Part of the reason why Disney World is such a special experience compared to other theme parks is their attractions’ cutting edge technology. Just look at Rise of the Resistance!
Well, the past few years have brought us some pretty neat Disney technologies! We’re taking a look at some of the newer, more interesting technological advancements to give you some insight into how that awe-inspiring “Disney magic” comes to be.
1. Hybrid A1000 Animatronics
Let’s take a look at Hybrid A1000 Animatronics. You might know these robots as being some of the shockingly realistic figures in newer attractions around Disney parks. You can currently spot examples in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge with Hondo Ohnaka in Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run and Lieutenant Beck and Kylo Ren on Rise of the Resistance.
Since the 1980s, A100 Animatronics have used hydraulic motors to power their life-like movements. With the opening of Frozen Ever After and Na’vi River Journey, we saw a transition to all-electric animatronics that makes for a much smoother movement.
Still, these newer A1000 Animatronics are even more advanced. Not only do they have the electric movement, but they also use thin motors called “pancake” motors to achieve realistic movement.
Each of these robots is carefully programmed with advanced software to move along with sound queues. Hondo Ohnaka even walks! In our opinion, the only thing that stands in the way of us thinking that Hondo and other A1000s are real is the fact that their lip movement isn’t quite as precise as a real person (or Weequay, rather).
To see more about how these bots work, take a look at this short clip from Walt Disney Imagineering!
2. Interactive Shadows
Next up, we’re talking about some tech that you’ve probably seen if you braved the wait for Peter Pan’s Flight in the last five years! The Peter Pan standby queue was redone to be super neat and interactive. Before you take flight over London and Neverland, you’ll pass by your very own interactive shadow!
This effect lets you raise your hand to ring shadow bells or bat at shadow butterflies. The catch? None of these bells or butterflies are real so they can’t be casting a shadow — you’re not even casting a shadow!
What’s actually happening is that a series of complex sensors are capturing your motion so that a shadowy version of you can be projected on the wall in real-time. The projections of the bells and butterflies are computerized elements that are programmed to react when any data comes in contact with them. In this case, YOU’RE the data!
Motion capture has been around for some time, but real-time computerization of that motion capture is pretty new. We will say that Peter Pan’s Flight’s redone queue was probably inspired by the success of the redone queue at Haunted Mansion or the interactive queue on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Hint: You can also check out some real-time motion capture in the preshow area for Flight of Passage when you’re “scanned” to match up with an avatar!
For a glimpse at the interactive shadows (and MORE of the fun Peter Pan queue), watch this video from when it first opened!
3. Rear Projection Mapping
One of our favorite new technologies to see on rides is rear projection mapping. You can see this on a few attractions in Disney World like with the dwarfs on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, the queue Buzz on Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin, most of the figures in Frozen Ever After, and (most recently) with some characters on Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway!
Disney has been working with projection mapping for some time. You can spot regular projection mapping with Tinkerbell in the Peter Pan queue and more notably on Cinderella Castle during Happily Ever After. This tech allows Imagineers to very precisely map out where a projection will land, allowing for super stunning experiences.
However, rear projection mapping comes from INSIDE the animatronic’s head! That’s right, there’s a projector inside Doc, and Elsa, and all the other rear-projected characters.
This effect allows characters to have dynamic facial expressions that appear to respond to the surrounding environment. It really does make it feel like your favorite Disney characters are right in front of you!
To see this effect in action for yourself, watch this video about the making of the seven dwarfs animatronics on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train!
Now we are stepping into the future of Disney technology. Just a few months ago, Disney featured a teaser of their new unprecedented Stuntronics technology. These animatronics can fly through the air and perform — you guessed it — stunts. We may see this guy flipping, somersaulting, and making heroic poses when he debuts in the park.
Where will he debut, you ask? In Avengers Campus! The new land in Disney California Adventure is set to have a Spider-Man Stuntronic to swing from the rooftops and perform a death-defying show. Maybe “death-defying” isn’t the right word for a bot; “permanent shutdown-defying” perhaps?
Disney hasn’t released a whole lot of information on how these guys work. Usually, animatronics need to be tethered to one space or one area with a ton of wires. So we’re curious to see how Spidey will be flying unhindered!
We DO know that these bots are super advanced and have very specific codes that tell it when to perform a stunt action based on its weight distribution. It will have to convince us it’s Spiderman, after all! To see a sneak peek of the upcoming Stuntronics robot, check out the Disney Research video here.
5. Augmented Reality Image Customization
And last, but certainly not least, we’re talking about Augmented Reality Image Customization. Phew, that’s a mouthful!
Most recently, Disney used augmented reality to craft a “See ya real soon!” message from Mickey that showed up in the Play Disney Parks app for those who had recently returned home from Disney. This Augmented Reality Image Customization Disney is planning for is a whole new ballgame though. It hints at an in-park augmented reality application.
Like the Stuntronics, you can’t see this tech in the parks just yet! It’s too new. But, we’ll tell you how it works for when we CAN experience it. The tech can overlay your pose in a photo with a costume of your choice so that it looks like you’re wearing it! Think of it as cosplay but with augmented reality.
We’re not sure how this will be used in the parks as it has only been released as a Disney patent, but we can’t wait to see what’s in store with it. We’re thinking that augmented reality costumes would be an awesome addition to PhotoPass Magic Shots. Plus, it’s like an instant Disneybound — no special outfit coordination required!
To see the Augmented Reality Image Customization in action check out this video!
Disney continues to dream up new and crazy cool technologies, so we can’t wait to see what they’re going to do next!
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What do you think of these neat new technologies? Let us know in the comments!