The Casual Reporter: July 2009

Friday, July 24, 2009

Sitting Bull Pole Dances on Chuck Wagon

A couple weeks ago, for the first time ever, the Principals in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show (La Legende de Buffalo Bill), Disney Village, Disneyland Paris, were unable to judge the rodeo games from the traditional judges stand.

I was in the production office between shows when one of the technicians arrived slightly flustered and announced in French to the Stage Manager that there would be no judges stand for the second show. The 3 or 4 members of the production staff present looked at each other, raising their eyebrows, grimacing slightly, and puffing their cheeks in concern as they learned the details: one of the wheels fell off and was not repairable. Apparently the wheel had been a concern for several weeks but for reasons unclear to me was not repaired so it finally broke clean off. I asked what they proposed be done for the second show. The Stage Manager's first response was that the Principals would just have to call the rodeo games from the floor of the arena - do some animations and what-not.

I explained, patiently I thought, that standing on the arena floor was an unacceptable solution, that perhaps the Chuckwagon at least could be used. A quick call to the Horse Trainer confirmed what I assumed the response would be: not possible. We the performers would just have to adjust and make do.

The others checked their watches to make sure they weren't running late for their lunch break. That's when I felt my face start to heat and my jaw muscles clench.

Over the course of the next half hour I made my feelings very clearly known. I explained that even though I'd been working at the Wild West Show for 14 years and perhaps should be accustomed to the way things are (or aren't) done, I still felt it infuriating that nearly every technical dilemma, it seemed, was answered not by a flurry of activity, creative thinking, and a can-do approach to solving the problem, but a simple announcement of the problem with the matter-of-fact assumption that the performers could and would simply adapt, adjust, and improvise in front of 100's or 1000's of paying guests who, one would hope, expect a polished and complete show. And when this "solution" doesn't work, as you may well imagine is sometimes the case, we the performers are the ones who risk embarrassment on stage when all goes not as.. not planned... We are the first to be recognized as participants in what may likely appear an amateurish performance. Perhaps most importantly, we are the ones put most at risk improvising in a show where 62% of the cast are very large animals with minds and personalities very much their own - animals not accustomed to unrehearsed changes and not necessarily mentally or physically well-equipped to coping with improvisation. And I'm not talking about the Cowboys and Indians: 48 of the 78 physical beings who make up our cast are of the bovine and equine variety.

Yet time and time again when systems fail, when things break down, when stuff doesn't work or supplies run out, the default response from the production team seems to be "make a note to fix it in the future and tell the cast to make do for now."

In fairness, I seldom witness first hand what tasks the technical staff perform, so some of my barking criticism may be unwarranted. One explanation given for the seemingly nonchalant approach to resolving technical problems is that a quick fix is more likely to fail and could be more disastrous than doing nothing at all. This seems reasonable in some cases to a certain extent, but there are usually compromises preferable to doing nothing and leaving the cast to sort it out on stage.

After shouting, accusing, comparing France to the USA, and apologizing for basing my anger on unfounded assumptions, the Horse Trainer thought of an excellent temporary solution: use the chuck wagons.

Possible after all, I guess.

The Horse Trainer himself drove one of the chuck wagons out with the canvas down and steel support ribs bared, and we used the old Triangle for a bell. The straight legs of the ribs resembled poles so, instinctively, in telepathic unison, Annie and Sitting Bull discreetly mimed a pole dance as I started the rodeo games. I think it's the first time Sitting Bull has done a pole dance, even one undetectable to the public. Annie I don't know about.

Later, on the theatrical front-facing stairs leading up to the open door on the bed of the chuckwagon, where the Principals were standing, Lucas did some step-aerobics. Directly in front of the judges. We watched in silence for a few seconds as he soberly carried out his routine then jogged away, shaking it off. Very amusing. So we had fun.

