Creating Disney Magic – The Entertainment Division

Some time ago, the ‘Designing Disney Research Center’ had an exclusive interview with Mrs Kat de Blois, artistic director of the ‘Entertainment Division’ of Disneyland Paris. Today, we show you how a Disney theme park show or parade is made.

What is your job all about?

I’m the artistic director of the ‘Entertainment Division’ of Disneyland Paris. In this capacity, I manage and guide show directors, choreographers and set designers.

What did you study?

I have studied Fine Arts at the Boston Conservatory of Music.

How did you join Disney?

A few years after my graduation, I joined the cast of the musical ‘West Side Story’. This travelling production was staged all over Europe. While in Paris, I met a wonderful man and I decided to stay in France.

For many years, I carried out different assignments throughout Europe. But when my children were born, I had to settle down. Just about that time, I found out that Mickey Mouse was moving to Paris. I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to link my youth, my tradition and my heritage being an American with the experiences I had in Europe. So I applied for a job at Euro Disney. On October 1, 1991, I started as a choreographer.

You have worked on many shows. What is the one that you are most proud of?

In show business, they say, “you’re only as good as your last show”. People have short-lived memories (laughter). But I loved creating ‘The Nutcracker Dreams Ballet’ in the form of a Christmas parade. Most choreographers do it on stage with ballerinas. I had Disney characters and a lot of floats to work with.

I absolutely adored producing ‘Pocahontas, The Show’. The spectacular was about a crazy Italian director that had some megalomaniac ideas to make a live action movie out of the animated feature ‘Pocahontas’. But he could use some help because his producer only gave him eight people to work with. So he invited guests to come up on stage and be English soldiers, Indians… It was a very interactive fun show with lots of special effects!

And I’m also very proud of ‘Tarzan, The Encounter’ because it tells a story in a very special nonverbal way, through acrobatics and gymnastics. It was the last show that I produced before I transformed from being a director to being an artistic director.

Did the expectations of visitors change in the past years?

Today’s guests expect a fast moving show that gives them an instant energy boost and precise, clear messages. If not, they will get bored, leave and do something else. So during each single minute of each show, we need to trigger their curiosity and hold their attention.

What are the main ingredients of a good Disney show?

I think there are five main ingredients.

1.      Great story line.

You need to have a really good story. The story can be simple: boy meets girl, boy looses girl and boy gets girl in the end. But the way you reveal that story is very important.

2.      Appropriate setting.

The story has to take place in the absolute most perfect place.

3.      Dynamic characters.

You need to have the most dynamic characters that are going to live the story. You got to have a great villain, if you want to have a good hero.

4.      Warmth, humor and heartfelt moments.

5.      Family oriented.

Our shows must attract the whole family. Everybody needs to get something out of it. Of course, certain members of your party will understand things on different levels, or will appreciate different parts of the show then others. Your five year old may like Mickey, while dad loves the beautiful dancing girl (laughter).

How many performers work at Disneyland Paris?

Approximately 2000 people work in the entertainment division.

In most recent years, Disneyland Paris focused on outdoor entertainment. How come?

It’s a strategic decision. We want to offer as many guests as possible the opportunity to attend a Disney show. When we organize a show in open air, we can reach more people then indoors! After all, outdoor venues can hold much more people then theaters. Besides, sometimes, going outside perfectly fits the story we would like to tell (f.e. “Mickey’s Halloween Treat in the Street! Show”).

Do you have any other special anecdotes to share with us of your past 19 years here at DLP?

I had so much fun here!

But one memory is particularly special to me. At the end of the final performance of “The Magical World of Tinker Bell” dinner show (at Hotel Newport Bay Club), all dancers came out and gave me thousands of roses in appreciation for the work I had done. That’s something I will never forget.

Being in this kind of a job, I’ve never had two days alike, never two projects alike. I have been able to do so many different things. As an artist, it’s very enriching to have such a fantastic place to play! 

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions.

You're welcome!

Photos article:

- Disney (first)
- Bert Snyers

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