When Disney On Ice’s Worlds
of Enchantment passes through for a March 28-31 engagement at the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland, one of the principal
skaters will be close to home.
Lea Nightwalker, who portrays “Jessie” in the “Toy Story” portion of the
show, is from Fort Collins and has been in Disney on Ice shows for a total of nine years in several stints. The job has taken
her around the world, including to Europe, Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand.
“I’ve always come back because I like
it,” she said in a telephone interview during Worlds of Enchantment’s run in Omaha. “When I’ve left
to pursue other aspects of my life, ultimately I love skating and I love performing and I figure my body can only do it for
so long. So I should do it while I still can. That’s ultimately what makes me happy. As cheesy as that sounds, it’s
Nightwalker, 32, is in her third year as Jessie, and in various Disney shows also has been “The Little Mermaid,”
Belle in “Beauty and the Beast,” Elsa in “Frozen,” and Violet in “The Incredibles.”
The Toy Story
segment of Worlds of Enchantment runs about 45 minutes.
Lea Nightwalker skates as Jessie from
“Toy Story” in Disney On Ice’s “Worlds of Enchantment.”
is really fun because she’s not a princess,” Nightwalker said. “When you think of Disney, you think of princesses,
and they’re very proper and you have to carry yourself a certain way. But Jessie is more free-hearted and she’s
kind of got a little spark under her, too. You don’t want to cross her.’
Elsa and Frozen also are part of the Worlds of
Enchantment show, and Nightwalker switches to that role about once a week. Whether through the use of understudies or even
the principals learning more than one role, the production attempts to maintain having more than one skater able to play each
major role. That’s understandable, given the grueling schedule and need for shuffling in case of injury or illness or
This all has come for Nightwalker after she was born and raised in Fort Collins, attended Fort Collins High for a year
and then headed to Heritage Christian High School to finish up.
Along the way, she fell in love with skating.
Her mother, Millie, took her
older sister, Brook, and brother, Buck, to group lessons at the EPIC rink in Fort Collins.
“My brother did not stick with it for very
long,” she said. “But my sister continued with it. I was always with my mom when my sister was skating. I would
dance around in my shoes while my sister skated. I would pretend to skate. I just wanted to be like my big sister and I finally
bugged my mom long enough that she let me. I first got on the ice when i was about 6 years old and then it just stuck.”
in figure skating nationally and internationally.
“I was fairly successful at it, actually,” she said. “I really loved it.
Between my junior and senior year of high school, I sprained my ankle really bad and that was kind of the end of that season
of competing. Growing up and going through some things at home, I started to realize I wasn’t going to be able to keep
skating on a competitive level. I was getting too many injuries. But I wasn’t ready to hang up my skates.”
older sister had done some skating for Disney shows and recommended giving it a look. Nightwalker still was attending Heritage
Christian at the time.
“I decided to send in some tapes and see what my options are,” she said.
Her option was: Hey, Lea, how’d you like to play Violet in “The Incredibles”?
She said yes.
That was 2005.
As she skates
and performs — she doesn’t speak because the complicated sound track is pre-recorded — she still feels like
an athlete. “It’s obviously not to the same level as before, and I still miss those days,” Nightwalker said.
“But I’m an active person, I enjoy sports and I don’t just enjoy the performing aspect, I enjoy the athletic
part of it as well.”
This show’s tour is scheduled for eight months, and Nightwalker said being on the road for eight to 10
months a year is typical for ice-show skaters. Despite her long tenure in Disney shows, this will be the first time she has
performed in Loveland. The company will do seven shows in four days at the Budweiser Events Center.
The subsequent stop is the Denver
Coliseum, from April 4-7.
“I’m actually pretty excited,” Nightwalker said. “I’ve performed in Denver, but
it’s still going to be exciting there too because I’ve only been there two or three times. I’ve been at
the Pepsi Center and the Coliseum, but it’s a good drive and I’ve never had a lot of people come, just a few close
friends. That’s still special.
“But to play Loveland, the Budweiser Events Center, is going to be something. My sister
and brother are coming to see me for maybe like the third time ever. My nephew gets to come and a whole bunch of people from
my home rink are coming. This is probably the first and last time I get to play at home and I’m looking forward to it.”
So how much longer is she planning to do this?
“Oh, man,” she said. “I feel like I could probably do this for another eight
years easy, but I don’t know if I will. I would like to have a family one day and as much as I love doing this, I feel
like if I stay on the road, it closes the door to other opportunities. Whenever I do decide to go off the road, it will be