The Magic of Projections – Day 13 – 23 Days of Thanksgiving

There is a lot to be thankful for when thinking about nighttime spectaculars. In fact, I wrote about how much I love them in last year’s Days of Thanksgiving series, which you can read here if you’re so inclined. Generally, when people imagine the epitome of a modern Disney nighttime spectacular, firework shows often come to mind. This makes perfect sense with recent greats such as “Disneyland Forever” and “Wondrous Journeys” to choose from. Today I want to express my thankfulness for a critical element of these shows that (at least in my opinion) makes them the triumphs that they are—the projection mapping.

We are blessed in this modern era of Disney Parks to witness a feast for the senses on a nightly basis. In any given show, the synchronization of the visuals, music, dialogue, and special effects are mind-blowing. As anyone who has visited a Disney theme park can attest, Disney Parks Live Entertainment has long been an industry leader, both in terms of creativity and the use of technology. Although competitors have tried to imitate the Disney experience, it’s still hard to find anything that matches up. I believe that Disney’s use of projection mapping in ever-evolving ways is a key to their excellence in the field.

The Show Director of “Happily Every After” at Walt Disney World, James Silson, once said that “with projection mapping technology, you can create an immersive environment for guests, taking them inside the films of Disney. It enables us to flood the palate and give our guests an opportunity to experience many of our characters’ worlds in the same show.”

I think the “flooding the palate” factor is part of what makes projections stand out so much to me. I remember back to the first time I saw projection mapping in person. It was during the 2011 show, “The Magic, the Memories, and You!” This was a nighttime display that projected guest-submitted photos onto “it’s a small world,” along with other figures and colorful patterns. A similar show also occurred at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World, with projections being added to Cinderella Castle. I remember being blown away by this show because it didn’t use the “it’s a small world” backdrop as a static screen. It actually made the building look as if it had come to life and was generating the images from inside itself. The ability to separate the pieces of the facade into distinct entities, moving and breathing independently from one another, was pure magic to me. It was the first time I realized how powerful projection mapping could be and how much I appreciated its artistry.

You can check out “The Magic, the Memories, and You!” below if you never had the chance to see it or would like to relive the experience.

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My next notable experience with projection mapping was during “Disneyland Forever,” the nighttime spectacular created for Disneyland’s 60th Anniversary Diamond Celebration in 2015. The big draw of “Disneyland Forever” was its use of projection mapping not only on Sleeping Beauty Castle or “it’s a small world,” but also down the length of Main Street, U.S.A. I remember standing in the middle of the street with thousands of other guests during the show, just in awe of the immersion and imagination of it all. The synchronization of the projected images all around me with the music and dialogue was something I’d never experienced before. Although “Disneyland Forever” also had fireworks on many nights, I’d often find myself overlooking them and marveling at the 360-degree spectacle around me instead.

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Here is the full version of “Disneyland Forever” with fireworks:

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Fast forward to 2023 and projection mapping is the new standard for nighttime spectaculars. We have grown used to the buildings coming to life and characters jumping off of their canvases into our world. Shows like “Wondrous Journeys” and “Happily Ever After” have taken projection mapping to an entirely new level, using more sophisticated technology than ever before. Projections have even been incorporated into some of our older favorites, like “Halloween Screams” and “Believe… In Holiday Magic.” But just because projections are so ever-present doesn’t mean that they should be taken for granted. Today I want to recognize how thankful I have been for projection mapping over the years. Viewing projections always put me in a state of childlike joy that is hard to duplicate with anything else.

What is your favorite memory of seeing projections, maybe with loved ones or during a special celebration? Do you have a favorite projection show? Please let us know what you’re thankful for in the comments below. We hope you’ll join us at Daps Magic each day during the Thanksgiving season to check out the different things our team is thankful for!

I hope you’ll enjoy some of my favorite shows featuring projection mapping that are linked below:

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