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'Toy Story' skates into town

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Toy Story" characters Woody, Jessie and Buzz Lightyear are among the Disney favorites featured in Disney on Ice's "100 Years of Magic" program, which is at the Charleston Civic Center through Sunday. The show also features Mickey and Minnie, of course, as well as more than 60 other characters from "Mulan," "The Lion King," "Pinocchio," "The Incredibles," "Finding Nemo" and "Lilo & Stitch."
Courtesy photo
Eric Palin performs as Woody. It is the 18 year old's first professional skating job.
WANT TO GO?Disney on Ice presents "100 Years of Magic"WHERE: Charleston Civic CenterWHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday; 10:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday; 1 p.m. Sunday.TICKETS: $14, $18, $24, $30 and $45INFO: 800-745-3000 or www.ticketmaster.comCHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Disney on Ice skaters Eric Palin (no relation to Sarah) and Taylor Blair won't go so far as to say they're best friends, but they do get along pretty well. Everybody on the tour does."We're a pretty tight knit group," Palin said."Kind of a big family on the road," Blair added.Chemistry is important for the pair as they play the roles of "Toy Story" characters Woody and Buzz in Disney on Ice's "100 Years of Magic" program. The show is at the Charleston Civic Center through Sunday. Palin and Blair's part in the show, they say, is one of the high points of the show. The "Toy Story" franchise, after all, is one of the most beloved in the Disney canon.The two skate together, but they're not exactly figure skating partners. "It's a duet," explained Blair, who plays Buzz."Kind of a duel," added Palin, who is Woody. "We start off doing different tricks and kind of competing. It's really not pairs skating, but more of a buddy-buddy thing.""It's very exciting," Blair said.
Performing and touring for Disney, they said, is a dream come true. For Palin, a veteran skater, it's his first touring job. Before he joined the Disney On Ice, he skated around Alberta, Canada, most notably in some shows with Olympic gold medal pairs skaters Jamie Sale and David Pelletier during the annual Calgary Stampede."Being on a tour like this is really something I've aspired to for a very long time," he said.
But for Blair, it's not just his first tour; it's his first professional skating job. Blair graduated high school in June 2011 and being on the tour when he's only 18 seems like a huge break."My family thinks it's great," he said and laughed. "I get to do what I love, what I've always done, travel and get paid. It's great."Blair said he began skating when he was about 7 years old. Being from Wisconsin, he said, a lot of kids get into skating. Most of the boys tend toward hockey, but a few gravitate toward figure skating.He took lessons, found out he was good at it and eventually got a coach. He competed around the state and won several trophies. A few months before he graduated, a Disney ice show passed through his hometown of Madison."I went and auditioned," he said. "A few months later, they contacted me and offered me a part."Both skaters have been with the tour since it began in September. They said it's been an amazing experience so far and they love the travel. One of the perks of being on tour is the opportunity to see places they've always wanted to visit and discover things they never knew existed.
"New York was really a lot of fun," Blair said."I liked Savannah, Georgia, too," Palin added. "And we're going to South America in the summer. I'm really looking forward to that."But the travel is really just icing on the cake. The performance is the thing."There are more lights, more sounds and the crowds are much bigger," Blair said. "It's just a lot more exciting than what I'm used to. I love it."Palin said, "We skate our passion for the public every night."Reach Bill Lynch at or 304-348-5195.
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