Nicole, Alana and Juliette Feld
You don’t have to look far to see the impact the Feld sisters have had on the family-owned entertainment company. Oldest daughter Nicole Feld’s production of Disney on Ice’s Frozen has transformed the blockbuster Disney franchise into a touring powerhouse. Youngest daughter Juliette has brought America’s favorite comic book characters to life with the successful launch of Marvel Universe LIVE!, which began touring arenas last summer and has earned acclaim from the media and families who love the show.
Following up on that success, Alana Feld is preparing to launch a new Disney Live property, Mickey and Minnie’s Doorway to Magic, which begins later this month in Brazil. Each show Feld Entertainment has produced has pushed the boundaries of production, with new technologies created that make characters fly and disappear and transform arenas into new and exciting locales.
The shows also come during a period of transition for the Feld family as they prepare to permanently retire elephants from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in 2018 and provide permanent sanctuary for the magnificent animals at their Center for Elephant Conservation in central Florida. It’s an important step forward for Feld Entertainment and a critical investment in the company’s future, as is the sprawling new headquarters in nearby Ellenton, Fla. With the help of some of their friends in the touring business, the Felds are connecting with other shows and film productions and building a steady rental business for Feld Studios. It’s a bright future for the company now helmed by three of the brightest stars in live entertainment.
Alana Feld is just a few months away from kicking off the new Mickey and Minnie production, which will tour Brazil and then South America before launching a U.S. tour in early 2016.
“We’re really excited about this show. In addition to having some new characters, we also have some incredible magic in the show, along with real illusions,” she said. “We do know our magic, and that’s why people will love this show; illusions are very organic to the stories being told.”
One illusion helps Cinderella’s fairy godmother transform her rags into a beautiful dress right before the audience’s eyes. For the story of Rapunzel from the hit film Tangled, the audience watches the heroine as she follows her dream, ending with an array of dramatic floating lanterns that’s sure to impress.
The show is being created to play arenas and theaters, and will kick off in June on the northern coast of Brazil before making an extensive tour through the country, the largest yet for Feld Entertainment. After Brazil, it will tour Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Guatemala and Costa Rica.
The show was created and rehearsed at the company’s expansive Feld Studios in Ellenton, and will be dubbed in Portuguese and Spanish for the South American run. Mickey and Minnie’s Doorway to Magic was directed and choreographed by Disney Live veteran Fred Tallaksen, whose credits also include past runs of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Disney Live: Sofia the First, and Phineas & Ferb: The Best Live Tour Ever.
Alana Feld with Fred Tallaksen
“He’s extremely talented and knows how to create a show that’s humorous and brings the characters to life like no one else,” Alana said of Tallaksen.
Other characters planned for the show include Buzz Lightyear (who has an interesting magic scene with a laser, Alana said), along with appearances by Snow White, Aladdin, the Genie, Jasmine, Goofy, and of course, Minnie and Mickey.
It’s expected to be another hit following on the heels of the wildly popular Marvel Universe LIVE! show, which is entering its 10th month of touring.
“This was the first Marvel arena experience,” Juliette said. “Even though audiences are familiar with the brand, from publishing to the movies and their consumer products, they’ve never experienced Marvel in an arena before. This is the first place you can see the characters with their powers performing in a story.”
Any new product launch requires extensive marketing and brand awareness, Juliette said, adding, “There was a lot of education we had to do into the market about Marvel Universe LIVE!. We did have a slower start in the summer, educating audiences and getting their feedback, but we have had incredible sales since kids got back into school. We have been excited to see fans’ reaction to the show and have really enjoyed learning from our audience.”
Marvel Universe LIVE! was a unique marketing endeavor, because the show was being promoted both to comic book fans and to young families, Juliette explained.
“We had a strategy with our marketing to engage the fanboys first and get their interest in the show and then start talking to families,” she said. “We knew we could sustain a longer interest with the fanboys because we spent so much time developing the property. With families, you need an action step right away. You need to have tickets available.”
You don’t have to be a fanboy to appreciate the show’s stunning special effects, which give Spider-Man the ability to swing around the arena on webs, give Thor the power to fly and include a number of impressive pyrotechnic displays.
“Everything in the show is a technical feat — nothing is typical,” Juliette said, explaining that a Hollywood stunt choreographer was hired to help bring the show to life.
“We had the idea of doing a live car chase that ended with the car flipping on its roof and having it set on fire. When we asked him how it was done in the movies, he said, “We usually get a new car every time,'” Juliette recalled. “We have a car that our in-house shop built that actually rolls over, bursts into flames, and does it eight times a week without an issue.”
The flying in the show was designed differently for every single character.
“They each fly in a different manner that’s aligned with their powers,” she explained. “We designed different harnesses and different fly systems with their own custom mechanical systems to accommodate all of those different styles. That is unprecedented.”
Marvel Universe LIVE! will continue touring North America through 2016 and then head overseas, with an international schedule slated to be released later this year. Will Feld consider spinning off the Marvel characters or building new live touring franchises around properties like Star Wars?
“You’ll have to wait and see,” Juliette told us.