France – July 26th 2011 – Lacroix-Ruggieri

Once again, perfect weather conditions for this year’s final competitor. Highly anticipated, the capacity audience were eagerly awaiting to see what the French team, together with their Puy du Fou collaborators, would deliver.

After the presentation of the team on the stage, a nice touch was  the playing of the music that inspired their theme – Lynda Lemay’s “Maudits Français”. The display itself began with a character in an illuminated suit discovering an object “made in France” whilst stood in front of a large mirrored disco ball …. and then there was a flash of light as sequences of photoflash raced back and forth across ramp 2 as the display proper started.

The display began very strongly with powerful sequences of fast mine and comet runs, to much enthusiasm from the audience. The narration was interleaved into the fireworks, sometimes to dark sky and sometimes with pyrotechnic effects – though the duration was usually short enough to prevent distraction from the display. In the early part of the show, the choreography was very stromg, with interesting angles and fast sequences. Thus a lot of promise and anticipation was created.

At times during the middle parts of the display, the complexity and rate of the display became just too slow for my tastes. Simple fronts of candles with only one or two small shells firing at once was just at too slow a pace. I also found there was some repetition of some effects, notably horse-tail and types of falling leaves (probably tremidas shells from Grupo Luso).

In general, the quality of the pyrotechnic material was high and diverse, which is why the repetitions were more noticeable. The one shot sequences along ramp 3 and on ramp 4 were well done, as were the three very large fans just in front of ramp 3. Ramp 5 suffered from one or two small technical failures with fountains on one of the platforms failing to ignite (as did some on ramp 3). Ramp 5 also precluded the use of large nauticals, but there were several volleys of bengal-type effects.

Once disappointing segment for me was meant to represent a fashion parade. With strong techno music, there just wasn’t as much intensity in the fireworks to do the music justice. The Luso relampago shells were effective in simulating flash photography, but I would have enjoyed some ground-level photoflash effects like we’d had at the beginning of the display.

There was an enjoyable faux finale build of gold kamuros, but, again, it started too gently. However, once it got going it was very effective, especially as very wide fans of kamuro mines fired from ramp 5.

Just before the real finale, the illuminated-suit character returned and asked for the audience to participate by getting out their cell phones and using the screens as lights – kind of a modern day cigarette lighter. It was pretty effective! Then the finale began and soon the air was filled with colour and thunder, including magnificent cones of rockets, bringing the display to an end after almost 35 minutes. The audience rose to their feet and gave the team a well-deserved standing ovation.

For me, this was a good display but it fell a little bit short of my expectations. I suspect that the vast numbers of one-shots in the early part of the display had consumed too many cues and firing modules and this lead to the rather simplistic segments in the body of the display where the level was just that bit too low to sustain interest and detracted from creating too many WOW moments. Definitely a place on the podium, but, for me at least, not in the #!1 spot.

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