We recently looked at seven attractions that Disney will likely never build again in their theme parks, everybody told me that while the list was accurate, it was also depressing. Today I want to offer a little more hope (in most cases) with ten technologies I expect to see in Disney use in its resorts and attractions soon.
I wrote about some of these in my book “Dispatch from Disneyland” back in 1999 by extrapolating from some very early experiments Walt Disney Imagineering was doing a the time. It’s great to see some of these becoming less speculative fiction and more non-fiction.
1. Increased personalization – This is one of the true promises of MyMagic+ and the RFID and NFC chips that make it possible. As a guest, you won’t just just hear or see your name or image in an attraction, but attractions will change their environment around you based on your preferences. For instance it could adjust sound level, brightness, scariness factor, etc.. Disney can analyze your shopping, dining, and attraction patterns and make suggestions on merchandise, food locations, and attractions may have have missed or when a short line is available for a suitable attraction. The list is pretty much endless and the technology to do most of this is here today.
2. Augmented reality – We’ve seen limited use of virtual reality in Disney Quest, but AR is more about laying facts, data, experiences on top of our existing reality resulting in a more immersive, connected experience. Aurasma is just a parlor trick compared to what we could see here. 3D Augmented Reality is in the near future. There are any number of demo videos out there, here’s a semi-recent one where it’s easy to see some of these ideas translated into theme park experiences.
3. Self-driving Podcars – Yes, it’s the future WALL-E warned us about, but just like the Monorail was the future of transportation back in 1959, the autonomous self-driving podcar is the future of all transportation. Walt Disney World is the perfect place to model this. I wrote a little about this before. The technology has become much more advanced in the last 18 months and Google even has a prototype vehicle which would work perfectly within the confines of Walt Disney World. Come on Bob Chapek, make it happen as your first big move as new Disney Parks & Resorts Chair.
4. Minority Report / Corning Glass – In the not too distant future any surface can be made interactive. Remember this video from Corning?
Yeah, that was 2011. They’re getting a lot closer to making it ready for retail. But first, it needs to show up in a showcase location, and really what better location that Disney, right? I mean you could redo EPCOT’s FutureWorld in this stuff and really blow everyone away.
5. Drones – The burrito drone may seem like a practical joke, but in a resort setting like Walt Disney World, having delivery to your room or spot at a water park by drone is a real possibility. Doesn’t have to be food either, could be lost magic bands, a toothbrush, a special gift from Mickey Mouse. Not sure how this would work inside an attraction, but I trust Disney’s Imagineers to figure it out.
6. Haptic feedback / ultrasonics – This technology will allow what you see in the virtual / augmented reality space to feel real to the touch. Disney Research has been doing a lot of work in this area and I expect to see it brought to theme park attractions in the not too distant future (maybe even in Avatar).
Disney’s next animated feature draws inspiration from a Marvel comic book — “Big Hero 6.” Set in a futuristic San Fransokyo, the movie features a robotic prodigy named Hiro Hamada and his companion robot named Baymax. We did get to see a teaser trailer last month and now Disney has released two new posters for the movie.
So far, I’m really enjoying the art design on the film too. The comic book was originally set in Tokyo, but Disney’s artists have created an imaginary future world of SanFranokyo that allows them to create amazing scenes like in this concept art:
Full synopsis is below the jump:
This week crazy-like-a-fox billionaire businessman Elon Musk introduced his latest revolutionary concept, the Hyperloop, and then gave it away to the masses as an open source project. Musk’s previous successes include Paypal (without which much online transactions wouldn’t happen), Tesla (an electric car company that’s profitable for a change), SpaceX (a private company that is helping NASA get payloads into space with an eventual goal of Mars(!)), and SolarCity (affordable solar panels for home and business; It remains to be seen if this will fall into the success category, but it seems likely with a net positive in the profit column last quarter).
Hollywood director Jon Favreau has said he modeled his version of Tony Stark, aka Marvel’s Iron Man, at least in part after Musk. But I think Tony Stark is the wrong model. Musk reminds me more of late period Walt Disney, when Walt had his eye on the future, not just of entertainment and the Disney Company, but of the planet as a whole and improving the lives of those who live on it. His gained steam with Monorails (mass transit), moved onto PeopleMovers (person rapid transit (PRT)), and dabbled in energy efficiency and recycling. Then Walt united all his theories and took on the mother of all urban planning projects – EPCOT, the experimental prototype community of tomorrow. With EPCOT, Walt wanted to build a working community where he could partner with industrial explorers with a similar vision for the future.
That is essentially the same vision as Elon Musk; which is why I think there is a natural partnership between Musk, his companies, and The Walt Disney Company. To get started, create the partnership for the purposes of building a working prototype of the Hyperloop at Walt Disney World. Musk, or his team, would be involved enough to oversee things, but most of the R&D would be left to Walt Disney Imagineering. The resulting prototype would be a great first step to making a full scale Hyperloop a feasible project to get past local and state governments.
Disney’s Imagineers already have much of the expertise needed to build such a system. They have experience with air-bearings (from the Flying Saucers ride in 60s to the revisited version at DCA), mass transit systems (Monorail, PeopleMover, etc.) and for years they used a garbage disposal system at the Magic Kingdom that magically whisked away trash right from the curb side down an air pressure driven pipe. They also have good contacts in the coaster and mass transit construction industries, so finding suppliers would not be difficult.
2011 was a crazy year. A Tsunami nearly wiped large portions of Japan off the map and earthquake damage closed Tokyo Disneyland Resort. Disney Parks President Tom Staggs was struck with an idea while walking through California Adventure, less than 6 months later a partnership with James Cameron and his Avatar property was announced, but will it be a proper answer for Harry Potter? We have to wait and see. Meanwhile, Cars’ land in California and an expanded Fantasyland in Orlando hurdle toward opening while their neighboring parks sit neglected and with various states of under-utilized capacity.
