Turtles are slow moving creatures, right? Not exactly something that you'd associate with the cutting edge.
Well, you may have to scratch that idea, folks. For Epcot fans are now beginning to associate turtles -- particularly green sea turtles -- with state-of-the-art technology. Thanks -- in large part -- to the new "Turtle Talk with Crush" over at the Living Seas pavilion.
This show ... There's just no way to describe it without using terms like "ground breaking" and "breath taking." "Turtle Talk with Crush" ushers in a whole new era of Disney theme park entertainment. Where guests will now have the opportunity to have up-close, spontanteous & personal interactions with their favorite Disney characters.
Of course, theme park insiders will tell you that -- for the past year or so -- WDI has been testing a similar sort of show, "Stitch's Photo Phone," over in Disneyland's Innoventions. The only problem with that Tomorrowland attraction (Which -- FYI -- the themed entertainment industry considered to be so significant that it actually singled "Stitch's Photo Phone" out for special recognition at the 2003 THEA Awards) was that it had to play to very small audiences. No more than five people at any one time could cram into that upstairs area at where -- supposedly by satellite videophone link -- they could then have a real-time chat with Stitch as that obnoxious alien frolicked on the beach at Waikiki.
Given the high praise that Disneyland visitors were heaping on the "Stitch's Photo Phone" attraction, the Imagineers knew that they were really on to something. The only problem was capacity. How could they get a larger number of guests through this attraction every hour without destroying the magic & intimacy of the individual interaction?
This is why -- back in November of 2003 -- some tests were quietly held over in the "Drawn to Animation" theater at Disney's California Adventure theme park. This was when the Imagineers learned that audiences as large as 100-150 people could experience interacting with Stitch and still find the event magical.
The only problem was ... Experiment 626 was already slated to become the star of the "Stitch's Great Escape" attraction at WDW's Magic Kingdom. Which is why WDI had to find itself another toon to serve as the spokes-creature for Imagineering's new "Living Creatures" inititative.
Enter Crush. That 153-year-old surfer dude. The green sea turtle who won audiences' hearts in Pixar Animation Studios' Academy Award winning release, "Finding Nemo." Here was a truly colorful character that WDI could easily slot into a new show for Epcot's Living Seas. A Future World pavilion that was obviously in need of a new attraction.
But -- before this show could be sent to Florida -- some tests had to be done. Which is why WDI -- just like they did with "Stitch's Photo Phone" -- did some initial testing of the "Turtle Talk with Crush" show in the "Drawn to Animation" theater. DCA guests reportedly reacted so positively to the test show that Jay Rasulo, president of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, immediately fast-tracked this project for installation at Epcot.
"Turtle Talk with Crush" officially debuted on November 16th of this year. As to why this show isn't getting more attention from theme park fans? Well -- to be honest -- most of the focus lately has been on "Stitch's Great Escape" and the poor reception that this new Tomorrowland attraction has reportedly been receiving.
At the same time, "Turtle Talk" -- while it is obviously an improvement over "Stitch's Photo Phone" -- still has some capacity issues. The way that this new Living Seas attraction is currently being presented, Epcot employees have to hustle just to get 500 people an hour through this theater. (Which -- to put things in perspective -- is less than a quarter of the number of Epcot guests who can experience "GM Test Track" every hour.)
So -- okay -- "Turtle Talk with Crush" plays to smaller crowds. But -- that said -- they are still very appreciative crowds who exit the theater truly dazzled by what they've just seen.
"Okay. Enough with the background info, Jim," you say. "Tell me what the 'Turtle Time with Crush' show is really like."
Alright. Your "Turtle Talk" experience begins as you enter a small theater filled with low carpeted benchs which are facing a 8' by 16' screen. Which -- thanks to the continually swaying of the CG sea grass at the bottom of the screen -- almost makes you think that you're actually looking out a real window into the main tank at the Living Seas pavilion.
Once the audience is seated, the cast member who acts as the "Turtle Talks" MC explains to the hundred-or-so people who've assembled in the theater that they're about to meet with Crush, the surfer dude turtle from"Finding Nemo." This cast member explains that Crush has a few questions that he hopes we humans can answer.
Once that intro is out of the way, this same cast member has the audience call for this "Finding Nemo" character. And -- after we all shout "Hey, Crush!" -- who comes swimming up to the window? Everyone's favorite 153-year-old green sea turtle.
It's here that the real magic begins. At first, most members of the audience seem to think that they're watching yet another movie. Until -- that is -- Crush begins calling on individual members of the audience. Saying things like "You. Little Dude in the third row. The one with the bright orange shell. How are you doing this fine morning? Are those your parental units seated directly to your left? You mom's a total babe."
It's then that you can see a hundred jaws drop all at the same time. As the audience suddenly realizes that this isn't some lame trick. That this character from "Finding Nemo" is actually talking directly to them. Responding with much wit & charm to all the questions that are being fired at Crush from people all over the theater.
"So how exactly does Disney do this?," you ask. Bruce Vaughn and the other wily wizards in WDI's R & D department have cobbled together a voice-activated real-time animation system. Which -- thanks to this CG character's real-time lip sync (Not to mention the 30-frames-per-second that his image is rendered in) -- makes it seem as if a living, breathing Crush were actually on the other side of that glass. Peering in at the audience, interacting with us.
The end result is something that (sadly) has been pretty short supply at the Disney theme parks for the past few years: Real magic. That sense of wonder that pours over you whenever you experience a show or attraction that truly dazzles.
Sitting there in "Turtle Talk with Crush," I couldn't help but think that this is what it must have been like for Disneyland guests back in 1963. Back when "The Enchanted Tiki Room" first opened. When -- thanks to the then-still-new magic of Audio Animatronics -- people were dazzled by all the singing & talking birds.
"Turtle Talk with Crush" is that sort of show, folks. So -- the next time you're in Epcot -- be sure and head on over the Living Seas to check it out.
I know, I know. You're going to have to stand in a line in order to see this Future World attraction. But the wait will really be worth it.
Besides ... A little birdie at WDI told me that the Imagineers are already hard at work at a brand new theme park attraction that will also make use of the "Turtle Talk with Crush" and "Stitch's Photo Phone" technology. And this show will supposedly raise the whole "Living Creature" thing to a whole new level.
But that's a story for another time ...
Just came back from WDW and experienced Turtle Talk with Crush, to put it in his terms....it was totally awesome dude, some of the best stuff i've seen from disney....my kids loved it and so did I!!!!
The imagineers at Disney did it again.....I'd recommend the wait and the show to anyone....very worth the time waited in line....