Last weekend, Disneyland Paris launched a brand new stage show, Mickey and the Magician, as a replacement for the beloved classic, Animagique that had the last performance in January this year.
While the name of the theatre remained the same, Animagique Theater, the concept of the show changed radically. Disneyland Paris surprised us with “the best show ever produced” by the Resort, even if the production itself follows a pattern that can be seen in multiple shows around the world.
In this article, I am going to explain how all the magic tricks and illusions are created in the show, rather than focusing on the storyline itself. If you didn’t watch the show, check out the video below. If you want to avoid spoilers until you see the show or just want to keep the magic alive, please stop reading here. 😊
General theatre tricks
Most of the show effects are accomplished by following some basic theatre tricks. As a simple rule, everything that the audience is not supposed to see during the show is painted black. This includes crew’s outfits, curtains that cover certain set changes, wires, lights and many other stage elements. Some of the illusions in the show are created with the power of black paint, the colour that helps things, with some smoke and lights, disappear.
The graphics on the screen in the back of the stage are also used to create black areas that allow the crew to move the props and sets to be changed.
Another clever trick is the use of lights. Whenever a quick change is made in the back of the stage, the lights are directed to the public, to “blind” them temporary, so they don’t notice the crew and the support elements of some tricks, like the levitation of the magician at the end of the show.
The show starts with the ablation of a semi-transparent curtain that has the role to create a mysterious atmosphere, show wise, and to allow the crew to prepare the stage or to make some adjustments before the show, without being seen by the public.
The curtain has the property to hide what’s behind it, if illuminated from the front, and to be transparent when it’s illuminated from the back. This will pay an important role during the “Let it go” scene, where an important show piece in the storyline has to be switched. (Spoiler alert: Mickey’s magician hat).
After the curtain is removed, Tinker Bell sprinkles her Pixie Dust over symbolic objects, that will allow, later on, different stories come to life.
Tinker Bell is nothing more than a bright light on a long, black stick. A crew member, dressed in black, uses the stick to hover “Tinker Bell” above the objects that are in different planes on the stage. In fact, the effect itself uses two crew members, as the complex set slows down the movement behind the stage, with the large stick in hand. The two LEDs are switched from one to another, to create the illusion that Tinker Bell flies over some objects. In reality, this allows the performers to move to the next location on the stage.
As the show progresses, you will notice another enchanted object, the talking magician hat on the table. This is nothing more than an animatronic, but will be changed later on with a normal hat, during the “Let it go” scene.
The first real magic trick in the show is the appearance of the Fairy Godmother on an armchair. The secret of this illusion is the armchair itself, where the performer is hiding until her cue in the show.
Right before the show starts, some crew members and Fairy Godmother herself prepare for the trick. As the semi-translucent curtain is still on, the whole preparation process is invisible to the public.
How does the trick work? While the performer is inside the chair’s seat, Mickey covers the front and sides of the chair. This allows the performer to get out from the chair, and sit down as nothing happened. The whole process is really fast and it requires some training beforehand.
As you probably noticed, the curtain that Mickey uses is placed right on the chair before the whole trick is done. It has the role to cover the hight of the seat before the right time. As the performer sits underneath and requires space, the seat is raised high (as visible in the first photo). After the illusion is performed and the performer sits on top, the seat lowers down (as visible in the second photo).
The Fairy Godmother is a magician herself, so she does some magic too. A beautiful effect is the appearance of Cinderella’s dress on the mannequin. This illusion, according to Paul Kieve (stage illusionist who worked for the production), was specially created for the show. The trick is done by the rotation of the mannequin while Fairy Godmother casts the spell in front of it, allowing the dress, that was tucked tightly behind, to be revealed.
The transformation of the mannequin into Cinderella is done by a quick switch behind the purple curtain, that’s held by two crew members, with the butterflies on the sticks. While the drape is down, a crew member removes the mannequin to the right, while Cinderella comes from the left to replace it. When she is in place, the crew raised the drape and leave the stage.
With the help of some bright lights that has the role to mess up the public’s eyes’ response to the dark, the crew brings Cinderella’s carriage on stage.
