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The art form of event design: interview with Thierry Magne

For Thierry Magne, imagining one-of-a-kind immersive experiences is akin to storytelling. In the business for over 25 years, he is an event designer in a class of his own with a natural flair for making the Disney® Parks worlds his own and transforming the most neutral of spaces. We caught up with one of the conductors who sets the tempo for our events.

Can you describe to us what it is you do?

THIERRY MAGNE: I’m an event designer at Disney Business Solutions, where I’ve been since its early days. For each event we create, we tell stories. I think them up when I get the initial brief, then I come up with the concept and bring the best people together—stage directors, choreographers, musicians, conductors—to realise it all. In a way I am kind of a conductor myself because it’s my role to coordinate all the different professionals and make sure the story is properly reflected in the final result. From the moment the creative idea forms in my mind, it’s my job to convince all the others and bring them along on the ride. When I see their eyes light up, I know it’s a winner. That’s the best part of my job.

How did you start out?

T.M.: I started out in events as a producer. Back in 1992, I worked on the opening of Disneyland® Paris and then went on to produce the show Beauty and the Beast. In 2002, I directed the full programme of events to mark the 10th anniversary of Disneyland® Park when we had to organise 17 events over two days! It was this experience that inspired me to rethink my career and switch over to the creative side. So I became an event designer.

How do you come up with an original concept?

T.M.: I think about it practically round the clock. I even have a notebook on my bedside table to jot down ideas that come to me during the night! An idea can come from anywhere: listening to the radio, watching TV, visiting an exhibition. One of our strengths is that we have a never-ending bank of stories to tell thanks to the worlds at our parks and hotels. That’s not to say that we can’t also design events in radically different environments and still host them at Disneyland® Paris. For instance, Electroland, for which we visited Ibiza to find inspiration on the clubbing scene, but we knew we had to ‘Disneyfy’ it in some way or other. From the outset, Walt Disney was always a visionary in the field of graphic arts, visual design and sound. I really think if he were still alive you’d find electro music in his films!

What sets the events organised by Disney Business Solutions apart?

T.M.: Disneyland Paris is a unique destination in Europe: as much for the worlds it contains as the attractions and the technical possibilities it offers. We are fortunate to have some amazing assets that we can transform just the way we want. For Electroland, for example, the real point of differentiation was the ability to project video onto The Twilight Zone Tower Of Terror™, which stands at 55 metres tall, and to accompany the DJs with VJing—video projections set in time to the music. I believe it was this cutting-edge visual display that made the event truly exceptional. I don't think even the DJs, used to playing all over the world, had seen a video projection of that scale. Another of our strengths is our technological prowess: our graphic teams, our lighting teams, our performance teams have the technical wizardry to transform Sleeping Beauty’s Castle into a Christmas tree for one night if we wanted to.

What type of challenges do you come up against organising events of this scale?

T.M.: Our greatest challenge is to physically realise events in parks where visitors come every day. With Electroland, for instance, we had just one hour to transform Walt Disney Studios® Park once it had closed. We have to schedule rehearsals in the evening after the park is closed or at night. And we have to think of how to integrate all the technical components required to put on the show, into the park while not altering the slightest detail.

What’s the most ambitious event you’ve ever worked on?

T.M.: My greatest memory is the opening of The Twilight Zone Tower Of Terror™ in 2008. We decided to tell the story of this prestigious Los Angeles hotel, the Hollywood Tower Hotel, which later became the Tower of Terror. We created a large-scale video mapping which was the first of its kind at a Disney Park anywhere in the world. People were so impressed by it they even asked to see it again in 2018 for the 10th anniversary! Also, I must say that the Service Award event in November 2017 is one of my best memories. We invited a symphonic orchestra with singers and dancers for a show that lasted over an hour. The performance was superb.

What inspires you right now?

T.M.: I would love to work with an Italian designer called Edoardo Tresoldi. He makes wire-mesh sculptures. When his structures are lit up, you get the impression they’re 3D or holograms, absolutely sublime!

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