- August 24, 2011
Growing up in New York, Matt Santorelli dreamed of working for Disney.
Santorelli, who loved sketching and the visual arts, hoped to illustrate animations, drawing inspiration from some of his favorite Disney animations “Aladdin” and “Beauty and the Beast.”
As he grew older, Santorelli’s interest turned to performing. When his family moved to Florida, he landed a job in performance at Walt Disney World.
More than 15 years later, Santorelli, a Horizon West resident, is still involved in the world of Disney performance, this time with Feld Entertainment. He is the company manager of “Disney On Ice Presents Follow Your Heart,” which opens Sept. 2 at the Amway Center, before traveling around the east coast of the U.S. and into Canada. “Disney On Ice” shows play in large arenas across the world.
This show includes characters from several Disney favorite animated movies, with the performers doing the entire show while ice skating.
“The story line is really inspiring, and I think it’s going to hit home for a lot of kids and parents,” Santorelli said.
As a Disney performer, Santorelli performed in nearly every Disney theme park. He was in “Fantasmic!,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” Christmas shows and parades around the park. His acting experience didn’t end after his stint at Walt Disney World.
In 2005, Feld Entertainment hired him as a performer in its Disney Live! shows. He got to travel the world while performing in “Winnie the Pooh,” when he played a hunny helper, a comical character who helped the story line to progress.
One of his favorite memories from that time is when his brother and mother got to see him perform — in Rome.
After performing for three years with Feld, Santorelli began to feel he was aging out of continual performance and wanted to try some backstage work.
“In my mind, I thought, ‘Man I’m getting old; I can’t be putting on clown makeup forever,’” he said with a laugh. “But I was always fascinated with what happens backstage to put on a production.”
He worked up the ranks from tour coordinator to company manager in various shows. As a performer, Santorelli didn’t find the transition easy.
“It took some getting used to,” he said. “I had to restrain myself from wanting to hop in front of a camera every now and then. … But it’s a different type of rewarding experience. There’s nothing like being on stage and performing for an audience, but there’s nothing like sitting in the audience and watching from the stands kids enjoying the show.”
As he began to work with the Disney On Ice shows, he was amazed by the performers’ abilities in athletics as well as their ability to portray their roles at the same time.
As company manager, Santorelli is involved with everything from coordinating hotel stays to managing company members. He directly interacts with the performers every day.
As the company travels around the east coast of the U.S. and into Canada, Santorelli won’t come home until the tour concludes in April 2017.
That’s why Santorelli is excited about two stops — the opening in Orlando and the stop in Brooklyn.
In Orlando, his parents and sibling’s families will be able to come see the performance. His extended family will get to enjoy the show in Brooklyn.
“I grew up in a big Italian family, and (family) was the center,” he said.
Contact Jennifer Nesslar at [email protected]