Castle Projections – Future of night entertainment?

Castle Projections are relatively new in the world of Disney theme parks. Why are they important? Where have they come from?

To begin with there were explorations into projectors and castles. Usually these projections were shapes projected at the right sort of area and hoped to form the image needed. Wishes in Paris would be the most notable of the tech usage until something changed…

(Wishes in Paris: http://www.photosmagiques.com/gallery/disneyland-park/entertainment/wishes/)

Along came Magic, The Memories and You, a ten minute show on Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom, Florida. It wasn’t purely a show though, instead it featured a ton of pictures taken by the PhotoPass photographers over the course of the day, so each day was somewhat unique. It featured the first castle mapping and architectural use.

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It was rather crude and was used in a very gimmicky way to begin with, but had a fair bit of charm for a new technology on its first use. California quickly came on the heals of Florida wanting to use this new technology, rumour has it that it was brought to SoCal to stop the need for the executive teams to travel to see the technology in its evolving form. Sadly California’s castle is a tad small for any projections, so instead it was projected onto the much bigger canvas of “It’s a Small World”.

The potential was quickly seen, after all, projected shows have a good number of perks, projectors and bulbs are a lot cheaper than fireworks, projectors run in almost any weather condition, projectors allow shows to be changed within a minute and can replicate anything thats done on a smaller scale.

Castle models were quickly made, each about six foot tall, one for each of the American, Tokyo and Parisian parks. Discussions were had early about getting rid of “Wishes” at the Magic  Kingdom in Florida, although it delights crowds year round, its old, every other park has already moved passed Wishes. Disney World also has Illuminations running nightly as a fireworks show.

The rumour mill filled with the idea that Wishes would soon be ushered out and in place would come this “projection” in its place. To the locals and the Disney american online community this was ridiculed, Wishes stood as a monument to the grand old fireworks at the end of the night – nothing was taking that away. Management largely seemed to agree, why get rid of something that rates so high with this huge costing replacement?

Magic, The Memories and You (MM&Y) was scoring well with the population but wasn’t hitting near the numbers Wishes attracts satisfaction wise. Replacement was by-passed.

Paris came along rather separately, rapidly approaching its 20th Birthday, it needed something, it wasn’t allowed a proper fireworks show (it was much louder than allowed locally) and Fantillusion was dying on its wheels, it was old and couldn’t be used as a birthday showpiece.

Steve Davidson was being herald as a hero for his work on World of Color, the technology of MM&Y was sitting there, and Paris brought the venue. The mix was in the pot and simmering.

Disney Dreams! was born from the work of the animation team at the Burbank Studios, the full creative team of Davidson and the musical talents of Abbey Road Studios.

The moat was drained, the water effects were installed, the projectors were put on site, a whole new control building was built, quiet fireworks were sourced and tested and finally fire was added.

Disney Dreams! was born.

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Dreams! quickly became known as the way forward. It IS still the focal point of the intersection of technology and entertainment. Those that have seen it, rave about it. Those fans who haven’t, some are dead jealous. Others aren’t convinced.

MM&Y now seemed a bit dated, quickly the teams scrambled to update it, they shifted the projectors back a tad, added a bit more pyro to more align it with the fireworks expectation of the states, Celebrate The Magic was born in the Magic Kingdom, Florida.

Celebrate The Magic was take two at exporting the technology of Dreams! to the USA. It sits as a rather hard sticking point though, do they spend the money to get the full experience with water, proper animation and sound, or do they stick with the tried and tested big bang fireworks that continue to score well.

Disney continued to “introduce” the technology state side, the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party in Florida, a smaller castle projection show at the Villains Mix and Mingle takes place on the central stage. It uses fireworks, fire, live actors and definite architectural features to further exemplify the technology.

Tokyo lines up as the next venue to support castle projections, this year it will launch “Once Upon a Time” on its replica of Cinderella Castle. It’ll feature pyro, projections and lasers but without water effects. This leaves just Hong Kong without a projection show out of all the Disney resorts.

Certainly Disneyland Paris leads the way with Disney Dreams! The other resorts are still toying with the technology while Dreams! rolls into its new versions. Castle Projections provide a platform, a technology to tell stories while retaining all the features people love from night entertainment and it’ll continue to grow. I imagine most of the Magic Kingdom style parks will be migrating their flagship offerings to Disney Dreams! style shows over the coming years.

This is the first in a series where we will explore Castle Projections further.

Published by Graeme Spence

Traveller of Disney Parks worldwide, with an absolute love for Disneyland Paris. Contact: info@dlrpr.com

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