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A 10 Story Tall Walt Disney?!

Jim Hill

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A 10 Story Tall Walt Disney?!

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"To all who come to this happy place ... Welcome!"

Most of you Disney history buffs out there will recognize the above quote. It's what Walt said in Disneyland's Town Square back on July 17th, 1955. During the theme park's official dedication ceremony.

And surely some of you have also seen the kinescope of Walt giving that very same speech. Where the youthful looking movie mogul beams, clearly pleased that his long-in-the-planning dream has finally become a reality.

But how would you feel about seeing this same footage of Walt Disney, projected -- in what appears to be a holographic fashion -- towering 10 stories tall over the this very same Anaheim theme park?

Sound like a pretty wild idea? Well, this is just one of the concepts that Disneyland's Entertainment office is supposedly considering for that theme park's 50th anniversary celebration. The first details of which will reportedly be revealed next month as part of the "Twilight Zone Tower of Terror" press event.

The concept -- as I had it explained to me last week by a Disneyland insider -- calls for this giant projected image of Walt to serve sort of as the finale of the most elaborate fireworks display to ever be presented at the Anaheim theme park. The show (as I understand it) begins with pyrotechnics appearing over Disneyland itself. The display then expands out to Downtown Disneyland (with fireworks suddenly flaring up from the rooftops of the shops, restaurants and hotels that border this area), then expands out to include pyrotechnics over DCA.

But as for the final image of this 50th anniversary spectacular ... this illusion will reportedly be pulled off by having two IMAX projectors (one that will be positioned on a special tower that will be built backstage at Disneyland behind Mickey's Toontown, the other will supposedly be located on top of the Anaheim Convention Center) come on the exact same moment toward the end of the show. These projectors will be carefully calibrated so that they'll be projecting their image at pretty much the exact same point. Which will be right over Main Street U.S.A.'s Town Square.

Each IMAX projector will be projecting an exact mirror image of that 1955 kinescope footage (with the film's background blacked out, of course). Each of these projectors will be synced up so that they run in perfect synchronization. The idea is ... At that brief quiet moment after the last truly huge barrage of fireworks has gone off, the IMAX projectors will kick on ...

Then -- in the smoke that's now drifting over the "Happiest Place on Earth" -- the image of Walt Disney himself will suddenly appear. Only 10 stories tall. So -- for 5 brief but very magical seconds -- the Old Mousetro himself will be projected over the theme park that he himself helped design and create, saying "To all who come to this happy place, welcome!"

You have to admit that this sounds like a pretty amazing finale ...

So will this rather spectacular effect actually be included in Disneyland's 50th anniversary fireworks extravaganza? To be honest, a lot depends on whether Disney Company officials can placate the Anaheim Resort's neighbors.

For the last year or so, a local homeowner's group -- Anaheim HOME (FYI: HOME stands for Homeowners Maintaining Their Environment) -- have been complaining about all the noise and the air pollution that results from Disneyland's nightly fireworks display during the summer. Even going so far as to demand that the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) do a study on the possible health effects that Disney's fireworks display may be having on the local community.

Though the AQMD study (which concluded in September 2003)proved to be inconclusive, the members of Anaheim HOME still remain pretty steamed. Which is why the Walt Disney Company is going to have to precede with some real caution and finesse if they expect to win over the residents of the resort's surrounding neighborhood. Particularly if the Mouse expects to get these people on board for the theme park's special 50th anniversary festivities.

With the hope that they'll actually be able to placate the theme park's cranky neighbors, Disneyland has reportedly been exploring a lot of new ideas. Among these are air launched pyrotechnics (Similar to the system that's already in place at WDW's Magic Kingdom) as well as additional use of projection technology inside the theme park.

This in-park use of projection technology actually explains why Disneyland has been in the process of removing those trees around the Hub. This "pruning" isn't just being done to help improve guests' sightlines inside the park. But -- rather -- to make it that much easier for the Imagineers to use the castle itself as a massive projection screen.

So that (again using film that was shot on site in Anaheim back in 1954 - 1955) the castle could (through the "magic" of time lapse photography) appear to magically build itself. Or Sleeping Beauty's Castle could suddenly be awash in pixy dust.

Please keep in mind that -- as has happened in the past with many rides, shows and attractions that were planned for the Anaheim theme park -- plans are subject to change.

But -- that said -- the word that came back from the tests that were recently done at Disneyland after hours (11 p.m. to 5 a.m., March 8th - 12th) suggests that people are VERY pleased with how the in-park tests went.

So -- with any amount of luck -- there could be a king-sized Walt Disney coming to the Magic Kingdom sometime soon.

Pretty cool, huh?

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