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Ex-dancer Heads TDS Nighttime Show

March 19, 2005

Ex-dancer is the Fire Behind Tokyo DisneySea's Latest Attraction

The Asahi Shimbun

A volcano erupts, producing an earth-shattering noise. The crowd holds its breath as a huge metal structure-14 meters high and 32 meters wide-slowly rises from the flaming waters of the ``Mediterranean Harbor.''

It's the birdlike, ``Spirit of Fire'' Prometeo, and as he spreads his wings, flames pour from every part of his body.

Just in time, the crowd starts to breathe. They ooh; they aah, as BraviSEAmo!-a new show performed nightly at Tokyo DisneySea Park-gathers steam.

"This 15-minute show took more than two years to develop," says Koichi Sasamoto, 46.

It also cost a whopping 3 billion yen to create and requires 40 technicians and performers to produce.

Sasamoto-who works for the show development division of Oriental Land Co., which runs Tokyo Disney Resort-studied acting and modern dance at Nihon University. After graduation, he couldn't make a living as a dancer so he went to work for Oriental Land in 1988.

The company quickly put his theatrical experience to good use, assigning him to produce shows and parades at Tokyo Disneyland, including a show staged in front of Cinderella Castle.

But Sasamoto was just getting warmed up. ``The launch of BraviSEAmo! was the most difficult job,'' he says.

In 2002, a year after Tokyo DisneySea Park opened, Sasamoto and other staff members began brainstorming with French director Yves Pepin about a show that would symbolize the entire theme park.

They decided on an ancient love story about fire and water falling in love. But as they finalized the story line, they faced various obstacles. The biggest problem was developing Prometeo, the fire spirit. They envisioned a huge light-emitting robot that rose from the water spewing fire. But-despite the plot-in real life fireworks and electronics do not mix well with water.

To get some fresh input, Sasamoto and his team flew to France to visit with a special effects company. Next stop was Spain where they met with a small fireworks firm.

In the orange fields of Valencia, near the fireworks factory, they built a full-size prototype of Prometeo.

It was quite a sight as they repeatedly tested the fireworks and the timing and angle of the flame projectors.

Satisfied they had the kinks worked out, the team flew back to Japan to oversee the construction of Prometeo. They entrusted the task to a Japanese manufacturer with experience in precision machinery production. The company also built a 6-meter deep pool. For two months they dunked the completed Prometeo into the pool to see if it could withstand immersion in water.

As the show's launch date neared, many problems came up, causing long delays in planned completion.

To make matters even more difficult, on-site training for light and water control could only be rehearsed after the park closed at 11 p.m.

For close to three months, Sasamoto and his minions lived like bats, working at night, through weekends and holidays.

Eventually, Sasamoto and his team solved all the problems, especially issues pertaining to fire safety and the training of a 60-person attraction crew.

Despite the cutting-edge technology, it's up to people to make the show a success. The show couldn't go on at all without the 16 experts who-between 1 a.m. and noon-rig the 850 fireworks used in every show.

On July 17, 2004, when BraviSEAmo! premiered, Sasamoto watched from within the crowd as the love story reached its climax.

Bellisea, the water spirit, approached Prometeo with an 11-meter high shower of water. When the hearts of fire and water came together as one, Prometeo's body shined a bright blue-and the spectators erupted with a happy chorus of cheers.

``It's not easy to create a dream. But whenever I hear that excitement, I know I can't stop trying,'' Sasamoto says.

He learned how vital his work was early in his career. Soon after he joined Oriental Land, he produced a show that was staged in front of the Cinderella Castle. One day it rained and it looked like the show would have to be cancelled. As he and his staff furiously mopped the stage and dried it with a huge fan, Sasamoto caught glimpses of the waiting audience. He could see the anxiety on their faces that the show might be cancelled.

When they finally announced that the show would go on, an old man yelled, ``Good job!''

Sasamoto now says that experience was a defining moment in his entertainment career. 25 million visitors

Tokyo DisneySea Park, a theme park that allows visitors to experience aquatic stories and legends, opened in September 2001 next to Tokyo Disneyland. Currently, 23 attractions are offered within the 49-hectare plot of land. More than 25 million people visit DisneySea and Disneyland each year. BraviSEAmo! is a concoction designed to add a marine flavor to bravissimo, the emphatic Italian bravo.

-- Source: International Herald Tribune / The Asahi Shimbun

View our BraviSEAmo! show page.

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