Walt Disney Imagineering ‘Living Worlds’ Project Seeking Designers to Engage in Transmedia Storytelling
Walt Disney Imagineering Research and Development will soon launch phase one of its new ‘Living Worlds’ program in which it seeks to engage ‘innovative storytellers willing to push the limits to create fully immersive worlds where guests can explore, play and discover deep narratives.’
Beginning October 22, WDI R&D will begin accepting high level proposals for potential transmedia stories supported under the program. Proposals received by December 1, 2012, will be considered for round two in which chosen proposals will be engaged to further develop their concepts and submit a more detailed and developed proposal. From this second round of proposals, Walt Disney Imagineering Research & Development hopes to select one or more teams to collaborate with to create and build the proposed experiences.
To be considered eligible for the project, the experience must have a narrative arc that tells a complete story and be original in nature and may not use any existing intellectual property. It can take place anywhere must take place in a physical environment as well as on another media such as an interactive website, mobile device, another physical location or any other media format/platform. The experience also must run for at least two weeks, be able to support at least 50 people per day and be family friendly. The program is open to anyone of at least 18 years of age.
For more information on the Living Worlds project as well as to apply, visit the official web site.
Ever since its refurbishment was announced back in May, speculations have run rampant about changes being made to ‘Country Bear Jamboree,’ located in Frontierland of the Magic Kingdom theme park in Walt Disney World. Initial rumors had the show being cut in length and have since grown to include cutting out peripheral characters out completely to the return of the holiday overlay and more. The only certain element regarding the rumors was that for every rumor proposed, there was at least another that contradicted it and proposed something else.
While it’s not 100% confirmation, paperwork filed today at the Orange County Comptroller’s office by Walt Disney Imagineering show intentions of modifying both the lighting and the show control, which is a strong indication that there will in fact be modifications to the show, although how exactly will remain to be seen when the attraction re-opens on October 17, 2012.
Prior to these filings, the only related paperwork has been in regards to general refurbishment and construction as well as electrical work supplied by Ermco of Florida.
‘You must get great reception with those,’ said Mickey Mouse to a Mouse Ears-sporting attendee at the 2011 D23 Expo which took place last weekend. Gradually he stepped further away from the guest, asking the inevitable ‘can you hear me now?’ question over and over.
This is just one of the many interactions that took place at the D23 Expo in which guests got their first public, announced opportunity to speak with Mickey Mouse for the first time since Disneyland introduced the meet and greet character, decades ago.
There were actually two variations of the Talking Mickey presented to the audience, the first being a ‘live’ version which could freely converse with guests. Available on Saturday, he was replaced by what what’s affectionately referred to as the ‘Soundboard Mickey’ on Sunday, which is when we were able to catch up with him. This version of Mickey operates with a limited set of phrases with which to respond to guests’ inquiries as well as move the meet and greet along by suggesting that they all take group photos. We stress the word photos because the obvious appeal to Talking Mickey in the day when most everyone has a camera or phone that records video, the video is certainly a more desirable alternative and, in fact, Imagineering seems to be pushing the idea of both video and photos when meeting Mickey.
Although video footage of moments of awkwardness have made their way onto YouTube before, this is the biggest workout Mickey has gotten to date and after observing just thirty minutes of it, we walked away with about ten minutes we’d like to share.
What we witnessed, which was undoubtedly a huge milestone and technical achievement for Walt Disney Imagineering, was bittersweet. The largest disappointment, ironically enough, was simply that the number of children coming to see Mickey was minimal simply because he effectively did not exist outside Imagineering’s ‘Carousel of Projects’ pavilion and thus children were dominated by adult guests who would line up for nearly an hour before his scheduled appearances.
That said, we were relieved to see that adult interaction could be just as magical (although the desire to put one’s hand in Mickey’s mouth seemed far more limited). Another positive was the array of phrases Mickey has all to accomplish the same task, as you can see by the video, when he goes to sign autographs, even jokingly reciting his grocery list at one point and offering to sign the royal decree of a child dressed as a princess.
Awkwardness was still present, however, as Mickey ‘Gee, I Don’t Know’ Mouse seems to be unable to simply say yes or no (although he certainly has his share of positive phrases). One interaction, not caught on video, had Mickey Mouse asking the adult guest what he did today. When the guest responded by saying he had been shopping, he asked Mickey if he had done any shopping as well. After a bit of a pause with silence, the guest rephrased the question, to which Mickey simply gave his ‘I don’t know’ response.
