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Euro Disney Opens With A Bang The bang in question may well have been the noise of the explosion when the main electricity pylon at Marne le Vallee succumbed to the urban ‘anti‘ terrorists beforehand, or the noise of the pyrotechnics at the end of the opening celebrations, also the subject of local protest. Nevertheless, anyone travelling on a cross channel ferry since April 12th will be aware that Euro Disney is up and running, thanks in no small part to British technological involvement. If Paris is the Isle de France, then Disney is l‘lsle de USA, which is apparent as soon as you leave the A4 autoroute for the 1,943 hectare site. Immediately you are aware that you are no longer on French territory. And while French companies may well have secured the lion's share of the pan European participation, when it comes to entertainment technology British input is, none the less, very substantial. For example, the main park-wide ‘intelligent’ dimming contract went to leading French dimmer manufacturer RV Electronique for their HDD digital dimming system (described in our SIEL review) and which seems to have been developed specifically to meet this requirement. Whereas the lampposts on all the walkways across the park featured James Thomas Parcans, of which some 1300 are in use throughout the complex, together with truck loads of EAW speakers for public address purposes. In fact Eastern Acoustic Work's list of speakers supplied reads like an inventory. 250 KF300, 50 each KF 600, 850 and 153, 40 SM155 and countless of the little UB22 and 42s across seven different locations plus the numerous lampposts. Despite this impressive total, room was also found in the themed water park for four Tannoy CPA15 speakers. Electrosonic at Hawley Mill were responsible for the highly complex integrated control of the parkwide background music, PA and paging, which also provides diagnostic feedback, and the interfaces to the Disney parade floats and other attraction systems which this involves. This complex system involves several hundred different soundtracks, central monitoring of every sound channel, and central computer control of thousands of EQ and attenuator settings. 22 locations and 3000, mostly EAW, speakers are involved. Electrosonic were also responsible for the immensely complex task of providing the real time computer controlled automatic sound and light system for the Disney parade floats. Each float in the parade appears to generate its own music and also lighting after dusk. This means that at each part of the parade route there may be a need to dynamically mix three sound tracks at once: a background track, an incoming float sound track and an outgoing one. In the past this has been achieved manually from a central control room, but at Euro Disney the system is fully automatic so that the changes occur as each vehicle passes. Now each float is fitted with the necessary electronics to interrogate passive transponders buried along the route. The ident of each of these tag is radioed to a central computer which determines the floats location. This enables it to control the sound mixing process, the lighting and any other effects, while also guiding the driver's speed. This ESCON system uses 11 networked computers to control and monitor hundreds of sound and lighting channels, and two large audio routing switches 140 x 180 and 64 x 128. The central control console includes a graphic map of the park with the positions of each float being continuously updated. While missing out to RVE on the general dimming, through their French associates and particularly Glantre Engineering Strand Lighting secured considerable orders for their Premier architectural lighting control systems, of which five are in use together with an MX board in the 575 room New York fantasy hotel, and at least four Galaxy boards and two MX 24s all linked to EC9OMD dimmers are employed elsewhere. One of these desks is used alongside an ALS Enigma in the Philips sponsored Videopolis, an ultra-modern version of a vaudeville/music hall concept, where customers can eat and watch a live show under an array of discotheque and theatre lighting including numerous Telescans and 40 PALS Scrollers, supported on Thomas using against a backdrop of Vidiwalls. This stage featured live performances from Cher and Tina Turner during the opening celebrations broadcast on television worldwide. Phllips' nominated contractor and the design and project managers for the entire Videopolis stage installation and a number of other venues across the park, were Clantre Engineering of Reading. Under Glantre's auspices, ProfSound of the Netherlands provided the discotheque lighting while the performance speakers and amplifiers came from Stage Accompany under Philips' wing. Though the disco-type rig in Videopolis involved considerable use of mechanical movement, achieved with Hoffend mechanicals and their Micro-Commander IID scenery controller, elsewhere on the park Glantre, who are the US companys' European distributors, had implemented the first use of the famous Hoffend ‘Starlift‘ outside the US. Four of these self-erecting towers were in use on the ‘Castle' stage, mounting a battery of Strand Iuminaires and Thomas Parecans and ‘Ministrips' with added Thomas pre-wired bars supporting side fills, though for the initial performances from Jose Carreras and others these luminaires were supplemented by the TV company for a Vari*lite rig. Not to be outdone, the stage at the New York Hotel, which featured the Four