Insider's Update: Look, up in the sky! It's the Disney drones!

August 28, 2014, 2:17 PM · Wow! There's so much news happening this week that we're going to run our Insider's Update recap a couple of days early. And we've got some exciting news about the Theme Park Insider website to share, too.

First, if you're a Jungle Cruise fan, just stop what you're doing and watch this video right now:

It's Tokyo Disney's delightfully cheesy promo video for its Jungle Cruise reboot, which debuts Sept. 8.

The revamped version of the attraction will have new lighting effects and other special show effects. In addition, a specially written musical sound track will be heard throughout the attraction for the first time in any Jungle Cruise. Also, an after-dark only “night cruise” will provide a unique take on the jungle adventure.

A spruced-up Jungle Cruise isn't the only new Disney project capturing attention this week. Disney's Imagineers have filed three applications for patents for using aerial drones in its theme parks. No, it's not a new, high-tech way to shoot the hippos (as awesome as that might be). Disney's patent applications describe the use of drones to hold up floating characters, projection screens, and light displays. Here are links to the applications:

Disney drone marionette
Images from Disney' patent applications

For the "marionette," think of Universal's Macy's parade balloons, but instead of people carrying ropes to hold down helium-filled balloons, you'd have remote-controlled mini-helicopters holding up the giant characters. Same concept for the projection screens and light displays.

Disney drone projection screen

Theme parks have found a wide variety of surfaces upon which to project show images, from the clunky traditional screens used by Universal Orlando's Cinematic Spectacular, to the water screens used in Disney's Fantasmic! and World of Color, to projecting on the castles themselves in the Magic Kingdom, Disneyland Paris, and Tokyo Disneyland for various nighttime shows. Disney's patent plan would give its parks additional flexibility, in allowing Disney to place temporary, moving projection screens anywhere in its parks. Not only that, by putting screens in the sky, Disney could position them to allow more viewers to see the screens without the expense of creating terraced viewing areas or dedicated show stadia.

Disney drone castle reveal
Check out this patent application drawing for a drone-driven castle reveal!

More Disney news: The Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue at Disney's Fort Wilderness at Walt Disney World is celebrating its 40th birthday on Sept. 5. And Disneyland has a new mobile website that allows visitors to buy tickets and pay for parking, in addition to making restaurant reservations and checking park schedules. Finally, Disney's announced changes to the live entertainment line-up at Epcot's World Showcase, with Mo'Rockin', Off Kilter, Spirit of America Fife & Drum Corps, and the World Showcase Players going away at the end of September, in favor of new acts.

Speaking of closures, the Flintstones Bar-B-Q is closing at Universal Studios Hollywood on Sept. 1, according to one report. If you've been in the park lately, you've seen The Wizarding World of Harry Potter rising behind the Flintstones' shack, and have known that the end was near.

Last item: As I suggested above, we've got some changes coming here at Theme Park Insider. I've been working on a site redesign, which we will be launching in early September. We're wrapping up template creation and testing now, and I think you'll like the new look we'll have soon. It retains our basic functionality, while freshening the overall look. Plus, we'll have a fun, new "Insiders" subscription option that will allow participants access to some new Insiders-only bonus features on the site, as well as to in-park events we'll be planning in the months to come. Keep reading!

Replies (15)

August 28, 2014 at 2:33 PM · Although I like the drone concepts I'll think it'll never work. Wind and safety issues and the power of those drones will make it unsuitable for theme park use.
August 28, 2014 at 2:34 PM · My wife just looked at the drawing for the drone aerial screen and said, "Isn't that like in The Hunger Games?"

Mind. Blown.

