Magna, Utah — (KUTV) Disney Channel has a new comedy for tweens hitting the air in just a few weeks. And if you watch, you’ll recognize many of the Utah set locations scattered throughout Salt Lake County.
The new series “Andi Mack” is an ongoing series, from the creator of Lizzie McGuire, based on a 12-year-old girl’s coming of age, that if successful could bring a serious cash flow to the state of Utah.
The single-camera series centers around Andi Mack played by actress Peyton Elizabeth Lee. Her life is turned upside down when her older sister Bex moves back home and shakes up the world she’s always known.
The sounds of a working film set were the norm for fivev months in 2016 as Disney took over Magna’s Main Street, Wasatch Junior High and Utah’s School For The Deaf and Blind.
Hundreds worked on the series that looked a lot more like a movie set than your average Disney Channel show.
“It’s better than I could have ever imagined. It is amazing. The whole experience, the people the work, it is all just amazing,” Lee said. She is from California and had the chance to see Utah, the four seasons and star in her own show.
Lee is over the moon about the opportunity, but she’s not the only one feeling the Disney glow.
“It’s exciting just exciting,” said Alina Crawford, owner of Jolie Couture a hair salon on Magna’s Main Street. It is getting a boost to its business thanks to Disney.
“They always leave things better than they found them,” Crawford said. She talks happily about how Disney Channel is using Magna’s Main Street as any town America. “They painted all the store fronts — they added chandelier under our awning — they bring in plants and benches. They set it up really cute.”
For Crawford, the improvements haven’t stopped at the curb, she says Disney dropped by her salon in early 2016 with the best news she’s had in years. “As they left I was so excited I jumped up and down.” Andi Mack’s film crew wanted to use her salon as their film spot for Bex, the older sister who comes home and needs a job.
Crawford’s salon was turned into a part time film set with the salon getting an edgier new name “The Fringe.”
“They (film crew) come in the day before and set up and film that day and the next day they have our business back to normal so we can walk in the door and. Go to work at 10 o’clock in the morning.”
While Disney films, Crawford gets a bonus she’s never had before. “Being self-employed if we are not at work we don’t get paid so with Disney coming in, we’ve actually had a paid day off when we close for filming.”
When she’s working with clients, things are a little nicer too.
“They have really enhanced it; they have added chandeliers, lots of lighting and shelving.”
Disney’s involvement has let the shop owner expand into wigs and other business ventures should could not otherwise afford.
“Disney is such a great partner because it is a longer series they’ve been here for five months — they spend a lot on the ground. It is all Utah crews; They are creating jobs, paying for things locally so it gets spent right in the community,” said Virginia Pearce, Director of the Utah Film Commission.
She welcomes Disney projects because the company creates revenue for the state in ways you’d never expect.
“There is a restaurant in Park City called Maxwell’s that we all go to together and we have pizza and chicken wings and it is really fun,” Lee said. She said the cast loves to go out to eat and enjoy each other’s company because many are far away from family and friends.
“Overall the film industry is such a part of the diverse economy here, it’s $100 million dollar industry in a year; provides 4,000 jobs.”
At least 150 Utahn’s were hired directly for the first season of Andi Mack, not including hundreds more extras called in on a daily basis. Utah film crews know the surrounding area, and their knowledge spreads the wealth locally.
“In this particular case we received over $17,000 in rental revenue that otherwise would have just dissipated,” said Ben Horsley, spokesman for the Granite School District. He has seen the Disney touch first hand. Wasatch Junior High was rented out on weekends as another regular filming location.
Horsley said they never search out extra cash, but when it comes along, it is tough to say no.
“We are eager for those opportunities as long as they don’t interfere with our ability to educate kids usually they work around our schedules and do a good job taking care of our facilities, we welcome those opportunities and it does create a boon for us,” Horsley said.
With the show set to air in March, Utah businesses and film crews are waiting to see if the series returns for another season. If the show is a hit, Wasatch Junior High may get a little Disney magic of its own.
“You probably saw it with East High in Salt Lake School District” said Horsley. “Enhancements to the facility, capital costs that don’t have to be borne by the taxpayers are generally very nice enhancements to the school.”
Pearce, who has watched Utah shows become hits, said that, “from what I hear the show is fantastic it looks great and people are really happy with the quality of the show and crews here in Utah and would anticipate they’ll come back.”