Puppet master extraordinaire Michael Curry has turned his attention from multiple productions of Disney's The Lion King to a new Disney attraction, the colorful Tapestry of Nations pageant that is part of the Millennium celebration at Disney World in Orlando, FL. This large-scale parade premiered on October 1 in the World Showcase Promenade at Epcot, where it remains a daily feature (along with IllumiNations2000: Reflections of Earth) until January 1, 2001.
"I worked with a conceptual team from Disney as they decided what kind of show this would be," says Curry, whose design studio is in St. Helens, OR. "We were worried about sightlines for a stage show, and decided that a procession would get the most mileage and touch everybody." The theme of the 35-minute event is reflected in its title, with a myriad of nations condensed into one visual design theme.
The puppets that Curry created are massive, stretching to 18' tall, with a maximum span equally as wide. 'The puppets are huge compared to their human operators," he says. "They have to work like a film, with closeups at 6" and long shots from many feet away. There is a real connection at eye level with the puppeteer and a second boost from the impact of the puppet." As Curry sees it, there are two performers: the puppet and the puppeteer.
"We stood out on the site and paced off the distances," he notes, recalling how they held up sticks to gauge the size of the puppets. "How many objects would we need to create the sense of spectacle?" he asked at the time, convinced that the visual impact of kinetic puppets and people would be more dynamic than floats. Curry then made two prototypes and brought them to Orlando to walk them around the lagoon at Epcot. "I knew immediately we were in the right realm of design," he says. The final number of puppets is 120; they are divided into three identical groups of 40 (with 10 spares to avoid duplication in case of any necessary replacements).