August 28, 2014 at 2:48 PM · A fleet of drones over a crowded theme park with giant sails attached to them.... what could possibly go wrong?
August 28, 2014 at 2:50 PM · ^^^^^^ Isn't that the definition of a typical theme park ride? All seems to be going OK and then something terrible happens?
August 28, 2014 at 3:05 PM · Beyond the obvious safety issues, my concern is about how quiet they could be and how long the power supply would last to keep them doing their thing for en entire parade or night time spectacular.
A Lotte World in Korea is already using drone operated lanterns in a show, but I think the lanterns are actually helium balloons so the energy is only being used to move them, not levitate them. The show also takes place inside a huge building so weather and gusts of wind are not an issue.
Still, it opens up amazing possibilities.
August 28, 2014 at 3:18 PM · The Jungle Cruise video was like "Hunger Games". LOL!!!

The drones pulling up the puppets and screens are a major surprise. I didn't expect it. I wonder how practical the whole thing is. It is impractical to train people to manually operate the numerous drones. The drones would all have to be computer controlled.

Does this mean fireworks are disappearing? You can't have the screens and the fireworks together. The smoke will obstruct the screens. I guess the new pixel technology will substitute for the fireworks.

Maybe this won't work. A failure could be LightMagic II. A windy day will ruin the show.

Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue? Okay, I hate it, but it still survived. Some people eat it up.

August 28, 2014 at 3:48 PM · Woah! I can't wait to see projected animated characters in the sky! Since you mentioned the Flinstones BBQ shutting down for Potter, I also read a report from both Screamscape and saying that the Soundstage 28 at USH to the left of Transformers could close soon. I know how many people are sad as it is historic, but on the other hand, do you think this could mean that Hollywood could be getting a West Coast Version of Diagon Alley? That would certainly make sense as the only way to get from the upper and lower lots is the annoying and monotonous starway. The Hogwarts Express would indeed be very welcome in Hollywood to shuttle people between the Upper and Lower lots :)
August 28, 2014 at 3:52 PM · Robert, does this mean that JAMMitors are gone??? (They are my favorite Epcot Live Entertainment????
August 28, 2014 at 5:09 PM · I believe that the cut acts are limited to those listed above.
August 28, 2014 at 5:10 PM · Max,

I think you're on to something. ;^)

August 28, 2014 at 5:41 PM · While I suppose both the screens and marionettes might be a bit more ambitious, these applications might be used for a special private event and/or media day one-off like the flying dragon used around the opening of New Fantasyland.
August 28, 2014 at 7:53 PM · At least we will never see lame half Raptor man again at Animal Kingdom.

I'm surprised Disney is not using the drones lasers to check for tickets at all it's up charge events. They could make a photopass drone to follow you everywhere. Where is the Wall-e drone to pick my trash?

An up charge for a website it's like I'm at WDW. I hope it works I have visited this site for years but most news breaks on twitter now. Good luck. Does it come with themed cupcakes?

August 28, 2014 at 10:19 PM · That's definitely my gut feeling, Robert! They also have the Panda Express and Ben N' Jerry's on the lower lot that just looks completely out of place from the rest of the lower lot! The lower lot in general needs a big thematic overhaul! I guess the question is is if the Tomb Traders store across from the Mummy would survive. I suppose they could relocate a Mummy-themed store next to the Mummy ride itself. I also found a Variety article that confirms that they are indeed knocking down the Soundstage 28 here for a "theme park expansion": It claims that the aging soundstage is worn out and is claimed to be "too noisy" next door to Transformers. That could easily become the future Gringotts right there ;) I guess the question would be if they would be able to fit the whole London Embankment or downscale it to include just Kings Cross Station and/or the subway entrance to Diagon Alley.
August 29, 2014 at 8:21 AM · Not Off Kilter?!?!? They have been a must see for me since my College Program days. I still listen to their CD's all the time. They will be surely missed by my family.
August 29, 2014 at 12:40 PM · @Tim: I hope you enjoy yourself! The Skeleton Rooms are a nice bonus, but don't feel like you're missing out on too much.

@Anonymous Human: You are right, my mistake. I got the names mixed up.

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