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Big shows, little kids - Pioneer Press 06/05/05

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  • Big shows, little kids - Pioneer Press 06/05/05

    Article from St. Paul Pioneer Press - June 5, 2005
    Big shows, little kids

    From Dora to Barney to Big Bird, the characters children know and love are showing up in theatrical productions and reeling in big bucks.

    On a recent weekday morning, the audience at the State Theatre in downtown Minneapolis was filled with parents who had taken the day off work and hundreds and hundreds of small children waving tiny pirate flags.

    The music blared. The curtain rose. An actress wearing orange shorts, pink shirt and a purple backpack swung onto stage from a rope. "Hola, amigos!" she shouted. "Are you ready for a pirate party adventure?"
    CROWDING THE STAGE
    'Disney on Ice" was the other family entertainment pioneer. At the same time "Sesame Street Live" launched, the Ice Follies' new owner, Feld Entertainment, was watching a disappointing first year of operation.

    "I actually looked out at the audience, and I saw the reflection of glasses and a lot of white hair and thought, 'Oh my god, our business is dying,' " said entertainment tycoon Kenneth Feld, whose company also owns Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. "I thought we have to do something to appeal to younger people and families."

    Feld secured the license to lace Disney characters in ice skates and opened the first "Disney on Ice" show in July 1981. Since then, the company has produced 25 shows. Eight productions tour the world at any given time, offering audiences from Ecuador to New Zealand the chance to see Nemo glide across a frozen sea and the Beast twirl his Beauty on ice.

    The newest show, based on the movie "The Incredibles," opens in September. It hasn't hurt business that recent Disney/Pixar movies have been blockbusters.

    In an effort to expand in the international market, which already accounts for more than a third of the company's business, Feld developed its first in a planned series of stage productions this year, "Disney Live! Winnie the Pooh."

    "It gives us the opportunity to really bring Disney to smaller venues than what we've played with 'Disney on Ice,' " Feld said. "For instance, there are a lot of theaters in China, but there are not a lot of arenas. And you know there is a huge population there."

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