Other Ten Percent 5/2/14

May 02 2014

Oh right, OTP. Hey so I didn’t really talk about Nikki and I going to Disneyland last weekend. I thought I’d sort of mentioned it in passing or something but nope looks like I just never brought it up at all. It’s kind of a weird experience to go to Disneyland for the first time after spending your youth at Disney World parks and then not going to any Disney thing for like…12 years. You get the double whammy of coming back to your home town and finding life has totally moved on without you AND this odd feeling that you’re visiting a subtly different universe somehow. It should not take quite this long to walk from Tomorrow Land to Frontier Land and where the hell did 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea go?
I don’t mean to sound like some old bastard that thinks that Disney parks used to be more fun when I was a kid or something it’s just that when you go as an adult the whole thing is more fascinating than it is fun really. Or at least it was for me as I spent the whole day with Nikki analyzing every system Disney has to regulate traffic flow in the park (when last I went to Disney World Fastpass wasn’t a thing yet so the idea of scheduling people’s time on popular rides JUST FAR ENOUGH out in the future that they had to ride one of the lamer rides to kill time struck me as one of history’s greatest innovations) or just random minutia about why you can see the whole line ahead of you at Haunted Mansion but can’t at the Matterhorn.
One of the things that really fascinated me though, and that I’m fairly sure is more a product of the switch from 2002 to 2014 than the switch from Disney World to Disneyland, is that projection mapping was EVERYWHERE. There’s a climactic sequence to Big Thunder Mountain now which Nikki assures me is new as of even two years ago and it’s all projection mapping based. A lot of the standing in line sections for rides feature projection mapping, it’s also just kinda casually thrown around as a trick to replace animatronics in a couple places which results in some really uncanny valley faces on a few robots around the park.
I wondered idly a few times what another 12 years would do to Disney Parks while we were wandering around but I really started thinking about it when I saw Bruce Sterling link this on Twitter this morning. The tl;dr of that link is that Disney can now 3D print any arbitrary shape and turn it into a speaker which is the kind of trick that somehow exists in this weird Schrodinger’s cat state of being simultaneously “able to change absolutely everything” and “totally useless.” I can imagine a future where every object in a Disney park is alive with sound and one where that’s a stupid party favor your mom buys you for 25 bucks on the way out of the park.
This isn’t the first time I’ve seen a cool “future of Disney parks” thing going on obviously. Imagineering basically exists entirely so you’ll imagine that and two separate Cory Doctorow novels have really prominent subplots that exist pretty much entirely so that he can pretend to be an Imagineer for a few pages. What was fascinating about this trip was being able to see the purely mercenary economics behind what technology does or doesn’t get adopted into Disney Parks because OF COURSE it’s projection mapping. Like if I had to imagine the cost curve over time for the perfect Disney technology it would be incredibly steep at the very start to provide a barrier to entry and then drop down to zero as soon as humanly possible to save money and that’s basically the exact curve for projection mapping. To set the whole thing up you need specialized software and the time of experts and a lot of man-hours to make sure everything works perfectly. After that you just need a fucking projector that pays for itself with two car loads full of elementary schoolers.
I’d love it if the 3D printed speaker system worked the same way where Disney was able to utilize existing infrastructure (they’ve got to have a ton of these electronic components just lying around right?) to get the whole thing rolling. A Disney park where the lamps can just start talking to you at any moment seems like it would screw with you in a way I really enjoy and then they can just 3D print replacements on the cheap when they break. Or not, who knows? Who wants to go with me to Disneyland in 12 years to find out?

No responses yet

Leave a Reply