ABBA Voyage Live: 16 behind-the-scenes secrets from the mind-blowing ABBAtar show

The wait is finally over. After five years of blood, sweat and tears (probably), the ABBA Voyage live experience was finally released this week.

Over 40 years since ABBA last shared a stage, they were back (sort of) to entertain their loyal fans at London’s ABBA Arena.

Three thousand fans and VIPs – including Sweden’s real king and queen – were in the audience to watch what HuffPost described as a “jaw-dropping” show.

With innovative technology at the heart of the program, it took a team of thousands of people to create. Here, let’s take a look at how fantasy became a (virtual) reality…

Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), founded by George Lucas of Star Wars fame, created the digital versions of ABBA known as ABBAtars

The ABBAtars (LR) Agnetha, Bjorn, Benny and Anni-Frid
The ABBAtars (LR) Agnetha, Bjorn, Benny and Anni-Frid

Johan Persson/ABBA Travel

“They took the stage in front of 160 cameras and almost as many geniuses [digital] artists, and performed every song in this show to perfection, capturing every mannerism, every emotion, the soul of their beings – so that becomes the great magic of this endeavor,” explains producer Ludvig Andersson.

“It’s not four people pretending to be ABBA: it’s actually them”

It took 1000 artists working in four global studios to bring ABBAtars to life

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“His enthusiasm, professionalism and love for his craft were not only very contagious, but fundamental to the entire enterprise,” says Ludvig.

ABBA is officially more important than Batman

The Batman: he's not happy about the delay
The Batman: he’s not happy about the delay

“It took a while to convince ILR to do it because we’re basically taking over the entire company,” reveals Ludvig.

“They had Batman saying ‘hello, we have Batman and we need you.’ It was a big decision for ILM to accept us.”

160 cameras were used to film ABBA’s motion capture performance technique over a period of five weeks.

ABBA Travel

“For an entire month we wore our ‘spacesuits’ and helmets to play our songs,” recalls Agnetha.

“It got a little hot under the lights and the spots, but there was nothing to do but keep going. Sometimes the four of us would wonder what we were getting into.”

The sight of each other in their ‘weird’ motion capture outfits made the whole group laugh

“It’s no exaggeration to say that it took a few days to get used to, both seeing herself in the mirror and the others in these strange outfits,” says Frida.

Adds Agnetha: “We had a lot of wonderful laughs looking at each other.”

Each day of filming was the subject of a different ABBA song.

It looks like Frida just saw herself in her motion capture outfit.
It looks like Frida just saw herself in her motion capture outfit.

“Every day had a working title, which was the title of one of our songs,” recalls Frida.

“The images were hung on our backstage walls to illustrate the theme of the day. All of this helped create a great work environment and sense of community.”

…And that meant the team really embraced the themes too

An actor playing Napoleon (center) poses with ABBA in 1974. Wow.
An actor playing Napoleon (center) poses with ABBA in 1974. Wow.

Jorgen Angel via Getty Images

“On Eurovision day, the entire team was dressed like Napoleon and carrying the Swedish flag,” recalls producer Ludvig.

ABBA’s signature moves are present and correct…but they’ve been deftly updated

World-renowned, award-winning choreographer Wayne McGregor has been working with ABBA since 2020 to bring movement and life to ABBAtars, innovating with his signature dance style.

The stunning costumes are all real drawings, which have been digitized

Dolce & Gabbana designs featured at the Abba Voyage live show.
Dolce & Gabbana designs featured at the Abba Voyage live show.

There are five costume changes during the show, with designs created by Dolce & Gabbana, Manish Arora, Erevos Aether and Michael Schmidt.

There is a 10-piece live band accompanying the ABBAtars on stage

“The fact that every note you hear is being played live, in the moment, is one of the foundations of the whole project,” says producer Ludvig.

IT’S TALL

There are 291 speakers inside ABBA Arena, creating 870,000 watts of audio amplification, which doesn’t mean anything to us, but sounds very, very impressive.

There are too many lights

30,000 individually controlled lighting points and 500 moving lights to be precise. That’s going to be a hefty electricity bill.

Lighting plays an important role in the show

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“It’s one of the three creative pillars that sublimate ABBA’s avatars, weaving a link between two worlds: the real room and the virtual stage,” explains lighting producer Matthew Debay.

“To create a bridge between the world of cinema and the world of entertainment. That was our challenge.”

The show features 20 songs… but it took a long time to narrow them down

“I think Benny and Björn did about 18 versions of the setlist,” reveals producer Ludvig.

Director Baillie Walsh was already a huge ABBA fan.

Director Baillie Walsh attends the first performance of ABBA's Voyage at ABBA Arena on May 26, 2022 in London, England.  (Photo by Nicky J Sims/Getty Images)
Director Baillie Walsh attends the first performance of ABBA’s Voyage at ABBA Arena on May 26, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Nicky J Sims/Getty Images)

Nicky J Sims via Getty Images

“I’m not just an ABBA fan, they’re in my DNA,” he revealed. “They are part of who I am. I saw them win Eurovision and they’ve been in my life ever since.”

Choreographer Wayne McGregor has also always been a big fan of the group.

Wayne McGregor attends the first ABBA's Voyage performance at ABBA Arena on May 26, 2022 in London, England.  (Photo by Nicky J Sims/Getty Images)
Wayne McGregor attends the first ABBA’s Voyage performance at ABBA Arena on May 26, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Nicky J Sims/Getty Images)

Nicky J Sims via Getty Images

“I grew up listening to ABBA in Stockport. I learned ballroom, Latin American and disco with ABBA tracks,” recalls Wayne.

HuffPost UK was on the show’s opening night. Read our ABBA Voyage review here.

ABBA Voyage is taking reservations through May 28, 2023, with more dates to be announced soon. For more information, visit abbavoyage.com.

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