Summer Fun: Woody on Ice
Nina Hernandez talks to Disney on Ice's lead skate cowboy
By Nina Hernandez, 1:55PM, Wed. May. 15
Austin Chronicle: You’re originally from Australia? What is your favorite place to travel? Why?
Daniel Harries: I'm still Australian, I've just been working for Feld Entertainment for the last nine years. We're in a different city each week. This show was in Europe last year, and it's going back to Europe next year. I've been to Japan, to Europe, pretty much everywhere. Ummm, Europe has really stood out for me because it's so many countries in such a small… Well, it's not small, but you just walk across the border, and you're in a different country with a different language. And you get to experience a different culture and different food. Europe would have to stand out for me.
AC: This show compiles characters from four distinct Disney stories. What distinguishes Toy Story from the other routines in the show?
DH: I play the role of Woody. It's a really fun role to play because he's kind of the glue that holds the show together. The costumes are amazing. The characters are larger than life. The green army men do a drill production number. In my career, I've played a lot of different roles; I played Snow White's prince, and Scar from Lion King. It's great when I make my entrance people go crazy. It's a great experience being able to do that every day.
AC: You injured your knee a while back? How long ago? Does it still affect your skating?
DH: That was before I joined the company. I competed for Australia, in the hopes of going to the Olympics. I was actually training in America for another competition, and I collided with another skater and tore the ligaments in my right knee. It took me probably about three months before I could skate again and six months before I could do a normal skating regime. I had a really good physical therapist, so it hasn't really been an issue since it happened.
AC: Were you familiar with Toy Story before you started Disney on Ice?
DH: Yeah, I've seen all the movies. When I was growing up there was only Toy Story 1 and 2, Toy Story 3 hadn't come out yet. I played Scar for three years; he was the villain. It was a very dark role. Also, [Woody] is a larger role than Scar. The whole second act is Toy Story, so it's a great opportunity for me to play this. I get more time on the ice, as well.
AC: How important is communication between you and the other skaters?
DH: We have 40 skaters on the ice, and we work like a well oiled machine. We're here to perform and take Disney characters all over the world to people who aren't able to go to Disneyland. It's like a traveling circus; it's like traveling with a big family for nine months out of the year.
AC: If you could play any other character in the show, who would it be?
DH: It's almost a tie, leaning towards Woody, but playing the villain was fun. Personality-wise, it would have to be Woody. He's my favorite. I know everybody loves Woody, but I've been skating for 21 years. To put some of my competitive skating into a character like Woody, to take an amateur sport and turn it into a professional career, it isn't something everyone gets to do. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity.
AC: What’s it like being a hero/rock star to all those kids?
DH: It's really great because we have a lot of interaction with the audience. As soon as you make a connection with someone in the audience – you look at them or they scream your name. Especially when playing a character as large as Woody, it definitely gives us the extra drive to perform. Sometimes when we look out into the audience, you see the kids dressed up or copying us. That's very fun, when the kids interact with us. But every once in a while you see the parents dressed up. That's fun to see. It's a really great show for boys and girls – for the whole family.
AC: So you sometimes do three shows a day? How do you handle that?
DH: We're all trained athletes. It's very tiring, to be honest. You get used to the schedule, and after a while it's just another day at the office. It's hard to pull yourself together for another show and then another show. We really feed off the audience. It really helps us pull ourselves together to do the best we can.
Disney On Ice presents Worlds of Fantasy at the Cedar Park Center May 16-19.
Read more Summer Fun stories at austinchronicle.com/blogs. The Austin Chronicle’s Summer Fun issue is on stands Thursday, May 16.