“And, that’s a cool feeling to know that you got to be part of something that’ll go down in history.” ~David Wise
Join Jiminy Cricket as he hosts the biggest, brightest fireworks extravaganza in Magic Kingdom history. Wishes: A Magical Gathering of Disney Dreams is famed fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom theme park of Walt Disney World. This show debuted at the park on October 8, 2003, and was developed by Walt Disney Creative Entertainment, under the direction of VP Parades & Spectaculars, Steve Davison, who was assigned to create a replacement for the 32-year-old Fantasy in the Sky fireworks.
Wishes is the largest fireworks display ever presented at Magic Kingdom. Launched from 11 different locations around the park, there are 557 fireworks cues and 655 individual pieces of pyrotechnics.
David Wise: When I was in high school, this would have been my 10th grade year, so 1991, they did the Candlelight Processional at the Magic Kingdom. And, the first narrator that I got to do Candlelight with was James Earl Jones. It happened just a couple of nights one weekend. They setup a thousand voice choir facing the castle. So, we were doing our first Candlelight rehearsal, led by Derric Johnson, and we’re running through everything. Now, I had been to Disney before, but this was like my first real experience. David Blane, one of the gentlemen that wrote “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” came up and sang it and we got to meet him backstage at the warehouse where we rehearsed. Derric then had Voices of Liberty come out and they sang at our rehearsal. That was the moment that I said “That’s it for me. That’s what I want to do. I want to sing that. I want to sing with those people.” I had never heard anything like that before in my life. That right there is the reason I went to work for Walt Disney World. I pursued it after that from that moment on.
DisneyMusicBlog: Before we get to the “nitty-gritty,” let’s do some initial chatting. Tell us about your educational background. Where did you do your musical training?
David: My musical training was done in Florida. I went to Stetson University. The reasons I chose Stetson was: (1) it was in Florida and I was a native Floridian and (2) I knew they had really good voice teachers. What I thought I was going to go in and do was musical theater, but I got a scholarship to play French Horn instead of singing. So, my freshman year of college I went in and played French Horn in the orchestra, accompanied students as a piano player, and kind of sang in the background. I did that for a semester and decided that I really wanted to focus on singing. They’re specialty was opera, so I ended up focusing on it. Which, it’s helped me long term because I got such good technique from it vocally that help me now as a session singer.
DMB: It’s apparent you are a singer and play French Horn and piano, but what instrument or instruments do you wish you could play?
David: When I was in high school I would have told you the saxophone. But, today I wished I had taken a little more time to learn the bass and the guitar.
DMB: Who were your early (and current) musical influences? Growing up my three guys were Larnelle Harris, Steve Green, and Sandi Patti. That was it for me. Those three people were like giants in my life. As I got older my influences certainly started to change. I love Take 6. I’m also a big Stevie Wonder fan, as well as Michael Jackson. I teach singers to sing to the blind person in the back of the room. Because, with the singers that I connect to are the singers with emotion.
DMB: What has been your career path? Where did you start and tell us about what you are doing now?
David: Well, that Disney dream came true when I was a senior in college. I got offered to sing with the Voices of Liberty for the Christmas cast. After that they offered me a job to come and sub with the full-time cast with Voices of Liberty. In June of that year, with no full-time positions open at Disney, I took a singing job at Six Flags in Georgia for about four months, then I took a cruise ship job for seven months. Two weeks before my ship contract was over I got a call from Disney saying they had a full-time spot open in Voices of Liberty. So, that’s what officially started my whole Disney career. Within the first 6 months of being full-time at Disney, somebody asked me if I had done any studio work. I hadn’t. They thought I ought to give it a try and got booked to sing a jingle session. One of the ladies at these couple of recording sessions, Sarah Moore, happened to be with Disney and she contracted all of their sessions. She called me to book me for my first Disney recording session, which was the beginning of 1999. This recording session with a bunch of the Disney old-timers, legends! This is what started my career as a session singer for Disney. I slowly became “the guy” singing 1st tenor on all the sessions.
In addition, Disney opened a show called “Disney’s Doug Live” where I was Doug. I got to work with the creators of this, Jim Jenkins and David Campbell. We created this show that was a huge success for Disney. I did that full-time for a year, then probably got one of my prized jobs and got full-time with Four For a Dollar, the preshow over at “Beauty and the Beast.” I did that for 4.5 years. All the while I was subbing for other shows at Disney as well as arranging. One of my arrangements was the finale for the Christmas parade two years in a row.
These eight years of career building at Disney allowed me to move to Nashville as a full-time session singer, arranger, and performer.
