How Panasonic helped Disney bring Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge experiences to life
Disney has used Panasonic technology to bring captivating experiences to life for more than 20 years. Today, we continue to help Disney make magic for its guests, whether they are visiting Disney theme parks in the U.S., traveling on Disney Cruise Line ships or attending fan events. With solutions such as advanced 3D displays, 4K broadcast camera systems, and projection equipment, Panasonic supports Disney’s most imaginative endeavors.
In 2015, Disney announced the development of an all-new Star Wars-themed land, planned for Disneyland® Resort in Anaheim, California and Walt Disney World® Resort near Orlando, Florida. The idea of this new land – and the prospect of transporting guests to a galaxy far, far away – created a tremendous amount of excitement.
Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance fully immerse guests in their own Star Wars adventures, requiring seamless integration of imagery and innovative new technology.
Disney and Panasonic collaborated to develop technology solutions that would create a high-quality, seamless experience for guests, ultimately turning to what would become the award-winning PT-RQ13K 4K+ illuminated laser projector, which provides 10,000 lumens and ranks among the world’s lightest and most compact high-contrast projectors.
Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run gives guests the opportunity to fly the Millennium Falcon in a fully immersive setting, complete with film-quality views displayed with the help of Panasonic projectors. Similarly, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance brings guests into a thrilling battle between the First Order and the Resistance, and is one of the most immersive and technologically advanced attractions ever created by Disney.
Today, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is a reality. Set in the village of Black Spire Outpost on the wild frontier planet of Batuu, the land features shops, restaurants and two unique attractions: Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. The fan-favorite land is already one of the highest rated experiences at both parks and has been named one of Time’s World’s Greatest Places 2019, among other awards.
Walt Disney Imagineering is the creative engine that designs and builds all Disney theme parks, resorts, attractions and cruise ships worldwide – including Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Imagineering uses Panasonic projection solutions on many iconic attractions to immerse guests in the stories they love with high picture quality, accurate color, high brightness and rich contrast.
Early in the design process for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Imagineering approached Panasonic to discuss imaging solutions for the two attractions in the new land. To create Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, Disney developed new projection systems with the help of Panasonic technology that was not yet on the market – ultimately creating an experience unlike anything seen before.
The Millennium Falcon takes flight
Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run lets guests take control of the most famous ship in the galaxy as a pilot, engineer or gunner. The engines rumble as the Millennium Falcon blasts off, pushing you and your crew back into your seats as you jump into hyperspace towards adventure. The outcomes of guests’ actions are rendered in real time with stunning, engaging visuals.
In the Star Wars films, what is seen through the cockpit window of the Millennium Falcon is an essential story element – an experience that Imagineers wanted to deliver to guests. Meeting this challenge was an extraordinary effort, and the technology to create the visual elements didn’t yet exist.
For one, available 3D technology would have required guests to put on glasses, and no one wanted to interrupt the overall experience with eyewear. “We knew that we needed to create an exceptional and seamless experience for our guests,” said Paul Bailey, technical director, Walt Disney Imagineering. “Ultimately, we realized that we were going to need new systems to make this a reality, and this sparked our collaboration with Panasonic.”
The Millennium Falcon’s design presented a special set of challenges. Its elongated front and paned windows allow occupants to look out in many directions, requiring a special imaging system that would offer guests a continuous experience from each position in the cockpit. Disney achieved this effect with the help of Panasonic technology not yet on the market: the PT-RQ13K 4K+ illuminated laser projector, which provides 10,000 lumens and can project film-quality images from a distance for an even more immersive experience.
Ron Martin, Panasonic Hollywood Labs Director of Research and Development, noted, “A great immersive experience creates emotional stakes for the guest. In the case of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, this means that when a guest sits at the controls of the Millennium Falcon and looks out that window, they don’t simply acknowledge that they are seeing a good projection image. They have to be able to say, ‘Wow, I actually flew it, the mission is complete, I became part of the story!’”
Experience the fight with the First Order
The land’s second attraction, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, launched at Walt Disney World® Resort in December 2019 and opens at Disneyland® Resort in January 2020. The attraction puts guests in the middle of a climactic battle between the First Order and the Resistance, featuring Audio-Animatronics® figures, projection screens, visual effects and full-size sets all working together.
“It’s one of the most immersive and innovative attractions we’ve ever created, with the story taking place all around you,” said Bailey. “From the moment guests step into the attraction, everything around them helps to immerse them in the experience – from set pieces and characters to their view out into the galaxy.”
To deliver this experience, Disney used PT-RQ13K 4K+ illuminated laser projectors and Panasonic’s Solid Shine laser technology, an alternative to traditional lamps that is more energy efficient and helps create rich, bold colors throughout the attraction.
And with a unique lens solution developed with Panasonic and other partners, Disney Imagineers were able to ensure that guests’ view of space is consistently in perfect focus during the grand finale of the attraction – a feat that requires that every pixel of the projected image is the correct size and color, in the correct position, and consistently illuminated at a short projection distance.