“Worlds Away 3D: Through the Looking Glass”

“Experience a Journey Like Never Before…”

From the big top to the big screen, Academy Award-nominated director Andrew Adamson and visionary filmmaker James Cameron invite audienceson an all-new 3D adventure — Cirque du Soleil Worlds Away. Two young people journey through the astonishing and dreamlike worlds of Cirque du Soleil to find each other as audiences experience the immersive 3D technology that allows them to leap, soar, swim and dance with the performers.

Unique in scope, this immersive experience melds acts from seven live Cirque du Soleil shows in Las Vegas — “O,” KÀ, Mystère, Viva ELVIS, CRISS ANGEL Believe, Zumanity and The Beatles LOVE — into a circus love story produced, written and directed by Academy Award nominee Andrew Adamson (Shrek, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe). The film stars Cirque du Soleil strap aerialists Igor Zaripov (The Aerialist) and former artist Erica Kathleen Linz (Mia) as the young couple.

Presented by Paramount Pictures and Academy Award winner James Cameron (Avatar, Titanic), the film is a Cirque du Soleil production in association with Reel FX Inc., Strange Weather Films and CAMERON | PACE Group. Produced by Cirque du Soleil producer Martin Bolduc, Adamson and his Strange Weather Films’ partner Aron Warner, Cirque du Soleil Worlds Away is captured in 3D by executive producer Cameron and his CAMERON | PACE Group partner Vincent Pace, the film’s 3D executive producer. Executive producers are Cameron, Jacques Méthé, Cary Granat and Ed Jones. Director of photography is Brett Turnbull. Composer Benoit Jutras (Cirque du Soleil shows Quidam, “O,”. La Nouba and, as co-writer, Mystère) wrote the score and the opening song. Stephen Barton contributed additional music to the final strap act. The editor is Sim Evan-Jones.


For writer/director/producer Andrew Adamson, tying a love knot around some of the best elements of seven Cirque du Soleil live shows that play in Las Vegas was a journey into magical realism. Executive producer Cary Granat and Reel FX Inc. had been discussing the possibility of collaborating with Cirque du Soleil on a project for quite awhile when he approached Adamson about the idea of crafting and directing a Cirque-based feature film. Granat is the former CEO of Walden Media, which collaborated with Adamson on the first two films of C.S. Lewis’ beloved The Chronicles of Narnia series. Adamson is also a producer on the third film, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

“We had to find a natural, cinematic way into the world of Cirque du Soleil,” says Adamson. “I started thinking about the way Cirque du Soleil live shows work. There is a very dreamlike quality about them. A thin thread of narrative that weaves in and out of each but allows these acts to exist within the worlds that are created. I thought this movie could do the same thing. I could find a narrative that threads these completely different shows together.

“I came to the idea of these two people who meet in a real-world circus. She’s a young girl looking to escape her life. She sees this aerialist and instantly falls in love with him, but when their eyes meet he slips and falls. He drops right through the circus ring into another world and drags her with him. They spend the rest of the film looking for each other in these worlds that exist in a limbo state, kind of a space between life and death, a world between worlds. Ultimately they come together in a dream fulfilling aerial ballet. An act that hangs in the balance between beauty and danger.”

Like the live shows, the film eschews dialogue, using music and the marvelous expressions of the performers to move the narrative forward. But it was never the filmmakers’ intention to simply capture the live shows. “What I wanted to do” says Adamson, “is take the audience to see these shows in a way that they hadn’t seen them before, to get the camera in close and give a different perspective of what these artists do and show that perspective in high speed, slow motion 3D.”

Executive producer Cameron, whose company CAMERON | PACE Group shot the film with his FUSION 3D camera system, says the film feels “as if you strayed into a circus in a dream. From the beginning Andrew had a fairly clear vision of what he wanted to do and it continued to evolve. As a producer, I kind of acted as his sounding board. The goal was to really celebrate the physical artistry of everything Cirque du Soleil is about, the design, the beauty and grace of those performances.

“Andrew had to walk a fine line working with such diverse elements from these shows. It was never meant to be about effects but to showcase the raw, pure physical human talent and their amazing ability. While it starts in this sort of run down circus, it plays out as discovery of this other dimensional circus world they fall into, but it is still very much a circus. There are wires, harnesses and you see it all, no effects hiding it. In seeing it, you experience the ingenuity of staging, costume design, the strength and agility of their talent that seem so effortless, so fluid. But the preparation and work that goes into it is anything but effortless. What you see is pure Cirque du Soleil.”

Adamson drew inspiration from such classics as Walt Disney’s Fantasia, Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Peter Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake ballet and his own personal experiences from watching a traveling circus show in Mexico in 2000.

“It was a Fred Flintstone themed traveling circus. I remember the ringleader had a lot of years on him, the lion had no teeth and one of the trapeze artists was a large woman wearing a star-spangled bikini. It was almost an empty house and had definitely seen better days,” he recalls. “But there was this sort of sad yet beautiful element to it bittersweet one of my favorite emotions. That was in the back of my mind. So I set the opening of this film in a circus that was connected to no time or place. I really wanted it to feel like a traveling neighborhood circus that could be anywhere.”

