloway, the freelance designer who created the cars for the parade. Holloway says that when he came onboard, the Hollywood parade idea was already in place, but “we didn't originally design cars; we had vehicles they could ride in. For example, the Peter Pan unit was a ship. But we were having a heck of time trying to fit the mechanics into these very unusual shapes. So I said, ‘Let's just theme some cars.’ I did some quick thumbnails, and faxed them to the director and producer.”
The next step, Holloway says, was to find the autos to be customized. “We went to a car show, and there were thousands to choose from. We decided to use kit cars as much as possible” referring to brand-new replicas of older vehicles. “Other than the Star Wars car, which is a Studebaker, and the finale car, which is a Cadillac, everything else is a kit car,” he adds. As in the Jammin' Jungle parade, the vehicles have been stripped of their motors and are electrically powered.
The result is a procession of some 15 vintage, or vintage-looking, vehicles, each of which has been given a fantastic transformation. Aladdin and Jasmine ride in a car that looks like the blue Genie, while Hercules' car has Greek columns in back and a lightning-bolt hood ornament. “One of my favorites is Toy Story,” says “The convertible has been transformed into a giant bed, with the young boy from the film. Buzz Lightyear and Woody are sitting on the pillows and there's a giant headboard behind them. The car is painted to look like a quilt. Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head are riding on the hood.” He's also fond of The Little Mermaid's vehicle: “It's been painted to have a rippling water effect, and there's a seahorse as a hood ornament, with pearls swagging back to giant seashell horns. Ariel sits under a seashell canopy. Sebastian the crab is a rod puppet and there are starfish hubcaps.” The parade's finale presents Mickey and Minnie in a vintage Cadillac covered with a star-and-filmstrip motif and Art Deco detailing.
The customization, says Holloway, is “probably 80% fiberglass, with some soft goods and fabrics. There's some stunning painting on the vehicles. We used interesting finishes, some with iridescent flakes and some that are pearlescent. We didn't want 15 high-gloss cars.” The cars were built by several companies that do car kit fabrication, then were painted and propped by Czarnowski Themeworks, which has offices in several cities, including Orlando.
One of the parade's best features, from a Disney marketing point of view, is that new vehicles can be added and subtracted to promote new films. As this article was being written, the finishing touches were being put on a new car to promote the Disney animated comedy Monsters, Inc. “It's a way of showcasing the resident stars of the studios,” says Holloway.
Douglas Enderle, who designed the costumes for Disney Stars and Motor Cars, was part of the team that conceived the entire 100 Years of Magic event, then was assigned to this specific parade, which is geared toward maximum interaction between characters and guests. “We've had other parades [at Disney MGM Studios] and the floats have been very big,” he says, adding that this concept “had the best appeal when it came to getting as close as possible to the guests.” To facilitate this, there are groups of cast members attached to each car: “For Aladdin and Jasmine, we have a harem of dancing girls. For Ariel, we have mermaid attendants.”
Many of the characters appear as one recalls them from the movies, including Aladdin and Jasmine, Hercules, Mulan, and Mary Poppins and Bert, who are dressed in what Enderle calls “their jolly holiday look.” On the other hand, other characters are dressed up, as befits the parade's concept, which is that of “an early 1940s parade in Hollywood. Minnie is in a cocktail gown made of hand-painted silk in coral tones,” the designer says. “She's also got a small hat with a veil, feathers, flowers, and jewelry. She looks like a star from the 40s. Miss Piggy, is in red, as opposed to the purple tones you normally see her in. She has a multitoned feather-edged scarf and sunglasses. Mickey is in a tux, Donald is in a director's outfit.” Most of the vehicles have chauffeurs in typical uniforms; Goofy, however is Mickey and Minnie's driver, and he has what Enderle calls “an early film-noir look — a suit with a tie and a fedora.”
Enderle estimates that the parade requires 300 costumes, including duplicates made to accommodate performers of different sizes. The costumes were built in the park, with Dennis Wright as costumer, playing a key role in realizing “Designers research the concept, create the appropriate rendering, pick the pretty fabric, and then the costumers work their behinds off making sure everything is detailed correctly.” Thanks to them, the Disney characters can finally take their rightful — and glamorous — places in the Hollywood firmament.
JAMMIN' IN THE JUNGLE
From The Jungle Book to The Lion King, Disney characters have always found the jungle to be a natural habitat. It holds true once again in Mickey's Jammin' Jungle, the parade designed for Disney's Animal Kingdom. Show director Reed Jones says the parade was designed to put the regular repertory of Disney characters — Mickey, Goofy, Donald, and the rest — amid the park's lush greenery. That greenery was the single biggest challenge, however, as the park is defined by narrow walkways and lots of trees overhead, not the most hospitable condition for a parade. “The park wasn't built with a parade system,” says Jones, who adds, however, that “Sometimes necessity gets the creative juices flowing.”
