Black lights shine on the ice as skaters in glowing purple mariachi suits, inspired by Day-of-the-Dead, man 15-foot skeleton puppets Wednesday at State Farm Hidalgo Arena. They glide to folklorico dancers whipping their Jalisco dresses as Miguel, from “Coco,” leaves the ice and spins in the air.
The popular 2017 Pixar and Disney animated film is the latest property incorporated into Disney On Ice presents Mickey’s Search Party, which combines characters and environments from “Aladdin,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Frozen,” “Moana,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Toy Story” and more.
Performance Director Adam Loosley, along with his team, manages 50 performers from 11 countries. He’s been with the company for 10 years, five of which he was on the ice.
Before he worked his way into a featured role, Loosley, like many rookies, was in the ensemble, “sometimes in 10 different costumes a show,” he said. Loosley would go on to play his favorite character, Woody.
But one of his first roles was portraying a piece of orange luggage during a “Toy Story 2” number. He remembers hearing his mom cheering as he skated by, though he couldn’t see her as a suitcase.
According to performers, these ancillary are crucial to crafting the worlds the audience is accustomed in Disney stories.
Tommy Ho, principal skater remembered a show when he played an eight-foot piece of seaweed during “Finding Dory.”
“Honestly, that kind of mixture of highlighted roles and ambiance roles, that full spectrum is part of getting the full experience,” Ho said. “Honestly, I loved being kelp.”
“You learn early on that it’s part of the whole picture, (and) it’s everyone making the story come to life.”
Ensemble member Abi Walker stood below another performer who swayed overhead, back and forth on a 25-foot, carbon fiber pole.
“I’m a clam,” she laughed, referring to her part in “The Little Mermaid” sequence. “You can’t do the show with just one character. You have to have the ensemble.”
After winning a national championship at the University of Michigan in synchronized figure skating, Abi Walker, who also portrays Tinkerbell, joined the company. This is her second year.
Like most of the performers in the show, Walker auditioned with a specific skill set and has cross trained. As her role as a napkin during “Be Our Guest,” she’s one of eight flying in a carousel silk act, something he learned recently.
“On this show specifically, it’s definitely all hands on deck,” Ho said. “Everyone —- ensemble, principal, acrobats — is kind of cross training in all different things.”
Above Ho is a performer spinning on a robe, which is part of “Friend Like Me,” to punctuate Genie’s magic, he said.
Those who are figure skaters by trade talk about having to develop the upper body strength for these stunts. And some new skills are easier to pick up because of their past training.
Ensemble member Terese Felker is green Army person, a “Coco” skeleton, a seahorse and a hoverboarder during the open.
During the preparatory workshop for the show, Felker said he learned to ride the hoverboard, which is equipped with spikes on the wheel for the ice. Growing up in Colorado, she said her snowboarding helped with the balance.
She realized she liked performing through competition.
“Part of our job, becoming (our roles), makes the magic for kids so much more believable,” she said. “When you give something to the audience, you can see it come back to you.
“I think that’s what helped me transitioned to performance.”
Audience members close to the action might get a high five from some of their favorites from the Disney universe.
“You might be as close as a few feet to some of your favorite characters,” Loosley said.
IF YOU GO
DISNEY ON ICE PRESENTS MICKEY’S SEARCH PARTY
WHEN 7:30 p.m. Friday; 11:30 a.m., 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday; 11:30 a.m., 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Sunday
WHERE State Farm Hidalgo Arena, 2600 N. 10th St., Hidalgo
COST Tickets start at $20 at ticketmaster.com