Interview with Team Zambelli Fireworks

I met with Patrick Brault and Kelly Guille, two of the three designers of Zambelli’s second participation in Montreal. I was also joined by George Zambelli, representing the third of four generations of Zambelli involved with the renowned company. With over 2500 displays per year and around 800 on July 4th alone, George joked that only Walmart rent more transport trucks than they do.

Patrick Brault and George Zambelli

Patrick Brault and George Zambelli

Patrick is a veteran of the Montreal competition. Indeed, he, as a 19 year old, worked as part of the La Ronde crew during Zambelli’s first participation in Montreal which took place during the inaugural edition of the competition back in 1985. George Zambelli was also there at the time and said he remembered Patrick. Patrick worked for La Ronde in 1986 and for Lacroix in 1987 before founding Groupe FiatLux, who competed three times in Montreal under Patrick’s auspices: 1991, 1994 and 1997. Around 2002 he helped out with FiatLux’s finale in Montreal, but was in the process of leaving FiatLux and establishing a pyrotechnic services company by the name of Sirius Pyrotechnics. Patrick said that prefers to work with clients in his market now rather than competing for business against them. Sirius were hired as consultants for PyroMagic’s show in 2009. Kelly Guile, still technically the owner of Archangel Fireworks out of Manitoba is also a partner in Sirius now and worked on the show with Patrick. The final person to work on the design was Luis Brunchu of Spain and, finally, the soundtrack was assembled by Sirius’s Sean Proctor.

Patrick has worked on many large shows for Zambelli was wanted to ensure that this display would be a typical Zambelli show. George Zambelli noted that Patrick’s international experience, together with several years working with Zambelli made him the ideal person to lead their Montreal effort as he had also designed their show in the recent Oman competition He further noted that Patrick’s displays in Detroit and Philadelphia for July 4th are particularly well enjoyed by their audiences.

The theme for the display is based on the original film of the same name, using the re-mastered soundtrack. Rather than just using musical tracks, the display will also feature narrative elements and the idea is to tell the whole story of the film using pyrotechnic “characters” representing the main characters in the film. The Yellow Brick Road will be used as an integral part of the theme, linking all of the segments together as the story is told through fireworks, leading to, as described by George, a classic Zambelli finale. Each character in the story has its own pyrotechnic effect to represent it and there will be a lot of movement during the display as the story is told.

For aficionados of technical information, the show will be fired using 98 32-cue FireOne firing modules and, being a mainly shell-based show, will feature the largest selection of large shells used in this year’s competition. Manufacturers include Vulcan, Sunny, PyroEast, Dancing, Lidu and Orillia from China; Pyrofastasia, Zaragozana and Vincente Caballer from Spain; Groupo Luso from Portugal as well as Zambelli, GPS and Dakota from the United States and finally Matsuna from Japan. With over 152 large calibre shells, it’s sure to be an exciting show with some special effects such as “ghost shells”. This is an effect where the stars of the shell appear and then disappear in some direction giving the effect of a ghost. Patrick also said there would be some interesting nautical effects, including nautical salutes.

Work on the show began back in February and George said they are looking forward to competing in Montreal again after a 26 year hiatus. There will be no special set pieces or structures as they decided to use purely aerial effects to tell the story and Patrick said they had used the ShowSim visualization software to help design the display. When asked why people should come and see the display Patrick explained that The Wizard of Oz is a classic cultural phenomenon and that, through the story and fireworks, everyone will become a child again and experience the immense joy of such a spectacle and that it would evoke many childhood memories in everyone. Patrick and George noted that finales are very important aspects of Zambelli displays and that the soundtrack had presented some challenges in allowing a long enough finale. They noted that Patrick had come up with a way of doing a very spectacular finale which would conclude with the type of ending Zambelli are famous for. I have a feeling earplugs will be required for those with sensitive hearing!

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