Beauty and the Beast
As Mickey cleans up the atelier, Lumière appears. He is an animatronic similar to the one used in Enchanted Tales with Belle, at Walt Disney World. The Paris version is more of a mechanical puppet, than an animatronic itself, but it’s still nice to see him life-seized in the show.
The table prop that is brought on stage has the chairs on the sides fixed, both for safety (so Mickey or the performers don’t fall while they stand on them), and for timing reasons (it’s much faster to remove a set piece, rather than three).
The dishes that Mickey holds in his hands are kept together with the help of a think elastic band that prevents them from falling and are attached by a performer before and after the scene ends.
The Lion King
This is probably the only scene that doesn’t have any magic tricks or illusions in it. This scene creates emotion through music, lights and performance. The appearance of Rafiki on stage is done by the simple appearance of the performance behind the curtain.
The scene starts with the appearance of the Genie. As you may notice, he stands with his legs crossed in mid air. That’s where a metal frame with a small seat, where the performer sits, is brought on stage. Thanks to the black colour and the smoke from the lamp, the levitation trick is easily created.
Moving on to the next tricks, Genie smashes a champagne bottle, that is made from a soft material. After the bottle is folded underneath the cover, the performer hands it to a dancer, to remove it from the stage.
The transformation of the dancer into the two ladies in the carpet, is nothing more than a clever use of some environmental distraction. They spin the carpet fast, and create the illusion that they placed the carpet in the same position as before, even though the carpet reveals the two performers that were standing on the other side.
The floating box trick is the most spectacular trick and it used to be popular in the 2000s. Two performers bring a large box on stage, and Genie makes it levitate. As you probably noticed, when the box was brought, they didn’t rotate it 360º. That’s because the box itself doesn’t have a back cover. The hole in the back holds a metal structure/support, where a performer sits until a cue in the show.
The connection between the wooden support and the asrah that holds the performer is, as everything else, painted black, and covered by Genie’s costume.
The whole floating effect is not created by strings, from the outside, but by the performer inside, that has some handles to rise and rotate the box around her. After the rotation in mid-air of the box is performed, Genie removes a small element that kept the box closed, while it was upside down. Now, the performer can stand up and be raised by the other dancers, outside the box.
Sometimes, when they remove the prop from the stage, you can see that the box is moving. That’s because of the light material they used, to allow the performer to rise the whole structure without any difficulties.
At the end of the scene, Genie uses a set element in the back to disappear. When the purple curtain drops, another black one is dropped behind the wall circled below. That’s the place that Genie uses to hide when they reveal his disappearance.
Elsa’s spectacular dress transformation is not a magic trick itself, but a really cleverly designed costume. During this scene, the semi-transparent curtain is used for projections in front, while in the back, the animatronic magician hat is changed with a normal one, that has strings attached for a levitation trick performed by Mickey.
The self-swabing broom effect is done by a small mechanism underneath the stage, and moves the broom around. In some photos, you can notice the path created in the carpet and floor, that the broom follows.
The levitation of the hat is done with the help of two strings that Mickey attached to his gloves. In some close-up video shots you can spot the strings floating around Mickey, after the trick is performed.
The last illusion in the show is performed by the magician himself. After he gets into position, two dancers rise a curtain, before covering his body. That’s the moment when the magician leaves the stage, and an asrah that has his silhouette lowers down from the ceiling. When the asrah is in place, the dancers cover it with the curtain and the silhouette is raised. The lights are pointed to the public, so after Mickey removes the drape, you can’t notice the frame and wire.
This wraps up another Behind the Magic article, where we take a look behind the Pixie Dust. If you enjoyed it, please make sure you check out the first article about Disneyland Paris’ Main Street U.S.A., right here.
Please note that some adjustments will be made in the first weeks of performances. Despite the minor adjustments that will be made, the mechanisms for the tricks will remain the same.
Short update: the show team already tested out different ways to do the scenes, like the use of the screen, instead of the curtain, for projections during the “Let it go” scene. (source) This means that the charge of the magician hat is done during other moments in the show, but the principle remains the same.
Thank you for reading! Please let me know what you think about the article, in the comment section below.
Source: Discovery Arcade
Banner Photo Credit: @Cafe_Mickey