The parade has changed little since its debut in 1971. Weather permitting, a Watercraft crew pilots this floating pageant seven nights a week, 365 days a year, entertaining Guests and Cast Members with bubbly electronic music, a procession of real and mythical sea creatures and a patriotic finale.
The pageant is composed of two strings of seven barges. Each string is 456 feet long. (Strung together, they’re only 100 feet shorter than the length of a modern-day aircraft carrier.) Each barge features a 25 foot-high, 36 foot-long screen.
David recently talked about his role and orchestrating the show every night.
How many people does it take to run the Electrical Water Pageant each night?
Five people: two pilots, two co-pilots and a safety boat operator. The safety’s job is to trouble-shoot any problems while we’re underway and assist in pushing barges around corners. Because we’re so long, our turning radius is literally almost a quarter of a mile unassisted. He has quite a number of things to do.
Let’s talk about what your team does each night for the show.
At 8:30 p.m., the crew reports to our storage area at the Production Center. They gear up, getting their headsets, radios and things like that. Depending on the weather, they’ll put on appropriate clothing like cold-weather or foul-weather gear. At about [8:40], we head out to the strings. The pilot sits in a booth on the first barge and the co-pilot sits in a booth on the last barge. Both are connected by headset. We untie the barges, take off and head to our first show at 9 p.m. at Disney’s Polynesian Resort.
We arrive for our shows just a few moments in advance, and the reason for that is the wind. We can’t sit in one spot without the show integrity suffering. We’ll set up in sort of a rainbow arc, but that can change according to the wind.
We start the show immediately once everybody’s in position. The first string will signal the second string by light, letting them know they’re ready for the show. The co-pilot on barge 14 Ã¢EUR” the last barge on the second string has master audio control. They flip a switch, and it pumps music through a transmitter from their string to the first string’s receiver so everything’s in sync. The co-pilots on their respective strings flip switches to activate the lights on each screen when he or she hears the music cues.
What kind of challenges are out there?
Wind conditions will play havoc with these strings. They’re just platforms on pontoons, and the screens act as sails, so you’re essentially driving a sailboat 456 feet long. Also, going through the water bridge between Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake is incredibly challenging Ã¢EURÂ¦ It’s like dragging a garden hose through your house without touching anything.
When the show starts, you really have to keep your mind on what you’re doing at all times. You have to work to maintain your position and show quality.
Do you get to hear Guests’ comments about the show?
With the right wind conditions, you can hear Guests applaud from shore. When you can hear the Guests hooting and hollering and clapping 100 yards away, you know they enjoyed the show, and we get a huge satisfaction from that. You can see people on their balconies coming out every night to watch the show, too.
How does it feel being part of one of our longest-running shows?
It’s like nothing in the world. We’re the only crew that does this type of work in the world. We’ve been going out every night, weather conditions permitting, since 1971. We probably only cancel less than 10 times a year on average. I really think it’s an honor.