Thursday, April 14, 2011

Behind the Scenes: Getting Down and Dirty with Pirates

I’ll often stop, shake my head and then start laughing when I think about some of the crazy things we talk about here at the Disneyland Resort, and this is one of those times. There aren’t many companies that have to come up with a way to make clothes look dirty. Here at Disneyland park, this was a very real challenge for the costume designers in charge of the Pirates’ costumes.

When the Pirates were first introduced as regularly appearing characters in 2007, Entertainment Show Director Glenn Kelman worked with Walt Disney Studios to develop the concept for how the pirates would come to life in the Parks. They quickly decided the pirates needed to be unique, have a sense of humor and, of course, be very dirty. This was a problem because we do not like our Parks costumes to be wrinkled, dirty or smelly in any way. So, what could they do?

At first, the costume designers distressed all of the costumes, staining them by hand, putting in actual rips and tears. But this solution, while great for a few days, had two problems. First, the costumes had a short shelf life and would need to be rebuilt far too often, and second, no matter how we tried to stain the costumes, our terrific laundry facility kept washing the stains out. Nobody likes a clean pirate! Clean pirates just don’t seem real. 

So, the costuming team came up with a clever solution. They would pre-stain the fabric using a process called sublimation (where dye is added to the fabric in patterns) and then build the costumes using the “dirty” cloth.

The fun part was designing a pattern of “stains” that could be applied to the fabric. This relatively new technology was being used to add stripes or floral patterns to material, but we might have been the first ones to use it to permanently stain costumes. Since then, the Resort has invested in its own sublimation machine and trained a team to use it. Now we are creating our own unique patterned fabric for Disney Parks and Resorts around the globe. And, it was the Pirates who helped us find this new “technological” treasure.

Today’s video takes you behind the scenes and shows how this sublimation process works.

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