We used the Chuckwagon for several days, maybe a week - the time it took to fix one hub of one wheel. In one show, frustrated by the lowness of the chuckwagon's bed compared to the judges stand, I stepped up on the rim of the box but, aware it looked less than regal, quickly stepped back down. My action apparently inspired Auguste who subsequently stepped up on the back edge of the box and balanced for several seconds before descending, and Annie, who balanced on the rim during the entire Pony Express Race, clenching the pole with her left arm for balance and somehow, not always entirely successfully, juggling the clipboard, pen, triangle with bar, and four post bags. I shouldn't have started the idea.

The excuse I heard for the delay was that the axle/hub assembly was from a Renault vehicle but nobody knew what year or model. I guess they had to wait for an expert from Renault to come figure that out for them. Or something. Who knows. Now the judges' stand is back, repaired, and the episode has been forgotten. Hopefully the next technical glitch will tend towards the benign, as in this case, and not the alarmingly deadly, like in Adam's case.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Adam Bomb Video

Here it is, at long last: the full, uncut version of Adam falling from the sky. Watch carefully the left half of the screen...


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Video: Didier Sings "La Marsaillaise"

Not to be outdone by the 4th of July show, when Rebecca sang The Star Spangled Banner, the Artistic Direction of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show (La Legende de Buffalo Bill) Disney Village, Disneyland Paris had a professional sing the French National Anthem, La Marsaillaise. Didier, who has played Auguste Durand-Rouel in the show since 1992, has sang La Marseillaise on the 14th of July for the past 17 years. This year, though, to remain consistent with the Artistic Vision for the 4th of July show, the Artistic Direction had James, one of the Stage Managers who is also trained as an understudy Auguste, sing while Didier played Auguste. James' singing style has the rough and guttural qualities one might find in a modern recording musician while Didier's style is operatic, which is usually the style preferred in a stadium or theatrical environment. The management team apparently considered the physical blocking of the scene, which revolves around the characters, critical, and considered James' singing style perfectly sufficient for the occasion.

After Didier expressed his discontent at not being allowed to sing La Marseillaise, the Artistic Direction agreed that Didier and James should each do a show, one playing Auguste and one singing. Here is the video of Didier singing La Marseillaise:

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Wade "Pimping Carrefour"

This just in from Wade, Cast Member of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, Disney Village, Disneyland Paris, back in the early 90's. Wade:

something new...pimping carrefour the blog dude

Mickey Gets Poo on Hands

It was bound to happen. The show, after all, features nearly 40 live animals, all needing to deficate at one moment or another each day, often in the arena itself. Already some of our four-fingered friends (Disney characters) had stepped in manure. On this occasion, it got on Mickey's hand.

It started during the medicine ball pass game of the first show. Sometime during the course of this exciting event the Gold Star medicine ball landed in some manure, certainly not for the first time in the 17 year existence of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, Disney Village, Disneyland Paris France. Between shows the props technicians failed to clean the medicine balls for reasons unclear to me. They are an extraordinarily industrious bunch so they were likely repairing things important or creating some masterpiece of a set element for a grand production to take place in the near future. Or hanging out smoking. Cigarettes one would hope.

At any rate, they were clearly not motivated to clean our balls. Thus, during the second show when I reached down to grab two balls I noticed the gold one had a slathering of manure affixed to it. I carefully handed the ball to Annie Oakley, giving nod to the manure. She subsequently showed it to the cowboy in the arena, who wrinkled his nose in disgust, then threw the ball into the arena. When the cowboy reached down to grab his ball, he decided to rub it in the sand first to dislodge the manure then handed it to his teammate. The second teammate handed it to the third, then to John, the fourth. John held the ball up to Mickey, last in line, to show him the manure. Mickey apparently missed all the cues regarding the manure and simply grabbed hold of the ball, getting crap on his hands.

