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"Mickey and the Magician" show opens at Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris

"Mickey and the Magician" show opens at Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris

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Thanks to a talented team of artists from California, the UK and Paris, Mickey made some magic at Disneyland Paris this past Saturday.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Katy Harris - the Show director for Creative Entertainment at Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Paris - and her team collaborated with Michael Jung - the Vice President of Theatrical Development at Walt Disney Imagineering Creative Entertainment - to give European theme park fans a brand-new stage show to enjoy at the Animagique Theater (which is located in the Toon Studio section of Walt Disney Studios Park).

Which - given that nothing new stage-wise has opened in Walt Disney Studios Park since 2002 - was a very smart decision. The original Animagique show (which Katy had worked on) was starting to feel a little outdated and childish (though its "lalalalalalala" refrain and kid talking in 3 languages opening will forever be cherished by Disneyland Paris fans).

Photo by Andrea Monti

Anyway ... WDSP's "Studio 3" building (which has now been renamed the Animagique Theatre) was the perfect venue for a new stage show. But what should this show be based on? Over the past few years, Katy's & Michael's team had given Mickey magical maps to explore and wondrous books to have adventures in. Yet these stage shows had followed a very similar formula (i.e., with Mickey being magically dragged into various adventures). Meanwhile Disneyland Paris Guests had enjoyed a series of musical revue shows with characters suddenly appearing out of nowhere to sing a song, do their scene and then disappearing.

It was time for Disneyland Paris to have a show that was unique. Different. And ... Well, magical. Which is why Katy, Michael and their teams decided to revisit one of Mickey's greatest roles: magician.  Only this time around, the Mouse would meet a magician and then perform illusions, real Broadway-level magic, straight there on stage.

Photo by Andrea Monti

"We went back to what makes Mickey unique and lovable. The fact that -- in his heart -- Mickey is like a little boy exploring and experiencing new thing exactly as a child would," Michael Jung explained. "I still get a giggle every time I see Mickey trying to ride that broomstick in the show."

The above perfectly sums up the creative conceit that Katy Harris and Paul Kieve (who is one of the world's leading theatre illusionist. He's designed magical effects for over 150 productions around the world) tried to build this new WDSP show around) That Mickey - rather than being a sorcerer's apprentice - would this time around be more of a "Houdini's apprentice." And over the course of this new stage show try and become a magician like so many of us did back in our youth.

Photo by Andrea Monti

"This is Disney magic meets real magic" stated Katy Harris. "I really wanted the Guests to come out of this show giggling. Amazed by the illusions but still finding that Disney Magic which is in Mickey's heart."

Of course, as any experienced illusionist will tell you, great lighting is a key component of all great theatrical magic. Which is why - given the sort of onstage magic that Katy & Paul were hoping to pull off in "Mickey and the Magician" - they knew that this new theme park show was going to need state-of-the-art theatrical lighting. Which is why they recruited Tim Lutkin, who had recently won the Olivier Award for Best Lighting Design for his work on "Chimerica," to reimagine how the Animagique Theatre's lighting system could be best utilized to enhance this new stage show.

Photo by Andrea Monti

"I could do so much for this show because I knew Tim would then use his lights to make the effects work," Kieve enthused.

So now "Mickey and the Magician" had great on-stage illusions, inspired theatrical lighting and - most important for a Disney theme park show - heart. But there was one more thing that this new production needed, or so thought Ms. Harris. "And that was dancing and choreography," Katy continued. "I wanted 'Friend Like Me' to be a big tap dancing number because tap dancing isn't all that well known in France. So I called upon our resident choreographer Tatiana Seguin to give me something unique."

Photo by Andrea Monti

"So what is 'Mickey and the Magician' like?," you ask. Well, without giving too much away, this new WDPS stage show opens with a very Houdini-like magician performing illusions in his attic. There's an appearance by a pixie that "Peter Pan" fans will certainly recognize. And then Mickey (making use on an amazing new facial movement system that's never been seen before. Not even by folks who have experienced Disney's newest theme park in Shanghai) enters as the magician's assistant. And Mickey is then told that he needs to clean up the attic before the moon disappears from the sky.

So Mickey starts tidying up the attic, only to then find himself being teased by the magician's hat (a prop that is a very clever mix of animatronic & puppeteering technology). Anyway, this magician's hat teases Mickey about his magical skills. Which then starts Mickey on an adventure where he meets various magical characters from the Disney realm who then guide this Mouse on a journey to discover the magician within.

Photo by Andrea Monti

These magical characters include the Fairy Godmother from "Cinderella" (who conjures up that Disney Princess' iconic blue ball gown and then transforms that dress into Cinderella herself), Lumiere from "Beauty & the Beast" to Rafiki from "The Lion King." Who uses the magic of wisdom & shadows to create an all-new version of that film's opening number, "The Circle of Life."

As great as these moments in "Mickey and the Magician" are, it's the numbers that follow in this new WDSP production that are the real showstoppers. The Genie from "Aladdin" magically appears from a lamp that's floating in mid-air (which - Paul Kieve explained - is a stage illusion that it takes 20 people to successfully pull off). And if that weren't enough, the Genie has a package delivered to him which then floats and rotates right in front of the audience. And then a performer emerges from this package and leads his Arabian friends in an amazing tap dancing number.

Photo by Andrea Monti

And if Disneyland Paris visitors weren't enchanted enough at this point, now Olaf appears out of a sudden burst of snow and introduces Queen Elsa from "Frozen." Who initially arrives onstage wearing her purple-and-black coronation dress but then - in the middle of singing "Let It Go" - that dress then transforms into her ice blue snow queen gown. Which makes for a pretty amazing recreation of that memorable scene from this Academy Award-winning animated feature.

Of course, you don't pull off an illusion-packed show like "Mickey and the Magician" overnight. To hear Katy and her team talk, it took 12 months of hard work. During which the stage space at WDSP's Animagique Theatre was completely gutted and then rebuilt. During this time, the puppets, scenery and effects that play such a vital role in this ambitious new stage show had to be built in the US and then shipped over to Paris. And let's not forget about Tim Lutkin's lighting rig for "Mickey and the Magician." Which is made up of more than 3000 independent lights, of which a thousand are LED effects.

Photo by Andrea Monti

Putting "Mickey and the Magician" together was a genuinely " ... magical experience," concluded Katy. " Which is why Ms. Harris then went out of her way to thank Michael for pulling together a top notch team like Paul , Tim and Tatiana.

"Mickey and the Magician" will make its debut on July 2, 2016. This new daily show is now scheduled to run at Walt Disney Studios Park through January 8, 2017. There will be several Franco-English shows per day presented at the Animagique Theater in the Toon Studio section of this theme park.

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  • Not really Houdini-like at all.  Houdini was very dressed down and rough, these fancier showman magicians were more like Thurston or Carter.  That's what made Houdini stand out, he appeared as a squat working man.  Plus, he was famous for his escapes as his stage illusions lacked spark.

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