Disneyland’s new ‘Mickey’s Mix Magic’ light projection show reflects a trend in entertainment

  • Projection light streams from a tower near It’s a Small World as visitors at Disneyland watch the new Mickey’s Mix Magic show at Disneyland in Anaheim, CA, on Friday, Jan 25, 2019. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The new Mickey’s Mix Magic show is projected on It’s a Small World at Disneyland in Anaheim, CA, on Friday, Jan 25, 2019. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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  • The new Mickey’s Mix Magic show is projected on It’s a Small World at Disneyland in Anaheim, CA, on Friday, Jan 25, 2019. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Visitors at Disneyland watch the new Mickey’s Mix Magic show as it’s is projected on It’s a Small World at Disneyland in Anaheim, CA, on Friday, Jan 25, 2019. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • With more than 35 years of entertainment experience at Disney, Steven Davison has been the creative force behind the development of immersive entertainment experiences for Disney Parks around the world. As Executive Creative Director, Parades & Spectaculars, he is responsible for the global creative development and implementation of daytime and nighttime parades and spectaculars. Among his many accomplishments are the Thea Award-winning ÒPaint the NightÓ Parade for Disneyland Resort and Hong Kong Disneyland and the IAAPA Brass Ring Award-winning ÒCelebrate Tokyo DisneylandÓ spectacular for the Tokyo Disney Resort 35th anniversary celebration. (Joshua Sudock/Disneyland Resort)

  • Projection mapping brought a new element to the vintage Bowl: Composer Danny Elfman celebrated Halloween and the 25th anniversary of “The Nightmare Before Christmas” with a three night live-to-film concert and movie screening at the Hollywood Bowl in (Photo by Kelly A. Swift, contributing photographer)

  • Concept art depicting “The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle” that will project on the castle and around “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” area at Universal Studios Hollywood beginning Friday, June 23, at the theme park. (Photo courtesy: Universal Studios Hollywood)

  • The new Mickey’s Mix Magic show is projected on It’s a Small World at Disneyland in Anaheim, CA, on Friday, Jan 25, 2019. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Projection mapping has become so ubiquitous that even a traditional organization like the LA Opera used projections in lieu of sets in 2016 to transport Mozart’s The Magic Flute into 1920s Berlin. Co-produced with Komische Opera Berlin and the 1927 animation art company (Photo courtesy of LA Opera, by Craig T. Mathew/Mathew Imaging)

  • The new Mickey’s Mix Magic show is projected on It’s a Small World at Disneyland in Anaheim, CA, on Friday, Jan 25, 2019. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood will debut “The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle” on June 23. The light show narrated by The Sorting Hat is accompanied by a special musical arrangement from composer John Williams and highlights the movie franchises houses. (Photo by Matt Masin, Orange County Register, SCNG)

  • The new Mickey’s Mix Magic show is projected on It’s a Small World at Disneyland in Anaheim, CA, on Friday, Jan 25, 2019. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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Mickey Mouse glows as he dances across the storefronts on Main Street at Disneyland.  Speakers blare out dance tunes seemingly from from thin air. This same fantastic scene is occurring elsewhere in the park, where entranced people gather to watch the enormous, colorful light show created by hidden projectors that give the impression of a magical transformation.

This is “Mickey’s Mix Magic” — the latest show at Disneyland that premiered in January. It’s the latest example of the types of state-of-the-art light shows that are providing a new type of entertainment at Disneyland and other theme parks around the world.

“I decided to do something crazy this time and surprise people,” said Steven Davison, the Disney creative executive for parades and spectaculars. He was referring to the lively Mickey Mouse animated dance party that is showing nightly, but he might as well have been talking about the state-of-the-art technology of projection mapping, which allows companies to create elaborate light shows in places that were formerly considered off-limits.

It’s a special challenge to create colorful and recognizable images on other surfaces such as castles, theater fronts, storefronts and even water. Not only must the images be easy to recognize, but they must also be able to tell a story seamlessly, over a large area, with visual, music and other special effects.

Outdoor spaces create even more challenges, such as the level of darkness and rain, for example. A large surface requiring multiple projectors means there has to be a way to blend the images so that viewers don’t see any seams, and so that, if one projector goes down, there’s a fail-safe system in place to keep the show going.

To create the types of large-scale projection shows that have been running at Disneyland, Disney took elaborate measures to map the park, including flying drones with infrared sensors over key elements in order to scan in and create a virtual model, Davison said.

Developing a show across a three-dimensional space, such as buildings, requires a special kind of complicated computer modeling. The good news is — once the modeling is completed — the scan can be reused when the current show is replaced or rejuvenated.

