Today, Disney released another "behind the scenes" video showing the development of the projection mapping effects for Happily Ever After, which the company promises will represent its most advanced use of the technology to date.
Personally, I love projection mapping shows best when they play with the contours of the projection surface, creating an illusion of a static object that's become dynamic. Light pours from windows as characters dance on balconies, turrets spin, and spires disappear and reappear in total violation of the laws of physics. If thats not magic, what is? But projection shows fail for me when they treat their projection surfaces like a flat, blank movie screen — projecting characters and action that get lost in the visual texture of projection surface.
Of course, projection mapping offers many more uses than just castle shows. Universal Studios Hollywood uses it to make bullets fly in the prison attack scene in its The Walking Dead Attraction walk-through. And Disneyland uses projection mapping on a live actor to make Princess Anna "freeze" in Frozen - Live at the Hyperion at Disney California Adventure. Heck, NBA teams are using it to make their basketball courts morph into all sorts of images during player introductions. Within the next decade or so, I think it's probable that we will see more theme park attractions employing projection mapping than having actual, physical queues. (Which brings up a topic for another column....)
The use of projection mapping within fireworks shows opens creative opportunities at the cost of raising operational challenges, unfortunately. With so much action now taking place on Cinderella Castle, everyone wants to watch the show from the hub, instead watching sky-high pyro blasts from anywhere in the park. That's a large part of the reason why Disney razed all the trees on the Magic Kingdom's hub, filled in half the old Swan Boats canal and turned the center of the park into a giant fireworks viewing area.
When Disneyland programmed mapping into its Disneyland Forever fireworks show, it smartly designed projection effects throughout the park — on Main Street, on the castle, on the Matterhorn, and on the Small World facade — in order to draw fans away from its tiny (and still tree-filled) hub and distribute them throughout the park. With so much of the Disneyland crowd being annual passholders who would watch the show multiple times, the strategy more or less worked and kept the park from collapsing into total gridlock. (As opposed the normal, Disneyland-style, just-about gridlock.)
At Walt Disney World, with its abundance of one-time visitors, that strategy probably wouldn't work as all those one-timers would opt for the hub, anyway. I'm just waiting for Disney to build upcharge stadium seating atop Casey's and Tomorrowland Terrace in order to cram more viewers in front of the castle, like the bleacher seats atop all the buildings surrounding Wrigley Field.
Disney is debuting Happily Ever After on May 12, which should give locals and early adopters a couple of weeks to pack the hub to watch the show before the summer crowds descend upon the resort and take over that task.
Until then, what is your favorite use of projection mapping in a theme park so far?Tweet
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