Tops and the Temptations, relied on a rented Telescan rig for the debut performance. Glantre were also involved in a similar role in six other locations around the pads. Generally, smoke was provided by JEM machines. Another area with a heavy close of local Interest is the Wild West Show, with lighting design by Andrew Bridget. His work for Siegfried and Roy at the Mirage in Las Vegas had inspired Jean-Luc Choplin, Euro Disney's Director of live performances, and he was adamant about using Andrew for this ‘high risk’ arena show which features competitive horseback riding and herds of Longhorn steers and Buffalo. Already they have lost an Annie Oakley with a broken coccyx and the papers last week were running unconfirmed reports of four other people injured later on. "With a show like this you are on a knife edge as a lighting designer, or treading a high wire might be more appropriate,”' Bridge commented. “You can never really be sure what is going to happen next, which is precisely why I had always wanted to light a circus, or something similar. However, I have to admit that l had no idea just how hairy working with the unpredictability of animals really is.” “Of course, Andrew is a genius lighting designer," the enthusiastic M. Chaplin told met. “l really had to have him for this show.” Apparently Michael Eisner's original brief to Chaplin was to produce a rodeo. “Obviously that would have been out of the question and when we discovered that ‘Buffalo' Bill Cody had brought his original Wild West Show to Paris in 1902, it all fell into place.” Andrew, for his part, was equally adamant that, to achieve the mood lighting he envisaged, Vari*lites were an essential ingredient, and after a protracted tussle a long term deal was struck. Otherwise, Howard Eaton provided the rest of the lighting (this will be expanded upon when Eaton finds the time to speak to me) and, the now defund Kemps made the specials. The Wild West Show and Videopolis will be the subject of in-depth technical features in successive future issues of L&SI. In the meantime we concentrate this month (Pages 23 to 28) on the highlight of the opening ceremony, 'le Spectacle du Lac’, in which a pan-European crew of outdoor event specialists put on a monster performance to close the festivities. The event took place at 21.30 at night on the 80,000 square metre artificial lake which Disney have treated in a setting as grandiose as the Palace of Versailles Palace, between the Newport Bay and New York hotels. All eyes will now be on the opportunities presented by the expansion already underway for the adjoining MGM Studio lot to open in 1995, to say nothing of Euro Magic Mountain and Marine Worlds. Red Hot and Pumping On Lake Buena Vista The climax of the celebrations for the opening of Euro Disney was a performance of epic proportions on a vast artificial lake. If the fantasy world of Disney is larger than life and twice as plastic, the opening party was typically grandiose and totally over the top, as TV viewers across the world will have witnessed. What they would have missed, as only a 30 second clip was spliced into the broadcast, was the fabulous ‚Spectacle du Lac‘ (literally, ‘Show on the Lake') which was actually the culmination of the entire celebrations for those present. Based loosely around the animated Disney feature The Little Mermaid, in real life this separate but gigantic effort, which brought together numerous event specialists, including a handful of Brits, totally eclipsed anything that had gone before in a magical explosion of technological artistry. It couldn't have failed to impress even the most diehard Euro Disney sceptic. But then the stretch of water itself is no small garden pond with a few gilded Koi carp gliding just below the surface. No, Lake Buena Vista is a 400m long archipelago stretching between two vast Palladian hotels ‘The New York' at one end and ‘The Newport Bay‘ at the other. The picture it presents is a film-set version of the ornate Italianate gardens at those grand European houses where gardeners falsified the landscape to create a palatine setting for some famous architect's great conceit of a vast chateau or palazzo; this one worthy even of the greatest folly of them all, the Palace of Versailles but without its permanence. So a setting of mythical proportions, worthy of a king-sized production, is precisely what we got. The power requirements alone read like the demands on the national grid: 2 x 800KVA, 2 x 350KVA, 2 x 200KVA, 3 x 150KVA, 2 x 100KVA plus 4 x 125A and 4 x 63A. For, if fire and water are elemental, the Spectacle du Lac had both of these elements and more. The main constituents and participating companies were: dramatically lit and controllable water fountains (Aquatic Show International), big colour changing Xenon searchlights (STX Skylights), several colour Ionics' large frame lasers (Stratovision), extraordinarily clever aqua-projection (ECA2), a humongous pyrotechnics display (Eurodrop and Art Fireworks), giant inflatable (Air Artists) and a big sound system (Britannia Row Productions). And orchestrating and implementing the concept for the entire extravaganza, not to say organizing the dozens of techs and operatives involved, was Euro Disney's chief lighting designer and special events producer, Claude Tissier. And, in recognition of their pioneering work on such mega-projects undertaken in Orlando at Walt Disney World, Bettina Buckley, production manager of creative entertainments in Florida, flew in to perform a much needed hands-on co-ordination role. (I note, with amusement, that Ms Buckley’s business address in the United States is PO Box 10,000, Lake Buena Vista, FL). Those involved are all leading specialists, with events pedigrees as long as your arm. Long before the performance, I had wandered unwittingly into the tense atmosphere of the tiny camouflage net and scaffold control centre perched on the edge of the lake and supporting, on three floors, a mass of control equipment and operating personnel. The ground floor, by far the most crowded with a crew of eight, was occupied by Brit Row Productions whose operations manager, Chris Hey, gave me a few brief moments between rehearsals to cover the bare essentials. 