At first Adamson wanted to use actors in the key roles, “but I also knew that I wanted to end with some kind of beautiful romantic straps aerial act.”

“To teach a normal person to do (aerial) straps, to perform at this level takes years,” says executive producer Jacques Méthé of Cirque du Soleil. “The way to go was to take Cirque du Soleil performers and teach them to play the part. At the end of this film, they are both flying in each others’ arms. They need the skills and training of a real Cirque du Soleil performer. Igor and Erica have worked on several of our shows for years. They are not only wonderful acrobats, but because of their Cirque du Soleil training, they have learned to become characters. In any Cirque du Soleil show, everybody is a character and plays some part. So we knew these two had the acting skills because of their years with Cirque du Soleil.”

Erica Kathleen Linz was 19 when she joined Cirque du Soleil shortly after graduating from high school. “I grew up as a gymnast and a singer, which led to theater, so I have flip-flopped between acting and acrobatic roles, and recently I’ve been doing an aerial straps duet which fits into this whole theme,” Linz says. Landing the film role gave her an opportunity within Cirque du Soleil that she had never known before. “There’s never really been an opportunity for anybody to kind of float through the shows, participate in what they do every night and get a feel for each show’s culture. Every show is sort of like its own family, has its own vibe, its own set of nationalities and sense of humor. Personally, it’s been unbelievable for me.”

Although she and co-star Igor Zaripov have performed in the show KÀ, neither performed a duet together before Cirque du Soleil Worlds Away. Zaripov, who joined Cirque du Soleil in 2002, grew up in a Russian circus family that had been in the business for more than a century. He has been an aerial acts acrobat from his first stage appearance at 11 for the Moscow Circus. He traveled with other circuses around the world honing his skills. When he joined Cirque du Soleil, he performed in KÀ for five years as the Firefly boy and in Cirque du Soleil’s adult-themed Zumanity for several years. “I had never worked closely with Erica before but we had to get into it really quick (the first time for the love scene of the final act) and it was really nice,” he says.

What they do, although an outgrowth of KÀ, was created specifically for the film — a romantic aerial straps ballet which captures the ascendancy of love. “What you see is how these two learn to trust each other so completely. Her life is literally in his hands an act of total surrender,” notes Cameron. “The acting is inferred by the physicality of the moment. And the grace with which it is done is simply beautiful.”


When Adamson chose acts from the seven live Cirque du Soleil shows to use in the film, he picked those that would lend themselves to the storyline of Mia searching for the Aerialist from tent to tent. Each time she peels back the curtain and steps inside, another Cirque du Soleil world opens to her. These worlds are:

“O” — “Water represents both life and the unconscious, the dream state and illusion because of its reflection,” says Pierre Parisien, Cirque du Soleil senior artistic director. “It’s sort of the unseen realm of spirits, of ghosts, and the flying boat is like The Flying Dutchman. They are trying to lure Mia aboard but she won’t go.” It is the first tent Mia visits after she falls into an alternate desert wasteland populated by six big tops, “six kinds of limbos,” says Linz.[FASCINATION NOTE: You’ll see Synchronized Swimming, Duo Trapeze, Bateau, Fire, Contortion and Aerial Hoops from “O” in glorious 3D].

KÀ — To Adamson KÀ was about spectacle, with a stage a quarter of the size of a football field that lifts vertically, spins around and changes. “What I wanted to capture wasn’t just the act and the performers but the ingenuity. Part of what Cirque du Soleil does so well is combine art and technology and present you with this completely different imagery you’ve never seen before.” [FASCINATION NOTE: Wheel of Death, The Final Battle, Pursuit, and the Flying Bird from KA are shown here. The film also ends here as the two maincharacters perform an aerial ballet in the Forest scene.]

MYSTÈRE — “Mystère is highly acrobatic, the most acrobatic show we have,” says James Hadley, Cirque du Soleil’s senior artistic director for resident shows in North America. It is also the longest running Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas. Hanging from a cube in mid-air, an aerialist performs a ballet with seemingly effortless maneuvers, foreshadowing what is to come for the star-crossed lovers. [FASCINATION NOTE: Only the Aerial Cube is shown, much to our dismay.]

VIVA ELVIS — In the film, a mysterious self-propelled tricycle leads Mia to the Viva ELVIS tent, where performers dressed as super heroes fly off trampolines to the music of Elvis. [FASCINATION NOTE: Only the Trampoline – Got a Lot of Livin’ To Do – number is shown.]

CRISS ANGEL BELIEVE — Mia travels through six Cirque du Soleil tents that occupy a limbo state between life and death in search of love lost. The seventh element is not a tent but Cirque du Soleil’s very own peculiar White Rabbit, a dancing disembodied bunny head from CRISS ANGEL Believe, who makes a timely appearance, beckoning her to follow.[FASCINATION NOTE: And thankfully this is the ONLY appearance of anything related to BELIEVE in the film.]

