YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Photeus Flies Rings Around Buzz Lightyear


"Toy Story" hero Buzz Lightyear has a keen spacesuit. So does Lt. Photeus.

Lightyear has a jawline that could slice granite. Ditto for Photeus.

Lightyear is on a bold mission to "infinity and beyond." Photeus? He's heading for Brea.

On Sunday, Photeus and his computer sidekick, Thacker, will plot a course for the Curtis Theatre to star in "Celestial Odyssey," a laser spectacle that teaches about the solar system through animation, special effects and pop music.

Created by Laser Fantasy International, a firm in Bellevue, Wash., that has created shows for Sea World, Universal Studios, major corporations and international fairs and expositions, "Celestial Fantasy" will be presented at 1 and 3 p.m.

Originally developed as part of Laser Fantasy's school tour program, "Celestial Odyssey" (a.k.a. "the Great Space Chase") presents facts about the solar system and space travel in a way that "makes kids feel like they're going on an adventure," says Jay Heck, a Laser Fantasy art director who helped develop the show.

"We tried to create something that would be entertaining and keep kids' attention, rather than just throwing facts at them," Heck says. "They're having such a good time . . . we can surprise them with information when they aren't looking."


He notes that "Celestial Odyssey" is especially different from the typical planetarium show because it offers an adventure story line mingled with music video-style sequences.

"The format works really well because just as kids start to reach the limit of their attention span with the story, the show breaks into a song with synchronized, abstract laser imagery [and] refreshes their interest." The 45-minute show's playlist includes such pop tunes as the Orb's "Blue Moon" and Paul McCartney and Wings' "Venus and Mars," plus themes from such space adventure films as "Blade Runner" and "2001: A Space Odyssey."

Viewers can tag along with Lt. Photeus and Thacker as they pursue the dastardly Capt. Xenon, a space-traveling villain hellbent on destroying the universe.

Along the way, Thacker notes various celestial facts, from the span of the Milky Way galaxy (50,000 light-years) to the projected colonization date for Mars (early 21st century).

"Celestial Odyssey" images move via laser animation, a complicated system in which handmade drawings on tracing paper are transformed through the use of computers and laser projection into giant, brilliantly colored images that can dance across a screen, a wall or a mountainside. This show also features three-dimensional images that seem to float or spin in midair, says Heck, who programmed the show so that Photeus' head can appear to whip around full circle.

"The laser itself puts out a single, very condensed beam of light. Our projections systems use little motorized mirrors to move and spin that beam of light on the screen. It's like connect the dots: The computer records the points of the image--like where Photeus' eyeball is or where his nose starts--and sends those coordinates to the laser projector mirrors. All of this happens in a fraction of a second and goes so fast that to our eye, it looks as if the whole image is there."

The technicians who run the Laser Fantasy shows (around the company they're known as "laserists") are free to add their own flourishes through the use of color and some special effects. "So," Heck points out, "no two shows are going to be exactly alike. No matter how the artist performs it, the audience will see something amazing."

* What: "Celestial Odyssey."

* When: Sunday at 1 and 3 p.m.

* Where: The Curtis Theatre, 1 Civic Center Circle, Brea.

* Whereabouts: From the Orange (57) Freeway, exit at Imperial Highway and drive west. Turn right onto Randolph Avenue, right onto Birch Street, then right into the underground parking structure.

* Wherewithal: $6. The theater discourages attendance by children younger than 5.

* Where to call: (714) 990-7722.

Los Angeles Times Articles