|A crocodile swims in an Anaheim parking lot, 1991.|
This week marks the 20th anniversary of a little nighttime show that ignited a long tradition of "water and fire spectaculars" at the Disney parks around the world. Back in 1992 I was a young theatrical designer beginning my fourth year in the Disneyland Entertainment-Art Department, building scale models for full-sized stage sets and parade floats. Among my particular specialties were miniatures and puppets, and prior to Fantasmic!, I had designed three-dimensional elements for several Disneyland projects, including the "Party Gras" Parade (1990). It was a fun place to work, surrounded by talented people who became my friends. I had a lot of wide-eyed enthusiasm back then, and learned how to fabricate all kinds of neat stuff just by doing my job. My career in the Disneyland Ent-Art Dept lasted eleven years.
|Art Director Tom Butsch and a young model builder in 1991.|
|He was once a little green ball of plastilina...|
During this time, I led a group of model makers at the off-site Entertainment-Art Warehouse on Olive Street, a mile northeast of Disneyland in the historic Anaheim Colony neighborhood (Oh, the stories I could tell about that place... Great, great memories.) The first models I built were the barge/puppets for Ursula and the Crocodile. Vladimir Petrov, Jackie Gonzales, Rich Collins and I made a multitude of other miniature pieces, including various fire-breathing dragons (more on that later this week...)
Ideas for an outdoor show on Frontierland's riverfront actually began in the late 1980s including, I recall, a Haunted Mansion-themed "River Haunt"with ghosts rising from the mansion and appearing to fly over to the island, a la "Night On Bald Mountain." That evolved into a short-lived concept called "Fantasia Live!"consisting of projected film clips on three enormous movie screens accompanied by an orchestra on a floating stage. In the above photo (taken at a seminar for art students), one of the earliest renderings, by artist Scott Sinclair, shows the tip of Tom Sawyer's Island engulfed by a trio of "drive-in movie" type screens. It wasn't until an outside French company came up with a method for projecting film onto water mist, that things began to fall into place. For a year, production went forward under the title "Imagination" until it was determined that the word could not be trademarked. Director Barnette Ricci suggested a made-up word "fantasmic" - which sounded silly to us designers at first - but the new name stuck. Nevertheless, the show's musical soundtrack still begins with "Imagination" sung on the recording.
|With the legendary Tom Butsch at his retirement lunch, October 2011.|