DMB: Okay, so here’s a primary reason the DMB followers have checked out this blog… At the end of the “Wishes: A Magical Gathering of Disney Dreams” there is a radio type friendly version of the title song “Wishes” that occurs directly after the fireworks have ended. This is Disney’s “kiss” to the end of the day. And, as it happens, you are the male singer in a duet of this song. However you might choose, tell us all about your experience in recording it and the stories you might have heard about since it’s been playing in the Magic Kingdom.
Michelle Lindahl and I were sort of the Disney stunt singers, if you will. When songs were being written for the parks or to be pitched for whatever ways, Michelle and I were brought in to sing all of the parts in stacks. We would end of being the demo so they could pitch the song. So, one weekend the end of 2002, we were called to come in a sing the demo for this new song called “Wishes.” We were trying to sing it real gentle, almost child-like for the beginning. But, as the 2nd half opened and we started to get bigger and giving it a little more feel. We felt there was something special there.
At the end of the evening we were told they were going to bring in a few other couples to sing it, so we weren’t event sure we were doing to end up as the vocals on the final demo. About a week or two later I got a card in interoffice mail letting me know they were happy with our “Wishes” demo. Shortly after that we received the call that Michelle and I were to be the ones to sing it.
So, we went to Starke Lake Studios there in Ocoee, FL. I remember we did the duet session that morning before we did the backgrounds. We did the backgrounds that afternoon. I can remember where I was standing, I can remember being in the studio that day. All of the brass from Disney was there. They were excited. They knew this was going to be a game changer. And, the duet session lasted less than two hours. It took us less than two hours since we had already sang the demo. In fact, not much from the final was different from the demo.
That day Michelle and I knew what we had recorded was special, but we had no idea of the long-lasting impact it would have. I have since had the fortunate opportunity of taking my children and standing on Main Street U.S.A. and “Wishes” starting to play and for them to hear dad begin to sing that. I can do a thousand more things in my career, but nothing can replicate that. That is a moment that’s so special and unique. At least once a month I will get a phone call or text from someone saying they’re standing in the Magic Kingdom listening to me sing “Wishes.” And, that’s a cool feeling to know that you got to be part of something that’ll go down in history.
DMB: Beyond “Wishes,” what all other Disney recordings have you had the pleasure of being a part of?
David: I got the chance to sing for Tokyo Disneyland for their 20th anniversary. They did a big song called Make a Wish, which was their theme song for the anniversary. So, I got to sing that as a duet with another Michelle, the amazing Michelle Amato. To this day, there are still songs in the Christmas parade that I’m on that are being played. One of my most memorable shows I did for Disney was another show I did for Tokyo Disneyland. It was definitely a bucket list item.
DMB: Do you miss your days at Disney?
David: I would say this, because that is a phenomenal question. Do I miss my days as Disney? No, because that was the season I was in when I was there. Do I miss my time with Disney? Yes, I do. God has really shown me so much favor and has blessed me ten-fold more than I could imagine. There’s something about working there that you just can’t explain. It’s a special combination of gifts and talents there, and the way the music makes you feel, and the way that you feel when you get to be part of it, I don’t know of any other feeling that can replicate that feeling. I still do things for them and I’m not convinced that my time with them is even close to an end.
DMB: If one wanted to try and make it as a Disney singer/performer, what advice would you share with them? Or, would you, perhaps, shy them away from the idea because of what it takes?
David: Well, that’s a great question. And, the reason I like that question is it is a lot of what it takes. Anybody who is going to make it in this field, especially as a performer, you can’t be lazy. You’ve got to be used to rejection. If you don’t have thick skin you shouldn’t do it in the first place. But, I would say to anyone who is interested in doing it, you have to have that deep-seated passion. When you listen to Disney music it does something to you, it makes you feel a certain way. There’s got to be something inside the people who are creating it that brings that to life. So, I would say to anyone who wants to do it, “Go for it!” Expose yourself to everything you can. Go to college and learn your craft. Be prepared for a hard battle.
DMB: If I were to be a fly on the wall in your car, what type of music would I most likely hear you listening to going down the road?
David: The honest answer is I don’t listen to music in my car. I’m a huge sports fan. So, I listen to talk radio a lot. However, if I am listening to music, I’m kind of an A cappella geek. I love A cappella music. I love the rawness and the realness of it, and the chord structures and things like that. That’s the nerdy, geeky side of me. I’m a chord junky.
DMB: David, we greatly appreciate you taking the time to share your Disney and “Wishes” history with the DisneyMusicBlog.
David: Well, it was a pleasure getting to tell you my story!