ZUMANITY — “The act that we’re using from Zumanity is very small and contained, but it fits thematically well where we’ve placed it,” says Adamson. What first appears to be water on the moon transforms into a water-filled glass container from which a seductive contortionist entices the Aerialist to join her. [FASCINATION NOTE: Only the waterbowl act was performed for the film to “Nostalgie” from “O”.]

THE BEATLES LOVE — The act built around the song Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite is “a circus-based theme,” says Adamson, “so it tied us back into the beginning of our opening circus.” Hadley adds, “Actually Mr. Kite, of all the acts that we filmed, probably has the biggest number of artists in one act.” [FASCINATION NOTE: A number of scenes from LOVE appear, such as Blackbird, Octopus’ Garden, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, For the Benefit of Mr. Kite, Get Back/Glass Onion, and While my Guitar Gently Weeps.]


Composer Benoit Jutras wrote the score and transitional music between the Cirque du Soleil shows used in the film. Barton had previously teamed with Adamson on the Shrek and Narnia films, but the director felt it important to have Jutras, who had written scores for some of the Cirque du Soleil shows used, to adapt and refine some of that music specifically for Cirque du Soleil Worlds Away.

“The music was really the dialogue of this film,” says Jutras. “You see, Cirque du Soleil developed it as a language for its shows, to tell a story with the music and without words. It becomes the universal language.” It was an element that Cameron and Adamson wanted to retain for the film.

“When it came to inspiration for this film’s score,” Jutras continues, “it was about the passage through life and a young woman who falls in love, about how love makes you go through all of these emotions, the colors of love, so to speak. What I wanted to do with the opening act was to make it a very separate experience, to make it as little like Cirque du Soleil as possible to show the contrast of the old circus and the worlds of Cirque du Soleil. In the final act, since it was part of KÀ, Stephen Barton used that show to inspire the music (of the final act).”


For Cameron, Cirque du Soleil Worlds Away “was a dream come true. I had been talking to them for some time about doing something in 3D because it’s never been done. How lucky to be working with the Cirque du Soleil family, to have that talent create such an emotional performance for this film. Because their death-defying acts require such incredible skill and nerve, we felt it was so important to show the cabling, everything supporting that human ability.

“We were working with a different stage crew every four days. We did use the live shows and shot both during the live performances and on their dark days. It was cost effective to shoot during the live shows, but we did get the best stuff on dark days because we were able to come in from different angles. We dropped in with our 10 3D cameras and started shooting. But it’s a lot different than just standing back with a ring of cameras and shooting a live show. We were getting in there with the Steadicam, shooting close-ups — in their faces as close as possible — getting into the action because it’s much better for 3D. I lobbied for high camera positions so when you are shooting down you get that sense of vertigo. At times we were shooting from 50 to 100 feet in the air, and you feel the height of these amazing artists performing 90 feet above the floor. You also realize the jeopardy they are in all the time.

“The live experience of these shows is incredible. But in the movie theater, what we can give you is the experience of being right in the middle of a show where you will really get to see the detailed work that’s gone into the characters, the costumes and the choreography. There is pageantry to the live experience, but there is an intimacy to the 3D experience.”

One of the challenges for the filmmakers of Cirque du Soleil Worlds Away was that 3D involves more complicated cameras and technology and thus more time to set up the equipment. Prep also meant meeting strict safety parameters with underwater cameras (avoiding the lethal mix of electricity and water) and camera cranes (out of harm’s way of aerialists and flying objects.)

“There was a lot of hurry up and wait,” notes producer Martin Bolduc, “which is difficult for Cirque du Soleil performers as their bodies are cooling off and they need a minimum of time to warm up their muscles after a certain period of inactivity.” Still, the shooting schedule was relatively short — 37 days over three time periods: October-November 2010 in Las Vegas, December 2011 in New Zealand and February 2011 again in Vegas. The only CGI used in the film are scenes in the desert when Mia and the Aerialist travel between the tents.

“Twice a day, five days a week the performers do their work,” says Cameron. “When we told them we would make a 3D film that would really capture their commitment to their art, I don’t think these artists really knew what to expect. They were a bit jaded because they do it day after day, year after year. But when it was over and they saw what they do through our eyes they were awestruck. It rejuvenated them.”

* * *

The drive to expand and constantly transform from the circus norm is what separates Cirque du Soleil from the pack. Always positioning itself as “nouveau Cirque du Soleil,” it remains theatrical, character-driven entertainment sans animals. From its humble roots on the streets in the early 1980s to an arty version of the big top to the showbiz behemoth it is today with 20 shows around the world, certain elements of the Cirque du Soleil experience will forever remain.

“You will always need your ‘wow,’ your tender moments, your humor,” says Cirque du Soleil owner and co-founder Guy Laliberté, much like the narrative of any great screenplay. But he reminds that Cirque du Soleil’s conventions are all about hinting at the plot and teasing at the themes. It is there, he says, on the edge of imaginative interpretation that Cirque du Soleil invites audiences to suspend disbelief and step through the looking glass.

Learn more about Worlds Away 3D at the film’s website:
< http://www.worldsaway3d.com/ >.