It’s clear the technology has promise, but there still seems to be a bit of a way to go before Mickey Mouse (and Pete, reportedly) start interacting with guests full time in the parks. This was further evidenced by Walt Disney Imagineering filming the entire interaction, hopefully looking for ways to improve the efficiency and coherence of Mickey’s half of the conversation. In any case, it’s very clear by the video, that most attendees of any age certainly didn’t seem to mind.
One just can’t help wonder what runs through a child’s head when Mickey doesn’t talk to them the next time they’re in the parks, however.
Disney Parks has released this video from Walt Disney Imagineering which takes a look at how Imagineers are employing current and newly-developed technology to help realize the fruition of New Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World.
In essence, it’s a slightly more dumbed down version of what was presented last year at the NASA Summit by WDI Florida Vice-President and General Manager Jack Blitch, giving an overview of the Building Information Modeling (BIM) and pre-visualization (pre-viz) processes and how it even averted a real-world problem at the construction at the attraction for The Little Mermaid which could have cost the company considerably more money had it not been spotted beforehand.
What is new in terms of information, however, is the use of tablet PCs while on-site with which Imagineers can interact with each other during the construction phase, offering visual and audio feedback including participating in WebEx meetings.
Phase I of New Fantasyland is expected to open fall 2012.
Fans attending Disney’s D23 Expo August 19-21 at the Anaheim Convention Center will have the chance to experience “a great big beautiful tomorrow” as they immerse themselves in the future of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, which is currently in the biggest period of global expansion in its history.
Drawing inspiration from a classic attraction that debuted at the 1964 New York World’s Fair and has made stops at Disneyland in California and Magic Kingdom in Florida, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts invites attendees to hop aboard the “Carousel of Projects” for a sneak peek at concepts, designs, models, storytelling tools, and technologies currently being developed at Walt Disney Imagineering for Disney parks around the world.
Throughout the weekend, exclusively at the D23 Expo, fans will get a look at the latest details for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts’ 11 parks and five resorts around the world, as well as Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa in Hawaii, Disney Cruise Line, Adventures by Disney and Disney Vacation Club, including:
- Actual figures, props and ride vehicles for Radiators Springs Racers, as well as a behind-the-scenes look at the building of Cars Land, the newest land at Disney California Adventure which opens next year.
- The opportunity to meet a classic Disney icon in an entirely new way.
- Concepts, models and plans for Fantasyland, one of the most ambitious expansions in the 40-year history of Magic Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.
- What’s new at Disney Cruise Line, Adventures by Disney and Disney Vacation Club.
In addition to the pavilion, D23 Expo attendees will also have the chance to attend numerous presentations and panel discussions. On Friday, August 19, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Tom Staggs will give guests in the 4,000-seat main arena an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at some of the biggest projects currently underway at Disney parks, featuring a few surprises along the way.
- Imagineers and cast members who create and operate Disney’s parks, resorts, cruise ships, and other vacation experiences will take fans behind-the-magic with nine exciting presentations including:
- Radiator Springs Reality: Imagineering Cars Land for Disney California Adventure – Join Disney•Pixar’s John Lasseter and a panel of Imagineers and Pixar creative talent as they share the twists and turns through the real-life development of Radiator Springs.
- The Making of Star Tours – The Adventures Continue – Imagineer Tom Fitzgerald will share the inside scoop on how Walt Disney Imagineering and George Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic began laying the groundwork for a new version of Star Tours.
- A Good Look at Buena Vista Street – Imagineers Lisa Girolami, Ray Spencer, and Coulter Winn provide a preview of the new entrance to Disney California Adventure, an idealized depiction of the Los Angeles Walt Disney lived and worked in throughout the 1920s and 1930s.
- Imagineering the Dream and the Fantasy – Imagineers Joe Lanzisero and Bob Zalk talk about charting the design course of the two newest Disney cruise ships.
- Legends of Walt Disney Imagineering – Disney Legend Marty Sklar will lead a celebration of the careers and accomplishments of Walt Disney Imagineering, including Alice Davis, Orlando Ferrante, Bob Gurr, and Don Iwerks. With special guest and current Imagineer Kim Irvine, daughter of Disney Legend Leota Toombs.
In addition, and for the first time, the Parks and Resorts pavilion will also feature Mickey’s of Glendale, an outlet of Walt Disney Imagineering’s employee-only store, where—for just three days– guests can shop for “Carousel of Projects” souvenirs and collectibles and Walt Disney Imagineering merchandise not available anywhere else.
Tickets to the D23 Expo are available at http://www.D23Expo.com. Admission includes access to all experiences and entertainment at the D23 Expo, including the Disney Legends Ceremony, and can be purchased for single days or for the full three days of festivities. Admission is $47 for a one-day adult ticket and $37 for children 3-12. Three-day passes are $136 for adults and $106 for children. Members of D23: The Official Disney Fan Club will receive a discount for up to four admissions, as well as early entry to each day of the D23 Expo for themselves and their guests.
