Disney explains the 'Glow with the Show' Mickey hat technology

August 1, 2012, 7:46 PM · Wondering how Disney gets thousands of Mouse ears to light up in synch with the World of Color show at Disney California Adventure?

In a new video, Chuck Davis, Principal Technical Director for World of Color explains a bit about the technology behind the Glow with the Show Mouseketeer ears that interact with the performance:

For the TL;DW crowd, Davis says that the ears use infrared technology, like a TV remote, and that the show viewing area is divided into 40 zones which can accept individual commands, allowing Disney show techs to create wave and other effects using the ears. And that's not all.

"We've just begun to scratch the surface of the technology here at World of Color with the hats," Davis said. Already, Disney's implemented hat effects inside Cars Land, and if you're worried about the distraction of all those blinking hats around the park during the rest of the day, I've heard that they automatically shut off inside dark rides, such as The Little Mermaid.

What would you like to see these hats do next?

Replies (8)

August 1, 2012 at 8:30 PM · You had a previous article in which you likened the Glow with the Show hats to the Prisoner's Dilemma. What have been the results over the summer? Have there been enough hats to get the full effect?
August 2, 2012 at 8:37 AM · I think Disney should be able to produce a less expensive Glow with the Show hat so that all park guest could afford one or have one for free. I recently went to a Cold Play Concert were they gave out arm bracelets at the door for free!! These bracelets were based on the same technology and were sponcered by social media giant Twitter. They ask you to recycle them at the end of the show because they would not work outside of the arena but most people kept them. I am sure Disney would pack a full house each night if they gave or made it more affordable for people. Theme park tickets are expensive enough. We don't need more additional expense just to be part of the fun and crowd.
August 2, 2012 at 9:11 AM · I was on little mermaid with my daughter and someones ears were cycling through colors. Not sure about them turning off in dark rides. I will pay more attention.
August 2, 2012 at 10:39 AM · Interesting, Russell. Hadn't heard that before. Anyone see that?

As to the anonymous comment, remember that prices isn't a function of production expenses. It's a function of perceived demand. Disney's charging $25 per hat (or whatever the price is now) because it thinks a significant number of visitors will pay that. (It's kicked off the project by giving thousands of ears away free to media and to annual passholders to in an attempt put enough ear-wearing people in the audience on any given night to entice others to buy a pair, too.)

I suspect that the tech cost of each hat is pretty trivial - the big expense is with the R&D and backend stuff, much of which is sunk cost at this time. So the question really becomes - "How much must these ears do before you'll pay $25 to buy a pair?"

August 2, 2012 at 10:56 AM · Interesting! I initially thought they were controlled by RF/ Wifi after we checked our phones' Wifi!

Looks like I'll be checking out the show with a camera and looking at the IR signals!

August 2, 2012 at 7:20 PM · I don't think Disney would risk the legal issues to put a radio device on someones head for 8 or more hours. That's like strapping your cell phone to your head for 8 hrs.

I think that they should be part of more shows like Disneyland's fireworks and Fantasmic. I wouldn't mind if they were incorporated in the dark rides as well but not at their full intensity. we know they can dim just looking at the videos. I also like how you can sync your ears colors with a friend so you all can pick a color and find each other in a crowd. I think the next step is motion sensitive. If you jump up or down a lot they should change colors faster and then slow down to a stop when stationary, tilt to your side and one ear changes colors but not the other and so on. The technology is already in the Wii remote just got to incorporate the programming.

August 3, 2012 at 1:54 AM · I think the can turn the hat of but you can manualy turn them on.
I don't like them but Disney is seeing dollar bills clowing in the dark and will earn a lot of my but not my respect.
I like for Disney to provide my entertainment when I bought a ticket close to 100 bucks and not fork out another 20 to be part of the entertainment.
I also find it obnoxios and distracting.
What I want them to do...explode?
August 4, 2012 at 10:02 AM · I am trying to remember if Disneyland took part in this, but at WDW during the 100 years of Magic, they had pins that lit up during shows, rides, and different sections of the park. I think there were five: one for each park and one 100 years button. I wonder if thats the same technology.

Perhaps bringing back those buttons as an alternative would be nice (though I think they were not that much cheaper).

Disney money aside, $25 for a Mickey hat is not that steep compared to some of the other ones that Disney makes.

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