As a performer, it can be difficult reprising a well-known role — particularly if the part you’re playing is a two-dimensional doll adored by millions of children.
Professional ice skater Adam Loosley has spent the past several months on a cross-country tour as pull-string cowboy Woody from “Disney on Ice: Toy Story 3,” which will show at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario through Sunday, then in the Long Beach Arena from Wednesday to Jan. 8.
“It’s learning how Woody would move — how to move like a rag doll — and it takes a lot of time,” says the Canadian native, who’s been skating since he was a toddler. “It’s not like skating how Adam would skate but skating how the character would skate.”
Loosley dons Woody’s signature blue pants, yellow-and-red shirt, vest and cowboy hat while skating as the star from the Academy Award-winning children’s movie, which pulled in more than $1 billion worldwide.
“The spurs and boots can sometimes cause a challenge, but the costume is skater-friendly for sure,” says Loosley, a former competitive skater in Canada who joined Disney on Ice eight years ago for the “Toy Story 2" tour. “I like telling a story,” he adds.
The show follows the “Toy Story” gang’s escape from Sunnyside Daycare, like the Disney Pixar film, with space ranger Buzz Lightyear, yodeling cowgirl Jessie and Woody as principal characters alongside Rex, Slinky Dog, Hamm, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head and more played by a cast of 38 skaters from nine different countries. Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and Donald Duck also make cameos. After all, this is Disney.
Fans of the “Toy Story” films can expect memorable moments from the first two installments as well as added effects — including plenty of acrobatics, lighting and video projections — unique to the ice adaptation.
Eye-catching scenes include a troop of aliens aglow in black light, Ken catching Barbie’s eye from across the rink followed by a romantic three-minute pair skate set to disco balls and the 1970s pop hit “Dream Weaver,” and the show’s opening scene in which the toys first come to life.
“It was really important to re-create moments in the movies,” says skater-turned-show director Patty Vincent. “Like in ‘Toy Story’ when the soldiers parachute in and come through the window. It was so cool, and I thought, ‘There’s got to be a way to do that.’”
To bring the scene from screen to skates, 22 performers dressed as green Army men spill onto the rink, crawling across the ice and parachuting 35 feet through the air before falling in line for a synchronized drill number.
“I wanted the audience guessing where they would come in, and for it to feel like a huge mass instead of the troopers coming in single file,” Vincent says.
Vincent and the creative team also had the task of scaling the skaters and set to size. “These are toys, and we wanted to make them appear that way,” she says.
Toddlers in the day-care center are crafted from aircraft-grade aluminum and measure more than 60 feet wide, 13 feet tall and weigh half a ton; colorful, custom-dyed costumes are made from spandex fabrics used in football uniforms so they appear plastic; and polka-dot patterns are doubled in size to further diminish performers.
Much of the two-hour show is also set to song. “‘Toy Story 3' didn’t have a lot of music because it’s not a musical,” says Vincent, “so we incorporated some songs to tell the story and give it more variety.”
The parent- and kid-friendly playlist includes “Walking on Sunshine,” Michael Jackson’s “Leave Me Alone,” and “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’,” as well as “Woody’s Round-up” and “Hoedown Throwdown,” the audience participation segment featuring a dance made popular thanks to yet another Disney darling, Hannah Montana.
Still, the core of the show, like the film, is a tale of growing up and letting go, a particularly potent message this time of year.
“People remember their first toy and their collection of toys,” says Vincent. “We all grow older and we have different interests, and some things get left behind.”
Adds Loosley, “It’s a special moment when Andy says goodbye to Woody as he’s going off to college, and with kids getting new toys under the tree, it’s a special show for the Christmas season.”
Where: Citizens Business Bank Arena, 4000 Ontario Center Parkway, Ontario
When: Through Jan. 1; see website for showtimes
Price: $16, $21, $26, $45 and $70
Info: (800) 745-3000, https://www.disneyonice.com