As long as there’s Christmas, there will be music to warm hearts and make everyone, young and old, want to sing and dance together – like the music playing right now for Disney’s Enchanted Christmas at Disneyland Paris.
From old classics to the latest hits, quieter songs to festive favourites, there is something to suit all styles and tastes.
We met up with the musicians who create this festive spirit so that we are even more in tune with what is going on!
Traditional Christmas songs like Jingle Bells or Petit Papa Noël are some of the classics which inevitably bring us back to our childhood days. That’s what Mickey’s Magical Christmas Lights –the Main Street, U.S.A. Christmas tree lighting ceremony– is all about, explains Vasile Sirli, Director Music, Disneyland Paris: “We decided to create a warm, traditional atmosphere, by performing merry songs at a rather slow tempo. We wanted rich, natural tones of voice similar to operetta. When it came to choosing the instruments, we opted for those which produce authentic sounds, like the violins, which add softness and elegance to songs.”
It’s all about emotion in the all-new Walt Disney Studios Park production, Goofy’s Incredible Christmas, which transforms Hollywood Tower Hotel into the backdrop for a firework display and spectacular projection show in between clips of quiet and extravagant party scenes from Disney films. Guests are surrounded by the magic of As long as there’s Christmas/Tant qu’il y aura Noël –a song from Beauty and the Beast 2 – The Enchanted Christmas– and the glimmer of around ten candles which light up on the arrival of Santa Claus, and the famous Nutcracker is played while Goofy’s Christmas tree is being decorated. Tchaikovsky’s ballet music is also particularly important to Vasile Sirli: “I come from Eastern European and when I was a child “The Nutcracker” didn’t have the same meaning at all. It was on the radio all the time, even in July. It was only much later in life, on arriving in France, that I discovered this American tradition, making this piece of music a real symbol of the festive spirit.”
Also involved in the arrangement was Marco Marinangeli, who has been working on Disneyland Paris shows for a long time. As a talented musician who is tongue-in-cheek, he took great delight in hiding another well-known melody –Chante, c’est Noël, written by Vasile Sirli in 2008, and which was an instant success outside Disneyland– in the Goofy’s Incredible Christmas soundtrack.
Will you figure out where?
VIDEOPOLIS KEEPS IT SWINGING!
All the big names in Jazz –Louis Armstrong (Christmas in New Orleans, 1955), Duke Ellington (The Nutcracker, 1960), Miles Davis (Blue Christmas, 1962) or more recently Jamie Cullum (Show Me the Magic, 2016)– have been on the Christmas play list at some point in their careers. And it is following their lead that our favourite mouse has decided to adapt the most popular festive classics on the stage of Vidéopolis in Mickey’s Big Band Christmas.
As a jazz-lover himself, responsible for music and a conductor at Disneyland Paris, Robert Fienga, was only too happy to help Mickey as music director for the project. “This show pays tribute to the great names in swing in the 1940s, from Glen Millar to Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey and Harry James. To write the music, I used arrangements by a jazz expert, Tom Kubis, which I adapted to our ensemble, which includes the piano, double bass and drums for the rhythm, as well as four saxophones, three trumpets and three trombones playing live. I also included a guitar and a vibraphone, to enhance the sound.”
The highlight of this show is without a doubt when Mickey Mouse shows his talents as a drummer. “Mickey’s performance is typical of the jungle style of jazz legend, Gene Krupa. He created this very unique way of playing the drums on floor toms,” added Robert Fienga. And we improved the rhythm in Sing. It all starts with Mickey’s virtuoso solo, which then transforms into a duo with the drummer in the orchestra, before ending on a high as a trio with all the tap dancers, in a breath-taking scene directed by Emmanuel Lenormand and choreographed by Matt West.”
As a throwback to the days of Walt Disney – this track was composed in 1936 by Louis Prima, none other than the original voice of King Louis in the Jungle Book and the solo trumpet in the legendary clip I Wan’na Be Like You.
A FESTIVE PLAYLIST
The focus is on another generation of classics in Sing Me a Merry Christmas! on Production Courtyard. Sing along to classics such as Jingle Bells and Santa Claus is coming to Town –which have been completely modernised for this show– as well as the more recent tracks, Extraordinary Merry Christmas from the hit TV series Glee, and All I Want for Christmas is You by Mariah Carey, in arrangements organised just for this occasion.
