Cirque Du Soleil’s first brand new production since the pandemic, Drawn To Life, is also their first official Walt Disney collaboration.
This is despite having had a theatre on the Disney Springs grounds in Orlando since 1998. The beautiful space was their first custom built, permanent venue and residency outside of Las Vegas, with the long running show La Nouma. But in spite of sitting on Disney land, a Disney show it was not. But all that changed last year…
It’s far from the first time that Cirque have collaborated with another company – for one, back in 2017 their touring Avatar collaboration with James Cameron. That was a bit of a mixed bag. And then there’s the Beatles Love in Vegas, which may be my favourite of all Cirque shows internationally.
But I think I just found my second favourite. It’s safe to say that Drawn to Life is amongst their best collaborations ever, and may be their best show outside of Las Vegas – whether it’s in a touring circus tent, or a permanent location.
Drawn To Live opened in November 2021, sitting in a permanent space, but still with the famed sails that you’d find at touring stages around the world. And like at any Cirque du Soleil show, it all begins with their “clowns”, and some audience participation.
Here, kids get to draw with the performers and see their artwork become part of the pre-show entertainment. Of course, this is only to warm up the crowd, as you get an early taste of some of the great projection work – and the playful nature of animation that sits at the heart of the production – that is to come.
Those projections – and they truly are magnificent, taking over pieces that move, and other areas that remain stationary – see every inch of the stage utilised. It ensures it’s a spectacle on part with a Las Vegas experience, with sensational acrobatics, and unmatched audio and visuals.
Collectively, it pulls you (figuratively) – and our lead character (literally) – into the world of Disney animation.
Our lead is a young girl, mourning the sudden death of her father. It wouldn’t be a Disney show without a death, would it?
The basic idea of the show is that this young girl is given an unfinished animation from her father, who asks her to finish it. She finds this in her office after he passes, and finds herself being pulled into her dad’s traditional animation desk after facing a lack of confidence and I guess what you’d call animator’s block – which comes to be exemplified by a walking, groaning, pile of trash that seeks to keep her from completing the task her father set for her.
It makes for a simple, easy to follow story, that is as compelling as it is spectacular; finding the perfect balance that many productions of this kind struggle to.
Early in the show, to set the scene, our acrobats become stills from an animation frame, as they show just how animation works; both exemplified in their performance, and in the projection work that happens around them.
There are several “how are they doing that?” moments from a practical level, alongside the wow factor of the performances themselves. The technicality of the show lends itself to the fact that even without all those incredible acrobatics, this would still be a wholly amazing production – the level of detail, and the precision to every minutia of the lighting, sound and special effect, is an outstanding feat.
Without spoiling too much of the show, no matter where you’re sitting you’ll feel a part of the action, with cast members flying over you, running through the crowd and ensuring you’ll leave having had a few gasps along the way.
There’s a giant hand (in heels!), unicycles with winged creatures, a buff man on a flying pencil, and some impressive play on stilts. We see giant rotating hamster wheels, some beautiful, high-flying dancing, and even wire & shadow art like that which inspired the characters in Soul. And plenty of classic Disney characters make an appearance through their projections – though everyone you see on stage, as far as I know, is an original character for this production.
This is one of the best Cirque du Soleil shows I’ve ever seen. Honestly, the only criticism would be that there is, at times, too much going on – even by Cirque standards. But then again, Disney wants to know you’ll be coming back again! And there’s more than enough to bring you back for more. This is a show you will want to see again, and again – and every time I’m sure you’ll have more to discover. Don’t miss it.
FIVE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Drawn To Life performs multiple times each week at Disney Springs in Orlando, Florida – part of the Walt Disney World Resort.
For more details at to book tickets, head to https://www.cirquedusoleil.com/drawn-to-life
The writer attended as a guest of Cirque du Soleil on 11th June 2022. Photos provided by Cirque du Soleil.