Many ponder over what the thoughts of Walt Disney would be if he could look at Disney Parks now. Would he be upset at how things were being run? Would he marvel at how much it had grown? What would he change? What would he love? I believe with utmost certainty that Walt would be agog over the technology and science being utilized to tell stories. Walt was burdened by the technology of his time period and always looked to the future when it came to unique ways of entertaining audiences.
Walt Disney enjoying the Enchanted Tiki Room
The limitations of animation is one of the many reasons we have Disneyland today. Walt wanted inventive ways for audiences to interact with his stories and WED worked hard to create his dreams in the physical world. Nothing is more in line with this than Imagineering’s “Living Character Initiative”. Few have heard this term but many have seen or experienced examples of this amazing technology.
The Living Character Initiative is described as “combining technologies to create new levels of Guest interaction and bring characters to life like never before.” This initiative develops seamless entertainment with characters who would otherwise have difficulty interacting with people in our world. While Guests meet and greet different characters all the time, this form of technology takes it to the next level.
Lucky the Dinosaur
Lucky the Dinosaur was the first creation from LCI and when he debuted at DCA back in 2003, Guests were stunned as they watched an untethered Audio-Animatronic walk by itself. Lucky was also able to vocalize, interact, and sign autographs. This was only the beginning as more creations like Muppet Mobile Labs, Remy, and talking Mickey were developed. Have you seen the talking Mickey before? It’s downright magical and truly blurs the lines of reality and imagination. It’s always wonderful watching people interact with the main mouse himself. Children will always look at Mickey in awe since to them, he’s a larger than life figure. Watching adults meet talking Mickey though was the absolute best. To grownups, Mickey has never spoken directly to us. We grew up with him being silent or only talking during parades and shows. This technology allows us to have an actual conversation where Mickey asks us direct questions. Adults are in awe as they marvel over the magic of the moment, but also the technology that’s being utilized to achieve the illusion.
Magician Mickey at the Magic Kingdom
Digital puppetry is also a part of LCI and you can see this best put to use in shows like “Turtle Talk with Crush” and the “Monsters Inc Laugh Floor” where Guests engage in conversations with their favorite characters. This works just as well as talking Mickey as children get a chance to now see and speak with their favorite characters within a unique environment, like Crush swimming in the ocean.
It’s exciting to think about what Imagineering can design for the future when it comes to Living Characters. As new characters are dreamt up by Disney, Marvel, Pixar, and Lucasfilm, WDI will be hard at work in their R&D department coming up with exciting and incredible ways for us to interact with them. Walt Disney would truly be amazed to see how much effort is being put into having characters more alive than ever within the park. Have you enjoyed any living character initiative experiences before?!