MagicSnow’s Snowfall Business Charms Celebs, Disney and More

MagicSnow’s Snowfall Business Charms Celebs, Disney and More

When Adam Williams, now founder and president of MagicSnow, moved to Los Angeles in 2000, running a snowfall-special-effects company wasn’t on his bucket list. He’d come to the city to launch his career as a magician, and he took a step in that direction by pitching a Christmas-themed magic show to The Grove, one of the highest-grossing shopping and entertainment centers in the U.S.

Williams’ pitch, complete with a storyboard presentation that promised a mesmerizing, snow-filled finale, made its way to Rick Caruso, The Grove’s billionaire owner. But Caruso was only interested in one thing about Williams’ proposed show: the snow.

Image Credit: Courtesy of MagicSnow / Brian To

“So he gave me the opportunity to set up the snowfall effect,” Williams tells Entrepreneur. “After the first week of doing it, during the holiday season, it became a huge hit. They added a second show. We were starting to draw a crowd and [create] a real experience that people in Los Angeles had never had — snow during the holidays.”

It wasn’t long before other shopping centers across the country came calling. Williams brought his show to Miami and Dallas and continued expanding into new locations each year. For most of his clients, creating the wintry wonderland became an annual tradition, which gave rise to a fitting “snowball effect” and robust portfolio. Today, MagicSnow frosts some of the most iconic scenes in entertainment — from the Kardashians‘ Christmas party to Radio City Rockettes performances, star-studded music videos, Princess Cruise Lines, Disney parks and more.

Image Credit: Courtesy of MagicSnow / Brian To

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Williams also launched a sister company, or “summer counterpart,” to keep business booming outside of the holiday season: Bubbleworks uses the same chemistry and technology to carry out bubble shows. In 2019, Taylor Swift used the effect in Central Park (which prohibits confetti) to launch her album Lover.

“We’re constantly having to adjust for wind, temperature, humidity and any [other] weather conditions.”

Needless to say, MagicSnow’s method of snowfall creation is a far cry from early attempts in the entertainment industry. In the 1920s and 1930s, movie sets often relied on white-painted cornflakes to give the illusion of snow. They were sometimes mixed with shaved gypsum — or asbestos — and were often so loud that dialogue had to be re-dubbed after the fact, per Life.

MagicSnow’s effects are water-based, using “water and light foam.” Unlike traditional artificial snow, MagicSnow evaporates on contact, meaning no slippery residue or cleanup is required. It also looks better on camera, fills up more space and hangs in the air longer, Williams says. The company is currently on its 230th iteration of the formula — but in the beginning, it was up to Williams to figure out what worked.

“When we started at first, it was very basic,” Williams says. “I was up shooting snow off the rooftops of buildings and learning the physics of not only our snow effect but also [of the atmosphere] — so no two shows are the same. We’re constantly having to adjust for wind, temperature, humidity and any [other] weather conditions. Mostly, we’re working outdoors.”

Image Credit: Courtesy of MagicSnow / Brian To

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In those early days, Williams tried to be at as many shows as possible, and he even operated all of The Grove shows for the first 10 years, giving himself thousands of opportunities to learn and refine his technique.

“A lot of kids in Los Angeles don’t have access to snow…but what we’re doing is bringing that access to them here.”

So how much does it cost to make snow where it doesn’t snow? MagicSnow offers a snowmen-delivery option that runs from about $1,700-$2,000, affording people with more modest budgets the opportunity to enjoy the novelty, Williams says. Small-scale installations — think “if you want to have a toboggan hill built in your backyard or you want to sled out your front door on Christmas Day” — can come in anywhere from $25,000-$100,000.

Image Credit: Courtesy of MagicSnow / Brian To

But Williams notes that some of the bigger budgets have charitable aims. For example, Katy Perry recently hired MagicSnow to put on an event for the Los Angeles Boys & Girls Club.

“A lot of kids in Los Angeles don’t have access to snow,” Williams says. “I grew up in Ohio, and it’s probably snowing there right now. It was something that I took for granted until I moved to Los Angeles, where it doesn’t snow. We don’t have that experience. So for some kids, their parents fly [them] to Colorado or up north and maybe see snow. But what we’re doing is bringing that access to them here.”

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Naturally, MagicSnow’s large-scale events come with heftier price tags. Williams says there are “multiple layers,” each with their associated costs when it comes to launching a project. If the company is working with a venue for the first time, that will require a lot of pre-production and design, generally ranging from $50,000-$100,000. Then there are operational costs throughout the season; those vary depending on the frequency of the shows but often run about another $100,000. And those figures will tick up even higher for large-scale projects installed overseas — “You’re looking at anywhere from $100,000 to half a million dollars for a project to make snow where it doesn’t exist,” Williams says.

Really, at the end of the day, what we’re doing is telling stories with snow.”

Since Covid, MagicSnow has seen 10-20% growth each year, which Williams attributes partly to its ability to provide outdoor entertainment when people gravitated toward that. One of the biggest challenges is keeping up with an all-at-once, seasonal demand, doing “a year’s worth of work in the course of two months” (120 projects are in progress currently) before the phones stop ringing on December 25. Then, all goes quiet for a few months until the following year’s planning begins.

But Williams’ passion for the business of snow, which he calls a “universal experience” that’s “magical and mesmerizing and fascinating,” has never waned, and he looks forward to continuing to innovate in the space.

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“It really is amazing what our company has been able to do,” Williams says. “And it hasn’t just been me: I’ve got an amazing team of people with very diverse skill sets, backgrounds. I have designers, welders, chemists, writers, directors. Really, at the end of the day, what we’re doing is telling stories with snow.”

“And that’s really what is exciting, what keeps me going, keeps me interested in this business, is that there are still technical and creative possibilities that have not yet been explored,” he adds. “And we are in a very unique position to do that and take it to the next level.”

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