There are some pretty awesome and fantastical items in Disney-owned films.
One such item that comes to mind is the lightsaber. An “elegant weapon for a more civilized age,” as Obi-Wan Kenobi would say. These energy swords are the chosen weapon of those who have a connection to the Force in Star Wars and boy, are they cool or what? We’ve been able to make (toy) lightsabers in the Disney parks since Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opened and we can sometimes snag lightsabers online — but what about that REAL lightsaber that Disney made?
Wait, Disney Has a Real Lightsaber?
Okay, okay, we’ll slow down. Recently at a private media event, Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products Josh D’Amaro revealed an actually-extending lightsaber commenting, “It’s real.”
Up to this point, replica lightsabers have consisted of a hilt piece and a non-collapsible plastic blade piece. The blade has to be manually attached to and detached from the hilt, so there’s never a cool lightsaber extension moment like you see in the Star Wars films.
But now, Disney has shown a lightsaber blade that can ACTUALLY extend and retract. And guys…it looks pretty cool.
Way back in 2018, a patent was published that had been filed by Disney Enterprises for a “sword device with retractable, internally illuminated blade.” Hmm…that sounds an awful lot like a lightsaber to us.
The patent is currently classified as an invention pertaining to “Toy swords or similar toy weapons; Toy shields.” The background even directly mentions lightsabers saying, “In some stories, these energy swords are called lightsabers, and a typical lightsaber in a film is depicted as including a metal hilt that allows the lightsaber to be a handheld weapon. The hilt is activated by the character in the film to project a brightly lit energy blade…”
But we know what you’re asking — HOW DOES IT WORK?! Essentially this tech creates the extending lightsaber blade effect using two long plastic semi-cylinders. These pieces are rolled onto spools so that they can be contained in the lightsaber hilt.
When a user activates the lightsaber (by hitting a button), a motor quickly unspools the plastic; think of it like blowing a party blower on New Years’! As the plastic uncoils, it passes through an opening that forces it into the blade shape, and the two sides of the plastic meet to form one cylinder in a long blade shape outside of the hilt.
As the plastic unfurls, it pulls with it an end cap and a light source strip in the center of the two pieces of plastic. The result is a light source suspended in the center of the cylindrical blade shape. The light turns on when the blade is activated and helps to create the extension effect.
When a user (or Jedi) is done with their lightsaber, they can deactivate the blade. The process then reverses with the two plastic blade sides, the light strip, and the end cap spooling back into the hilt.
Of course, this all happens pretty quickly so that the effect is hard to detect if you’re looking at it from a reasonable distance. That’s a pretty neat optical illusion! Who knew we would get to see extending and retracting lightsabers in person one day!
How could this tech be used?
Disney calls this device “a special effects device” in the patent. So, it could be possible that the lightsaber will be used to provide the lightsaber effect in live shows in Disney theme parks. Initially, at least, we do know this fancy-pants lightsaber will be seen at the Star Wars Hotel — Galactic Starcruiser.
Still, this tech is technically safe for consumers and the patent is classified in “Toy swords or similar toy weapons; Toy shields.” So, if these blades are “toys” could we be snagging these new and improved lightsabers as souvenirs from Disney parks soon? Maybe.
As for Star Wars movies, this tech is cool but it still won’t do the trick when it comes to creating realistic lightsaber battles. It seems likely the tech could potentially be for Cast Members only, at least initially. The tech is cool but it’s also relatively delicate-looking (at least compared to those hard plastic blades we currently have). Kids and adults alike can confidently whack their current lightsabers into each other in a “battle” with little fear of breaking the toy. With this delicate expanding tech, it seems too easy for the blades to get damaged by guests. That would likely leave many unhappy guests who shelled out what would surely be a pretty penny for the special toy. It’s certainly possible the tech could be sold to guests, but that remains to be seen.
As for the movies? It’s likely the films will continue to use CGI combined with practical effects to create the lightsaber that we see on the big screen. 🙂 Well, we’ll be patiently waiting to see these lightsabers in real life. In the meantime, stay tuned to DFB for all the Disney tech updates and more!
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What do you think of Disney’s REAL lightsaber? Tell us in the comments!