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BACKSTAGE ORLANDO: An awesome event!

One of the kick off events of LDI2005 was Backstage Orlando, an insider‘s tour of the theme parks that make Orlando one of the hottest entertainment destinations in the world. This year‘s event started with the first-ever Backstage swimsuit party: actually a chance to ride the rides at Wet ‘n Wild. The highlight was the new attraction, DISCO H2O, a disco water ride with nifty LED lighting designed by Tony Hansen of Techni-Lux in Orlando, with a variety of cutting-edge LED fixtures from Pulsar. Tony Hansen and Andy Graves from Pulsar in the UK presented an overview of the project before the Backstage group headed over to Wet ‘n Wild for a BBQ and the rides.

Backstage Orlando continued on Tuesday morning at Universal Studios Florida where a creative team with Scott Trowbridge, Jennifer Sauer, and Mike Esmond (among others) made a presentation about three new attractions: Fear Factor Live, The Revenge of the Mummy, and Shrek 4D. Interestingly, all three of these attractions are retrofits or “fit” into existing architecture (Mummy, with lighting by Lisa Passamonte Green of Visual Terrain, replaced the King Kong attraction for example). Shrek 4D requires ‘ogre-vison‘ glasses for a 3D video experience with moving seats that douse you with water and bugs (actually air effects that tickle your legs).

Tuesday afternoon and evening were spent at SeaWorld Orlando where entertainment staffers including Scott McMurtrie and Jason Tart provided a behind the scenes tour at Blue Horizons, a new show that combines fabulous dolphins as well as aerial acts: the challenge is the separation of acts, the underwater mammals are cleared from their tanks before the trapeze acts begin. Backstage was also on the docket at the Odyssea theater, before the group went on to the new waterfront area for drinks and dinner on a patio overlooking the lake where a new night show, Mystify, takes place featuring water screens from Aquatique in France, dancing fountains and pyro.

Wednesday was Backstage Disney Day with over 12 hours spent trekking through the wonders of Walt Disney World, organized by the incredible Wendy Abraham from Disney. It started with an early morning visit to Soarin‘ with the opportunity to see the attraction under work lights for an insider‘s tour, as well as a second chance to ride! Plus a great presentation by Jack Blitch, VP fpr WDI project management attraction development to a tour of Disney‘s central shops (where everything from Mickey Mouse heads to tram cars are built) the day was extraordinary in many ways. Backstage at Fantasmic! plus dinner on the viewing patio to see this nightly show, then over to Epcot for Illuminations (minus the inferno barge that sadly experienced damage when fireworks on it exploded one day). Creative staffers and technicians that hosted presentations included John Haupt, Bill Ferrara, David Hinds, Chris Kelly (Disney‘s chief pyro maniac!), Dave Christoffers, TD Larry Sonn, and many others who took time out of their busy day to meet and greet the Backstage group. The group was one of the best ever and as usual was truly international, with attendees from Mexico, Canada, Panama, New Zealand, and various corners of the US. Backstage not only provided an unusual opportunity to go backstage at some attractions and meet the designers and technicians that make it all possible, but also a great networking opportunity for people from all over the world to meet each other and share ideas.

Special thanks to LDI conference manager Linda Zilliox for entertaining the troops and intern Karen for making sure we didn‘t leave anyone behind and the bus zipped from attraction to attraction and Backstage 2005 took Orlando by storm!

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