"Starbright Holidays" is a short, five-minute presentation over the lagoon between Disney Springs and the Saratoga Springs Resort. At first glance, it doesn't seem like much — just some lights in the sky. But as the lights move and change colors, the recognition hits you — this isn't a screen. That's not some computer-animated effect. Those really are lights floating in the sky!
I didn't know the best place to record the show, and, frankly, I guessed wrong. But don't worry about just seeing it when you are at Disney Springs in the evenings this holiday season. The show plays far enough in the air that you can see it from pretty much any open walkway in Disney Springs, not just along the waterway.
As I walked over to another vantage point, where I captured the last minute of the show, I had the chance to see the crowd reaction. Each person's response followed pretty much the same pattern: initial nonchalance, then a slow moment of recognition, followed by rapt curiosity.
For all we've talked about this being Disney's first drone show, the vast majority of guests in Disney Springs tonight had no clue. After all, Disney did not publicize the show and most people don't geek out over production tech like this, anyway. People who looked up and saw the presentation were genuinely captivated. How often do you really see something you truly never have witnessed before?
Produced with 300 of Intel's Shooting Star drones, Starlight Holidays is the Alpha v1.0 of what producers can do with these tools. The drones form a three-dimensional Christmas tree above the lagoon, as well as snowflakes and finally, an angel (at least that's what it looked like to me). I couldn't help but thinking back to the first examples of computer animation I watched in the 1970s, with simple pixels of light moving around a dark screen to form crude shapes. Now, 40 years later, Hollywood's using computer animation to create films that are indistinguishable from real life.
I don't think it will take Disney's Imagineers, or their rivals, anywhere near 40 years to develop new ways to use these drones that will make Starbright Holidays look like a beginner's first themed production exercise.
But as enticing a future as this show suggests, it deserves to be appreciated on its own terms. Those are 300 real flying lights, dancing in the sky. How cool is that?
Starbright Holidays runs nightly through Jan. 8, with the official debut this weekend.Tweet
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