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Disney Animation: Immersive Experience Begins North American Tour

Disney Animation: Immersive Experience opened yesterday in Toronto, the beginning of a multi-city rollout this winter.

The experience is a collaboration between Walt Disney Animation and Lighthouse Immersive Studios, the group behind the hugely-popular Immersive Van Gogh (and some other less-well-received experiences).

Similarly, Disney Animation: Immersive Experience uses millions of pixels digital projection spread out over a massive indoor space. The technical stats (e.g., 16 miles of cable used behind the scenes) are pretty impressive.

I was able to attend a preview at the Lighthouse ArtSpace Toronto, a former newspaper printery near the city’s waterfront.

Before entering the main space, visitors walk through a multi-room, pre-show exhibit designed with David Korins, the acclaimed set designer on Hamilton.

Animation principals like storyboarding are introduced, interspersed with profiles of past and present Disney artists. There are some life-size character models, small maquettes, a character drawing table for kids, and more.

The main event is a beautiful celebration of Disney animation. Even familiar scenes feel new and breathtaking. The musical choices are impactful and the dynamic floor projections absorb you into the worlds. Climbing the stairs to the upper level (where available) is highly recommended.

With some minor exceptions, the segments were everything I wanted to see and hear. At 40 minutes, the experience is an ideal length, but I would have been happy to have it go on longer.

What works

The main experience is worth the price of admission and will please Disney-loving adults and kids alike. The pre-show exhibits add some value but won’t be revelatory for most grownups. Some massive scene paintings above the gift shop area are a nice touch.

What doesn’t

Synched LED wristbands are fun at concerts, here I found them distracting. Merchandising in the gift shop was surprisingly lacking; it seemed very “third-party” (not what you would find at Disney parks) and repetitive (the same items in different places).

The verdict

Walt Disney, for whom immersive cinema was an area of great interest, could only have dreamed of this. Disney should take greater control of the experience and make it even bigger and better.

2 thoughts on “Disney Animation: Immersive Experience Begins North American Tour”

    1. Lighthouse doesn’t currently have a venue in Montreal so probably not any time soon, but hopefully in the future!

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