Vol. 4

"The Disney Dimension - 3D in the Parks and Movies"

By Adam Goswick

3D technologies seem to be all the rage lately. Studios are releasing almost all of their highly anticipated movies in 3D. With Disney, this current run of 3D films started with Chicken Little back in 2005, but 3D in Disney parks and movies goes back much further.

In the fourth installment of DizTech, we’re going to look at the earliest days of Disney 3D, move into today’s 3D technologies, and take a quick look at what Disney plans to do with 3D in the near future. Don’t worry – you won’t need any 3D glasses for this article.


Then to Now: Disney’s 3D Until 2005


Disney got into the 3D game in 1953 with the animated short Melody. While other studios were making 3D films years before Disney, Melody was the first piece of animation filmed in 3D. Later, Disney released a Donald Duck short in 3D. Working for Peanuts featured Donald locked in a battle over peanuts with adversaries Chip and Dale.

These films mark Disney’s entry into theatrical 3D, but we all know that Disney has great 3D presentations in their theme parks as well. This tradition of 3D started in 1956 at Disneyland. Interestingly, Melody and Working for Peanuts were both part of this first 3D show. 3D Jamboree was a show featuring both shorts and was hosted by the hosts of another popular franchise: The Mouseketeers.

After 3D Jamboree closed, 3D shows in Disney parks disappeared until EPCOT Center opened in 1982. The next two entries in Disney’s 3D filmography occurred here: Magic Journeys (an opening day attraction) and Captain EO (opened in 1986). While both of these shows have a following of fans, Captain EO has found a renewed popularity after the passing of Michael Jackson. In fact, Disney announced recently that the show will open again at Disneyland in February 2010.

The next wave of 3D shows are ones that are still with us today. The current era of park attractions began in 1991 with the opening of Jim Henson’s Muppet Vision 3D at the Disney-MGM Studios. This show, along with another Studios attraction will lead us into the next generation of 3D shows. More on that later.

When Captain EO closed at Epcot, Honey, I Shrunk the Audience replaced it in 1994. In a sort of full circle moment, when Captain EO returns to Disneyland it will replace Honey, I Shrunk the Audience there. While this change is temporary, it is somewhat ironic, wouldn’t you say?

At the brand-new Disney’s Animal Kingdom, It’s Tough to be a Bug premiered in 3D months before its 2D counterpart debuted in theaters. Years later, in 2002, the Magic Kingdom saw the opening of Mickey’s Philharmagic, and the Hollywood Studios opened Toy Story Midway Mania! in 2008. But while these newest attractions came online, new technology was changing the 3D game in theaters.


The Digital Age


New technologies tend to bring new forms of entertainment and leisure. So it is with the rise of digital 3D. Time for a quiz. What was Disney’s first digital 3D film? It came before Up, before Bolt, and even before Meet the Robinsons. Actually, the first Disney Digital 3D movie was released in 2005, and it was Chicken Little.

Disney Digital 3D encompasses many forms, most commonly RealD technology although Imax 3D is also popular. The differences between these techniques and between these and older 3D technologies involves plenty of techno-babble. To sum it up, it mostly deals with the polarization of light and, in some cases, the technologies used to display the films.

Perhaps the differences are best explained in advantages and disadvantages. Older 3D technologies asked a lot of the viewer. It was best, for example, to sit with your head perfectly level for the duration of the film. If you tilt or rotate your head, the 3D illusion breaks down. You may have noticed this in the 3D attractions at the parks.

One of the advantages of most digital 3D systems is that the position of your head doesn’t matter. This is far easier on the viewer, providing a more comfortable viewing experience. Also, in most digital 3D presentations, the glasses required for viewing are less flimsy and allow more light through. This improves the color the viewer is able to see, although slight dimming is still a problem.


Digital 3D has sparked a new interest in 3D films. I’m sure you’ve seen the advertisements for movies in digital 3D, and you may have even experienced a digital 3D movie first-hand. Naturally, Disney is now interested in bringing digital 3D into more entertainment venues, including them parks and your living room.


Digital 3D in the Near Future

 Remember when I hinted earlier at Muppet Vision 3D co-leading a new generation of Disney Parks 3D shows? The show, along with a long-anticipated update to Star Tours, are both set to receive a Disney Digital 3D facelift. You’ll probably see both updates completed in 2011, and Star Tours is set to go down this October for refurbishment.


Big announcements about the future of 3D came from this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Held in Las Vegas, CES is a chance for manufacturers to showcase new technologies and demonstrate products they hope to launch soon.

One of the first big pieces of 3D news to come out of Disney’s camp was the launch of ESPN 3D, an all new cable channel devoted to broadcasting sporting events in 3D. ESPN 3D will go live this June with the first match of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The channel will show at least 85 3D sporting events each year.

3D TV is coming in more ways than television channels, though. 3D Blu-Ray is also on its way. Disney has three titles they plan to release on 3D, starting with Disney’s A Christmas Carol in the fourth quarter of 2010, followed by Toy Story 3 and Alice in Wonderland. The bad news for both of these 3D TV options is that you will need to upgrade your equipment to view 3D TV, and in most cases these upgrades will be somewhat expensive.


Wrap-up: Bringing Things into Perspective

3D has always seemed to be a fad technology. It builds up popularity over a period of a few years, but fades away as the public grows tired of it. We’re already a few years into this wave of 3D, and although the technology is better we’ll have to wait and see if the public adopts that technology. Movie studios are apparently placing large bets that 3D will succeed, and I think Disney is hoping for 3D’s success also.

Even if you’re not a huge fan of 3D, these new techniques are amazing. I don’t know how successful 3D will prove to be, but I know that digital 3D is a far better technology than 3D of the past. If you haven’t experienced it yet, I recommend that you try it. If you have, I want to hear what you think of it! Stop by
distech.wordpress.com and tell me about it.

120x60 Disney Store