“It’s a very inexpensive way to create a big effect,” said Brent Young, president of Silver Lake’s Super 78, which specializes in creating immersive entertainment. “You don’t have to do a lot of sets, painting or lighting and, other than regular maintenance. All the updating can be done in the computer.”

As technology grows more sophisticated and accessible, many entertainment companies have been jumping on board. Even classical music venues like the Hollywood Bowl and organizations such as the LA Opera are using it to enhance their live performances. In 2016, for example, the LA Opera mounted a groundbreaking production from Berlin of the Magic Flute that used humorous animation, together with live performers, to update Mozart’s 1791 opera into the 1920s era. And the Hollywood Bowl’s 2018 concerts of “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas” both used projections to augment the music.

Meanwhile, theme parks have been using projection mapping for some time, creating elaborate sound-and-light shows to supplement their brick-and-mortar fantasies after dark.

At Universal Studios Hollywood, for example, “The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle,” which shows seasonally, uses projections and surround sound to show the four student houses of Hogwarts: Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin onto the sides of the brick-and-mortar castle.

Building a show with the depth and sophistication of Mickey’s Mix Magic takes a huge investment in technology, requiring 28 laser projectors that can easily cost $100,000 or more each, 100 special rooftop lighting fixtures, elaborate surround sound systems, special computer servers and highly specialized technicians to create and run them.

The good news for theme park executives? “These shows can cost millions of dollars, but updating costs far less than a fraction of that cost,” Young said.

The Walt Disney Co. is in a unique position to create animated light shows, with its ownership of Pixar Studios, Star Wars and also the rights to Marvel properties. Similar shows have been mounted at other Disney parks around the world.

“Disney has the cash to spend on whatever they want to, but they also have the discipline to ask, ‘What can we get done in five months, what can we create, get tested and execute and what is it going to cost?’” said Marty Shindler, a technology entertainment business consultant.

Unlike a live show that could require hundreds of people dancing, twirling, riding, building sets and floats, making costumes and putting on makeup, a projection light show can wow visitors, while being operated by a comparative handful of people who quietly operate powerful computers stationed around the park. These computers drive the projectors and sound system that put on the show, which are hidden in places such as windows, flower boxes, lamp posts and towers. Theme parks take pains to ensure that their guests don’t peek behind the curtain.

“I never want people to see the technology,” Disney’s Davison said. “When you’re watching a show, it’s better to just let the magic happen.”

Industry expert Ron Martin agreed, saying that “the whole basis of the industry is illusion.”

“It takes people aback because it really is like magic,” said Martin, who is senior vice-president of research and development for industry leader Panasonic North America. “The last thing you want is for a guest to say, ‘Oh, look, there’s the projector.’”

Martin, who has worked on theme park projects all over the world, recalled that for Disneyland’s 60th anniversary show in 2015, hundreds of hidden projectors “lit up the entire park from one end to another.”

The new technology has enabled theme parks around the world to more easily create new shows that can rotate with the seasons, expanding their entertainment offerings. As new theme parks are built, projection mapping is built into the architecture. Experts said they expect that Disney is installing such effects into the new Star Wars land that’s under construction now.

One of the most pressing questions that Disneyland fans want answered is whether the nightly projection shows will lead to the phasing out of the live fireworks spectaculars that guests have come to expect. Currently, the park shuts down Toontown and part of Fantasyland in order to run the fireworks shows, because the two areas are located close to the backstage launching pad.

Observers speculate whether, since Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge land is equally close, it would also have to be shut down during fireworks —certainly an unhappy choice considering the expected crowds when the new land opens in June 2019.

“Star Wars land is right in the middle of where the fallout zone is right now,” said Todd Regan, who runs the MiceChat.com fan site under the pen name Dusty Sage.

Currently, fireworks are only launched on what Disneyland is calling “selected dates,” which tends to mean weekends and holidays. Davison said there is no current plan to do away with fireworks in favor of projections.

“We are not doing projections just to get rid of fireworks,” Davison said. “There’s a lot of stuff we can do to mitigate the (problems). Our launchers can send shells anywhere we want.”

Disney has yet to reveal what the future holds for pyrotechnics, though the projection shows are probably here to stay.

“I wouldn’t say we are going to get rid of fireworks for Star Wars land. In fact, it will be a great place to watch them,” Davison said.

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Source:  https://www.dailynews.com/2019/02/06/disneylands-new-mickeys-mix-magic-light-projection-show-reflects-a-trend-in-entertainment/

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