Disney on Ice ‘Dares to Dream’ at Nutter Center

By Tim Smith

Photo: Talent recruiters choose from skaters all over the world to present the magic of Disney on Ice

Disney on Ice has been entertaining audiences the world over since it debuted in 1981 as “Walt Disney’s World on Ice.” It grew out of a merger between The Ice Follies and Holiday on Ice in 1979. The latest offering, “Dare to Dream,” will be presented at Wright State University’s Nutter Center Oct. 20–23.

Amber Talley is the project manager and has been part of the creative force behind six Disney on Ice productions.

“It takes countless people to create Disney on Ice,” she says. “Each show has well over 100 people working on it, starting with conception and finally traveling the globe. From the skilled crafts person to the directors, producer, cast, and crew, it is a labor of love and effort from everyone on the team to make sure we are delivering the best family experience and show possible.”

She works closely with the director and designers to achieve their vision for the show.

“We are always referencing art work from the movies and trying to develop new and innovative ways to surprise the audience,” she explains. “We are motivated by staying true to the locations and characters in the movies to make the audience feel as if they have stepped into the world of their favorite films. We have quite a few designers that are involved in creating a new Disney On Ice show: music, scenic designer, choreographer, writer, lighting designer, talent director, and the producers. We also collaborate with the filmmakers on certain aspects of the design process.”

Work on a new Disney on Ice production usually starts a year in advance, and it’s an involved process.

“It takes a lot of planning before anyone steps foot on the ice to make sure what we are building or designing will work,” Talley says. “Props and set pieces can take a very long time to build. Unfortunately for us, we don’t have Tinker Bell helping us with the magic. Some large props can take over a month to build while some smaller objects can be created in a day or a week.”

Another member of the creative team is Patty Vincent. She serves as the character development director, a post she has held since 2001. Each production is based on a Disney film, but there are many factors involved in deciding what to use.

“We have a team that researches the popularity of the Disney properties,” Vincent says. “We then work with the writers to determine the particular story beats and characters that we want to highlight within each property. Once we determine a theme, we begin to design the scenic elements that will help transport us from one location to the next. The transitions in the show are well thought out. It takes a lot more time to move set pieces across the ice than it does in film to cut from one frame to the next.”

“From the first conversation to opening night, it could take anywhere from nine to 10 months,” she continues. “Putting the thoughts down on the page is probably the most critical during the early stages. You really need to be sure that the concept is woven throughout the story clearly. Then, we go to script. Once the script is approved, we begin the design process for costumes, scenery, and music. That’s just the beginning.”

Once these elements are in place, the arduous job of casting begins. Vincent points out that not everyone who can skate qualifies for a role in a Disney production.

“Our talent director is looking for skill, personality, quality, height, and always something unique,” she says. “We audition all over the world with our touring ice shows. Our talent director will set up auditions in various cities and the show’s performance directors will audition the selected talent. Some people will submit videos online that we can take a look at.”

Vincent notes that advances in technology have made some aspects of the productions a bit easier.

“We have replaced spot lights with Black Trax in a few of our shows,” Vincent says. “This is incredible technology. Basically, it’s a little beacon that is clipped onto the performer’s costume. Our lighting designer programs a dedicated light to that particular performer and the light follows the performer wherever they go. What I love about this technology is that it’s so consistent and we can light so many more performers. It’s also incredibly helpful when we perform overseas. We don’t have to worry about the delay with translation.”

Memorable songs have been a hallmark of many Disney films, and the team strives to keep that feature in their ice shows.

“It’s really important to implement the songs from the film into our shows,” Vincent says. “The music is such a big part of the experience for the audience. It’s so much fun to be in the audience watching all the kids dancing in the aisles and everyone singing their hearts out.”

Disney on Ice’s ‘Dare to Dream’ takes place Friday–Sunday, Oct. 20–23 at Wright State University’s Nutter Center, 3640 Colonel Glenn Hwy. in Dayton. For tickets or more information, please call 937.775.3498 or visit NutterCenter.com.



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Tim Smith is an award-winning, bestselling author. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Smith at TimSmith@DaytonCityPaper.com

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