This fascinating look at the world of the flying trapeze centers on one of the greatest acts in circus history, The Flying Gaonas. First performing on a trampoline, the Gaonas went on to become a star attraction for the best circuses in the world, including Ringling Bros. and Barnum
"The Flight Fantastic
" opens April 1st a the Cinema Village in New York.
Having left the center ring, we see The Flying Gaonoas pass the torch through teaching and coaching to new generations. When Tito decided to retire from the circus he did not retire from the trapeze and set up programs at Club Med and Camp Care for children with cancer. When the next big circus act, the Vasquez Family, succeeded theirs, Tito’s comment about them was “I’m just glad they’re Mexican like us”.
You will love the circus spirit of this documentary. And the love that went into creating it is a charisma to the trapeze artists themselves.
Sports Illustrated has said, "Tito Gaona
may be the finest athlete in the world...whenever circus people gather to speak of the best acrobats of all time he will be mentioned; some will even say that Tito Gaona
was the best ever."
Director Tom Moore
, a long-time Broadway Director (and trapeze flyer), brings their story to life through interviews with family members and colorful archival material. The Gaonas light up the screen with their blazing charisma, a quality that is undiminished in their "second act".
Your career on Broadway and in television is so vast and varied, what inspired you to make this documentary?
I feel I’ve been very fortunate in my career and life in that I’ve had an opportunity to do so many things. A good many successful, and even more a great experience. But like many people in the arts I’m always looking for a new adventure and a new way of work.Mike Nichols
was once asked, what do you enjoy doing most plays or films, and he replied “Whatever I haven’t done last.” Well, documentary was a form I had never had a chance to direct, and because of my passion for the trapeze, and my passion for film, it allowed me to combine my skills to tell a story I felt had to be told.
Do your past productions on B’way and in TV share anything in common with “Flight Fantastic”?
First and foremost, all of my productions whether on B’way or TV or film hopefully tell an interesting and intriguing story with compelling characters, with a lot of excitement and drama thrown in for good measure. As a director, there is also probably a certain style and sense of theatrics that hopefully helps tell the story and progress the plot.
You say you also work out on the trapeze? How did that come about?
What led to trapeze also led to making this documentary. In retrospect, it all seems like a through line from the first time I took hold of the trapeze bar and “flew,” to making this film called “The Flight Fantastic
I had been entranced as a child with the circus, but more particularly the flying trapeze and I no doubt fantasized about being a trapeze star. As my life and career went on of course, that faded into childhood and the past. But one year, feeling I had been doing too much of the same thing for way too long, I began looking for a new adventure. Well, I discovered the Flying Trapeze
, and a childhood memory was brought to life when I had a chance to learn to “fly” with Richie Gaona
at the Gaona Trapeze
As Sam Keene, a wonderful writer on the trapeze world said. “Sometimes a childhood fantasy that you never dared to dream, holds the key to renewal.” And that is exactly what it did for me. It gave me a new sense of exhilaration which led to better work and better life. As I continued to practice it as a sport, I also got to know Richie and the whole Gaona family. These were some of the greatest athletes who ever lived, and absolutely one of the “greatest flying acts in the history of the circus,” and outside the circus world,, most no longer knew who they were. I felt I had the skills to right that wrong, and the result is “The Flight Fantastic
What other involvements do you have with the Gaona family?
The Gaona famly is quite the amazing group of individuals, charismatic and compelling, and I have gotten to know them deeply over the years, and have become almost a surrogate, though very wasp Gaona. I have a photo where Richie photoshopped me, wearing a matching trapeze robe, into one of their iconic press photos, and it looks like Victor, the patriarch is looking at me saying something like “Who let the blonde guy in???”
I’m very fond of all of them, and all of them, by the way, are very unique and different from each other, but the one I love the most was the matriarch Teresa (Mama Terre) Gaona. Had she been alive, she would have been one of the stars of this film. I am quite sure the warmth of this family came directly from her care. People were drawn to her everywhere, and being around her made for a “happy” time. There were four children that became performers on the trampoline and trapeze, but there are 3 others that had different careers altogether. One of the narrators of this film is Jose, often called “The Walking Gaona.”
Who do you see as your audience?
We knew that the film would have a core audience of those who love the circus and the aerial arts (and it has brought many to the film) but Tff seems to reach many others because of the warmth of the family, the closeness of the family, and the family’s ability to work together to build something (as Paul Binder
, founder of the Big Apple Circus
says) “magnificent.” It seems to reach old and young alike for many different reasons. The ringmaster at Ringling Brothers and Barnum
& Bailey Circus
used to say: “Ladies and Gentlemen, and Children of All Ages
Something happens when an audience sees this film in a theatre. (And this was a surprise to me when I first saw it on a big screen). It seems to unite them in a shared sense of hope and joy. It seems to rejuvenate and inspire. At all of our screenings in many different places, the reactions have been the same and it has been very exciting.
