Often the most magical experiences come from the most surprising places. This is certainly the case at the D23 Expo today. While working on some D23 Expo coverage today a gentleman sat down next to me and started talking about virtual reality. He went on to explain that he had the ability to give a virtual reality tour of Walt Disney’s office. We discussed this for a few minutes before he then took me through a very unremarkable door. Moments later I found myself in another room being greeted by a team of people who have been working on this incredible project.
Welcome to the World of Virtual Reality
As I spoke with the team they explained to me what I was about to experience. They had painstakingly gone through and digitized Walt Disney’s formal office! Utilizing lasers, they scanned the office and the things inside of it. Because of this, they could now offer me an unrestricted virtual tour of Disney’s office. Within moments I was given controllers and had a headset placed upon my head (yes, I had to take off my hat). As I was getting set up I was told that I would be able to grab things with each controller. I would also be able to use one as a flashlight and the other to transport around the room. Once the headset was on I found myself looking into a white room with white gridded lines throughout it. I joked that I felt like I was about to head into TRON and one of the Cast Members quipped back that maybe that should be their next project. Soon after I found myself in a small projection room. In it I was given a tutorial where I learned how to pick up the phone (using trigger fingers), use the flashlight (using right thumb), and then transport myself to new locations. Basically to transport you point the left controller at an area and push the button with your left thumb. This then creates a blue circle that glows and then transports you.
Welcome to Walt Disney’s Office
Once the tutorial was complete, I found myself being instructed to transport to a blue circle and Walt Disney’s office. Not really knowing what to expect, I transported myself and found myself in Walt Disney’s office. Now, I have never actually been in Walt Disney’s office. I have seen lots of videos and photos throughout the years. With it being recently renovated, more photos have been available and I will admit… I’ve always wanted to go there. As I looked around me, I found myself standing in the middle of the office. Walt Disney’s desk was there, the piano the Sherman Bros. played was there, and the globe I remember seeing Walt stand next to on TV was there.
As I began to explore the office I soon discovered I was not alone. My virtual host could speak into my ears and could also hear me. As I wandered around the office, we were able to have a conversation. I began by checking out some of the books and statues that were on a shelf. I will admit that initially I was a bit overwhelmed and really not sure where to go next or what to do. Thankfully, my host helped with this. I soon found myself by the piano. This was a piano I had seen Richard Sherman play at an event several years ago. I jokingly said it was too bad that I couldn’t sit down and play it. I was instructed to try. I used my controller to push the keys and the piano came to life! As the piano played I began to check out some of the sheet music on it. Each time I would life up a piece of sheet music, the song I was looking at would play in my ear.
There were several other fun details around the room. A model of a Gulfstream II I was instructed to pick up. As I did and then turned, I found myself with screens projected around me. It talked about Walt Disney’s connection and love with aviation throughout his life. It really was fascinating and added depth to what was already an interesting experience. Some other fun details in the room included a model of Lady from Lady and the Tramp, some animation prints/drawings on both Walt Disney’s desk and also the coffee table, and books that could be opened to see notes written in them to Walt. Many of these things when picked up also shared details about the objects. One other awesome detail was the window. Outside the window could be seen the water tower and the Walt Disney Studios. My tour took place in the evening just after sunset and it was lovely to just glance over and see it there. Finally, over in one corner is a door. Walk up to this door and put your head near it and you will hear Walt Disney speaking in his private office. It was a very special added detail to hear as I also heard Feed the Birds playing on his piano across the room.
This is the piano that is now in Walt Disney’s office that I heard playing:
Where it Came From and Where it Could Go
The technology for this tour came initially from an effort to be able to scan movie sets. Then these scans would be able to be used to recreate the scenes for consumer products, video games, or other situations where they would want to recreate the original set. When this was put into practice however, it was discovered things took longer than anticipated. The team than began looking around for other uses for this technology. Working with the Walt Disney Archives seemed like a good choice. This led to everything in Walt Disney’s office being scanned and recreated digitally… and eventually experienced by me.
The possibilities for this technology is endless. My initial thought as I was going through my tour was what an incredible educational opportunity this could be. I then soon realized how much more this could be used for. For Disney fans, it seemed to be fairly portable and could be taken different places so that others could have an experience like mine. I may not have been physically in Walt’s office, but it felt right and looked right. It created an experience that really added a connection with Walt Disney for me. I think that other Disney fans would really enjoy that. I also would guess that as time goes by, the technology for scanning will be quicker. It is very possible that it will eventually be able to do exactly what the creators originally intended on movie sets. Whether it is for creating experiences or saving scenes for future use, this is technology that definitely has a lot of potential.
This morning during the Disney Legends ceremony Bob Iger promised that there would be surprises this weekend. At the time, I assumed the main surprises I would be experiencing would involve movie and theme park announcements. Little did I know that just a few short hours later I would be standing “in” the office of the man that started it all. These magical moments are what really makes Disney extra special. It is amazing what can be done when people use their imagination. A huge thank you to the gentleman who offered me this tour and the team who then provided it. People with imagination and innovation like these people continue to take Disney to the next level. This was a incredible experience. What I now find myself wondering after it though is what’s next?
What would you like to see come next with technology like this? Would you like to go on a tour of Walt Disney’s office? Let us know in the comments section below!
At this time, I do not know what the future is for this virtual tour of Walt Disney’s office. I’m actually not completely sure who exactly gave me this tour. I do know that this was something they wanted to share with me and then wanted me to share with you, our readers. If more information becomes available about this experience, we will definitely be reporting on it at DAPs Magic!