It’s one of the most ambitious and eagerly awaited theme park attractions Disney has ever attempted and longtime Dance Kids and Carmel Academy of the Performing Arts production designer Nicole Bryant Stephens has been intimately involved in its completion.
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Carmel, CA, June 06, 2019 — It’s one of the most ambitious and eagerly awaited theme park attractions Disney has ever attempted and longtime Dance Kids and Carmel Academy of the Performing Arts production designer Nicole Bryant Stephens has been intimately involved in its completion.
Bryant Stephens, an independent design contractor, has been hired as a field art director for Mural Makers since November 2018, working on the massive 14-acre Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge theme park being built at Disneyland Park in California (another one is being built at Disney World in Florida). According to Disney, the attraction will be the largest single-themed land expansion ever, and will have restaurants — including the park’s first-ever cantina — rides and other experiences to offer customers a fully-immersive experience.
“It’s phenomenal to be involved in a project of this magnitude,” says Bryant-Stephens, who has worked with Dance Kids and CAPA for over 25 years. “Just walking around and seeing it come alive is incredible.”
This is not the first time she’s worked with Disney. She has worked on teams that designed and built Disneyland Hong Kong, Disney’s California Adventure, Tarzan Tree House, and Disneyland. And she’s now working with her mentors from those projects, including Walt Disney Imagineers Ron Monk, Dino Fauci and 81-year-old Stefan Borowitz, who came out of retirement to work on Galaxy's Edge.
Galaxy's Edge at Disneyland Park in Anaheim is scheduled to open on May 31, while Disney World in Florida will open at the end of summer on Aug. 29. The goal for Disney is that fans will believe they have been transported into the world of Star Wars — at the Black Spire Outpost on the planet Batuu.
“The 14-acre, themed destination at Disneyland Park in Anaheim will be unlike any attraction experienced before,” said the Hollywood Reporter, which was given a sneak preview last month. “With two state-of-the-art rides (Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run), a plethora of shops and restaurants (all in the theme of Star Wars so as not to feel like they are part of a Disney stop), jaw-dropping spectacles and full-scale droids milling about, the land delivers on the ambitious project (Disney chairman and CEO Bob ) Iger foretold when he announced the park at the D23 Expo in August 2015.”
Needless to say, the Star Wars park is the biggest project Bryant Stephens has ever worked on.
Born in New York, Bryant Stephens moved to Carmel in 1977. She was educated at Frohman Academy for Musical Theatre Education in Carmel and received her bachelor’s degree in fine art in Scenic Design from Theatre School formerly the Goodman School of Drama at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. In addition to Dance Kids and CAPA, she has designed sets for Santa Catalina School, York School, the Wharf Theatre, the Forest Theatre Guild and up in Aptos for Naatak the largest Indian Theatre group in the country. But her most extensive experience locally has been with Dance Kids and CAPA, including the annual “Nutcracker” and the Spanish-language version, “Cascanueces: A Folklorico Nutcracker.”
“My family has been extensively involved with CAPA and four generations of my family has been involved with Dance Kids’ ‘Nutcracker,’ even my grandmother, brother Joe and parents,” she says. “There couldn’t be a better creative outlet for my family than ‘Nutcracker’ and CAPA.”
Bryant Stephens has been involved in theater and dance since age 4, and by 12 began being paid for her work in technical theater. Her three children, two boys and a girl ages 7, 13 and 14, are all involved with ‘Nutcracker’, and her husband is the technical director he also helps out at home while she’s working on the Disney project in Anaheim. She has her own set and production design firm, Bottega Designs for over 27 years.
Working on a Star Wars project was one thing, but she was just as excited to be working again for Disney.
“I am a fan of Star Wars, but I’m an extreme fan of Disney,” she says, especially since being herself a Walt Disney Imagineer, for the first time in 2005 working on Hong Kong Disneyland.
Construction on the Star Wars park began in December 2017, Walt Disney Imagineering designed the project in collaboration with the Lucasfilm Story Group, with Imagineer Scott Trowbridge supervising the project, Asa Kalama and Chris Beatty serving as executive creative directors, and Lucasfilm's Pablo Hidalgo and designer Doug Chiang of Industrial Light & Magic involved as consultants.
The team decided to create a new planet of Baatu instead of using an existing planet from the Star Wars films such as Tatooine or Hoth in order to give guests a new experience.
"We wanted to build new Star Wars stories, new Star Wars destinations, but this time you could be in that story that required us to go to a new place," said Trowbridge to the Orlando Sentinel. “This used to be a vibrant trading port back in the old sub-lightspeed days, but now with advent of hyperspace, its prominence has kind of fallen and faded a little bit which has made it a great spot for those who didn't want to be on that kind of mainstream path. The smugglers, the bounty hunters, the rogue adventurers looking to crew up, the people who don't want to be found — basically all the interesting people.”
“The outpost looks lived-in and the intentional imperfections make the area feel like it's been around for hundreds of years,” said the Hollywood Reporter. “There will be three entrances into Galaxy's Edge, which is located north of Frontierland, where Big Thunder Ranch used to be, that also required the reconfiguration of the Disneyland Railroad and Rivers of America. Scents and music will be piped into the land, including original customized themes created by Star Wars composer John Williams.”
Bryant Stephens expects to work on the Star Wars project through April then it’s back to the Peninsula to work on local projects until Disney needs her again.
About Nicole Anne Bryant Stephens
Bryant Stephens has been a professional set designer and artist since high school. She received her BFA in Scenic Design from The Theater School formerly the Goodman School of Drama, DePaul University, Chicago, Ilinois. She has designed and worked on hundreds of productions including sets for the outdoor Forest Theater in Carmel, a variety of television specials, live musical events, theme parks and casinos.
After college, Nicole moved to Las Vegas and began work for PRG (Production Resource Group) where she expanded her skills working in casinos designing stages for a variety of shows. She was lead scenic artist for Penn and Teller’s "Sin City Spectacular" for their three-year run. After her tenure at PRG, Nicole struck out on her own, quickly building a stellar international reputation. During this time she also partnered with her family to launch Bottega Designs, where she applied her talents as a production designer and scenic artist to her father and brother’s architectural work.
Nicole has a talent and passion for teaching others new skills and techniques, directing live performances, and managing local crews as a field art director on various large casino and theme park projects.
Marci Bracco Cain
Salinas, CA 93901