Inside World of Color

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D23 has posted an interview about with Steven Davison, Bob Weis, Chuck Davis, and Sayre Wiseman on the upcoming nighttime spectacular at Disney’s California Adventure, World of Color:

As the creative team behind the upcoming innovative water spectacular World of Color at Disney’s California Adventure gears up for the attraction’s spring 2010 opening, D23 caught up with Steven Davison, vice president, Parades & Spectaculars, Walt Disney Imagineering Creative Entertainment; Chuck Davis, technical producer for World of Color; Bob Weis, executive vice president, Creative, Walt Disney Imagineering; and Sayre Wiseman, director, Show Production, Walt Disney Imagineering Creative Entertainment, to get an inside look at this exciting upcoming water spectacular.

Q: What is the main “Wow” factor for this show? And how is this going to be different from Fantasmic!?
Steven Davison: I think a lot of it is going to be how water becomes a character and that’s the hardest thing to show in a creative presentation — how water becomes a living actor and will create things for you. It’s the philosophy I used when we did all our firework shows — even when you see a firework and you hear music and you see a certain color and you see a certain effect, it triggers your mind to think about, in our case, a Disney property like Cinderella is blue and beautiful silver, and you are hearing “So This is Love.” It instantly brings that back and this show is going to do that same thing in very different way where water becomes a living ballet of dancers, and at times it will form shapes in the grid that will evoke certain things. At times it mixes with media. But it does it on a very, very big scale and in a very imaginative way. That’s why I keep saying it’s not a movie, that we don’t want it to just be a movie screen. We can literally project anywhere on anything that has a living water in it. Sometimes it’s just beautiful droplets, and a lot of it is about really inspiring people’s imagination. When you watch it, we will literally pull you into the show. The soundtrack is nearly completed, and it is stunning. It has so much emotion and depth and from the very first moment, it will pull you in and should encapsulate you to the end. It won’t let you go until the very last effect, which we won’t tell you what it is right now! So that’s what I think the big difference is. Fantasmic! utilizes people and sets and things. We are going to do it all organically in a very different way that it comes and disappears. And when it comes up, it kind of just takes you in, and it becomes an environment. The environment is all encompassing when you are out there.
Sayre Wiseman: One thing that is unique about World of Color is that the audience is actually less than 25 feet away from the first fountain and those fountains go 40 feet in the air. So you have a sense of connection so it’s not like you’re watching something in the distance. You’re actually very close to the effect.

Q: What are the best sight lines around the lagoon to view the show?
Sayre: The deepest part of the fountain structure is right there in the center of the viewing area. Our viewing count actually goes from the bridge all the way past the viewing area to the Zephyr. So that’s really where the show is at its best. We did a CGI test and the show also looks incredible from the back by Paradise Pier. It’s different and you see the production in a different way, but it’s really unique back there as well. I know it looks a little bit skewed to the left in the plans but it’s actually designed to be that way.

Q: Is the technology used over at Pixie Hollow at night, especially the technology used under water, borrowed from this attraction or is that something completely different?
Chuck Davis: It’s different technology at a substantially different scale. The pool at Pixie Hollow is about 20 inches deep and over here we are 14 feet deep. Their fountains don’t go very high and ours go 200 feet. So it’s really a question of scale, and I think that the work that was done to produce World of Color was based on that scale. So we are pushing the industry for underwater lighting, for LED lighting, for fountains, for flames and all of that. We are pushing that forward substantially in size and scale.

Q: How many of the fire cannons are there in World of Color and how and are they all mounted on swivel devices?
Chuck: There are 36 canons of varying sizes and 12 of them are mounted on swivels.

Q: It seems like you’ve built World of Color so that you can revamp the show down the road as Disney adds movies and new content. Is that accurate?
Steven: Yes. Incredibly, we made everything very software receivable, so that when… [a new movie] comes out, we can seamlessly put it into the show very quickly. We are going to have World of Color keep changing over time. So if you come throughout the year, we will be putting new things into it as we go on. We’re also going to do specialty shows. We will do a holiday show and probably a Halloween show. World of Color is as endless as your imagination. We have some great ideas for Christmas that will surprise everybody that will totally do new things.

Q: How many projectors are you using across that big water screen, and how many are you using altogether?
Chuck: There are a total of 12 projectors to do the back wall — we purchased 32 projectors and there are about 29 in the show plus spares.

Q: Will you be using motion control for all those or will they move?
Chuck: None of the projectors actually moves.

Q: When they first started talking about doing something out here, and I know you were part of that, what was the original basic concept of what you wanted to do here?
Bob Weis: I will let Steve and Sayre addressed the early generation of World of Color. But in terms of the very aggressive expansion that’s coming out of DCA overall — one of the things we really wanted to enhance is the nighttime visit to DCA. We think Disney’s California Adventure is a beautiful sight to be at night. There are great dining experiences out here and there are great attractions that are as fun or more fun to do at night as they are during the day. So what this gives us is a strong anchor in the way that Fantasmic! is an anchor for Disneyland for people to want to come to have a nice dining experience to sit out in the evening and wait for this big spectacular show. So this big viewing area that we’ve done a substantial amount of construction for in order to make sure that all of our audience can have prime viewing was designed to make sure that people can see it. They can get comfortable. They can stake out their claim on site and really have prime viewing for a very large group. That just enhances the whole Disney’s California Adventure nighttime scene.
Steven: We really kind of set out to do something that would be its own mark, kind of a thing that we call destination entertainment that when you come to the park, it becomes kind of a big communal thing. We have these at all of our parks, which is the big kiss goodnight. At Epcot is Reflection of Earth and the Magic Kingdom has firework shows and World of Color will be that for Disney’s California Adventure. So it’s going to be this great thing at night, where people can all gather around the lagoon and watch this experience together, which I think will be very magical. It’s also working with the restaurant too. Ariel’s restaurant is right in some of the best sight lines of the show. And I think it will be a great place to sit and watch the show like some of our other restaurants around the world too. So it’s going to be this wonderful nighttime play.

