In one of the most surprising of casting announcements of the holiday season, Madison Square Garden Co. said Intel’s Shooting Star drones will join the Radio City Rockettes for the finale of its annual Christmas Spectacular at Radio City.
One hundred palm-sized drones will create a light show over the stage, using choreographed movements to create holiday-themed silhouettes in the new finale scene, Christmas Lights. This marks the first time Intel’s mini drones have appeared in such a large-scale integrated theatrical performance.
“It’s going to blow away everyone’s expectations. They’re not going to expect to have drones flying 3D inside Radio City,” said Natalie Cheung, general manager of Intel’s drone light shows.
Intel’s drones have appeared in a variety of surprising venues, moving in synchronized formation over the Bellagio Fountains in Las Vegas during the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show, and creating a patriotic backdrop to Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl performance.
Cheung said one of MSG’s executives spotted the mini drone at Intel’s CES booth, snapped a photo of the petite flier next to his glasses to provide scale and the two companies began talking about integrating the drones into the Christmas Spectacular. She said Intel has been working for nearly a year preparing for the holiday-themed light show.
The mini drones were created specifically for indoor light displays. Intel developed a location system to allow the drones to navigate within an enclosed space, where the flying objects would be unable to locate their positions via GPS. The mini drones already are rehearsing in the space, ensuring they can safely execute the choreography, in which the drones create images and animations that are synchronized to music and lighting effects.
Intel joined with an acclaimed creative team, including the director of new digital show content, Sam Buntrock, a Tony, Drama Desk, and Olivier Award-nominee (Broadway and West End productions of Sunday in the Park with George); and the San Francisco-based design studio, Obscura Digital, which created new digital projections that extend the show beyond the stage.
At the conclusion of the Living Nativity scene, fragments of light will suddenly appear as aerialists fly across the Great Stage The illuminated drones will interact with Obscura Digital’s projections to make various scenic elements come to life. The Radio City Rockettes will be revealed, as they perform new choreography in costumes designed by Tony and Drama Desk Award-nominated costume designer, Emilio Sosa.
“Tech is not taking the place of the magic of theater, but enhancing it,” said Victoria Parker, executive vice president of productions for The Madison Square Garden Co. “We believe that theater is inherently human. This is a magical show about nostalgia, so I hope that the scene continues it in the spirit of Christmas — but is thrilling and dazzling.”
The show will run from Nov. 9 through Jan. 1, 2019.