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On Solid Ice

Disney brings 'Toy Story' to life on skates for a series of Southland appearances.


Feld Entertainment is dropping an $8-million load of Christmas toys into Southern California's chimney today--"Walt Disney's World on Ice--Toy Story."

The two-hour extravaganza, based on the movie and choreographed by 1980 Olympic gold medalist Robin Cousins, is continuing its Southern California tour today through Sunday at the Pond of Anaheim before moving on to the Long Beach Arena Jan. 7-11 and then to the Los Angeles Sports Arena Jan. 14-19. It's the first time Walt Disney's World on Ice will be also presented in Spanish at each Southern California location (see accompanying story).

The 1995 movie "Toy Story," hailed for its groundbreaking use of computer animation, is the tale of Woody, a folksy but cocky cowboy doll who reigns supreme over the toys in 6-year-old Andy's room, and his struggles with Andy's newest, Buzz Lightyear, a high-tech action figure with delusions of grandeur.

Feld Entertainment (which also presents Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, among others) has produced 18 Walt Disney on Ice shows since 1981, each seemingly splashier than the last. But "Toy Story," which includes much of the film's dialogue (including the voices of Tom Hanks as Woody and Tim Allen as Buzz), Randy Newman's music and several original tunes and outrageous, true-to-the-film-and-then-some costumes by Frank Krenz, may be the biggest challenge yet from a production standpoint, said creative director Jerry Bilik. The show, which is midway in a three-year U.S. tour, will also run about two years abroad.

"When it first opened, people were all saying, 'How are they going to do this?" recalled Bilik. "I think they were kind of surprised by what we actually do."

What they do--judging from talks with Bilik, Krenz and assistant choreographer Cindy Stuart--is pretty amazing. This "Toy Story" convincingly turns full-sized humans into plastic playthings, says Bilik, and blends choreography, skating prowess, costume and scenic design to effectively make the 44-member cast not only look like toys, but also move, dance and occasionally fly like them.

Proportion is the key. To make 6-foot-tall U.S. skater Eddie Gornick a believable 12-inch-tall Woody, he is set in a human world of gargantuan scale. Andy's bed is 12 feet tall and 20 feet long; the family van towers overhead at 14 feet high.

Woody and Buzz tool around in a fully operational car that's 12 feet long, with special studded tires for traction on ice and a really boss paint job.

Buzz is no slouch, either. Skated by 5-foot-5, broad-chested Russian skater Stanislov Jirov, Buzz sports a 30-pound space suit and elicits big-time oohs and aahs by flying (or in Woody's words, "falling with style") up to 30 feet over the ice surface with the aid of a harness and fly track.

Krenz and his staff spent months working with a variety of materials and fabric treatments to create the shiny, plastic toy look of the costumes. At their own request, Cousins and Stuart donned prototypes of the most challenging ones--Bo Peep and Mr. Potato Head among them--and tried out the choreography in an L.A.-area ice arena while bemused visitors looked on.

In the case of Buzz Lightyear, said Krenz, "the challenge was to make him look just like Buzz and still allow him to do this fabulous, world-class skating." Bilik says Jirov, a three-time gold medalist in the Leningrad Championships, comes through with flying colors.

An average person would "put on that costume, and you would be barely able to walk," said Bilik, "but [Jirov] does double axles in it. It's like having a little kid riding on your back while you're doing an Olympic skating routine."

Bilik says they turned to Cousins to create the choreography because "Robin is the kind of person who really responds to a challenge." Winner of the gold medal in men's figure skating in the 1980 Olympics and three-time winner of the World Free Skating Championship gold medal, Cousins worked with Feld in 1995 as choreographer and creative consultant for "The Wizard of Oz on Ice."

Bilik also has praise for the audience.

"Their imagination is phenomenal. . . . They make a leap, and they finish what we suggest" with the choreography, costumes and scenery, Bilik said. "They participate, [and] they move themselves right into the story."


"Walt Disney's World on Ice--Toy Story" at the Pond of Anaheim, 2695 E. Katella Ave.: today, 1 and 4:30 p.m.; Friday, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, noon, 3:30 and 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, 1 and 4:30 p.m. Long Beach Arena, 300 E. Ocean Blvd.: Wednesday-Jan. 9, 7:30 p.m.; Jan. 10, noon, 3:30 and 7:30 p.m.; Jan. 11, 1 and 4:30 p.m. (4:30 p.m. in Spanish). Los Angeles Sports Arena, 3939 S. Figueroa St.: Jan. 14-16, 7:30 p.m.; Jan. 17, 11 a.m., 2:30 and 6 p.m.; Jan. 18, noon, 3:30 and 7:30 p.m. (7:30 p.m. in Spanish); Jan. 19, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Ends Jan. 19. $11.50-$18.50; opening nights, all tickets $10; youth and senior discounts available. (213) 480-3232; (714) 740-2000.


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