The Casual Reporter: Horse Wreck Stops Wild West Show

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Horse Wreck Stops Wild West Show

Last night a horse wreck stopped the Stagecoach scene in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show (La Legende de Buffalo Bill) Disney Village, Disneyland Paris Resort France. While making the final sharp left turn into the center of the arena, the left wheeler (horse closest to the Stagecoach) stumbled and fell. The right wheeler, who was also pulling left into the turn, tripped over his fallen partner, his momentum carrying him over the tongue of the hitch and on top of his partner. The Indians, many of them authentic Native Americans, and the Horse Team immediately worked to untangle the mess.

About 10 - 15 tense minutes passed, the night-time lighting scheme low and music vamping, before enough straps were cut to free the horses, who, amazingly, were completely unharmed and were lead off stage to a wide round of applause. The guests seat-belted inside the stagecoach when the wreck happened were safely escorted back to their seats during the ordeal and the stagecoach, once freed, was pushed off stage by the cast members.

I entered and improvised for a moment, inviting another round of applause for the expertise with which the ordeal was handled. I reassured the audience that the finest veterinarians in France would look over the horses but, as far as I could see, they were unharmed. I then positioned myself for the start of the Champagne scene and said, "Now then, let's finish this show up." The technical team, on that cue, set the lights and started the music.

The show continued as usual up to the Final Revue when the Horse Team paraded the wagon horses involved in the wreck around the arena, further reassuring the audience that all was well, at least as far as horses and humans were concerned.

The stagecoach, on the other hand, was out of commission for the second show. An emergency team formed in the corridor backstage and we worked out a way to improvise using one of the Chuckwagons, renamed the "Deadwood Express" by Didier and described by me as an authentic western freight wagon used to transport gold during the gold rush. The exemplary professionalism and expertise with which the second show's "Deadwood Express" scene was performed did not surprise me given the team we had on hand but I think it surprised and impressed those who initially sought less creative solutions to the problem.

Without rehearsal or even a cohesive meeting, we worked out the details among ourselves - technicians, managers, and performers working as a team. Performers and technicians adjusted individually and improvisationally during the scene and we nailed it. Even the "guests", necessarily planted in this instance for insurance reasons, performed perfectly. Their "professional" status put them at the mercy of their "Indian warrior" colleagues and they were waffled with bedrolls and nearly dragged from the wagon.

The experience proved once again that the talent and competence of the Wild West Show Performers and Technicians should not be underestimated. Kudos to management for having faith in the team and letting us find a creative solution that utilized our talent and optimized the guest experience.

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