The newest Disney theme park character is blurring the lines between hero and villain.
"Villainous!" a limited-run Halloween-themed rendition of Disney California Adventure's "World of Color" light and water show, operates around the idea that evil doesn't necessarily have to mean bad. At the center of that concept is a new character, Shelley Marie. With her name a play on Frankenstein author Mary Shelley, she's here to prove, much like the infamous horror story, that one shouldn't judge a book by its cover.
The Los Angeles Times describes Shelley Marie as an "anti-princess." Instead of being born into royalty or with special powers, she's a regular preteen, idolizing the elements of some of Disney's biggest antagonists. Shelley "is a celebration of the individual, and an acknowledgment from the happily-ever-after factory that 'normal' isn’t one size fits all."
The character was created by Eric Goldberg, whose animated work includes Aladdin, Pocahontas, Fantasia 2000, and The Princess and the Frog. To nail her unorthodox aesthetic, he looked to characters like Wednesday Addams and Lydia from Beetlejuice. The result: A bold personality in bold colors.
"The nice thing about Shelley is she’s also a caricature," Goldberg said. "She has the vulnerabilities of a little girl, but she’s got this side to her. She doesn’t do anything wantonly evil, but she has this thing pulsing in her DNA."
"Villainous!" will focus on Shelley's search for her Halloween costume -- a journey that leads her to many villains from Disney's numerous works. Though she doesn't utter a line in the piece, her expressions tell the story, using vocal inflections and facial reactions to characterize.
"We want her to be accessible and funny and [devious] -- all that stuff little kids can be," Steve Davison, Lead Creative Executive of Parades and Spectaculars for Walt Disney Creative Entertainment explaind. "But accessible is the baseline. I always talk about the goth kid at school. Well, what do they feel? They always get alienated. Everyone’s the same."
Though the show is themed for Halloween, Goldberg wants to use this as an opportunity to teach kids about the individuality that can come with doing your own thing. "I think you could say that Halloween is a way of showing that you can be something different; you can be something off the beaten track, and it’s fine," he said. "In fact, celebrate it. All kids have social pressures around them. To have a character say, ‘OK, I have all that stuff around me but I’m still going to be who I am,’ that is really cool."
"Villainous!" premieres September 17 and will run for 20 nights at Disney's California Adventure.