Beaver Creek Village Experience, The Peak Of Showbiz: Brian Hall

 

When Brian Hall’s grandma bought him a Roy Rogers outfit, complete with wide, faux chaps and a big cowboy hat, she never imagined he’d still be regularly dressing up as a Western legend over half a century later. Yet, the same excitement Hall felt as a 5-year-old Roy Rogers still shines through as he puts on his chaps, red shirt with a bandana and white brim hat to embody Buffalo Bill and entertain families throughout Beaver Creek.

Even as a kid, Hall intuitively knew how to connect with people through humor, acting and storytelling. He’s the first to admit academics didn’t come naturally, but when his English teacher asked him to stand in front of the class and act like a bunny, his talent emerged.

“It was easy for me to figure things out and create characters and create stories,” Hall says. “I was wired to understand stories and visuals and how to build it to get a reaction. I could get excited about it, and I could get people excited about it.”

 

From city slicker to mountain man

Hall grew up outside of Boston and majored in theater with a minor in communications. When he didn’t land a television job in Boston, he moved to Vail in 1981 with friends. All seven guys lived the ski bum life in a two-bedroom condo, cooking massive dinners, playing guitar, drinking beer and working and skiing hard. Hall assumed he’d move to Denver within weeks to find a “real” job, but within four days a cable company hired him for his tech skills. After six months of checking home cable connections, his supervisors asked him to build a half-million-dollar TV studio. He created it from scratch, lining up 2x4s in Vail’s old water department building to delineate rooms, and ultimately launched public access channel 5. It was a 25-year-old’s dream come true.

When a commercial station, TV 2, rolled into town, he ran that, then worked for Diamond Vision operating large-screen videos for some of the biggest shows in the nation, including Live Aid, Farm Aid, Chicago Blues Festival and the Boston Marathon, as well as international events, like the World Cup Soccer Championships in Mexico.

In 1987, Vail Resorts became the first and only company to host a Walt Disney character outside of Disney’s kingdom. Hall became the natural candidate to train actors to animate Sport Goofy.

The same year, Hall founded Beaver Creek Children’s Theater and Blue Creek Productions, which produces media, entertainment and marketing events to connect families with companies
like Merrill-Lynch, Chevy, MTV, Vail Valley Foundation and, of course, The Walt Disney Company and The Disney Channel.

 

Creativity in Beaver Creek

While some people might think Beaver Creek is a small town for such a large personality, Hall enjoys stretching his creative spirit throughout the valley. He admits that part of him wanted to move to Los Angeles and “make it big,” but now, with eight years of Disney credits, hundreds of produced shows and two professional trips to London, he asks himself: Why would I leave all of
this here?

He conjured up WinterFest, PrezFest and SpringFest during the last economic downturn, nudging Beaver Creek to bounce back big through animated characters and festivals. In 2010, PrezFest started urging kids to campaign to be president for a day and march in parades with Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, while WinterFest and SpringFest brought the most magical aspects of the seasons to life through interactive storytelling, unforgettable characters and family-friendly activities.

“If you’re creative, you walk through life looking at things differently,” Hall says. “You look at something and you gain inspiration at the way a kid laughed at something — or a construction zone.”

Hall got really creative around 1996, when construction tore Beaver Creek into disarray. While most lamented the chaos, Hall asked: What if it was cool to come to a mess? He created an outdoor Kidstruction Zone, featuring fulcrums and pulleys and areas where kids could plumb a wall with plastic pipes, construct buildings from Legos and read about every construction job, from welders to electricians.

“Talk about a blast of a job — researching so you do it well and then buying toys,” Hall says.

The outdoor museum mitigated two years of construction, and its success led to Beaver Creek Children’s Museum, which pops up every summer in the Children’s Ski School indoor space. It allows kids to play with Legos and electrical circuits (fit for teens to build a radio), and let their imaginations run wild on a dress-up stage filled with costumes and props. He also recreated the Kidstruction Zone in Tahoe and Vail during their construction days.

Beaver Creek Children’s Theater Company has taken Hall from Colorado to London, England to enchant families with stories of mountain life. Through his other children’s programs he produces events like Thursday Night Lights’ glow-stick ski parade and Beaver Creek’s tree lighting (where Santa’s Village debuts this season). The tree lighting itself requires three stage managers, six PAs and three separate directors for video, sound and lighting.

“It’s a huge theatrical production,” he says. “It’s literally what I went to school for, but in a bigger way.”

 

Just an overgrown kid

One of Hall’s true joys stems from playing with kids, whether he’s dressed as Buffalo Bill or engaging families in fractured fairytales, rhythmic poetry and high-energy antics.

In village skits like “The Mitten,” Hall invites kids to take part in the story of a woodcutter’s dropped mitten, which transforms into a home for woodland creatures, as he asks kids to move their nose like a tiny mouse or become an enormous, smelly bear.

“The story is never perfect — it doesn’t have to be, but the experience of the kids is,” Hall says. “We get a lot of rewards from making kids laugh and having parents and kids play together.”

Raising two high school boys with his wife — and former assistant manager, Eileen — Hall recognizes how time flies. That’s why he always encourages parents and grandparents to take part in the action, including his new Family Après Ski days through the Town of Vail, which includes actors, parades, photo ops, and silly games, from hula hoops to water balloons.

“I don’t let parents just watch,” he says. “I say, ‘You have your kids for such a short time. Play with them.’”

Hall tends toward a Bugs Bunny/Rocky and Bullwinkle type amusement, with irony, friendly sarcasm, slap stick humor and double entendres. His stories often revolve around “boisterous characters with insecurities stuck in situations where they don’t know what to do.”

Yet, it seems Hall rarely runs out of ideas of “what to do.” This school year, he’s teaching filmmaking at Vail Christian High School and plans to start a high school film fest. He’s also writing a poetry-based show for elementary kids.

“It helps kids find their voice and gives them the ability to express themselves and their feelings. They’re smart but don’t always know how to articulate,” he says. “I tell kids to watch the audience’s reaction, and they get a cognizant realization that they created something and were received and accepted enthusiastically. What a confidence builder.”

If audience reaction falls short, Hall reminds kids: “Sometimes you hit it and sometimes you don’t: That’s show biz.”

As for Hall’s lifelong dreams, he still yearns to write a screenplay or theatrical show for a much larger audience in major cities.

“I’ve always dreamed of winning an Academy Award. That’s what keeps you going,” he says. “I’m not done yet. Who knows? It’s all doable if we just focus on it.”

This story was originally printed in the Beaver Creek Song Of Summer magazine and was written by Kimberly Nicoletti