‘When technology becomes magic’

Shaman.<br />Photo: Youtube

No doubt, technology has changed the world. And with the rate at which the trend is going, a lot of what we experience in the real life may be determined or at least, influenced by the power and manipulations of virtual reality technologies.

Such is the situation at the Disney Animal kingdom. No wonder the Disney Animal kingdom theme park in Florida, United States, attracts huge traffic on daily basis, as visitors troop in to experience the ‘magic’ of technology. Panasonic, it appears, is the key technological company behind the blistering experiences most visitors are treated to in this one-of-a-kind theatre of animated virtual world.

Na’vi River journey is a water-based dark ride attraction at Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s Theme Park. The ride goes through Kasvapan River, showcasing native animals and bioluminescent.

Interestingly, Panasonic projection made this possible, and shedding more light on this was Vice President and Director of the Panasonic Hollywood Laboratory, Ron Martin, who revealed, “The projection technology from Panasonic enabled that imaging on Na’vi River, and we do in a collaborative effort with Disney Imagineering to create a vision and apply measures that satisfy that vision. We don’t try to direct or move them to do what we want, we make technology that enables that vision, and it is what I call ‘technology under creative control’.

“The lighting, plant life that is illuminated, are built by Disney. But all the animals you see moving, the multi-layer environment that creates the illusion of depth and looking deep into the jungle, is all Panasonic projection technology,” Martin said.

A Wondrous River Adventure Through A Bioluminescent Rainforest
During the Na’vi River Journey, guests will meet an Audio-Animatronics Na’vi Shaman of Songs. At nearly 10 feet tall, the shaman is typical height for a Na’vi. New technology programs fluid energy into her every movement and gesture. Na’vi River Journey is a sweet, lyrical adventure through a spectacular visual environment that just becomes more and more spectacular as one goes on.

Approaching the iconic floating mountains and waterfalls on Pandora, a towering totem beckons. Paying homage to the mystical Shaman of Songs, the massive totem was delicately woven by the Na’vi, the indigenous people of Pandora, and celebrates the shaman’s deep connection to the life force of Pandora.

At the water’s edge, guests board those reed boats. Barely have the boats cut the first ripples of water when a Na’vi warrior appears. With a nod, he grants passage to the human voyagers, and soon an amazing scene unfolds. A spectacular bioluminescent rainforest surrounds guests.

Interestingly, the animals and Na’vi are moving in the same direction as they make their way to see the shaman. Music is heard, which means the shaman is not far off.

This mystical journey culminates in an encounter with the Na’vi Shaman of Songs, who has a deep connection to the life force of Pandora and sends positive energy out into the forest through her music. The Na’Vi Shaman animatronic is considered the most advanced animatronic ever created by Walt Disney Imagineering; with its realistic live movement.

Pandora Brought To Life
Since 2012, Walt Disney Imagineering and Lightstorm Entertainment have collaborated to imagine and create Pandora through the talents of a team of designers, artists, sculptors, structural engineers, robotic technicians and a host of other professionals.

The Valley of Mo’ara on Pandora is undergoing a rebirth long after a destructive mining operation known as the Resources Development Administration (RDA) ceased operation. Eco-tourists, for the first time, can travel to this exoplanet located in the Alpha Centauri star system 4.4 light years from Earth.

Pandora – The World of Avatar officially opened at Disney’s Animal Kingdom this year, representing the largest expansion in the park’s history. This investment, along with new after-dark experiences and entertainment, has transformed the park into a day-to-night experience. This carries on the park’s tradition of celebrating the intrinsic value of nature, transformation through adventure and a personal call to action.

When guests travel through the world of Pandora, they encounter floating mountains, a glowing, bioluminescent rainforest and other wonders of an alien world.

Avatar Flight of Passage sends explorers swooping and soaring on a simulated flight above the awe- inspiring world of Pandora on the back of a winged banshee. Floating mountains, rushing waterfalls, vast seas and dense jungle pass under-wing. This multi-sensory, wind-in-your-face experience is unlike anything Disney has created before.

Guests will actually feel the banshee breathe beneath them as they soar through the forest and past floating mountains. No matter where guests go in Pandora, they will feel the presence of many animal species. Pandora teems with them.

The pack hunter, the Viperwolf (with six legs and opposable thumbs) communicates with unusual coyote-like yelps. The Direhorse (a six-legged domesticated riding animal) exhibits a gentle demeanor. Mountain Banshees, with wingspans averaging approximately 45 feet, inhabit the mountainous regions of Pandora. The most fearsome land predator is the omnivorous, powerful Thanator. And the Great Leonopteryx, larger and more solitary than the Mountain Banshee, is the most formidable winged creature.

Where You Can Fly on a Banshee . . .
At Avatar Flight of Passage, 48 guests at a time can enter a state-of-the-art theater and board mountain banshees as avatars for the ride of their lives across Pandora. Immersion in the world of Pandora is complete thanks to a projection screen 69 feet wide and more than 97 feet high. Flight time during the six-minute experience is about four minutes.

Future Of Technology In Media Entertainment
The current trends in technology only suggest that in the future, more technologies would be used to create an immersive experience for visitors at theme parks. According to a report, Artificial Intelligence (AI) will advance to the point that it is able to converse with visitors and combine its understanding with technologies such as Virtual Reality. It will then tailor the attraction to the needs of the consumer at specific points throughout their journey.

With Panasonic projections, Disney is set to launch Toy Story Land, which is based on the Disney·Pixar film series, Disney Toy Story Land in April. This will be a high-spirited, colorful world where guests will feel as if they’ve been shrunk down to the size of their favorite Toy Story toys for laughter and fun with family and friends. Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge is also expected to open in 2019.

Martin, while speaking on the most impactful technology in the next five to ten years in the entertainment space, and some of the human factors that may affect the use of such techs said entertainment, whether theatrical or in theme parks are media driven, proposing that projectors would be most impactful. “What we want is media that comes up to the creative task again to fulfill creative vision, and that includes issues like resolution, brightness, colour imagery.

“In a theatrical story telling environment, precision is everything. When we come in and blend that into a physical environment and theme parks, we want that precision to be there; we want these elements to complete the story rather than be a distraction to the story.

“How projection will evolve, depends on those core elements. With our products, we focus very heavily on longevity and the reliability of the product especially in theme park environments. These projectors would be contributing techs for growth in theme parks, but the cinema world is still physical but image reliance, so the evolution of that technology has to go forward,” he said.

For Martins, “The key is that we don’t want to be pushing technology for technology’s sake, but for the story’s sake, and If we achieve that goal, the guest is going to respond, gasping for joy, rather than saying. ‘Gee, that looks fake’. Everything we do in this arena is to that end, to not be a distraction, but to make the experience complete.”

Theme Park Hope For Africa
At least eight theme parks have opened or are scheduled to open in West Africa alone since 2000. Africa’s demographics show half of its population is under 20 years, a vital factor to consider for a theme park.

As Panasonic looks to engage more in media and entertainment, such as theme parks, amusement parks, Martin is optimistic that there is a possibility of replicating Disney theme parks in Africa.

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