CDS Releases Synopsis and Act List for “Drawn to Life”

Ahead of its November 18th debut at Disney Springs, Cirque du Soleil and Disney revealed today the synopsis and list of acts/scenes for the upcoming “Drawn to Life” show, a love letter to animation. Spoilers ahead:


Julie, a courageous and determined 12-year-old, discovers an unexpected gift left by her late animator father: a letter urging her to complete a drawing he left unfinished. From his cluttered desk, Julie is suddenly whisked through a vortex into a world of wonder where comforts of her childhood have come alive and beloved Disney Animation characters serve as her guides. Throughout her quest to complete the animation, Julie learns to erase any self-doubt, to imagine new possibilities and to animate the story of her future.


A transformative joyride where imaginary becomes reality. Julie, the main character, was prolific at drawing. She and her father, a Disney animator, had a shared passion for animation. The Disney characters he drew became her siblings and cheered her up when she was down. After her father’s death, Julie rediscovers his animation desk in the basement, cluttered with pencils, papers and other objects. Her most important find: a page of unfinished animation her father challenged her to complete. Suddenly, the scene illuminates as she transitions through the table into another dimension set upon a giant animation desk. Characters of her childhood and comforting objects stir to life. Julie is off on an amazing journey into the whimsical world of animation.


Animation meets acrobatics as the physicality of the art form is captured dramatically by the Waku Waku. A group of rhythmic gymnasts execute flips, jumps and bounces with extreme precision and torque to represent movement through pages of drawings that make up mere seconds of animation. Using a stage-consuming air mat, they propel themselves into the air while executing energetic gymnastic and tumbling displays in continuous sequence.


Celebrating the “pencil test,” the moment when life first appears upon the animator’s paper, these initial stirrings of inspiration become the essence of the art form. An acrobat guides an aerial pole, stylized as a giant pencil, across the stage to create their own animation before propelling dramatically into the air. Soaring across and above the stage while performing feats that mimic the first strokes of inspiration for an animator, the aerialist performs unbelievably controlled stunts, forming fluid and rigid lines as if their body itself is a moving animation. Aerial Pencil is lifted by the same inspiration that led Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men to achieve greatness.


As Julie experiences fear and self-doubt, colossal pencils summoned by Mr. Pencil leap from their pot to lend Julie encouragement and guide her through a forest of familiar faces. The larger-than-life movements of the Stilt Walkers are skillfully made via the three-meter extensions of their body. Communicating with their partner—and at times entirely trusting themselves—each artist demonstrates immense strength and balance, presenting stilt walking in a captivating and culturally inspired way.


If you can animate a ball, you can animate the world. The mysterious juggler appears wearing a cape covered in outstretched hands when suddenly, the jacket is mystically carried skyward. Liberated, the juggler performs tricks with unbelievable skill and ease, as if they possess all the hands of their long-gone cape. Juggling behind their back with increasing height, speed, objects and difficulty, the task of animating a simple ball becomes a step in Julie’s journey to complete her father’s animation. The act echoes the twelve principles of animation outlined in the book Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life by iconic Disney animators and Disney Legends Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas.


Julie’s dreams become a palette of colors as Mr. and Mrs. Paintbrush are awakened by the live drawings of an artist who sits painting at her own animation table. High above the stage, two artists silhouetted in a suspended giant wheel execute a number based on mutual trust. The catcher turns into a human trapeze and flings their partner into the air to perform increasingly complex flips and somersaults. Their bodies as paintbrushes create dramatic watercolor streaks across the canvas 25 feet in the air. The kaleidoscope of colors pays homage to the genius of Disney Animation artist Mary Blair. Tribute is also paid to the Women of Ink and Paint, unsung heroes whose brushstrokes gave life to early animation celluloids.


Playing with friends stirs the inner child in an homage to cherished tales that inspire an animator. Lines are the first penciled strokes of the animator’s craft. Awake from her dream, Julie is swept into a wonderland of familiar shadows, shapes and outlines. Disney characters in oblique forms surround her. Julie’s whimsical mood fixates on a mischievous marionette from a time-honored Italian fairytale. Five playful unicyclists representing the Blue Fairy of the classic Disney Animation film “Pinocchio” appear to effortlessly float across the stage, performing synchronized stunts and individual tricks with pinpoint precision.


Owls dreamed up by Julie’s imagination weather a storm using teamwork and courage to carry them through the powerful wind and rain that threaten their windmill home. The Old Mill, recalling Walt Disney’s groundbreaking 1937 animated short of the same name, inspires this amazing act and is seen in projections throughout. The windmill of the film is represented in a spectacular, churning, fast-moving double wheel structure. Gravity-defying acrobats are in constant motion with the turning wheels, riding their rise and fall—at times airborne—with astonishing balance and agility. The act links seamlessly to the mill and the teamwork of the owls to see the crisis through.


Julie envisions her parents as an iconic fairytale couple, dancing like a prince and princess across the ballroom floor. In a world-premiere magical Hand to Hand act, two artists connect through tender yet intense movements that defy both strength and gravity. Using magie nouvelle, a movement that redefines magic in the same way that contemporary circus transformed the ancient art form, the couple inspires awe with their hand-and-body balancing act. The harmonious physical duet showcases graceful precision and trust between the man and woman.


Fun, explosive movements honor the playfulness of the animator who often recalls their inner child when creating. For hard-working animators, Friday night mischief meant getting up from their drawing boards and launching an old-fashioned rubber band fight. Inspired by objects that shot from stretched rubber bands, acrobats spring from a teeterboard to dizzying heights. The gaggle of gymnasts rocket straight up off their boards or somersault dramatically over to the opposite end, celebrating the unbridled pleasure of animation.


Encouraged by feminine energy and spirit, Julie finds the strength to complete her animation before flying into the arms of her father and saying goodbye. The celebratory finale is rightfully an all-female Swing to Swing act—a first in Cirque du Soleil’s history. Russian acrobats take flight between two arcing swings swaying, pendulum-like, in a breathtaking show of grace and precision. In their stunning, fly-through-the-air movements, the women celebrate beauty, strength, grace, courage, and ultimately: female empowerment. Their motions are supported by projections of iconic female characters of Disney Animation. Her father’s animation complete, Julie’s future is unstoppable now.

And there we have it!

“Drawn to Life” makes its debut on November 18th. Tickets are now on sale at The Cirque du Soleil Store at Disney Springs West Side is now open!