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Walt Disney World to Use Cell Phones in New Attraction, Give Math Tests to Canadians

30 Sep

A September 29 press release from Walt Disney World includes details of several upcoming attractions, and includes this tantalizing bit of information for Monsters Inc fans:

Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor Comedy Club. Magic Kingdom guests will laugh, joke, sing songs and match wits with the beloved animated characters from Disney-Pixar’s “Monsters, Inc.” in an engaging and interactive attraction being created by the Disney Imagineers. Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor Comedy Club features one-eyed hero Mike Wazowski, who has opened a comedy club to collect laughs that will generate electricity for the monster world of Monstropolis. As Monster-of-Ceremonies, Mike recruits two comedian wannabes whose slapstick humor delights and engages audiences. Guests will even get to text-message jokes on their cell phones for possible use in the show. [emphasis mine]

Disney has in recent years been incorporating more and more interactive elements. The Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters ride in Anaheim (Disneyland), for example, allows you not only rack up the points when you’re riding it in person, but also to participate through an online component. The Turtle Talk with Crush attraction both at Anaheim (Disney’s California Adventure) and Orlando (Epcot) uses digital puppetry to create a verbally and visually interactive animated character. Disney’s “living character initiative” is creating more emphasis on ambulatory interactive experiences, including the rumored new rolling Muppet Labs. And I could go on.

But what’s different about the use of cell phones in the Monsters’ Inc Laugh Floor is the use of an independant, guest-owned electronic input device to influence the content of an attraction. True, Astro Blasters used the web as an input device, but the space rangers on the actual ride weren’t aware of this input until they got to the pictures displayed in the exit area (if they even noticed then).

I’ll be interested to see the way in which the cell phone input is incorporated. Will the Cast Members receive the information live, and use it in real-time (similar to the experience of Turtle Talk with Crush)? Or will it be dumped into a database for later mining? Receiving the information in the form of text messages gives them more control, more ability to screen out the hecklers and zero in on the funny, Disney-friendly stuff than they’d have if they simply encouraged guests to shout out their ideas. But it also could create an overwhelming crush of data, unless they’re going to restrict text message submission only to those in the attraction itself.

The press release also includes a bit of text about the Year of a Million Dreams prizes, including this note:

For residents of Canada, a mathematical skill-testing question must be correctly answered to win any prize.

Yes, we’re all aware that this is a legal requirement for those giving out sweepstakes prizes to Canadians, but you’ve gotta wonder, how are they going to implement this for the smaller prizes? “Psssst, hey buddy, if you can do this quadratic equation, there’s a free lanyard in it for you!”

Disney Imagineers Developing Beaker “Living Character?”

21 Sep

Jim Hill media reports that Walt Disney Imagineering is working on a semi-improvisational, roving show for California Adventure, starring Doctor Bunsen Honeydew and his much-loved, much-abused assistant, Beaker. The underlying technology would be similar to that currently in use for a number of park attractions/shows, including my personal favorite, the talking trash can sometimes found wandering around in the Tomorrowland sections of both Disneyland and Magic Kindom.

Jim Hill’s article is interesting; even if you’re not convinced about the rumored new Muppet production (not everybody considers Jim Hill a reliable source), there’s an overview of a number of similar, and currently existing, “living character” experiences, including the very popular “Turtle Talk with Crush.”

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