Q: I have two online speculations that I’d like you to clear up. First, are there any bad places around the lagoon to see the show? And the other speculation is about interactive elements around the lagoon such as Mickey’s Fun Wheel and the big fountain in the seating area.
Sayre: We have been doing a lot of research and development on the possibility of down the road, creating an interactive work with the fountain during the day. That’s not in our current plans, because there is still a lot of research and development to do on that. But the fountain is very capable of on the spot, reacting to crowds. So we are first concentrating on the show, and over time we are going to be adding things and that might be one of them.
Steven: We’ve done a lot of fun little mockups to actually test these activities. And that’s one of the goals — by the end of the show or even when you start doing these things that will come online later, we want the fountain to be a living character. We want it to be living water, that it can be humorous. Again, what Disney does really well is taking things that can be inanimate and making them animated in wonderful ways and giving them personalities. That’s why went after the Little Squirt character. He’s very funny in the show and you will get the personality because we are mixing music and the texture of water to kind of create that and make it happen. We have a big solid massive viewing area that has great viewing. I have a thing that we call reverse water where you can actually watch the show from behind and you can actually back stand there and get a different viewing experience. We do have some limitations when it gets by the sun wheel, because there is a lot of blocking that’s happening, so that’s not premium viewing for the show. But when we set out to make a big area, we did it pretty well I think. So there’s going to be what we call the rated yellow areas around the lagoon, but we have the capacity for a lot of people.

Q: What have you done differently with the show than you did with Luminaria and what did you learn from that experience?
Steven: You’re referring to something that we did right after we opened DCA, where we wanted to do something in the lagoon. So we created this beautiful little piece called Luminaria, which is an interactive piece with our guests where during the day, they could actually draw little cards and we would put them into the show with projection. One thing we learned that was big is that we need to do fathoms in the show, that Luminaria was heavily, heavily based in pyrotechnics literally because of time and because of how we put the show together. And that was one thing that we learned. We actually looked at further tests of what we would do to Luminaria and that’s actually how World of Color was born. We decided not to go back to Luminaria and put it on hold and actually come in and develop a full nighttime experience for the park because this is been in the works since 2005, 2004. So this is literally like a feature animation film, and we’ve been working on it for years and years. To be honest, I think we can bring Luminaria back. I was listening to the track the other day and thinking if you put Luminaria into the World of Color infrastructure, it would do everything it ever wanted to do and more. I’m not saying we are doing that, but we could.
Chuck: The other thing we learned from Luminaria was scale. This scale of the lagoon is very, very, very deceiving. There are very tall structures right on top of it and it is much larger than you think it is. You think 200 feet, oh my. That’s amazing. It’s impressive, but it’s difficult to comprehend that scale, and I think Luminaria really taught us that.

Q: At Disneyland, there are hidden Mickeys throughout all of the attractions that the big Disney aficionados can look for. Will there be any of those in World of Color?
Steven: Yes, that is a possibility!

Q: So should people be looking for hidden Mickeys in this show?
Steven: Yes, that is a possibility! [Laughing] But I will say that the fountain is capable of doing hidden Mickeys. We can do very different versions of it from light to water. It may appear — you never know!

Q: Steven, how does this show compared to the other shows you’ve done with Disney?
Steven: This will be the biggest show of my career. In scale, it’s huge! It really is. This is the biggest entertainment undertaking that we’ve ever done in entertainment. It’s bigger than Epcot. It’s bigger than anything we’ve done in Tokyo. It’s bigger than any fireworks show we’ve ever done. So the company is really behind it. It’s funny — when we were going down the road and first pitching it, people really grasped it pretty quickly and started to understand it and what it could do, and the stories that it could tell. That’s really fundamentally what we do — we are storytellers. Instead of something being just a generic spectacle, this really had a transformative effect. So for me, it’s huge. I’m spending a lot of time with our team on it. [Pixar Animation and Walt Disney Animation Studios Chief Creative Officer] John Lasseter is involved in it, Feature Animation is involved and Pixar is involved. Every division of the company is literally involved with the show and all of the other enhancements coming into DCA. It’s great because it’s like a big family, and we are all just making magic together!

Q: How does World of Color set the tone for all of the things that are going to be happening at DCA over the next few years?
Bob: The tone of it is so perfect because it combines everything we are trying to do, which is we are bringing in more walls, more inspiration, and more storytelling. We’re trying to do everything in very state of the art technology, things people have not seen before, and almost everything is being done in a very rich collaboration between animation, Pixar, Imagineering and the park. So it really epitomizes and symbolizes for us what is going to be transforming about everything in the park.

Q: When do you think this will all be completed?
Bob: We always default to the great Walt quote that, “Disneyland will never be finished as long as there is imagination in the world.” We actually have phases of Disney’s California Adventure that we are working on that come beyond what we’ve announced. So this park, just like Disneyland or any of the other parks, will continue to develop over time as the audience builds and evolves. So I’m not sure that it ever ends — thankfully for us!