Animation meets acrobatics in Disney's Cirque spectacular

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The aerial pole dance scene in "Drawn to Life" that pays homage to Walt Disney’s famed Nine Old Men animators.
The aerial pole dance scene in "Drawn to Life" that pays homage to Walt Disney’s famed Nine Old Men animators.

ORLANDO -- The new Cirque du Soleil show, “Drawn to Life,” will premiere at Disney Springs on April 17. Members of the media were treated to a look at two of its early scenes this week, and if they are an indication of the rest of the show to follow, it will impress audiences.

“Drawn to Life” is a collaboration between Cirque du Soleil, Walt Disney Imagineering and Walt Disney Animation Studios. It focuses on the story of Julie, a young girl who goes on a journey inside the world of animation.

The preview scenes featured a rhythmic gymanstics group that performed a routine so well-choreographed the audience broke into applause multiple times, and an aerial pole routine that drew gasps and even tears from some audience members.

A troupe of gymnasts perform during the opening scene of "Drawn to Life."
A troupe of gymnasts perform during the opening scene of "Drawn to Life."

Cirque du Soleil creation director Fabrice Becker said the gymnastics team hails from Japan. They join a diverse cast of 65 from all over the world.

Their acrobatic act is meant to explore the physicality of the body and movement, something animators often do when drawing, said Michele Lapris, writer and show director. That act starts the show by establishing the link between animation and physicality.

新沙巴体育The aerial pole act is meant to pay homage to Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men, the original core animators at Walt Disney Productions. The famed animators include names famous within and outside of the Walt Disney Company, like Marc Davis, Ward Kimball and Les Clark. They brought life to everyone from Mickey Mouse to Cruella de Vil. Davis also lent his talents to Disney attractions like Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion.

During the act, a man uses a pole designed to mimic a pencil to soar above the audience, spinning and performing gravity-defying acts that are a delight to behold.

新沙巴体育He does that among projections of rough animations from Disney classics, like Tarzan, projected onto screens stylized as sheets of paper high in the air.

Some of the cast and creators of Drawn to Life at a media preview.
Some of the cast and creators of Drawn to Life at a media preview. Photo Credit: Jamie Biesiada

新沙巴体育Lapris said the show designers wanted to pay homage to the “pencil tests” used by animators, in which they create rough, two-dimensional drawing of scenes. Cirque du Soleil worked with Walt Disney Animation Studios to procure the original pencil tests used in the show. Coincidentally, at the same time that Cirque du Soleil asked for the rough drawings, the studio was already working to preserve the drawings that Lapris calls “gems.” 

Famed animator Eric Goldberg spoke to media at the event. Having raised two daughters in a household filled with art, the show naturally appealed to him, he said.

新沙巴体育Among many famous projects, Goldberg was the lead animator for the Genie in the film “Aladdin,” voiced by the late Robin Williams.

新沙巴体育He said the key to making animated characters believable lies within the animators themselves.

“You have to believe that those characters exist,” he said. “That they’re real.”

新沙巴体育Tickets for Drawn to Life are . 

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