As a distinctly patriotic blog, we never want to infringe upon your right to celebrate new holidays. So allow us to introduce to you the creepiest week of the year at Walt Disney World, an actual and definitely not made-up festivity that I can only assume will soon become the next federal holiday and school recess. That’s right, we’re talking of the one and only (checks notes)…uh…International Clown Week, which, again, is totally a real thing.
Or so I’m told by Cirque du Soleil. The Canadian company sent out an incredibly lengthy but typically polite press release about how to celebrate International Clown Week at Walt Disney World. It offers a “peek into the poetic art of clowning” in Cirque du Soleil and Disney’s clown-centric collaboration.
It’s been a big week or so for weird circus stuff at Walt Disney World, and we normally wouldn’t share a press release like this, but I found it to be amusing, funny, and a bit educational. Plus, it gives me an excuse to finally share our long-overdue review of Drawn to Life by Cirque du Soleil, so stay tuned for that after all of the fun facts about clowning with Cirque…
Drawn to Life, presented by Cirque du Soleil and Disney, invites you to explore the enchanting profession of clowning with this behind-the-scenes look at its talented clowns in honor of International Clown Week from August 1 to 7, 2023. These skilled performers take on the roles of key characters in the show, adding to the storytelling and creating an unforgettable experience for audiences of all ages.
This show is a unique collaboration between Cirque du Soleil and Walt Disney World, combining Cirque’s artistry with Disney’s timeless storytelling. Drawn to Life takes the audience on an immersive journey through the art of Disney animation in Cirque’s signature production style.
“Aside from infusing the show with laughter, emotion and enchantment, our clowns play an integral part in the storytelling of Drawn to Life,” said Heather Reilly, Company Manager for Drawn to Life at Walt Disney World. “Each of our clowns accompanies the main character, Julie, on her road of self-discovery by either guiding, teaching or even interfering with her journey.”
Clowns have an age-old origin, flourishing in ancient Greece and Rome as buffoons who parodied serious characters and engaged in physical humor. Over time and with the influence of various cultures, different types of clowns emerged, each having distinctive costumes and signature characteristics.
Among these were the Arlecchino of the Italian commedia dell’arte and the English clown, which drew inspiration from characters in medieval mystery plays. Contrary to popular belief, clowns are not always funny (editor’s note: you’ve got that right–we’ve seen It!). Clowns’ versatility in humor and emotion makes them powerful storytellers in the worlds of circus and theater, evoking a wide range of emotions beyond just laughter.
“Circus is a mesmerizing tapestry of storytelling, and clowns are among its most integral storytellers,” said Guerassim Dichliev, the talented physical actor behind Mr. Pencil, one of Drawn to Life’s principal characters.
Mr. Pencil continued: “Drawing inspiration from various theatrical styles and the everyday experiences of life, we explore the boundaries of humor and emotion, infusing our characters and performances with poetic depth and complexity. This allows to evoke a wide range of feelings, captivating and connecting with the audience through relatability and by tapping into the free-spirited essence within each of them—a nostalgic connection to the childlike wonder of life.”
Each character in Drawn to Life has a unique story and personality, especially the clowns. Dichliev, as Mr. Pencil, takes on the role of a lucky pencil that sketched great moments in Julie’s father’s life and is now guiding Julie through her quest. Miss Hésitation is a bulbous ball of crumpled paper, feeding Julie’s self-doubt—but beneath her villainous veneer lies a soul of compassion and warmth.
Lastly, the four Animators—who pay tribute to Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men, the icons of Disney Animation—befriend Julie on her journey, teaching her the principles of animation and helping her complete her father’s unfinished drawing. The clowns in Drawn to Life embody various types, such as the clown blanc—a clever and sophisticated, often a leader or “boss”—and the Auguste clown—clumsy, curious and accidentally mischievous, often getting into trouble.
Mr. Pencil and Miss Hesitation are considered clown blanc as they both attempt to guide the main character on her journey (one positively and the other negatively). By contrast, the Animators are considered Auguste clowns. Although they help teach Julie the principles of animation, their teaching style is innocently and joyously chaotic, comedic and all-around fun.
Additionally, many of the clowns in Drawn to Life are also skilled and experienced in mime—another well-known branch of physical acting—and have infused aspects of the art into their characters. The connection between clowning and mime forms the foundation of physical theater, the art of gestures and expression. Clowns and mimes share common ground in their reliance on non-verbal communication to convey emotions and stories, creating a mesmerizing blend of artistry.
Drawn to Life’s talented and experienced physical actors combine the influence of mime and the different styles of clowning to breathe life into their characters, resulting in a captivating interplay and an entertaining experience filled with laughter and emotions.
