GUND ARENA Show puts 'Nemo' on ice

Audience members may feel as if they're under water.
Adapting a play into a movie, or vice versa, is nothing new.
But how does one rework an overwhelmingly successful animated movie, which mind you takes place under the sea, into an enthralling ice-skating performance?
For the upcoming Disney On Ice production of Disney/Pixar's "Finding Nemo," which surfaces in Northeast Ohio for an 18-peformance engagement from Wednesday to Jan. 23 at Gund Arena, that responsibility belonged to first-time director Patty Vincent.
"It's interesting, I really studied the movements of the characters and the way fish really move," said the Canadian native, calling from her home in Los Angeles. "I went to an aquarium and studied the way the fins move, because they are really different per fish."
Aquatic grace
"For 'Finding Nemo,' we had so many different fish, from the coral reef and then the tank gang, as well as Marlin, Dory and Nemo," Vincent said. "And they really had to have their own specific movement and that was really important to telling the story clearly."
As demanding as performance skating is, "Finding Nemo" definitely raises the choreographic ante, requiring world-class skaters to mimic the elegant beauty of a jellyfish ballet, as well as the precise movement of moonfish, which travel in schools and collectively turn on a dime.
Below the ocean
Vincent, a nine-year Disney On Ice skating veteran who hung up her skates in 1992, turning her experience and insight into a career behind the scenes, had a firm vision of "Finding Nemo" from the start.
"We wanted the audience to be a part of the show," Vincent said. "We really opened up our arena so that when you walk in, you feel the mass of the ocean. I think that the people who do come to see us will feel like they are truly a part of the story and they are actually taking the journey that Dory and Marlin take to find his son."
The show features plenty of Disney On Ice magic, including special lighting effects that give the illusion of underwater depth, complete with bubbles, and the feeling of an expansive sea.
Seamless scenes
For fans of "Finding Nemo," the Disney On Ice show offers the same storyline of the film -- along with the voices of Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Geoffrey Rush -- with the only difference being scene placement.
Unlike motion pictures, where the action can bounce seamlessly between locations, cumbersome stage or ice productions require each setting's scene be performed before changing props or backdrops. Vincent said the production succeeds in making the transitions feel seamless to the audience.
Exceeding expectations
On the road since last September, the new skating production is set to make the rounds nationally and internationally. Vincent demurs when discussing the success of the Disney On Ice's presentation of Disney/Pixar's "Finding Nemo."
"It's absolutely amazing," Vincent said. "It blew my mind to think we exceeded my vision. I have to say the cast is incredible.
"I can have a vision of where I think things should go, but I think the spirit of the entire company and cast, and the energy and the youthfulness of the actual performers, far exceeded my vision and they are the ones who give that show life."

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