Brian Gale

The bio page for Brian Gale. A lighting and video designer.


Brian Gale imagines whole worlds, lighting permanent installations and attractions at Disney theme parks all around the world. Prior to co-founding NYXdesign, he was a principal designer at Walt Disney Imagineering. But you also often find him in the back of a darkened theater. 

At any one time, you might be working on the Tokyo Disneyland Electrical Parade, a play at the Mark Taper Forum, a corporate event or a theme park attraction. Don’t these pull you in different directions?

Well, it makes my life more interesting to have such a wide variety of projects. At the same time, I approach all of them from a similar perspective of trying to tell a story and communicate an emotional component. Also, it means I dabble in technologies that are current in one area that may not be current in another, so something I learned to do in the theater I can bring to a movie shoot or a themed installation. They all feed each other, and make all the work better, not just for me personally, but for all the partners at NYXdesign.

Why is it so important to stay current with all the technological advances?

The hardest job for a lighting designer or any technologist in entertainment is to stay current. You don’t have to be the expert in everything, but you have to know what’s possible and then know which people can execute your vision. You have to be conversant enough with the technology to know where the cutting edge is. You also have to pay attention to the shelf life of a technology. If you have a project on the drawing boards, by the time it’s executed that technology might be old hat or overused. I always try to know what is just ahead of the curve, the next thing that can be achieved.

When you’re lighting a play, the script is the obvious starting point. But where do you get initial ideas when you’re doing something non-narrative?

Even in the absence of a plot I try to create a narrative that I can express with light. Even if it’s not apparent to the audience, it’s the frame I build my work on, that emotional arc. In all my work, no matter what the venue, I imbue storytelling at a level below what just the eyeballs can see.

How does that make a difference to the viewer?

It’s the difference between a visual sensory assault or an emotional experience. An audience may not be conscious of it, but I'm always trying to create experiences that resonate more deeply. My friends in the movie business are talking about this backlash now in movie making against overwhelming visuals. CGI allows filmmakers to visualize almost anything, so to have impact they have to go for depth and resonance. I think the same is true in all parts of entertainment.

It’s funny that when you were hired to be the lighting designer for the LA Opera’s Ring Cycle, the one thing you hadn't done was opera.

Achim Freyer, who was the director/designer based Berlin, said specifically he didn’t want an opera lighting designer. Achim is a wonderful, amazing opera/theater artist, so of course he wanted something new. Opera has a lot of well-worn traditions all across the board. But I knew none of those, and he was very happy with the out of the box approach we came up with. It was extremely modern and technological. All the costumes, all the lighting elements, were essentially modern art pieces. The entire 18 hours was played behind a black scrim with translucent projections in the foreground. It was like nothing I'd ever done. 


Name:  Brain Gale  Based in:  Altadena, Calif.  Trained as:  Imagineer at Walt Disney Co.   Secret superpower:  Lego master builder  Secret obsession:  Train travel  Best gig ever:  Creating a night ride through Disney's Animal Kingdom. 

Name: Brain Gale
Based in: Altadena, Calif.
Trained as: Imagineer at Walt Disney Co. 
Secret superpower: Lego master builder
Secret obsession: Train travel
Best gig ever: Creating a night ride through Disney's Animal Kingdom.