All of this would be no big deal except that apparently Mickey thought the cowboys had intentionally rubbed manure onto the ball, or intentionally handed it to him knowing it still had manure on it, or something, because when Mickey got backstage he stomped in fury, all 4 foot 8 of him, to the Production Office, rattling the handle to the door in hopes it was open to receive his fury. I could hear his famous high-pitched voice as I walked up the corridor. "Golly!" he exclaimed, "I have poo on my hands, all because of those darned cowboys! Poo!" to which Goofy replied, "Pooh!? Gawrsh! Is Tigger with him? Gaahuckh..!"

Friday, July 10, 2009

Val Gets Married

This just in from Chris and Joss:

Val got married on June 20th at Victor’s guest ranch in N. California. His (now) wife’s name is Mikie (Michael-Ann, nee Gonsalves). Guests included Chris & myself, Hodge & the mother of his gorgeous baby boy Teani (stunning lady), Fonzy & his new wife Christine and Chris Lawson (who rushed over for the pre-wedding bash the night before from the BFI in Reno). Naturally Victor was there and Chris (mine) and Victor were groomsmen and Mike Fontes drove the stagecoach that delivered the bride and little flower girls to the wedding aisle! They all looked very dashing. We had a ball – call us for details so you can put the big news on the Casual Reporter. (This published sans details.) It was out of control and completely WILD WEST SHOW!! We stayed on for another week (after a quick trip to Oregon) after everyone left and had a ball with Victor. Caught my first trout, visited Crater Lake in Oregon, saw Mount Shasta and made a trip to Portland, OR, to stay with a filmmaker friend of mine who owns a great bar there – even managed to stay 2 nights with Val’s parents in S. Oregon on the way back to Victor’s!!
The bond continues….

Monday, July 6, 2009

Annie Oakley Masters Horse During Show

(A stallion similar to Target, taken from: Tales from Echo Canyon)

One of the actresses who plays Annie Oakley in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, Disney Village, Disneyland Resort Paris, but who doesn't want her real name used on this blog, showed her talent and experience with horses today to a level of expertise that demands special recognition. Horses, like most people and animals, have individual personalities. Target, the little Arab gelding she rode for her first entrance has the personality of a cocky, lazy, teenager. Over the past several weeks Target had gotten the better of the other actress who plays Annie Oakley, first by being troublesome laying down, then being troublesome getting up, then getting up when he wanted rather than when asked, then simply refusing to even lay down. Off stage, in practice, Target did his job fine, but he knew on stage the rider had limited resources to correct behavior so he got away with whatever he wanted.

Tonight's Annie Oakley was asked to help correct Target's bad behavior. The concept, as with any cocky, lazy, teenager, is simple: be firm and fair in making the offender understand the rider, not the horse, is the boss. Tonight's Annie did exactly this. In writing it sounds simple, but any human attempting to control the actions of an animal weighing several hundred pounds and who thinks he's the boss, has to know what they're doing - especially when on stage in front of a 1000 spectators. Like any spoiled teen who is challenged, Target rebelled, but like a great parent, Annie kept her cool, kept control, and helped Target do his job. Witnessing the event was a pleasure - the kind of real experience that few people, especially people coming to watch a Disney-produced show, are likely to witness. What an expert. Hats off to tonight's Annie Oakley, an excellent performer and one of the best horse trainers in our outfit.

Wild West Show Celebrates July 4th

The team at Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, Disney Village, Disneyland Paris added a few special elements to the show on the 4th of July to commemorate American Independence Day. First a parade was held featuring the cast as they rode horses through Disney Village. The show was mostly unchanged until the end. The set was lit up with stars and stripes and Beli rose from the canyon with the American flag as the talented Rebecca, flanked by the characters, sang the Star Spangled Banner accompanied by our musicians. I hear it went very well.
I happened to have the day off. I spent the evening at the home of some American friends who had a 4th of July party. To mark the day I declared independence from my English wife. She said good, you can go by your independent self and refill my wine glass then, please. I showed her..