It was Doru Apreotesei, who has worked with Disneyland Paris for many years, who was the instrumental arranger for Chante, c’est Noël. We recorded the orchestra in Stockholm, Sweden, to revamp this song by incorporating a very pop style, in the spirit of Abba,” explains Vasile Sirli. Meanwhile, the vocal arrangement was the work of Manu Vince and his vocal team, whose groove and personality we already saw during the recording of the 25th Anniversary Parade song. We wanted tracks known to the general public, so that our guests could sing them and dance with us, but we also wanted to give them a new look with new harmonies.”
Another new feature, for those with less rhythm, is the Christmas is Here song for Disney Christmas Parade. It was at the end of last summer that Vasile Sirli asked Scott Erickson to write this song. Scott is an old friend at Disneyland Paris, where he started by assisting with the Disney Classics Parade (1998-2003), before moving on to compose the music for Mickey’s Magical Party Time in 2009. He also wrote Everyday’s a Celebration, the 25th Anniversary song, which is still fresh in everyone’s mind.
This Christmas, he wanted to make the traditional Christmas Parade songs stand out with the words focusing on decorations and gifts. “I had been working on this song for several days when I thought it was time for more. I wanted to convey the importance of getting together, being together and celebrating in a spirit of peace and togetherness. This is ultimately a very Disney theme, a sort of mix between the Christmas classic Let There be Peace on Earth and It’s a Small World.” These are timeless values that the composer wanted to express musically by combining a large traditional orchestra, backed by brass instruments, with more current beats. To achieve this, he turned to some of the great names in pop, such as the guitarist Tim Pierce, the bass guitarist Leland Sklar, and the drummer Charlie Morgan, known for their work with stars like Elton John, Phil Collins and Toto. From Los Angeles to Budapest, Christmas is Here has brought together an impressive array of artists around values that everyone delights in.
STITCH’S ROCK SHOCK!
Who better to add a little fun to the festivities than the mischievous, extra-terrestrial Stitch! In A Merry Stitchmas, performed every day in Castle Theatre, Mickey, Minnie and their friends get together to show Stitch the spirit of Christmas by singing to him. And, of course, Stitch can’t help adding his very own rock ‘n’ roll touch to the performance!
To turn this show into an energetic musical, Emmanuel Lenormand, the director, once again turned to Scott Erickson, who is all too familiar with the world of Experiment 626, since he helped to write the songs for Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch (2005). In fact, he’s the one who can be heard whistling in one of the musical arrangements in the film!
“Whether for the arrangements of Christmas classics or songs from the saga, such as Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride or Aloha, E Komo Mai, I took my inspiration directly from the
recordings of the King of Rock and Roll himself, for example, for the number of instrumentalists –a base guitar, bass and drums–, the tempo and acoustics.” A truly versatile musician, Scott plays the bass and drums for the soundtrack for the show.
FROM NORWAY TO MEXICO
This musical journey would not be complete if we didn’t check out The Frozen Sing-along show, with this season being its last on The Chaparral Theater stage. Just as every year, Robert Fienga and his colleagues held castings in Paris and London, which was an opportunity to discover new faces, and meet singers who have already had an impact on the public, like Cerise Calixte, who does the voice of Moanna in French and released a cover album Cerise chante Disney last summer. A lot of work has been put into the vocal performance in particular, given the nature of the show, as explained by Robert Fienga: “Where Idina Menzel, the original voice of Elsa, sings Let it go, by resonating the sound from start to finish, we opted for a mix –as we call it in the industry– between the head voice and the chest voice, for a lighter performance and to save our artists’ voices as they have to perform several times a day on stage during the winter season! “
And to warm up the atmosphere even more, head for Fuente del Oro Restaurante in Frontierland, to see the latest Christmas adaptation, with the all-new Disneyland Park Mariachi group, in tribute to Disney-Pixar Studios’ latest film, Coco. This authentic ensemble made a name for itself during the recent Disney’s Halloween Festival with its compelling, off the wall performance of Disney classics, and they are back this season with Miguel the puppet on guitar, in a charming and spicy encounter between Christmas classics and traditional Mexican music.
From Christmas Carollers in Mickey’s Magical Christmas Lights to Mariachi in Frontierland, Disneyland Paris invites you on an extraordinary musical journey this Christmas. A spirit of celebration and sharing, with something to suit all styles and cultures. This is undoubtedly the best present that anyone could get!