Meet Bruce Healey. [Introducing DisneyExaminer MagicClass]
Disney magic doesn’t just happen. It happens because of people. Extraordinary, magical, talented people.
It’s always amazing that The Walt Disney Company tells its stories through hiring the right people and although they tell amazing stories, we wanted to ask the questions of “What about the people’s stories?” and “How can I be like you?”
We’re proud to announce DisneyExaminer’s MagicClass as a way to answer that question. These special, exclusive stories will expose you to the stories of some of the most prominent people behind-the-scenes at Disney in hopes that what they say will encourage you to pursue your dreams even more!
Our first MagicClass post shares the story of one whose name you may not know, but who you do know very well through what you hear when visiting a Disney Park.
I was a 90s Disney kid and growing up in Southern California, there were many things that one could do to get a Disney fix. For me, it was going into Disneyland Park on my dad’s shoulders riding the train or hiding from the loudness of the fireworks. When I wasn’t retreating to a nap with the grand circle tour of the park or in the strollers covering my ears, I usually could be found in the thick of the crowds the surrounded the Rivers of America watching the new nighttime spectacular “Fantasmic!”.
The show debuted a year after I was born in 1992 and I’ve been hooked ever since like many of you, my fellow Disney fans. Yes, the show had some never-before-seen special effects and big share of Disney character appearances performing a thrilling story, but it wasn’t the draw for me being so young. The draw came from the musical notes of the magical, catchy, hum-inducing score and theme song.
Bruce Healey was the man behind the music of the show, as well as many of the other music you can hear around the park and beyond to other parks. It would be hard to believe that such iconic music came from a man who had no interested in making music in the first place. “Music as a career choice wasn’t really what I would describe as a ‘calling,’ he told me in an interview. “I studied piano and percussion from an early age, but didn’t grow to enjoy it until I became proficient.”
Little did he know that his proficiency for specific instruments would lead into learning how to use those instruments effectively through arranging and composing. It all became so much of a passion that Bruce decided to major in it at my soon-to-be alma mater at the California State University in Fullerton, Calif. At the same time, he worked part-time at Disneyland as a student musician in their Christmas parade to put his skills to use. As with most students who attend what is lovingly called “Cal State Disneyland”, a love for the Disney brand would soon follow.
“When I started working at Disneyland, I just hoped to continue to work and get more better jobs, especially as an arranger. Eventually as my confidence grew…that goal turned into that of a composer, then music producer, and music director.” Bruce took every role with much heart and whimsy as he churned out music for a lot of attractions and shows that have went into yesterland or still exists today! In addition to contributing to music for special moments at Tokyo Disneyland and Walt Disney World, Bruce is most proud that he was responsible for producing music for every parade, stage show, and spectacular that was staged at the Disneyland Resort from 1987 to present day!
Nevertheless, Bruce remains humble who attributes the success of Disney Park music to his team. “Make no mistake though, nobody does this kind of thing alone. [We’re] a small but strong group of talented people who are as passionate about the Disney legacy and quality as I am.” Bruce’s passion is something that we’ve all experienced the moment we step inside Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, or most Disney Parks around the globe. We may not know his name, but we do know this fellow Disney fan with every musical note he writes.
“It is more important to me that people around know and enjoy the music I’ve created and produced,” he said. “If I’m not well know, but my music is well-known because it’s part of the Disney legacy in some way, then that is great with me.”
Bruce is still very active expanding his repertoire and building on the Disney legacy serving as Principal Music Producer for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Creative Entertainment. Still, he hopes to grow his colleagues and encourage future musicians to do the same.
“Study what you’re passionate about and strive to be the best you can be at THAT.”
“Seize every opportunity to interact with other talented people and add to your knowledge.”
“If you want to be a composer, then compose. Compose as much as possible. Explore every style, genre, and technique you can find. That’s the best way to learn.”
It’s all sound advice coming from one who knows sound so well that he uses it to create the Disney magic. Imagine your favorite Disney attraction or show without music. Not so magical, huh? That being the case, be thankful for behind-the-scenes people like Bruce and Disney Parks’ music teams whose work makes it all happen.
So the next time you’re at Disneyland Park watching “Fantasmic!” though, be sure to hum that theme song loudly. “I really like the idea that music created by me could reach so many people, and that I could actually go out into the Park, anonymously, and see the effect that my work has on guests,” said Bruce.
You never know who may be listening to your Disney music-making.
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BONUS: For Bruce’s personal answer on why the “Fantasmic!” theme song is so catchy, click HERE.
Would you like to have a job like Bruce’s or would you rather have masters like him take the reins? Do you find the “Fantasmic!” theme song catchy? What Disney Parks attraction or show would you say you could experience without music and why? Tell us in the comments!
I didn’t get to go to Disneyland very often as a child. However one of the most impactful moments in my musical life was owning and listening to a two-sided cassette tape featuring “Disney’s Mainstreet Electrical Parade” and the new nighttime spectacular, “Fantasmic!” I listened to “Fantasmic!” any opportunity I could, in the house, in the car, memorized the melodies, lyrics, and character voices of each measure.
It wasn’t until months to a year after receiving that cassette tape that I actually got to watch the show for the first time. I was blown away. Never before had I experienced something so incredible. I remember feeling the overwhelming urge to be fully absorbed into a musical lifestyle.
From that moment, I have felt the sting of the Disney bug. I have written, composed, recorded, and voiced a number of animated songs with Disney-esque characters to drive the story. I’m thankful for creators such as Bruce Healey, the Sherman Brothers, Alan Menchen and several others who have the gift of bringing Disney Magic to life through their music. It is always a pleasure for me to return to the parks and submerge into a world of magical fantasy and memorable music.
To answer the above questions: Yes, it would be a dream job to work for the mouse; writing music and touching the lives of everyone who enters. Of course, Fantasmic is catchy! And finally, I don’t think there is a single attraction that I would remove the music from. “It’s a Small World” has the music that annoys me for hours after (Thanks Sherman brothers!), but the ride is an icon because of it 🙂