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Immersed in Movies: ‘Dancing with the Stars’ Disney Style

Immersed in Movies: 'Dancing with the Stars' Disney Style

Although I’m not a follower of Dancing with the Stars, I couldn’t resist attending Monday night’s live taping of the special Disney edition, which elevated the popular show with such show stoppers as Rumer Willis doing the “Poor Unfortunate Souls” samba as Ursula in full purple body paint accompanied by green reptilian partner Val Chmerkovskiy (a 39 score); Ryker Lynch going crazy as Jack Sparrow for his paso doble to “He’s a Pirate” with Allison Holker (a 38 score); and a jazzy “Love is an Open Door” Frozen finale with Nastia Liukin and Derek Hough (also a 38 score).
Of course, along with live appearances by Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Pluto, and Goofy (who did a little conducting), there were animated clips digitally inserted into the dance routines and sprinkled elsewhere throughout the show (facilitated by Disney’s special projects head Dave Bossert). There was plenty of princess action together with Peter Pan, Tink, and Pinocchio, among others.
Other highlights: Willow Shields (The Hunger Games) doing the Alice in Wonderland foxtrot with Mark Ballas; war vet Robert Herjavec doing his best to “Step in Time” from Mary Poppins with Kym Johnson; and Patti LaBelle overcoming a knee injury to waltz to “When You Wish Upon a Star.”

This second Disney collaboration was nine months in the making and much more extravagant, animated whirl, overseen by exec producers Rob Wade, Ashley Edens-Shaffer, and Joe Sungkur.

“It came from many different angles,” Wade suggested. “Obviously the music’s important and we have to have music which we can dance a variety of different styles to, and they have to be large ballroom styles. 
“Also, we knew we wanted a mixture of animation and live-action-type Disney movies so we have to get a balance there. And, also, it was important to get something from Frozen in there. And with the animation and the way we use that in the show, there are only certain pieces of animation that might work in a concept. So, for example, if we want to have people dancing next to people dancing, it’s not like every Disney movie can have that and not all of them will fit into a rotoscope shot on the dance floor.”
For example, they wanted Olaf falling apart on the desk, which was coordinated with dancers and the celebrity judges (Julianne Hough, Len Goodman, Bruno Tonioli. and Carrie Ann Inaba).
In the case of Frozen, they selected “Love is an Open Door” and then built the creative around it.

Or if they knew a piece of animation would work well in a dance, they recommended certain dancers embrace the concept and persuaded Chris Soules and Witney Carson to perform “Zero to Hero” from Hercules.
On the other hand, Willis was keen on being Ursula and they found the appropriate song from The Little Mermaid so she could be bad.
And Lynch was obsessed with Jack Sparrow and that’s how they built Pirates of the Caribbean around his frenzied performance.
Next time, Wade would like to do it at Disneyland (if he can get the budget). And maybe DWTS could include Pixar characters, too.

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