Walt Disney World has long been known as the happiest place on Earth. Based on my experiences during a recent visit to the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Fort Wilderness, the massive theme parks are also becoming among the most tech-savvy places on Earth too.

Although I was at Disney World on holiday, it was tough to get away from thinking about my work when my Magic Band arrived in the mail a few weeks before the trip. This is Disney’s newest technological innovation and essentially put all the information I needed for my entire stay on one bracelet.

That includes serving as a key for my hotel room, doubling as my admission into the parks, allowing me to bill meals to the room when it went beyond the scope of the dining plan and featuring the myriad Fast Passes that allowed me to skip to the front of the line on several rides.

But the Magic Band was just one piece of the technological smorgasbord in front of me during my trip. On my last night in Orlando, I was amazed by the projection mapping that transformed Cinderella’s castle into a canvas for some of the coolest graphics and effects of their kind.

I’ve seen projection mapping done well at many sports stadiums – most often during pre-game introductions at basketball and hockey games or on scoreboards at baseball games – but this was the first time I’ve seen a show of this scale and with so much attention to detail. My only regret is I didn’t record the show as it was happening, although I did snap a handful of photos of the show.

Luckily for those who haven’t seen it in person, there are videos of the castle projection show. I just wish I knew who did it so I could congratulate them on a job well-done.

That castle transformation was the last thing I saw, but there was also an impressive display of lights in the classic Electric Light Parade down Main Street and around the park every night. I had essentially a front-row seat both times I saw the parade on this trip, and it continues to impress, although it’s barely changed in the decades it’s been running.

Here’s the classic Main Street light show. Warning: good luck getting this song out of your head for the rest of the day.

 

One other piece of technological delight at the Disney World parks comes on the rides. Although many rely on outdated and older methods to put smiles on people’s faces, many rides are embracing the latest and greatest technology to captivate the audience.

That includes 3D in the Muppet Theater and Star Tours ride (among others) and the use of projectors to create interactive experiences on rides that feature characters from the Seven Dwarfs, Toy Story, Finding Nemo and other newer Disney classics.

Even the Haunted Mansion and other longtime favorites are incorporating some of the newest techniques across the Disney parks. I know many of these innovations have been a round for a few years, but it’s the first time I’ve experienced most of them.

Although Walt Disney never could have pictured what his theme parks have become and will become in the future, I’m sure he’d be thrilled at how they continue to help millions of visitors every year use their imaginations and enjoy their stays enough to want to come back again and again.

It’s just too bad I won’t have any time during my next trip to Orlando for InfoComm 2015 to enjoy the technology again. I guess I’ll have to get my fill inside the Orlando Convention Center for a few days.

 

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