DISNEY JUNIOR DREAM FACTORY: MEET YARON SPIWAK, SENIOR MUSIC PRODUCER AND CREATIVE DIRECTOR

Music is at the heart of Disneyland Paris’ newest stage production. Yaron reveals all of the secrets behind the making of the show

Yaron, can you tell us about the musical concept behind Disney Junior Dream Factory?

Our show is in the great tradition of musical theatre. Some of our Characters, like Fancy Nancy Clancy, are relatively new to European audiences. Thus, we wanted use a musical style that would speak to the greatest number of people, without them necessarily needing to know the Disney Junior series beforehand. The music plays an essential role. It allows us to go along with the story and to touch people’s hearts directly.

What was your role in this production?

I was the Co-Producer and Creative Director for this production. As Senior Music Creative Director for Walt Disney Imagineering, one of my responsibilities is to collaborate with the Music Producers at Disney Parks around the world. It allows me to bring a particular, more global approach to the different shows, and to bring in new and exciting artists in order to meet the specific needs of each production.

So, it’s a very collaborative function. Can you tell us more about this aspect of your work for Disney Junior Dream Factory?

I worked in particular with Jonathan Barr, who produces music for Disneyland Paris. We’ve worked together on many, shows for the Disney Parks and in particular for Disneyland Paris. Together, we produced the music for Frozen 2: An Enchanted Journey and Frozen: A Musical Invitation. He is a fantastic partner and a great musician.

When I produce the music for Disneyland Paris shows such as The Lion King: Rhythms of the Pride Lands or Marvel: Season of Super Heroes, I also regularly collaborate with the Disneyland Paris music department team, which also includes Estelle Champeau and Guillaume Coignard. It’s always a great pleasure to collaborate with them. Each project is different, and the team always manages to make these experiences exciting and fun. This arrangement between Walt Disney Imagineering and Disneyland Paris is one of the keys to the success of our shows.

How did you approach the songs for the show?

When you launch a new show, a lot of the songs have to be rearranged so that can fit perfectly into a new production, both in terms of ambiance and staging. For example, Vampirina plays a guitar solo that doesn’t exist in the series. So, that brings up a number of questions: what will her guitar sound like? What parts of the song will she sing? We also had to come up with a special musical arrangement for a moment when Fancy Nancy Clancy dances. At first, we even considered creating an original, but we quickly realized that the songs from the various Disney Junior series were great and fit exactly with the message we wanted to convey in our show… All we had to do was adapt them, and for that we turned to Tim Heintz, who arranged the music for Jungle Jive. He had also done the arrangements for the Disney Junior Dance Party! songs at Disney’s Hollywood Studio Park in Florida. His work was much appreciated by the people at Disney Junior, so naturally, we turned to him again.

How did you manage to give this “musical theatre style to the Disney Junior songs?

For this show, we deconstructed the original arrangements and created new ones in the spirit of musical theater. I would say that these new arrangements are better suited to the stage. They were envisioned in a way so that the whole audience would feel emotionally involved… really tailor-made for our show. It’s not like a concert.  Each song is part of the story and makes sense within the whole show.

As such, Tim Heintz’s arrangements vary greatly, just like the different Characters’ worlds.

Yes, our songs call upon many different styles. Vampirina has a more rock style, while Timon is more Afro-Caribbean and for Fancy Nancy Clancy, there’s a more classical French touch, particularly with the accordion.  For some children, it is the first time they are exposed to a musical show, and it is very important that we offer them musical diversity. It is in this context that we had the idea of integrating Offenbach’s music in the Fancy Nancy Clancy number. This European touch is really part of Disneyland Paris’ musical identity. It’s both a mark of respect for our guests and a way to connect with them.  It’s something we feel very strongly about, no matter the songs, composers or arrangers. 

How did the recordings go?

It was a pretty special experience in that the sessions took place the first week of March 2020 in Los Angeles, right before lockdown. We came to the studio every day without knowing if we would be able to meet the next day. In this very particular context, music allowed us to escape. We focused on the moment – also a message in the show – and on the pleasure of doing what we love most of all, music. In these recordings, we tried to recreate the sound of a musical theater orchestra, with a cinematic touch. For several songs, we had particular instruments: the accordion for Fancy Nancy Clancy, a distortion guitar for Vampirina and marimbas for Timon and The Lion Guard.

The recording was done over several sessions, notably for health and safety reasons as we could not have all the instrumentalists together at the same time in the same room: we had small groups, sometimes only soloists, recording separately. As for the recorded vocal parts, they were done partly in the United States, and partly in France as some of the vocals are in French.

There is something really magical about the music.

At first, a score is just notes on a page. Then the musicians arrive and give them life. During the recordings, the notes literally flowed from the pages and you can feel it during the show. It is this type of passion and commitment that made the music for this show truly magical!