Mickey's Magic Man
BY ELIZABETH FOY LARSEN | PHOTO BY DARIN BACK
More than a thousand fountains spout up to 200 feet into the night. They hang in the air like ballerinas at the peak of their grand jetés before tumbling into a cascade of splashes.
Other water jets swing with the wink and swagger of Hollywood musical stars. Still others act as if they’ve been freed from the circus, shooting through lasers, technicolor spotlights, and bursts of fire. Welcome to
“World of Color,” a new live “hydrotechnic” spectacle at Disney California Adventure Park.
“We’ve taken water-based entertianment to new heights—literally,” says Michael Jung ’90, vice president of creative development for Walt Disney Imagineering Creative Entertainment. Jung spends his days overseeing the teams that create live experiences—from musicals to parades to fireworks displays to those free-ranging Mickeys—for Disney theme parks, resorts, and cruise lines around the globe. For him, “World of Color” is much more than the world’s largest and most spectacular water show. Instead it’s a live theater experience, with the fountains acting as characters. “They’re almost like dancers,” he says. “We worked with ballet choreographers to create an experience that interacts with the audience.”
Jung has been involved in things theatrical since he was a child growing up in Minneapolis, where he attended the Children’s Theater Company School. At Macalester he double majored in theater and art history and studied abroad for two semesters—art history in Florence and theater in London. “Studying in London gave me a global grounding that marked how I would approach my work going forward,” he says. “And my art history background has helped inform my visual aesthetic and appreciation for multimedia.” Back at Mac, his student production of Harvey Fierstein’s play Safe Sex ended up touring the Midwest with the playwright’s involvement.
Jung’s network got an even bigger boost when he was awarded a season-long residency as an associate director at the Guthrie Theater, where he worked under his mentor, the late director Garland Wright.
From there Jung headed to southern California to study directing at the California Institute of the Arts, which led to an eight-year stint at the Mark Taper Forum as associate producer in charge of new play development.
It was while Jung was working at a small Los Angeles production company exploring his burgeoning interests in television, documentaries, and opera that The Mouse called. “This was a fluke for me,” he says. “I had never been to a Disney park before I started working here.”
Minneapolis writer ELIZABETH FOY LARSEN writes for numerous national magazines and is a regular contributor to Macalester Today.