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It takes more than movie magic to pull off "Disney Night" on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars"

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It takes more than movie magic to pull off "Disney Night" on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars"

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So how long does it take to add some Disney magic to "Dancing with the Stars" ? Would you believe 9 months?

"That's actually how long we've been having meetings about 'Disney Night,' which is the theme of this week's show," explained Rob Wade, the executive producer of this long-running ABC series. "But you have to understand that -- when you're building an episode of ' Dancing with the Stars' around Disney -- you've got this huge assortment of characters to chose from. Not to mention decades of popular music to dig through as you look for just the right songs to build dance routines around."

Ah, but then there's the other aspect of "Disney Night" on "Dancing with the Stars." In order to make Monday night's proceedings seem genuinely magical, Wade & Co. are going to take memorable pieces of Disney animation and then digitally insert them into this week's dance routines.

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"We did this for the first time with last year's 'Disney Night' and really got a huge reaction from 'Dancing with the Stars' viewers. So this time around, we're going all out. You're not only going to see brief bits of Disney animation in Monday night's dance routines, you're also going to see it in the show's bumpers. We'll have live Disney characters -- Mickey, Minnie, Donald & Pluto -- performing in the show's opening number. We'll even be flying people as part of this week's dance routines, just like in 'Aladdin,' " Rob enthused. "Truth be told, you're going to see Disney characters throughout this week's show. At one point, you'll even see an animated Pinocchio clapping at the judge's table."

As you might expect, there's a lot of behind-the-scenes effort that goes into pulling off a 2 hour-long, live television presentation like "Dancing with the Stars." But when you add digitally inserted animated footage and live costume characters to that mix, what was once just tough to pull off now verges on impossible.

"That's why -- for the past two weeks -- we've been getting ready for our 'Disney Night' show. This past Saturday, we had a whole extra day onstage where we did just prep," Wade stated.

"Dancing with the Stars" executive
producer Rob Wade

So which celebrities will we see performing what Disney numbers? Rumer Willis (i.e., the rumored front runner for the Mirror Ball in this season's competition) will dance to  "Poor Unfortunate Souls" from "The Little Mermaid." War veteran Noah Galloway will reportedly soar through the air as he performs "A Whole New World" from "Aladdin." Suzanne Somers will supposedly channel her inner Peggy Lee as she dances to "He's a Tramp" from Disney's "Lady and the Tramp." And Nastia Liukin will appear in a dance routine built around "Love Is an Open Door" from "Frozen."

"That was the song that I really wanted to be featured in this show. I wanted to be sure that there was something from 'Frozen' in this episode of 'Dancing with the Stars' because that Disney animated feature has been such a big hit. But because we had used music from 'Frozen' in our first 'Disney Night,' I have to admit that I got a little pushback from some of the dancers," Rob admitted. "They weren't sure that it would be wise for us to build another number around music from 'Frozen.' But I was adamant that someone was going to dance to 'Love is an Open Door.' And eventually we were able to push that number through."

Which brings us to an intriguing aspect of "Dancing with the Stars." How much (or is it how little?) influence do this show's producers have over the dance numbers that the celebrities perform.

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All rights reserved

"In the end, it's the celebrity and their dance partner's decision. Sometimes they'll say things like 'I really want to dance to this music.' And we're like 'Really? That's the music you want to perform to? You really think that that piece of music is something you want to build a dance number around?,' " Wade said. "Mind you, we never force anyone to do anything. But as the show's producer, I will sometimes strongly suggest something. Tell a performer that a particular piece of music would be a great song to build a dance routine around."

"Because that's what it really comes down to. What the celebrities who are appearing on 'Dancing with the Stars' need is music that they can dance to. Music that fits a particular style of dance," Rob continued. "And that's what great about building a show around Disney's musical library. Because they've got songs that fit all manner of dance."

As Wade hopes to prove tomorrow night when Patti LaBelle does a dance to "When You Wish Upon a Star" from "Pinocchio" and Chris Soules of "The Bachelor" fame powers through "Zero to Hero" from Disney's "Hercules." Not to mention Robert Herjavec's energetic take on "Step in Time" from "Mary Poppins," Willow Shields' elegant dance to "Alice's Theme" from "Alice in Wonderland," and Riker Lynch's dance routine to "He's a Pirate" from "Pirates of the Caribbean."

Copyright American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All rights reserved

"All season long, the celebrities have really been looking forward to performing on 'Disney Night.' That's one of the main reasons we scheduled this particular 'Dancing with the Stars' show for the middle of the season. So that as many of our celebrity performers as possible would then get the chance to dance to a piece of classic Disney music," Rob stated.

"Of course, we  obviously want to make sure that whatever our celebrities do with the Disney characters looks fabulous and is suitably impressive. So just from a technical perspective, this particular episode of 'Dancing with the Stars' will be a real challenge. There's an extra level of precision involved with this particular show," Wade said. "Which is why I'd like to remind the folks watching at home that -- thanks to all of the talented people who work in front of and behind the camera -- 'Dancing with the Stars' always looks polished and professional. But you still have to remember that this is a two hour-long live TV show."

"I mean, there is so much animation on television nowadays and so much pre-taped & pre-recorded stuff on TV as well. Which is why I worry that someone's going to tune into Monday night's 'Dancing with the Stars' and think that 'Disney Night' was pre-taped and pre-recorded. But I assure you people: We are doing this show absolutely live. Which makes things exciting because things can sometimes go wrong," Rob concluded. "Mind you, we're always trying to make sure that things don't go wrong. But it's kind of an inexact science when you're doing live television."

This article originally appeared on the Huffington Post's Entertainment page on Sunday, April 12, 2015

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  • After seeing it, I can't unsee it. It wasn't the best version of Disney Night. Last year was better. The Princesses were not used much. They focused on the minor characters, which were rather forgettable. I guess the highlight was wondering if the left or right crab gets the nod. I fear for Chris Soule, the bachelor, that cramped his leg. He danced horribly with a routine unsuited to his skill. Oh well. Him or the other low scorer.

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