There’s a song in the WDW Finding Nemo Musical which seems apropos to the current situation: “just go with the flow”, Crush might belt out, and he might as well be singing about the new Glow With the Show light-up Mickey ears on the East coast. These technological marvels are a few months behind the West Coast debut, but they do stack up over here, and I suspect our evening entertainment has changed forever.
You don’t get “sea changes” that often in the theme park world. But this might be an honest to goodness one. The ability for people to “play along” from the ringside seat has been a bit of a Holy Grail for amusement industry types for decades, even centuries, and we may finally have arrived at a technological moment when it actually happens.
Mind you, this technology isn’t new. It’s been many months since this debuted on the West Coast, in the form of the World of Color Glow show at Disney California Adventure. I wasn’t there for that premiere, but I understand it was pretty awesome, with essentially every patron in the theater displaying the new ears that glowed along with the show.
This past Tuesday, they debuted the glowing ears at Fantasmic at DHS, and to make sure that the video from the ParksBlog looked great, they distributed a few hundred (thousand?) glowing ears even to those who didn’t buy the devices. Result: it looked great!! Here’s a view from a friend who was there:
Then, this past Saturday, it was time for the castle projections and the fireworks show Wishes to be part of the lineup. It was a qualified success. On the one hand, the technology worked, for the most part. When they wanted all the ears to be pink, they were indeed pink.
When they wanted a variety of colors to inject excitement into the crowd, they got that too.
I have heard conflicting reports about how popular the glowing ears are on the West coast. But I have a prediction to share with you regarding the East Coast: I think they will do OK. There’s a healthy contingent of folks here who buy glow merchandise anyway (they ARE on vacation, you remember). And the number of folks I saw with glow ears on Saturday, the Wishes premiere, was encouraging. Unlike Fantasmic, on this weekend they did NOT give out free ears at the Magic Kingdom. Still, you saw enough ears in the field of vision that it made a difference, and my read on the tourist mindset is that we’ll get enough sales of merch such as this that the shows have been changed forever.
That’s not meant to be a negative analysis, mind you. The parks really AREN’T museums, in my opinion, and it’s entirely appropriate for the designers to be thinking of ways to capture today’s audience. I would be doing exactly the same thing in their shoes, and the Glow Ears are a perfectly acceptable way of capturing their attention. And, tellingly, their wallets.
Today’s WDW visitor is likely to be entranced by the magic, for want of a better word, and they won’t look too cynically upon a chance to buy some indelible memories (and perhaps a few souvenir photos) for a few dollars. It’s an insidious thing, really, but that’s the nature of the beast. And I think it’s here to stay in WDW, so we’d better get used to the idea.
The truth is, it’s not a hard thing to get used to. Seeing several dozen glow ears on the premiere night, even when they WEREN’T being handed out for free, gave me hope that it will now be a permanent thing for folks to have their glow ears with them.
On balance, the glow ears are a good thing. But people, please: turn them off in the Haunted Mansion and the Tiki Room (and so on). They don’t add to the show there.
And now, a confession. For almost two years, I’ve been chronicling my weekly escapades and Orlando wandering from another website, where I’ve been uploading a slideshow video of my activities and the updates around the park. I’m moving on from that now, and launching my own show: WDW Clicks! (#wdwclicks for those of you on twitter)
Here’s my first show. Please feel free to chime in and/or to leave comments. You’ll see a moment in there where I challenge you to answer a trivia question – have at it either here or at YouTube directly!
(By the way, I know there is a volume issue here. The ‘slideshow’ part is too quiet and the intro/conclusion part with music is too loud. I’ll normalize that in the coming shows, but wanted to launch right now before too much time went by).
Thanks for your support and your viewership over the years. You guys make it worthwhile. Enjoy my “tour” around the parks!