What do Disney On Ice, the MTV Movie Awards, rock idol David Bowie, and country superstar Faith Hill have in common-The answer is simple-a dazzling display of lighting artistry that makes jaws drop worldwide, and one man with a vision that brings all of these astonishing productions to life-LeRoy Bennett.
Immediately following his graduation from high school in Brooklyn, the lighting wizard began his career as a lighting technician for various concerts and touring shows throughout the East Coast. At 23, he moved to California to take a job with a new production company that had just signed a contract with a totally unknown singer in need of a technical staff. Bennett volunteered to be the singer's lighting designer, and the rest is history. The unknown singer that he offered to help was none other than Prince.
Working with Prince for 14 years earned Bennett a considerable reputation in the music business and design commissions from a broad array of artists in various musical genres. From rock & roll icons Jon Bon Jovi and Don Henley, to country superstars Faith Hill and the Dixie Chicks to R&B legend Janet Jackson, Bennett has done it all. In 2002, he received an Emmy Award nomination for his work on America: A Tribute to Heroes, a live televised event starring more than 50 musicians and actors to benefit the September 11th Telethon Fund. The most important thing to consider in all his multifaceted productions, the designer says, "is connecting the lighting to both the music and the audience." In this Disney On Ice adventure, Bennett feeds off hip Academy Award winning songs like "You'll Be in My Heart," sung by Phil Collins, and favorite Disney jungle characters like Pumbaa, Timon, Tarzan, Jane and Mowgli. He uses lighting to "make things pop," creating a visual experience that animates the set design, bringing characters, costumes and props to life on ice.
Bringing three of Disney's most popular animated films Disney's The Jungle Book, TarzanTM and The Lion King ?to life in this Disney On Ice adventure, produced by Feld Entertainment, Inc., posed several creative challenges to the veteran lighting designer. "The audience's view of the ice is more panoramic than in the past," says Bennett, "so the lighting must create an environment that envelops all of the senses, while highlighting the drama unfolding in each of the three distinct story lines." To do this, he utilizes three unique color schemes to differentiate the segments. A royal color palette brings to life the vibrant foliage of the Indian wilderness in Disney's The Jungle Book, while deep greens heighten the drama deep within the African jungle in Tarzan Bennett uses an amber color scheme to portray The Lion King's vast desert landscape, with subtle shading that adds an unexpected dimension to the ice.
With a set and storyline designed to engage audiences' imaginations on every level, Bennett chose lighting effects to complement an interactive interpretation of the show's themes of friendship, growth and discovery. Visual elements play an important role in several of the production's most powerful scenes. Lighting is also used to enhance several of the stories' most intriguing character portrayals. From the hypnotizing swirl of Kaa the Snake's black-lighted coils to the comedic atmosphere of Colonel Hathi's colorful marching pachyderms, the production is filled with moments elevated into another realm of reality by Bennett's lighting wizardry.
Bennett joined Feld Entertainment in 1994 to head up the lighting design for Disney On Ice presents Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and has worked on several projects since, including Disney On Ice presents Disney's Toy Story and Disney/Pixar's Toy Story 2, and Disney On Ice presents Hercules.
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