This one-of-a-kind show, which has been delighting audiences at Disney Springs West Side for almost 2 years, is filled with gravity-defying acrobatics, captivating choreography, new musical arrangements, whimsical characters, unique set design and playful costuming. Drawn to Life reconnects adults to their childlike selves while introducing a new generation to the wonders of Cirque du Soleil and Disney’s hand-drawn animation.
At the heart of the story is the love of family and the universally unshakable bond between parents and children that remains undimmed by loss or the passage of time. It tells the story of the love between a father and a daughter and the inheritance of talent and passion for art, drawing inspiration from Walt Disney Animation Studios’ 100-year heritage of storytelling.
Drawn to Life celebrates iconic Disney stories and characters through innovative design, acrobatic performances, dazzling choreography, musical scores and brand-new animation lovingly created by Disney Animation artists.
The good news is that you can celebrate International Clown Week for the next two full months–because isn’t a multi-month celebration what the mime masters truly deserve?!–with the current Sizzling Summer Savings Offer on Cirque du Soleil tickets. Consider that deal–and this entire post, for that matter–long overdue retribution for Walt Disney World declaring War on Clowns a couple years ago with the removal of the Creepy Clown Pool (RIP) at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn.
As part of this promotion, Drawn to Life tickets are available starting at $59 for adults and $44 for children. This special discount for Drawn to Life at Walt Disney World is valid for ticket purchases through September 22, 2023 for performances of Drawn to Life between now and September 30, 2023.
The Sizzling Summer Savings offer is valid for seat categories 1, 2, 3, and 4. Limit eight tickets per transaction and per guest. Tickets may be purchased online or at the Drawn to Life Box Office at Disney Springs located at Walt Disney World by mentioning the Sizzling Summer Savings Offer. Tickets are subject to taxes and fees. Tickets are non-refundable and non-exchangeable. The Sizzling Summer Savings Offer is subject to availability and cannot be combined with any other offers.
As for our review of the new Cirque du Soleil: Drawn to Life, it’s pretty positive. This show beautifully marries family-friendly acrobatic escapades of the Cirque troupe with lessons of Disney animation. It’s a touching tale with ruminations on grief, perseverance, and using art and creation to overcome loss and personal tumult.
The show starts out slow by Cirque standards, eschewing fast-paced antics for a focus on honest, intimate and raw moments with the main character who is struggling to cope with the loss of her father. (Yep, it uses the time-tested Disney Dead Parents trope.) Drawn to Life builds from there, with both the action and the main character’s personal journey gaining momentum over the course of the production.
In so doing, Drawn to Life manages to deftly balance Julie’s story, depictions of the artist process, nods to classic Disney characters and stories, acrobatics, and typical Cirque bizarreness and oddities. I suppose there might be an esoteric explanation or symbolism for some of the strange performers, but I opted to take them at face value, enjoying the spectacle.
The story itself is full of depth, personal growth and character development, accomplished via sentimental and emotional means…as well as breathtaking acrobatics. It’s a variation of a plot that Disney has done before (story-wise, there’s a very similar Disney Cruise Line stage show), but never like Drawn to Life. The end result is something that’s moving, while also being a ton of fun and visually stunning.
Drawn to Life might sound overly heavy and deep for the escapism that typifies Disney, but it tugs at the heartstrings in a fashion that’s familiar of Disney’s animated films. Those themes are there for those who want them; on the surface, the show also offers the normal Cirque breathtaking visuals and aerial escapades. It’s incredibly well done and fun…it just might make you shed a tear or two along the way.
The way Drawn to Life manages to marry meaningful and emotional Disney storytelling along with Cirque du Soleil showmanship and breathtaking circus artistry is impressive. It may not be the best exemplar of either, but the way the seemingly disparate pieces of Drawn to Life coalesce into Disney Cirque is pure magic.
With that said, Drawn to Life is not a must-do, unless you’re seasoned Walt Disney World veterans who visit regularly. First-timers definitely should not prioritize Drawn to Life, unless they’re really big fans of Cirque du Soleil. Although it’s an excellent show, in addition to being expensive, it’s time-consuming. With limited vacation days and hours, dedicating an evening to seeing Drawn to Life probably isn’t the best use of time if you only have 5 days at Walt Disney World.
How will you be celebrating International Clown Week at Walt Disney World–or at home? Have any plans to take a clowncation during this celebration in August 2024? Have you seen Drawn to Life by Cirque du Soleil? What did you think of the show? Are you a fan of Disney Springs? What do you recommend doing there? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!