Tell us about Camp Care
Camp Care (a camp for children coping with cancer) is located on Lake Lure in North Carolina, and it was actually our first shoot for the documentary. It was knowing that Richie and Armando Gaona
were going there to coach, teach, and support, that got me off of the theoretical idea and into the practical of making the movie. Within a couple of days, I had gotten our equipment, and a few people together to help, and off we went.
I can safely say that I don’t think I have ever been in a more inspirational, supportive and caring environment. Many of these kids had just gotten out of a hospital room to come to camp which is held for one week every year, and their joy in being there was palpable. That they never complained, and that they worked through fear to go up on that trapeze to achieve their goal was impressive at every turn. And it wasn’t just the kids, as I was also very impressed with the counselors, many who arranged their year of study or work just to be available at Camp Care for these children, some of whom had been coming to the camp for years. I have so much film of this camp, as I just couldn’t stop filming, as around every corner and every group of children, there was something remarkable. I could have stopped right there and made a documentary about this magical place alone. I look forward to going back there again some day as I remember it and everyone there with great fondness.
In the days when the circus was one of the most important events of the year and when audiences went to see their favorite performers each and every season, The Flying Gaonas were Big Top royalty. Often called the "First Family of the Air", The Flying Gaonas are a 4th generation Mexican circus family. They began their careers on the trampoline, but quickly took to the air.
From the beginning, Tito Gaona
always knew he wanted to be a trapeze artist and used to fly with any trapeze act that came to the circus, starting at the age of 10. And after seeing the Burt Lancaster
, Tony Curtis
”, Tito convinced his father, Victor - a legend in his own right- and siblings to develop a trapeze act, making their debut at the Clyde Beatty
-Cole Brothers circus. It took only a couple of years for them to become one of great acts of the circus, and in their time they were the headliners in circuses around the world. Most notably, they performed for 17 years with Ringling Brothers, Barnum
& Bailey, The Big Apple and the legendary European circuses. For this, The Flying Gaonas won the circus world's highest award, The Golden Clown, at the international circus festival at Monte Carlo - the Oscars of the circus world.
The charismatic and very handsome Tito was the center of the act and one of the foremost innovators in the world of trapeze. People would come again and again to see him perform, and often he would have arenas of 40,000 people chanting and clapping: “Tito, Tito, Tito! It is said that Tito communicated with an audience as if he or she was a very personal friend, and he could mesmerize 25,000 or 40,000 people at a time.
When the Gaonas were in residence at Madison Square Garden with the Ringling show, the flying act was covered by all the major media in the city, each and every year. NBC news
called him “arguably the greatest athlete in the world today.”
It is said that their skill came from their father,Victor and that their warmth and generosity came from their mother, Teresa. “The Flight Fantastic
” is dedicated to her memory.
“The Flight Fantastic
“is Tom Moore
’s first documentary feature, although he has had a long career in theatre, film, and television fiction. He directed the film of “Night Mother” with Sissy Spacek
and Anne Bancroft
, following his direction of the Broadway production with Kathy Bates
, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, and for which he received his second Tony nomination
In the theatre, Mr. Moore is best known as the director of the original production of “Grease
”, which ran for eight years and is one of the longest running shows in the history of Broadway. Over the years, this production introduced John Travolta
, Richard Gere
, Patrick Swayzee, Peter Gallagher
, Treat Williams
, Barry Bostwick
, Marilu Henner
, Adrienne Barbeau
, and countless others.
His first directorial Tony nomination was for the direction of the Big Band Musical “Over Here!”, which brought the Andrews Sisters
out of retirement. Other Broadway productions include the critically-embraced revival of “Once in a Lifetime” (with John Lithgow
, Deborah May
, Treat Williams
, and Jayne Meadows
) at the Circle-in-the Square, “Division Street”, “The Octette Bridge Club”, “A Little Hotel On The Side” with Tony Randall
and Lynn Redgrave
, and the short-lived, but legendary
“Frankenstein” at the Palace Theatre.
His most recent Broadway production was “Moon Over Buffalo” with Carol Burnett
On television, he directed Disney’s first original musical for television, “Geppetto
”, starring Drew Carey
and Julia Louis-Dreyfuss. He has helmed episodes of “ER
” (Emmy nomination), “Mad About You
” (Emmy nomination), “L.A. Law
” (Emmy nomination), “Cheers
”, “Ally McBeal
”, “Gilmore Girls
”, “Cybil” and many others.
He was a fellow at the American Film Institute, and he holds a B.A. from Purdue University and an M.F.A. from the Yale University School of Drama. He was also awarded the degree of Doctor of Fine Arts, honoris causa, by Purdue University.
As an avocation, Mr. Moore is actively involved with the Circus
Arts, and spends as much time as possible on the flying trapeze.