ORLANDO, Fla. — In the spring of 2020, Cirque du Soleil was making final preparations for its newest show, "Drawn to Life,” when the pandemic hit.

What You Need To Know

  • "Drawn to Life," the new Cirque du Soleil show, is set to debut Nov. 18 at Disney Springs

  • The show is billed as a love letter to the art of Disney animation

  • The story centers on a young girl, whose journey unfolds in 10 acts that features music, animation and acrobatic performances

​The show, in the works since 2016, was just weeks away from its big premiere at Disney Springs, when everything was put on hold.

Fast forward to nearly two years later, and “Drawn to Life” is once again ready for its debut. On Nov. 18, the show will finally be revealed to audiences. It’s a moment writer and director Michel Laprise — as well as the cast and crew — has been eagerly awaiting.

“I’m a little emotional talking about this show because in my life these are the happiest days — some of the happiest days,” Laprise said Thursday during a virtual press conference.

And while the pandemic may have delayed when audiences would get to experience the show, behind-the-scenes the work continued. And some lessons were learned along the way.

“The pause we had for 20 months allowed us to take a step back,” Laprise said. “The show was great, but now it’s very unique. We had time to try new things.”

“Drawn to Life,” a collaboration between Cirque, Walt Disney Animation Studios and Walt Disney Imagineering, is described as a “love letter” to the art of animation. The show’s story centers on a character named Julie, a 12-year-old girl who discovers a letter from her late father. In the letter, her father presents a quest: complete an animation he left unfinished. Julie accepts the quest and embarks on a journey that takes her through scenes pull from Disney animated films.

The journey unfolds over the course of 10 different acts — each with music, animation and acrobatic performances. Two of the acts, revealed Thursday, continue the love letter theme.

For “The Old Mill” act, performers will move along a double-wheel as scenes from Walt Disney’s 1937 animated short of the same name plays in the background. And in another nod to “The Old Mill,” the performers will be dressed in colorful owl costumes.

The other act, “Garden of Lines,” takes inspiration from the story of “Pinocchio.” It will feature five unicyclists from Japan dressed as the Blue Fairy character.

Just like other Cirque du Soleil shows, music will play a big part. For “Drawn to Life,” the score will be more cinematic, more orchestral, according to Laprise. It will incorporate well-known Disney songs, although there won’t be any lyrics.

“Drawn to Life,” with a cast of 62 artists, marks Cirque’s 50th show and arrives amid Disney World’s 50th anniversary celebration. It replaces “La Nouba” which closed in 2017 after a nearly 20-year run. But a piece of previous show will live on in the new one. “Drawn to Life” will feature a special nod to “La Nouba,” according to the creators.

Beyond that, everything else at the theater has been changed for “Drawn to Life.” The stage features new elements. The seats have been updated. Even the lobby has had a transformation and the Cirque team worked with Walt Disney Archives to integrate original animation cels into the space.

“We’re just happy to be in a theater being able to work on the piece that we believe in with all our hearts,” Laprise said. “I think we’re very grateful having the capacity to do that, and I think it transferred to everything that we’re doing.”

“Drawn to Life” will hold performances Tuesdays through Saturdays. Ahead of the show’s debut, fans can visit the recently reopened Cirque du Soleil Store on the ground level of the theater building.