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For months now, Disneyana fans have been looking on as 1200
nozzles (each with its own individual LED lighting unit) were installed in
Paradise Bay. They’ve also been “Oohing” & “Aahing” at all the concept art
for this 25 minute long night-time water pageant that is currently on display
in that theme park’s “Blue Sky Cellar.”
Mind you, the folks in the Team Disney Anaheim building are
also very excited about Steven Davison’s latest extravaganza. But not for the
reasons you might think.
To explain: As fun as “Fantasmic!” may be to watch, this
Disneyland favorite is also surprisingly expensive to operate. With its onstage
cast of 49 costumed performers plus 60 Cast Members in offstage support
positions … When you factor in the cost of pyro & propane, Disney Parks
& Resorts reportedly has to shell out $75,000 each time “Fantasmic!” is
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So when it came time to create a night-time water pageant
for Disney’s California Adventure … Well, in addition to being a show that
could dazzle a significant number of Guests at the same time (Each presentation
of “Disney’s World of Color” should be able to accommodate upwards of 9,000
people), DLR officials also wanted “World of Color” to have a significantly
lower head count / payroll than “Fantasmic!” currently does.
More to the point, DLR officials were hoping that DCA’s new
night-time water pageant would be “plug and play” (Translation: Once all of the infrastructure was in place,
all 1200 lights & nozzles have been installed and “Disney’s World of Color”
had been properly programmed, all it
would theoretically take to present this
water pageant each night would be some tech hammering on the “Start” button).
But is it that a realistic expectation? Is it really going
to be that much easier / cheaper to present “Disney’s World of Color” versus
“Fantasmic!” ? To get an answer to that question, last month I journeyed to Las Vegas. Where I then met with
Gene Bowling, the front feature manager for the Bellagio Resort & Casino.
Dive teams make regular
repairs on all of the underwater equipment used in the Fountains at Bellagio
show. Copyright 2009 MGM Mirage. All Rights Reserved
Which – I know – is kind of a vague sounding job title.
Simply put, Gene is the keeper of the Fountains at the Bellagio. He’s the guy
who rides herd on a team of 33 dive-certified employees who operate and
maintain this wildly popular Las Vegas attraction.
And while Mr. Bowling is obviously proud of the Fountains,
he makes no bones about what a maintenance monster this show can be.
“We’re always doing preventative maintenance on this show,”
Gene explained. “From 5 a.m. to 12 p.m. each day, we have teams of people out in
the water changing light bulbs, checking all of the 1248 nozzles, finding
out which pieces need to be pulled or replaced due to corrosion.”
Copyright 2009 MGM
Mirage. All Rights Reserved
That’s the thing about a fountain-based show. There’s all that
obvious stuff that you have to deal with (i.e. the clarity of the water in that
8 ½ acre lagoon. Bowling has two guys on staff whose main responsibility is to make
sure that all 22.5 million gallons is kept clean & clear) plus all the
“ You have to remember that Las Vegas is built out in the middle
of a desert. Which means that – whenever water blows out of our lagoon – it isn’t
coming back,” Gene continued. “Which is why we have anemometers all around the
resort to tell us when we need to dial back our show.”
Truth be told, the Fountains at Bellagio has four different
modes. With little or no wind, Bowling and his crew can proceed with the full-blown
version of this Resort’s water pageant – where the Extreme Shooters in the
lagoon can send bursts of H20 460 feet into the air. But as the wind speed
begins to pick, Gene and his team have the ability to lower the height of some
of the fountains featured in the show. Which means that the folks watching out
along Las Vegas Boulevard then don’t get drenched by a heavy wind-blown mist.
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Speaking of wind and water … According to Disneyland Resort insiders,
Steve Davison hopes to have most of the hardware for “Disney’s World of Color”
installed & operational (More importantly, to have Paradise Bay refilled)
by October of this year. So that – as the Santa Ana winds begin to kick up -- his
team can then do some crucial after-hours tests on DCA’s new water pageant. See
how high the fountains can go on windy night before the Guests who’ll be
standing in that new still-under-construction viewing area then get soaked.
Anyway … To get back to the Fountains of Bellagio now … To
hear Bowling talk, while a night-time show built around light and water may please
the public and appear simple on the surface to operate … Truth be told, the behind-the-scenes effort involved with maintaining a show of
this size like this can be pretty costly. More importantly, manpower intensive.
“My advice (to the folks doing Disney’s new show) is to get
the very best people they can,” Gene concluded. “We’ve got the cream of the
crop working here on the Fountains at Bellagio. Which is how we’re able to
deliver a top-quality show day in and day out. But you have to have a talented group of
workers who are really motivated in order to stay on top of a fountain show of
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Which makes it sound like “Disney’s World of Color” may not
be the less-costly-to-maintain, easier-to-operate show that the Suits were
initially looking for.
While I agree that the maintenance on the water show will be significant in cost, remember that live performers, pyro, etc. along with the maintenance that needs to be done to keep Fantasmic going is a more significant cost. As for things like water clarity... that was already being done for the lagoon at DCA. No, the water fountains can not be ignored, but the overall cost of operation will be less than an entertainer-based performance.
This is Disney we're talking about, which treats maintenance like an afterthought, and even then the crews are sent out only after guests complain that the joint's starting to look ratty.
Although this show will need a bigger maintenance crew than Fantasmic, Fantasmic still needs a maintenance crew.
So Fantasmic has 109 cast members (including maintenance?) and World of Color has 30-40 maintenance guys and 4 or 5 techs. That seems cheaper to me.
Although I heard the nozzles were on a lift so that Disney won't need dive teams to fix them and they will be easier to maintain.
Yes, some of the nozzles will be on lifts. The ones that are will the the smaller nozzles that "whip" back and forth and around. The Bellagio has similar fountains and they, too, are on lifts for easier maintain. The "extreme shooters" that Jim mentioned (the top of which are seen in the article) are huge, heavy tubes that are bolted to pipe infrastructure beneath the water and not on lifts (due to their weight, presumably). On an episode of Dirty Jobs, Mike Rowe assisted in removing one of them and transporting it "backstage". It was quite a task to do so. Disney is still going to need a team of divers for maintenance, assuming they have the "big guns".