Walt Disney Imagineering has released this new video which goes behind the scenes at the most recent additions to Magic Kingdom’s Haunted Mansion attraction: the hitchhiking ghosts.
The video goes into quite a bit of detail and goes behind-the-scenes at the changes which include new audio animatronic figures and the attraction finale which now offers digitally projected animations featuring the beloved Gus, Ezra and Phineas which dynamically detects and interacts with the guest.
Stitch Kingdom first identified and reported on the patent behind this technology over a year ago and on March 12 of this year, nearly one month prior to the unveiling of the new additions, correctly identified that the tech was being applied to the Haunted Mansion.
Sometimes it’s just plain spooky how we know these things months in advance, isn’t it?
Other recent changes to the Haunted Mansion at Walt Disney World include an extended, fully-interactive queue which now prominently features the fabled actual wedding ring which has joined the Magic Kingdom Haunted Mansion lore over the years due to cast members and fans alike.
This past weekend, tens of thousands of families partook in the inaugural USA Science & Engineering Festival held on the National Mall in Washington, DC as well as satellite events throughout the country. The two-day free festival was created in order to inspire the nation’s youth to pursue careers in maths and sciences by offering various hands-on activities. One of many participants, The Walt Disney Company presented a booth and multiple presentations in conjunction with the National Academy of Engineering featuring TRON: Legacy as well as Walt Disney Imagineer Lanny Smoot.
The concept behind the booth was ’14 Grand Challenges,’ created by the NAE, which is essentially a list of tasks that the NAE believes will need to be addressed in this and future generations. Inside the booth were a few exhibits that demonstrated some of the challenges in practice as well as items from the Disney film. On display from TRON: Legacy was the life-size demonstration model of the lightcycle as well as the SHIVA laser invented by Kevin Flynn which was actually used during the movie’s production.
Relating to the sci-fi SHIVA laser scanner (which the original TRON featured back in 1982) was an exhibit on 3D scanning which helps scientists understand objects better. By using a scanning in a physical object, the computer can generate a point cloud which then translates into a mesh model and finally a digital representation of the object, which can then be explored further in digital space, modified and even re-printed as a physical object.
The next demonstration made every one into a virtual brain surgeon, even if — especially in my case — they aren’t one. Using the the NeuroTouch VR brain surgery simulator developed by the National Research Council in Canada. The NeuroTouch takes MRI data and generates a virtual copy of the patients’ brain and allows the surgeon to visualize and even practice operating on the brain, even providing physical feedback in the virtual 3D space. The exhibit offered visitors the opportunity to remove a brain tumor while controlling any bleeding that was occurring as a result and scored the visitor’s performance. As I mentioned earlier, I’m no brain surgeon, so we’ll just leave it at that.
The final demonstration in the booth was created by Walt Disney Imagineering specifically as an offering for the festival as well as the film’s premiere and uses a new innovention called ‘light painting.’ A two-step process, the visitor first finds him/herself alone in a room with what essentially amounts to a sawhorse. Reclining on the sawhorse as if one were riding a lightcycle, the system uses stereoscopic imagery to take a 3D photo of the visitor. Following the photo, the visitor is handed a wand whose tip is tracked by the cameras placed all around. This allows the visitor to virtually paint their missing lightcycle in the virtual 3D space. Imagineer Lanny Smoot, who talked about the exhibit during his presentation which I’ll cover next, compared it to using a digital camera at home and leaving the shutter open so that the camera constantly captures every movement, but here it’s in a literal 3D space, not just the 2D space a single camera could capture.
Let’s face it, audio animatronic figures are just a passing fad. Sure they look and move in realistic fashions, even so much as being able to appear to walk steps or be able to twirl a lasso, but it all comes at a high cost — literally and figuratively. They’re expensive to design and create, require expensive maintenance and heavy and large platforms and have extremely limited mobility. And that’s coming from one of the leaders in robotic development at Disney Research, Lanny Smoot. Smoot, Imagineer Gary Schnuckle and Timothy Caldwell are the driving forces behind a new patent application which seeks out the next generation of reliable, consistent, automated performances and they just might have found the answer for 2010 in technology whose origins have been traced as far back as 2000 B.C. — marionettes.
Now we aren’t talking about marionettes in the traditional sense, because that just wouldn’t be patent-worthy or (let’s be honest) time-worthy. We are talking about bringing the traditional art form to a much larger scale. Life-size puppets attached to several strings, manipulating their every move on a full-size stage in front of a live audience. Up until now, the closest performances have come to being able to provide this form of entertainment is the Japanese art of Bunkaru in which the puppeteers wear all black to blend in with the background so that their large puppets appear to move on their own without any sort of human intervention – almost.