2012 has the potential to be just as crazy, although we hope less natural disaster and tragedy is involved; to start, it’s a leap year so we get an extra day for crazyness to drop in. Additionally, it promises to provide the first glimpses of Next-Gen technologies used on a wide scale, a look at how Imagineering can build a world with detail rivaling Harry Potter at Universal when given the budget (we hope, they still can), and the Magic Kingdom will open the first phases of its Fantasyland upgrade, some of which are ahead of schedule. At sea, the all-new Disney Fantasy of Disney Cruise Line will join the fleet with it’s own brand of shipboard fun along with many of the old favorites..
Here’s a quick leap around what’s in store in 2012:
Sorcerers invade the Magic Kingdom (early 2012) – In an all-new interactive experience, “Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom,” Merlin the magician will recruit guests as apprentice sorcerers to undertake missions to subdue villains and ne’er do wells. Armed with magic spells in the form of special cards, guests must search for the magic symbols that lead them to animated villains’ hiding places. By casting different magical spell cards, players can do battle with Yzma, Kronk and other “baddies” hiding throughout the land. From fireballs to frantic frogs and cyclones, there are spells to bring down each and every villain, with a simple flick of the wrist. This immersive role-playing adventure is included with park admission.
New Fantasyland (early 2012) – The largest expansion project in Magic Kingdom history will open in phases beginning February 2012 at Walt Disney World Resort, featuring attractions and experiences in an area that will nearly double the size of Fantasyland. Among the novelties, guests will be able to fly high with The Great Goofini or with Dumbo the Flying Elephant, “immerse” themselves in Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid and “be our guest” at the Beast’s Castle. Out of the gate in early 2012 will be Great Goofini coaster, Fantasyland Train Station and – for the first time anywhere turning counter-clockwise – the first half of the Dumbo the Flying Elephant attraction. Completion of The New Fantasyland is scheduled for 2014 with most new experiences open by 2013.
Royal Guest Rooms (mid-February 2012) – Imagine waking up in a place where Disney Princes and Princesses have stayed. Beginning mid-February 2012, Walt Disney World guests staying at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside will discover special treasures left behind by the stars of favorite animated films such as “Aladdin,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Princess and the Frog.” In quarters befitting the young Princes and Princesses of the family (their parents, too!), guests can unwind amid remarkable décor. They’ll be able to watch “fireworks” swirl as they recline in ornate beds, curl up in custom linens and more. It is majesty and fun, rolled into one. Each of the 512 Royal Guest Rooms sleeps up to four guests in two queen beds.
Launch of Disney Fantasy (March 2012) – The Muppets leading guests in an interactive detective adventure game around the ship. Guests’ own drawings springing to life and dancing with animated Disney characters. Two new Broadway-caliber, spectacular musical stage shows. A Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique for magical princess and pirate makeovers. A fanciful water play area called AquaLab. Disney Fantasy, the newest ship in the Disney Cruise Line fleet, will bring to life these innovations and more, offering a cruise experience from stem to stern that caters to every member of the family. The 4,000-passenger Disney Fantasy will sail week-long Caribbean cruises from Port Canaveral, Fla., with its maiden voyage scheduled for March 31, 2012.
Disney Cruise Line Visits New Ports, Offers New Itineraries (beginning May 2012) – For the first time ever, Disney Cruise Line will set sail from three new ports in 2012 – New York, Seattle and Galveston, Texas – with several new itineraries planned. Beginning in May, the Disney Magic will sail 20 cruises from New York – including eight-night cruises to the Bahamas, five-night cruises up the New England coast to Canada and two-night weekend cruises. Also beginning in May, the Disney Wonder will sail 14 seven-night cruises from the Port of Seattle to Tracy Arm, Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan, Alaska, as well as Victoria, British Columbia. Beginning in September, the Disney Magic will sail 12 seven-night cruises from the Port of Galveston to the Western Caribbean.
Disney’s Art of Animation Resort (May 2012) – A new resort hotel inspired by Disney animation will feature 1,120 family suites themed after “The Lion King,” “Cars” and “Finding Nemo,” and 864 themed rooms in “The Little Mermaid” wings. Animated scenes will carry throughout building exteriors and room interiors and feature larger-than-life icons from the animated films in courtyard areas. Nemo will be the first wing to open, in May 2012, at the resort hotel — Disney World’s 25th. The “Cars” wing is scheduled to open in late July and “The Lion King” wing in late September. The final wing, themed after “The Little Mermaid,” will debut in late 2012. Crowned by a 35-foot-tall model of King Triton, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort will be located next to Disney’s Pop Century Resort.
Hit the Road with Mater and Lightning McQueen (summer 2012) — Some of the biggest thrills in the Disney California Adventure expansion are just down the road. Crowning the multi-year expansion project in 2012 will be the opening of Cars Land, inspired by the Disney•Pixar blockbuster “Cars.” Cars Land will feature three immersive family attractions showcasing characters and settings from the movie, including one of the largest and most elaborate attractions ever created for a Disney park: Radiator Springs Racers, a twisting turning, high-speed adventure through the town and desert valleys of Radiator Springs. Other Cars Land attractions will include Luigi’s Flying Tires (striking a chord with anyone who remembers the Flying Saucers in Tomorrowland) and Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree, a spinning attraction with a musical, hoedown theme. Guests also will enjoy “Cars”-themed dining and shopping locations.
Which of these coming attractions are you most looking forward to?
Other Walt Disney World openings below the jump: