The highly anticipated new collaboration from Cirque du Soleil and Disney, Drawn to Life, premiered at Disney Springs at Walt Disney World Resort to a full house of enthusiastic fans who demonstrated their appreciation with a lengthy standing ovation.
The show is a love letter to Disney Animation interpreted through Cirque du Soleil’s acrobatic performances, dazzling choreography, innovative design and eclectic costuming alongside all-new characters created by Disney Animation artists and an original score inspired by timeless Disney music. It marks the first ever theatrical collaboration of three creative icons: Cirque du Soleil, Walt Disney Animation Studios and Walt Disney Imagineering.
“This show has been in the works for years and to finally share it with the world is a dream come true,” said Daniel Lamarre, President and CEO of Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group. “This collaboration has been unlike anything we’ve done before. We hope it will mean as much to our fans as it has to us – it’s not just our show now, it’s theirs too.”
“Seeing a Cirque du Soleil show at Disney Springs has long been a cherished experience for our guests,” said Jeff Vahle, President of Walt Disney World Resort. “Combining the rich legacy of Disney Animation with the incredible artistry of Cirque du Soleil, Drawn to Life is pure magic.”
Drawn to Life, written and directed by Michel Laprise with Fabrice Becker as Director of Creation, is a live acrobatic journey telling the story of Julie, a determined girl who discovers an unexpected gift left by her Disney animator father: an unfinished animation. As she dives into the inner world of animation guided by a surprising pencil, Julie embarks on an inspiring quest filled with childhood Disney memories. Developed along with Michael Jung, Executive Theatrical Development, Walt Disney Imagineering, the story is driven by 10 unique acrobatic acts alongside animation from beloved Disney films as well as all-new animation created by Disney Animation artists led by Animation Director Eric Goldberg, best known for characters such as the Genie in the animated classic, “Aladdin.”
Cirque du Soleil acrobatics and characters from classic Disney animation films blend throughout Julie’s journey. Along the way she encounters rhythmic gymnasts interpreting pages of drawings in continuous sequence, a pair of human trapeze artists moving as paintbrushes to create a kaleidoscope of colors, teeterboard artists displaying the squash and stretch principle of animation and beloved Disney Animation characters from across eras.
Years in the making, the show was researched through extensive visits Cirque du Soleil teams made to Disney theme parks, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Walt Disney Animation Research Library, Walt Disney Archives, and The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. As a result, the show pays homage to classic Disney Animation techniques and many trailblazing Disney Animation artists including Mary Blair, Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas.
The show is an immersive production featuring an all-original score of new music pixie-dusted with playful snippets of melodies from Disney’s classic animated feature films; makeup that reflects animation principles like exaggerated lines, highlights and shadows; larger-than-life costumes and props that are more than meets the eye; and a set that envelops the audience in sketch pages and an animator’s drawing table.
Originally slated for a March 2020 opening, but delayed due to the pandemic, the show played to an electric theater of excited guests. Among those in attendance were Lamarre, Vahle, Goldberg as well as other top Cirque du Soleil and Walt Disney World executives.
“It means so much to finally be raising the curtain on Drawn to Life,” said Laprise. “Every step of this journey has been emotional, from researching and viewing original Disney Animation, to writing this beautiful story, to meeting our cast and becoming a family supporting each other through our unexpected ‘intermission’ together. I’m overwhelmed at the magic we have the opportunity to create for families.”
Drawn to Life is the 50th production created by Cirque du Soleil and its premiere coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Walt Disney World Resort. With an international cast of 62 artists, Drawn to Life will perform Tuesday through Saturday at Disney Springs at Walt Disney World Resort.
Drawn to Life presented by Cirque do Soleil and Disney Fun Facts:
- Cast is comprised of 62 artists from 15 countries around the globe including Japan, Russia, Togo,
Colombia and Peru
- There are 10 unique acrobatic acts in Drawn to Life
- The show features many references to the history of Disney Animation, a few of which are:
- The four animators who befriend Julie on her journey are Cirque du Soleil’s bow to Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men, icons of Disney Animation.
- Throughout the show there are references to the 12 principles of animation outlined in the book Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life by iconic Disney animators and Disney Legends Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas.
- In the Dreams of Colors act the kaleidoscope of colors pays homage to the genius of Disney Animation artist Mary Blair. Tribute is also paid to the Women of Ink and Paint, unsung heroes whose brushstrokes gave life to early animation celluloids.
- The Old Mill act is inspired by Walt Disney’s groundbreaking 1937 animated short of the same name.
- The Squash & Stretch act was inspired by the rubber band fights Disney Animators were known to have during their breaks