“Disney on Ice” features more than 50 characters and about 14 story lines.
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Preview of classic “Disney on Ice” in Atlanta

Skater who has played Pinocchio for 20 years offers insights.

Whether you’re a fan of “Toy Story” or a lover of “Frozen,” there is plenty of magic to experience at “Disney on Ice: 100 Years of Magic.”

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The two-act show, which stops at the Infinite Energy Center in Duluth this week, is bringing America’s favorite Disney friends to life for an unforgettable family affair.

With a cast of more than 50 characters, including Goofy, Donald Duck, Aladdin and Snow White, the musical will offer popular song selections, complex choreography and gravity-defying tricks on the ice.

It’s been that way for 20 years, and Isao Matsuura has been along for the ride for nearly all of them. The former competitive figure skater, originally from Okayama, Japan, has been playing the role of Pinocchio since 1999 when “Disney on Ice: 100 Years of Magic” debuted.

Isao Matsuura, a former competitive figure skater from Okayama, Japan, has been playing the role of Pinocchio since 1999.
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“I love show business. I have done almost 6,500 shows. Now, I don’t how to stop,” he laughed.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution chatted with the performer about life on the road and playing one of Disney’s most beloved stars.

How’d you land the role of Pinocchio?

When I was 16 years old, I was competing at an ice skating tournament. After the competition, a woman came up to me, and she was crying. She told me how my skating moved her. I didn’t know my skating could do something for somebody. I was only skating for competition, but at that moment, I decided to become a professional performer. Disney is always coming to Japan. At the time, I couldn’t speak English, but I made the phone call to the arena and made an appointment for an audition. I had no idea had to join Disney, but somehow I got the job.

How do you keep your performances fresh year after year?

It’s not always easy, because I have to keep training every single day. You have to have the motivation. I cannot push myself too hard because I will lose my motivation … So that is the key. As long as my body can handle tricks, I will keep doing it.

What can audiences expect this year?

The stories are the same, but my personal favorite element of the show is the choreography. This show was choreographed by Sarah Kawahara. It’s really cool to watch and fun to skate to. Also, we have many great skaters from all over the world. When I’m practicing, I always enjoy skating with them because they are very talented. It’s quite amazing.

Describe your relationship with the rest of the cast members.

It’s quite unique because everyone is from all different countries like Europe, North America and South America. It’s interesting communicating with people. It’s great to know about different people and cultures and how they grew up.

What’s your most memorable moment as a member of the “Disney on Ice” crew?

Sometimes I see the audiences get into it. When I see them watching me skate, it’s exciting. Several times I’ve gotten a standing ovation during the finale. It gives me goosebumps. Seeing the audience during the shows makes me really happy. It doesn’t matter if it’s a small or huge audience. I get to see them enjoying the show. I think that’s the greatest memory.

What are you looking forward to most about your Atlanta stop?

I really love the city. I like the Coca-Cola Museum. I love going back to Atlanta. I plan to go downtown and to Stone Mountain Park. I’ve never been there, so I’m going to visit. The view from there looks amazing. I cannot wait.

How have you evolved as an artist over the last 20 years?

Skating with Disney is one thing, but during our two-month break from touring, I am going back to Japan. I am working as a choreographer. I am working with many world-class skaters. I think my art is defined by what I’ve been doing over the last 20 years.

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