The patent application, titled ‘Robotic Marionettes on Magnetically-Supported and Highly Mobile Puppeteer Platforms,’ describes a system in which the life-size marionettes are attached to a device called the puppeteer vehicle. The puppeteer vehicle, in turn, is magnetically attached to the tender vehicle, the two of which being separated by a thin membrane of sorts, which essentially amounts to a physical ceiling to the set. The tender vehicle on top of the membrane/ceiling is programmed to move in specific positions (most likely controlled wirelessly) and drags the puppeteer vehicle with it via the magnetic connection. The puppeteer vehicle, in turn, contains all the mechanical elements to be able to manipulate the large puppets. In certain cases, such as the case of eye movement, robots can be installed on the puppet itself, providing some of the benefits of animatronics/robotics to the anti-technological puppet.
Applying the technology to the traditional art of marionette puppetry has an immediate two-fold benefit. Firstly, while the puppets might be able to walk (or fly) across a large stage with humans in control, they are limited in the Z axis. That is, they could never negotiate the difference between up stage and down stage. Because of the thin membrane which requires no strings to pass through it, the magnetic system would allow the puppets to walk towards and away from the audience. Second, and more importantly, the system allows for the puppets to approach and interact with each other without risking the puppets colliding and/or strings becoming entangled. Although robotic systems have been developed to manipulate the puppets, it’s impossible to have multiple puppets move around each other because of the physical nature of the robotic arms themselves.
Sorry, Pinocchio, but you’ve had your fun.
On August 19, the International Board of the TEA (Themed Entertainment Association) selected 40-year attractions industry veteran Rick Rothschild, founder and chief creative officer of FAR OUT! Creative Direction and creative director at Global Immersion, as its next President. Rothschild, best known for his three decades as creative executive with Walt Disney Imagineering, will formally commence his term in November.
“I welcome the opportunity that the International Board of the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) has extended in selecting me as President for the upcoming year,” said Rothschild. “For TEA, serving the global community of those who create compelling guest experiences and places, this next year is significant as it leads up to the 20th anniversary of TEA’s founding. I look forward to leading the TEA International Board in its efforts, to building on the legacy of the past two decades, and to helping plan the next 20 years – as we look towards continued growth and improvement of benefits for the members of this important and unique association.”
A former creative executive with and current consultant to Walt Disney Imagineering, Rothschild’s projects include directing the creation of Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage and bringing back the Captain EO attraction. Blending a unique set of entertainment skills developed over 40 years of experience in the world of theater, Disney theme parks, media and museums, Rick Rothschild brings a deep technical knowledge together with a strong creative perspective to provide both vision and direction to any project.
Rothschild is also part of Global Immersion’s creative technology team supporting the development of unique planetarium and immersive theater experiences worldwide. Along with the responsibility of creatively directing and producing over 25 separate Disney attractions during a 30-year tenure as a creative executive at Walt Disney Imagineering, Rick led and participated in a variety of concept development teams that explored new attractions, complete theme parks and other resort, recreation and immersive experience related business lines. His work at Disney also included consulting with a number of prestigious museums and institutions around the United States.
“Rick Rothschild’s background with entertainment and education projects alike, and his understanding of both creative design and tech design enable him to effectively address the needs of museums along with theme parks and to speak to all TEA membership and market sectors,” says sitting TEA president Steven J. Thorburn PE, of Thorburn Associates Inc.. “Rick Rothschild has all the ‘right stuff’ to take the Themed Entertainment Association and the business communities it serves into the new, post-recession global commerce environment: creative dynamism, innovative spirit, leadership quality plus rich experience and a long line of successes at the epicenter of our industry. I look forward to passing Rick the gavel in established TEA tradition this November, when TEA convenes at the IAAPA Attractions Expo.”
Video: NASA Summit Provides Rare Insight into Imagineering; Little Mermaid 3D Model and Kim Possible Expansion?
NASA recently concluded its first Information Technology Summit in National Harbor, Maryland at which Jack Blitch, Vice President and General Manager of Walt Disney Imagineering Florida, delivered an amazing presentation to the attendees full of videos, photos and information rarely available to the eyes and ears of the public. Fortunately for those many of us who couldn’t attend the summit and attend the presentation, C-SPAN did and has made the summit available online, which we now present to you below:
During his twenty-plus years with Imagineering, Blitch served as Project Executive for the construction of Disney’s Animal Kingdom and worked other projects such as Star Tours, Tower of Terror, the new Tomorrowland, Blizzard Beach and Soarin’.