World of Color Creators Answer Burning Questions

Three hundred lucky Disney Parks Blog readers, including myself, got to attend a meet-up event at California Adventure. We got a behind-the-scenes look at what it took to make World of Color come to life. Heather Hust Rivera, a Disney Parks Blog author and public relations for Disneyland Resort introduced us to Sayre Wiseman, Director of Production at Walt Disney Imagineering; Steve Davison, a Disney Parks Blog author and Vice President of Parades and Spectaculars; and Mary Niven, Vice President of Disney California Adventure park and Guest Services. They all shared with us what it was like to work on the show.

After all the behind-the-scenes footage, a Q&A session was held. I did my best to transcribe as much as I could from the Q&A session. Due to my seat in the room as well as other noise in the environment, some words and phrases were not clear and could not be transcribed.

Question: What one thing that Bob Iger cut out of the show at the last second do you wish was still in?

Steve: Basically the show had a lot of creative people working on it and one was the head of the company, Bob Iger. He was very passionate about it. Bob is a great, great creative artist. John Lasseter worked on the show, too; we had Tom Schumacher. Pretty much everyone in the company came out to play because it was such a kind of new piece of media, ‘how do we look at it?’.

Probably Alice, I think, because that’s always been a kind of crazy thing on the internet. ‘Alice is gone! How dare they cut Alice?!’

Mary: She’s still there, she opens the finale  for us!

Steve: She does, we actually snuck Alice back in. But that was part of it, was that we decided to put new things in and because we needed time, we started to look at the show going ‘Okay, what sequences do we want to get out?’

Sayre: It was over 30 minutes.

Mary: Yeah, I have to have it 26 minutes because I have to turn it three times.

Steve: There are some operational things but the great thing is, is that we’re always going to be changing, and I vow to do that, I know Mary will support that. And that’s the great part of the show, it is very flexible. There’s some exciting new stuff coming, we’re not going to tell you what it is, but you will see things change.

Question: How much has your water bill gone up since World of Color?

Mary: Actually,  the water is completely recycled, so we take the water from the lagoon, it goes up, it comes back down, it gets reused again, it gets filtered throughout the evening —

Steve: Most of it comes back down.

Heather: We actually did a story on this on the blog. It was one of our first stories.

Sayre: About 98% of those fountains actually have individual pumps right in the base of each fountain, so we did it more for maintenance as well and be able to control the fountains individually. It really is taking water right from the lagoon, and then the last 2% [are] used as backsprings, but that’s also taking water from the lagoon. We’re taking no water outside of the lagoon.

Steve: And the company’s very green, the biggest thing we did was even before we started — we took every last drop that was in the lagoon, all 15 million gallons, and recycled them back to the city which was a big, big feat, trust me.

Question: How do you make the glitter effect in the Wall-E scene?

Steve: It’s magic! The glitter effect, I’ll give you a little secret, it was a magical discovery. We were playing one night and all the disciplines were doing everything at the same time — projections shooting stuff and the lasers are going and the fountains were programming — it was kind of mass chaos, like the beginning of an orchestra, and then you look up every now and then and something will catch your eye, you’re like, ‘Oh, what’s that? Do that again!’ and you make everybody stop. What was happening was that the fountains were flying through the lasers that were at an upper level, and I’m like, ‘Wow! That’s really cool! Do it again!’ I think I was like a little kid running around going, ‘Oooh, pretty pretty pretty pretty!’ And it’s what we call ‘discoveries’ that I’ve never seen it before. I have seen a lot of laser shows and stuff but it was kind of this magic thing  because the air is so pure here that when you shoot lasers through the sky, and you run water through it, it only picks it up where the water hits the laser, so that’s how a lot of that magical effects stuff at the beginning of the show where you see dots in the sky and the dots move, that’s the coolest thing ever. That’s my favorite part of the show right there.

Question: Compared to all the other Disney shows, where did the idea of doing so much against water come from?

