Earlier this week, media and members of D23: The Official Disney Fan Club were invited to a special preview of Disney100: The Exhibition at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This first of its kind exhibit showcases over 250 “Crown Jewels” of the past 100 years, reaching all the way back to the first contract for the “Alice Comedies” right up to the latest Marvel films, and even a sneak peek at what is to come.
As a lifelong Disney fan, this for me was as close as I feel I will ever get to seeing behind the doors of the Walt Disney Archives in person. While there are many amazing items on display, I wanted to focus on what welcomes you to the exhibit – Walt Disney.
Leading up to my visit, I had heard rumblings that a “hologram” of Walt was part of this exhibit, which I think has led to some expectations being set far too high. A “hologram” as we know it exists in our minds as the Emperor speaking with Darth Vader from Empire Strikes Back, and even the “hologram” of Tupac from a few years ago was not actually a hologram. The technology to bring Walt in as our host for this event is actually called Disney MagicStage.
Walt Disney himself stands life-sized and shares an inspiring message about innovation. Partnering with Disney StudioLAB, DisneyResearch|Studios, and Industrial Light & Magic, the team utilized cutting-edge technology to digitally bring Walt to life and create this unique greeting. Tapping the vast resources of the Walt Disney Archives, two separate audio recordings of Walt were assembled, creating his vocal script. The Disney Archives also provided footage of 1960s-era Walt to DisneyResearch|Studios, who used their super-resolution A.I. upscaler to convert the archival footage to high definition. The result was an authentic recreation of Walt Disney and a collaboration across all parts of The Walt Disney Company. As he famously said, “We’re always exploring and experimenting.”
As someone who stood and watched it at least 5 times, all I could say was WOW! This technology is something that I can remember being talked about for years, but never has it come across so real. I have had a few people ask me “why is it there?” Well, to really tell the story of the company, you have to have “your host Walt Disney.”
Disney 100: The Exhibition will make its global debut February 18th at the Franklin Institute. Tickets are on sale through the Franklin Institute’s website.