CHAUVET Professional Add to the Magic of Dollywood

With its weathered and gnarled trunk breaking through an outcrop of rocks, reaching for the sky, the majestic 50 ft tree at the heart of Dollywood’s Wildwood Grove typifies the serene, natural beauty of The Great Smoky Mountains. But there is something that distinguishes this sturdy tree from all others that grace this beautiful part of  Tennessee: it has been endowed with a very special magical touch, the kind that makes dreams come true, thanks to the Wildwood Grove Tree Experience, a multi-media creation from LifeFormations and The Imagination House.

A collection of 650 pixel mapped and illuminated butterflies controlled by Weigel software animate the 50 ft wide expanse of the venerable tree’s branches, while music by Mike Avila and an alluring story narrated by the park’s cofounder, country music legend, Dolly Parton, add to the enchantment. Accentuating the entire scene is a vividly colored Susan Rose lighting design that features 16 CHAUVET Professional Ovation E-910FC ellipsoidal fixtures supplied by Bandit Lites.

Deftly mixing colours, light angles and slightly off focus gobo patterns, Rose creates a captivating vista that adds depth to the tree and its rocky surroundings, giving them a dreamy edge that conveys endless possibilities. Her lighting seamlessly changes colours, intensity levels, and orientation during the show to create a flowing stream of engaging looks.

“Lighting gives an extra dimension to the impact of the Wildwood Grove Tree Experience,” said Susan. “The layers of colour and shadows that we create help make the tree pop and gave people another level to engage with the show.”

Key to helping Susan create these looks are the Ovation E-910FC fixtures, she hung four apiece on four poles located 50 to 75 ft from the tree. Using lens that range from 14º to 19º, she relies on the RGBA-Lime ellipsoidals to hit the tree with a wide range of coloured light from different angles.

“My Ovations are constantly on at varying intensities and colours throughout the experience,” said Susan. “In between the experience shows, I leave the Ovation fixtures on to create a static look.  I love the intensity and optics of these fixtures. They are definitely bright enough for long throws, and they create a spectacular base layer of colours.”

Drawing on the colour and gobo rendering capabilities of the Ovation units, Susan uses the fixtures to create distinct looks on different parts of the tree area. “The gobos from the Ovation fixtures are focused on the rock base and tree trunk,” she said. “I frame them meticulously around each to achieve isolated colour on the trunk independent of the rock.  The optics of the fixtures are great. They allow me to achieve the sharpness of light and out of focus gobos that I wanted.”

Working with the pixel mapped butterflies, Susan’s lighting creates a vista that evokes the dreams of childhood in people of all ages.  This is in keeping with the Wildwood Grove Tree Experience story narrated by Dolly Parton, which tells the tale of a lost little girl who, separated from her family while exploring the mountains, is drawn to the tree by the lighted butterflies.  The narration goes on to tell those gathered around the tree that ‘on nights like tonight, when the Grove is alive with love and light, your very own dreams can also take flight.’

A whimsical wish? Maybe. But once enthralled by the tranquil beauty of this experience, it’s easy to believe.