24 Flashlight stacks as used on The Wall concert in Berlin, had been deployed and flown successfully the first time round on StageCo towers. These structures are so solid they require no bracing, so there is nothing to compromise arranging the sound system so that adjustments can be made to suit variable climatic conditions. This proved essential, as weather conditions had been severe bringing both snow and driving rain at various times, for, curiously for the success of the venture, Marne le Valee is in possibly the wettest region of France and not subject to the drought which has afflicted the West coast of the county for the last three years. They wish! In order to compensate for the huge distances involved, the tape replay system was time aligned using a time code offset. Time code generated from the same source was used to cue the Skylights, pyrotechnics and the lasers at 24 time code locations. 17 kilometres of cable were used for the sound and for the RTS Matrix Plus comms system, also provided by Brit Row, with the 60 stations and parallel traffic on numerous command loops this required. The aquatic element of the show was a ballet of orchestrated pulsating water jets and rich hues of projected light. This involved 13 controllable fountains arranged in a curve closest to the audience with three waltzing gushers in the same location, four water arches formed a central salute down the spine of the lake and 20 water cannons in an opposing curve at the opposite end provided counterpoint - all led by 77, 5.5kW pumps and 310 submersible 1kW colour projectors consuming 8400 metres of submerged cable. These water structures gave geometric shape to the entire show. At the same time the 20 STX searchlights, arranged in two curved rows at the far end of the lake and in two straight lines to the sides, tanned and swept the sky in long coloured lingers; while two 20W Argon lasers, strategically placed on the roofs of the two hotels, sparked and crackled across the misty water. And into all of this was introduced a single moment of sheer magic, both for its brilliant technical achievement and its mystical quality, as two shimmering and ghostly full colour images appeared suspended in mid-air over the centre of the Lake. Deliberately distracting the eye from the technique, were two 12W mixed lasers coming at the images from the same direction. When the haze cleared, this apparition took the form of the little mermaid herself, in pale colours, moving languidly as if uncomfortable on her rock. Had I not known better I might have believed, for all the world, that I was looking at sans-screen holograms! But how was this superb effect really achieved? As with all the best ideas the concept is simple, the implementation not so easy. Two carefully angled screens, created from fine high-pressure water droplets were formed, using six 37kW pumps to provide the necessary pressure, and the images projected onto the audience-facing side of the screens from two syncronized 7kW Xenon 70mm projectors located on the lake shore. To realise this effect and the animations, Yves Pepin of ECA2 worked closely with Paul Curasi, Disney's director of animation in Orlando. Apparently, water screens have been used previously in Japan, where Pepin has been involved in many shows, and the same effect will also be used, by his company, nightly for the lake Show at Expo in Seville. All of this is achieved through the wonders of Time Code, MIDI and DMX512 (and the aforementioned headset communications), enabling the precision production of the show to the second. Despite this breathtaking moment, there was yet more to come, with the spectacular emergence, in a cloud of smoke and colour from the centre of the lake, of King Triton, Neptune to the rest of us, in a 15m high inflatable created by Air Artists in Norfolk, in the UK. Apart from the problems of building and colouring such a monster, as witness our picture (see also cover), the only major problem according to Rob Harries was the hazardous risk of punduring caused by burning debris from the major firework performance. By now it was banging and flashing from all over the lake off diverse platforms, which formed the numerous islands of the archipela, with one major platform to the rear of Triton and others from behind e Newport Bay Hotel at the end of the site. (All of this to the disgust of local residents who had signed the inevitable petition against such displays). Now, even the hardened professionals on the site were saying 'Phew' and buttoning up their raincoats against the drizzle, which had started unnoticed several minutes earlier, and wandering away with glazed looks in their eyes. Yes, Claude Tissier and his team of eventers had certainly produced an intricately woven and bright coloured patchwork quilt of a show. Brash, we I just a bit maybe in the best Disney tradition, but Mickey Mouse it certainly wasn't.