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"Nice! What did you do?" - the role of a Disney show writer

The Halloween season at Disneyland Paris has just drawn to an end, a season filled with everyone's favorite characters in a new cavalcade and in new meet and greet locations. Main Street USA was filled with orange bunting, jack o' lanterns, and hauntingly happy ghosts. Pumpkin people wandered the streets of Frontierland and the colors of autumn were everywhere.

Shortly after I posted the video of the Halloween cavalcade on Facebook, a friend commented, "Nice! What did you do?" It's true that when you think of a show writer, you immediately think of live entertainment, as in writing a script for a show. But writing for a theme park can be so much more! I certainly didn't realize it before working for Disneyland Paris, but everything that happens, from the smallest piece of decoration to the biggest staged live show, starts with a story.

The stories are almost always developed through a process of team brainstorming. My job then is not only to imagine possible shows and interactive moments, but also to write the back stories that will serve as inspiration for designing floats, photo locations and pretty much anything else that needs a story! I then accompany the projects through the development with the art designers and the show directors for each season.

So for the Halloween Cavalcade, for example, we started out with this high concept: "The air is getting cooler, leaves are turning red and gold, the harvest bounty has been gathered... Join Mickey and Minnie as they celebrate the harvest season with their friends, transforming the bright orange pumpkins into grinning Jack-o’-lanterns for some Halloween fun!" Over the following weeks of brainstorming, Emanuel Lenormand (the show director) and I fleshed out the descriptions of each unit, imagining which characters would go where, and what story would be told for each unit of the cavalcade. The final finished story then went out to the costume department and to Brad Kaye, the float designer, who worked closely with our art department here in Paris, as well as to Scott Ericson, who produced the song.

So in other words, the short answer to "what did you do?" is: I wrote the story! And this year for Halloween, there were so many fun stories to tell! From naming all of the ghosts on Main Street, to imagining what sort of photo location would be perfect for Minnie, to writing a script for “Captain Hook’s Pirate Academy”, to… well the list goes on!

Christmas Season opens next week, and lots of new stories will be told in Disneyland Paris with a brand new Christmas tree and tree-lighting ceremony, new units in the Christmas Cavalcade, and a very special surprise addition to the daily parade. See you there!


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