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Here's Everything We Know About Disney's Secret Cirque du Soleil Show

December 10, 2019

The new show premieres spring 2020 at Disney World and we have a first look at the magical details.

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Photo: Disney/Cirque du Soleil

New Magical Entertainment  

In the past couple of years, Disney Springs — an outdoor shopping and entertainment destination all its own within Disney World — has exploded from a place to shop for souvenirs at Walt Disney World to a must-visit, all-day destination with attractions, food and entertainment that rival offerings you’ll find inside the resort’s theme parks. However, in all of that development and expansion, the large circus tent-like theater in the Disney Springs skyline has been vacant after the Cirque du Soleil show La Nouba closed in 2017. But that’s all about to change as the theater is getting a brand-new show. In April 2020, Drawn to Life will premiere, but unlike its predecessor, this show is co-produced in a three-way partnership between Cirque du Soleil, Walt Disney Imagineering and Walt Disney Animation Studios. Yep, a Disney Cirque show is happening. But it won’t be just another themed show with music like the Beatles-powered LOVE in Vegas. This is something different and much more magical. Read on for all the details plus Walt Disney World must-dos while you’re in town for the show.

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Photo: Donovan Tremblay

The Art of Animation 

There is magic in movement, whether that’s a grand leap of an acrobat or a quick stroke of an animator’s pencil. And that study in motion is the commonality and glue between Disney and Cirque du Soleil, despite their very different aesthetics. The show creators really did their homework. “We did a lot of research and we discovered the wonders of early Disney animation,” says Cirque du Soleil Creative Director Fabrice Becker. The Cirque team took a deep dive into the famous Disney vault and came out inspired by Disney’s pioneering "Nine Old Men" animators in addition to the art of animation itself. Writer and show director Michel Laprise says the show has a deep respect for the craftsmanship of animation. “We went to the origin, where life appears on a drawing. And it’s so strong.” Even the show’s villain, Miss Hesitation, is a nod to an animator’s artistic process. She’s not a monster or an evil queen but just a crumpled-up piece of paper. It represents the self doubt artists have throughout the creative process. Emily Carragher, who plays the character, knows that this truth is universal and something guests will connect with even if they don’t draw. “Everyone is going to recognize it and say, ‘Oh I’ve felt that before’” she says.

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The Story 

Cirque du Soleil shows typically feel like a fever dream rather than an actual story. But with Disney there’s always a story. “‘Compared to other Cirque du Soleil shows, the storytelling is a bit more detailed in this show,” says Becker, with a true narrative that will be easy for all ages to follow. The main character is a little girl named Julie and her father Tom has just passed away. Tom was a Disney animator and Julie stumbles into his office to discover a secret: an unfinished piece of animation that she must finish. “It’s really important to us that this show is perfect for families,” says Michael Jung, Executive Creative Director at Walt Disney Imagineering. And that means kids, too. Jung says that the show will be more accessible for kids both in story and literal participation, “even inviting children up on stage at the beginning.”

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Photo: Donovan Tremblay

The Design 

The stage and the set design will help illustrate a major moment in the show’s plot. Julie will jump from her father’s drawing desk and dive into the page and the world of animation. When she does, the audience will feel as though they’ve shrunk down to the size of a small sketch. “The office of her father is the entire proscenium of the theater,” says Stephane Roy, the show’s set designer. Roy even riffed off of the animation style of multiplane design with seven moving pages. So the backdrops will change out like an artist’s page. Pixar fans will recognize the iconic lamp from “Luxo Jr.” on Tom’s desk, but the set piece isn’t stagnant. It’s a character, too, and will interact with Julie and shine on the audience. Cirque costumes may have a specific style, but the colors for this show are distinctly Disney. Costume designer Philippe Guillotel was inspired by legendary Disney artist Mary Blair and her prominent use of blue, pink and green in the animated classic Sleeping Beauty.

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