Michael Conrad designed the rolling units and Michael Curry designed the puppets for Mickey's Jammin' Jungle parade; sketch by Michael Conrad
Thus the parade is a single-file event, in which customized jeeps, filled with Disney characters, are interspersed with rolling drum sculptures, 15' — tall puppets, and elaborately themed rickshaws for guests. (All units were designed by Michael Conrad, a Florida-based designer; the puppets were designed by Michael Curry.) The jeeps belong to Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Rafiki, the baboon character from The Lion King. The jeeps are flatbed tucks that have been loaded up with whimsical props and set dressing to indicate what each character would take with him or her on a trip to the jungle. For example, Goofy's jeep is loaded with gear for almost any occasion, not much of it appropriate to the situation, including golf clubs, snowshoes, pots and pans, a weathervane, a kite, a coffee pot, a pup tent, an umbrella, a rake, and a sign that says “Gone Fishin'.” Minnie, on the other hand, is worried about maintaining a high standard of beauty, so her jeep comes equipped with a vanity table, a bubble bath, and luggage. (It's also covered with large polka dots and features a dotted bow on the hood). “Donald has the nautical jeep,” says Jones. “He can kick out water and splash the guests.” Indeed, Donald stands in a rubber raft on the roof of the jeep, with barrels, nautical flags, and a crow's nest among the scenic pieces.
One major task was to find and customize the jeeps, which, says Jones, come from all over. “It's not hard to find them,” he adds. “You go to auto traders and get on the Internet. We have one Land Rovers, one Land Cruiser, and three regular Jeeps. We found some of them locally, and some are from out of town. We had to drive one from Ohio. Rafiki's jeep is 30 years old.” Once the vehicles have been purchased, he continues, “We take out the motor and use the shell. The jeeps are now powered by 10hp electric motors — and of course, we customize them. The bumpers become Goofy's feet. Minnie's car has eyelashes in front.” Also, because there is no parkwide sound system, each car has its own sound unit to broadcast the parade's music.
The drum units are four — wheeled vehicles operated by a driver at ground level; each of the units is themed to look like a jungle beast and is designed to carry a drummer. The elephant unit has giant ears made of fabric; a drummer sits on the elephant's trunk and plays drums that have been ensconced in the animal's tusks. The parrot drum unit is a fabulously feathered animal, with a drummer placed on its back. “There's also a kangaroo with a drummer in the basket, and a camel with bongos on the humps,” adds Jones.
The final piece of the parade is the set of eight animal puppets created by Curry. “Michael did a giraffe, a wildebeest, a crane, a chameleon, a frog, and a big monkey,” says Jones. “They're almost like oversized toys that go down the street.”
The eight animal vehicles designed by Curry have, according to the designer, “a theatrical, whimsical quality.” In designing them, he says, “I tried to capitalize on each animal's most unique movements. The frog can squat, the wildebeest has a stature and solemnity, the monkey is chaotic, with an ambling gait. The birds have articulated necks and a simple silhouette, to show off their grace.” Normally, Curry builds puppets out of lighter materials, so they can be easily carried by human performers. Here, he says, “A lot of the structures are chromoly steel; it's used for race car bodies, but it has flexible qualities, too.”
Matt Davidson, the parade's costume designer, further developed the parade's concept, giving each character a very specific look. “They're all going on a safari,” he says, so, for example, “Chip and Dale have walnuts for backpacks, and little Gilligan's Island — style soft canvas hats with walnuts and acorns. King Louie [from The Jungle Book] has a flat, oriental Sampan hat with a banana peel on top. Reed Jones didn't want the parade to have an African theme only. There are Asian and Australian influences, too — anywhere you can find a jungle.” This idea extends to the drummers, each of whom, Davidson says, “is keyed to the drum. One of them rides a camel whose neck extends in and out. The drummer has a turban with bangles woven into it. The Australian drummer [on the kangaroo unit] has a tie-dyed Aborigine print shirt, and your typical Aussie hat, plus a vest.”
However, Davidson is most proud of the stilt-walker costumes that complete the parade. “They're cued off of individual animals,” he says, “with a slight abstraction — they look like they could be carved out of wood. The animal's head sits around the performer's face, like an oversized hat. The African lion's face looks like the wooden head of a lion attached to a shield. The mane appears to be made of dried leaves. [It's really made of Tyvek paper]. It's based on Masai warriors, who had to kill a lion to attain manhood. We also have a moose that's pretty dramatic. His antlers look like large pieces of driftwood that have been painted purple. His bulbous nose looks like dried branches woven from a wreath. Around his neck is unwoven grass that looks like moss; he's also got fall-colored leaves all over his costume and the hooves on his hands look like leather.”
Davidson continues, “We have a frilled lizard, with woven sea-grass painted into it, so she has semi-transparent gills on her neck. The costume takes an Australian dot-painting technique to create a green and chartreuse print, with an open fuchsia net over that to simulate the roughness of reptilian skin. She has long, twisted fuchsia fingers and a long train. She looks very feminine and very cute.”
Costumes for the parade were built in a variety of locations. Disney Creative Costuming in Orlando did the Disney characters (“Nobody else touches them,” says Davidson). Vegas Costuming did the rickshaw drivers and the puppet handlers. Costume Armour, in Cornwall, NY, did the masks. Parsons-Meares in New York City did most of the stilt-walkers. Olympus Flag and Banner in Milwaukee created sublimated prints from some of the costumes; the latter is, Davidson says, “a new technology. You can take photographs or computer-generated artwork and imprint it onto the fabric,” using a heat-transfer process.
As in the other Disney parades, the fun comes from the guests interacting with the characters — in the Animal Kingdom, the narrow pathways guarantee that everyone ends up at the party. The end result, according to Rich Taylor, vice president, entertainment and costuming at Walt Disney World, is “bold and fun and festive. The floats are right on top of you and each guest becomes a part of the energy and entertainment.” All of which should be enough to keep the jungle jammin' through this Disney centennial year.