Steve: We wanted to do something different, actually. The park asked us to look at doing a spectacular through that and, since it’s in my job title, everyone in the  theatrical division goes, ‘It’s yours, it’s yours!’ I do all the fireworks for us and part of it wasn’t to do that again. We did a Christmas show here, for those of you who saw it, that was a pure fireworks show, because that’s what we knew at the time, and it was just a smoke-out, crazy, crazy, show for Christmas, and we actually stopped doing it, and we started to learn about what would work. Well, the biggest piece of land to work with for a spectacular so enough people could see it was the lagoon. We pretty much haven’t done water shows, we have fountains in some of our other spectaculars but nothing on this scale. We basically just looked at it and said, ‘Hey, let’s do stuff with water like we do with fireworks’. … We’re all fountain specialists now. If you need one for your home let me know. I’m good with pools too.

Question: In the beginning, how long did you think it was going to be before opening day would be, or was it always summer 2010?

Steve: It was spring. Spring 2010.

Sayre: We made spring.

Mary: Yes!

Steve: We did make spring. There was so much debate about that on the internet, ‘They’re never going to open!’ and then people were posting things like, ‘Oh, this happened and now it’s not til next fall’. We always said the spring. The dates moved a little bit based on just construction because it was all new, no one had ever done giant floating platforms, and one platform is literally the size of this room that goes up and down and does stuff. They are brilliant designs. A lot of that took a lot of time, they’re still learning every day about this stuff. It literally was, ‘Here’s the date we’re going to make it.’

Sayre: Once we set the date … when the teams would come back and say, ‘Oh we’re going to need two weeks to do that,’ Steven would go, ‘OPENING DATE IS JUNE 11! WE’RE DONE ON JUNE 11, THERE IS NO QUESTION.’

Mary: We were done on June 11.

Steve: Yeah, there were a lot of dates floating…

Question: What influenced you to bring in so many different kinds of media like the paper puppets and the sand art, how did you think to bring them into this water show and add them to the event?

Steve: I treated the show like ‘Fantasia’ … things just blend into music. I was looking at ‘Fantasia’, we were doing a lot work with feature animation and somebody sent me on Facebook a crazy thing about this paper artist and she had just won ‘So You Think You Have Talent’ or something in Romania, and I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s cool! You know, we should do paper art…’ Wait, that was the sand art…So I sent her a note and never heard back, so I went online and started doing research into sand artists, and so I found one and then I sent her an email and she lived in Tahoe  and basically we met and said ‘Hey, I want you to work on this section of the show’. Same with Megan that did the paper work. It was just kind of, ‘Hey, let’s try this and see what it can do’. Some of it was great, some of it didn’t work as well as it wanted to, but it was great experimentation. It was kind of like…Somebody said to me, I won’t tell you who it was, but they said, ‘Walt would be very proud of what you’re doing,’ which was…I loved, because that meant a lot to me because he knew Walt Disney. What was wonderful was that it was very true, we were just trying new stuff, let’s try some new types of animations, let’s see, because there were no boundaries at this point.

Question: What is your absolute favorite scene in the whole show?

Sayre: This is really hard, actually. I love Pocahontas. Pocahontas was the very first thing in the program, it was actually one of the very first things we developed on the story board in its complete form and has been true from day one. … The fact that there’s a moment where the big sweep in the back, which you’ll see tonight, it’s so encompassing when it moves toward you. … What we found out there is that … it’s so effective when it’s traveling forward. To me, I would say Pocahontas is my favorite moment of the show. I have lots of others but that’s the one that’s most definite.

Steve: Mine’s the wacky one, it’s the Genie moment. We wanted to do the genie early on but we didn’t think it’d work, and that’s why the Genie made a comeback, actually at the very very end. He was added late in the game because we knew so much about the system, it has those fast, crazy runs if you actually watch some of the footage from the sky film, the 1800 film that’s on the blog, you’ll see how some of it’s done. It’s amazingly fast how we’re chasing light and then we’re following with water. It’s just crazy how some of that stuff is done and we knew how to do it at that point. … That’s probably my favorite.

Mary: There’s so many great moments. … One of the things that I love is I actually love the saddest moments in it, which, if you haven’t seen I’m not going to give it away, but you’ll know it by the end of the night because we rarely go that emotional — we go happy-emotional but not the sad. It’s brief enough that it doesn’t take you down, and it comes, right after that fall there’s that transformational message, which is so beautiful, but it’s just that it’s a very quiet, special moment that tells a story with just a couple of words.

Since this post lacked photos, here are some shots I took at a showing of World of Color.


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