Through innovative storytelling and a culture of collaboration, Disney Live Entertainment creates, produces, and delivers remarkable and engaging entertainment experiences that can be seen at Disney theme parks, resort hotels, cruise ships and other locations the world over. This diverse team – representing a wide variety of disciplines and talents from technical directors, writers and lighting designers to choreographers, cosmetologists, and music producers – brings magical worlds to life through technical expertise, performance excellence, incomparable ingenuity, unparalleled spectacle … and a dash of pixie dust.
Sarah Schmidt, Harmony McChesney, Catie DelleMonache and Dani Iglesias are some of the incredible cast members who make up the Disney Live Entertainment team. They shared what they enjoy most about working for Disney, their career highlights and some special projects they have been a part of including the LEGO Disney Making Wonder the Series celebrating Disney100.
Sarah Schmidt is a creative concept artist/illustrator and in her role she draws, paints, sculpts and designs, taking ideas from blue sky ideation all the way through opening day at the parks and resorts. She said she loves that in Disney Live Entertainment “we get to work on projects from the very first ‘what if?’ to opening a show for our guests. Being with a project every step of development is such a unique position, and it’s a fantastic learning experience to do everything from concept art to development and build drawings to actually installing overnight in the park!”
Sarah studied animation in college but her goal was always to work in themed entertainment. She said, “I was very fortunate to get an internship with Disney Live Entertainment (DLE) right after college, and found that DLE was exactly the place I was looking for! Being able to combine illustration, animation, research, and live theater into one role is so much fun, and I’m just about to celebrate five years with the company.”
Sarah says she “absolutely loves Star Wars, particularly the recent movies, so being able to celebrate the grand openings of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance as part of the press event design team was really, really special. Being able to play in that world and create designs that lived alongside some of my favorite characters was an experience I’ll never forget.” Sarah was a designer on the press event stage and scenic package, working with Art Director Alexander LaFrance. She said her “favorite part was getting to sneak in nods to some of my favorite Star Wars characters, like Rose Tico and Yolo Ziff.”
More recently, Sarah and Art Director Stacy Wieckowicz designed Moana’s new character greeting space at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. They worked directly with the filmmakers and cultural consultants to ensure that every detail was perfect.
As a Disney Live Entertainment Costume Designer, Harmony McChesney enjoys working with a team of talented people to translate concepts into wearable works of art. In her role, she “loves being a part of a team that creates magic moments for families. It is so fun to think that things I have worked on will live on as someone else’s treasured memories of a time they went to the park with loved ones.”
In pursuing this career path, Harmony said she “has just always been enamored with fashion and costumes. My mother was in local theatre productions when I was a child, so I saw her in costume and thought the transformation was so amazing.”
“I love to see performers wear the costumes I worked on and bring them to life in a way that delights our guests!” says Harmony. Out of many amazing projects she has worked on Harmony said she “really enjoyed designing for the dancers for ‘Move It! Shake It! Mousekedance It!’ Street Party and for that style icon Clarabelle Cow.”
Catie DelleMonache, art director with Disney Live Entertainment at Disneyland Resort, designs the physical environments for live shows, parades, and other entertainment experiences. She said, “working in Live Entertainment is a blast! I think my greatest enjoyment comes from collaborating with such talented creatives every day. I love seeing how our different backgrounds and styles combine in the design and production processes!”
Catie was inspired to pursue a career in the arts because she has “always been creative and design-oriented, so I think a career in the arts was inevitable! What drew me to theater and live entertainment was their ability to bring settings and stories to life, and what better place to set the stage than our Disney parks?” Catie actually started out as an art design intern right out of college.
Catie said, “the most rewarding part of my role is creating core memories for our guests. Helping to produce meaningful experiences and character interactions in our parks is so fulfilling to me!” Besides the design process for the “Magic Happens” Parade, some of her favorite projects have included designs for Pixar Day at Sea on Disney Cruise Line and the Raya character location in Disney California Adventure Park. She also does a lot of work with Disney Imagination Campus.
In her role as Producer with The Muppets Studio, Dani Iglesias leverages her background in design and writing to support The Muppets with all sorts of creative content, from new productions like “The Muppets Mayhem” to ongoing efforts like franchise strategy or merchandise ranges. She said “the thing I enjoy most about my career with Disney Live Entertainment is the spirit of creativity that is celebrated here. I feel like I can bring my whole, wacky self to work and share creative ideas that are supported and championed.”
For what inspired Dani to pursue her current career, she said, “I’ve always enjoyed learning different areas of the creative organization, from writing franchise guardrails to designing character illustrations. I think having many tools in my tool belt not only inspired me to pursue the career I have now, but it helped prepare me for the role when the opportunity came along.”
“Seeing the things I design ‘out in the real world’ is the most surreal and rewarding part of my career. Anytime I see our logos for The Muppets franchise or The Muppets Studio, I feel so humbled and proud,” says Dani.
Dani had the tremendous honor of hosting a Club 33 panel celebrating her favorite holiday film “The Muppet Christmas Carol” with some of the Muppet performers last year. She shared with attendees that “my family has an annual tradition of putting Fozzie Bear on top of our Christmas tree, and later got to even share the stage with Fozzie and the gang! I also contributed the artwork for The Electric Mayhem concert tees that Tahj Mowry’s character Moog wears in ‘The Muppets Mayhem,’ and we went on to produce those shirts as merchandise for the show. To contribute to the legacy of The Electric Mayhem is one of those real ‘pinch me’ moments at Disney!”
Dani’s favorite Disney memory is “riding Dumbo the Flying Elephant over the years with my dad. We have so many photos of us together flying through Fantasyland. Even though my dad has passed away, I’m reminded what an incredible legacy that the Disney Parks play in our guests lives. As we celebrate Disney100, I think about Walt and his dream of spending time with his daughters in a place where families can ‘have fun, together’ and what that has meant for me and my family.”
Sarah, Harmony, Catie and Dani have all worked on special projects throughout their careers, and one they all contributed their talents to is the LEGO Disney Making Wonder the Series celebrating Disney100. The series combines mind-blowing LEGO builds with a touch of Disney magic. They also were able to collaborate with a LEGO Master Builder, a Stop Motion Animator, and designers from The LEGO Group.
In the first episode, Sarah Schmidt creates Cinderella and Jasmine-inspired go-kart helmets for racing driver Naomi Schiff and one of the series hosts, Nicole Laeno. Sarah said, “this experience was also a full circle moment as my very first bike was a Princess Jasmine bike, and it was great to see the awesome Princess Jasmine-inspired go-kart the LEGO team built.”
In the second episode, Harmony collaborates with Laura Perron, a product designer at The LEGO Group, to create the perfect Minnie Mouse-inspired dress using LEGO DOTS. Harmony said she hopes that “viewers, particularly young girls, enjoy seeing how fun it is to take inspiration and translate it into something real using your imagination and allowing yourself to play and experiment.”
Art Director, Catie DelleMonache and LEGO Master Builder, Pete Donner work to create the ultimate Disney parade float, using all LEGO bricks in the third episode. Catie thought that “seeing the parade float we created in brick form was incredible. Pete and his team did a great job capturing the organic nature of the float and brought in a fun, 100th anniversary color scheme!”
In episode five, Dani and Stop Motion Animator, Kevin Ulrich from The LEGO Group take viewers through an adventure tale that takes place in a wondrous LEGO brick treehouse, filled with beloved Disney Princess characters. “The whole team who brought Making Wonder the Series to life was so passionate about what they do and it was so inspiring to be on set with them,” says Dani.