Disney Parks and Experiences Chairman Josh D’Amaro gave a presentation at SXSW this weekend that promised a focus on “The Art & Science of Disney Parks Storytelling,” and boy did he deliver.
After showing off a very dynamic character robot and offering a look at Smart Hulk in his time travel suit, D’Amaro offered up what he termed “the true wow moment.”
D’Amaro brandished a legit-looking lightsaber hilt. He pushed a button and, “beeshheww,” a very real-looking blue lightsaber blade seemed to spring out of the hilt in his hand.
“I have the coolest job in the world,” announced D’Amaro. “I’m holding a real lightsaber.”
Video posted online captured the moment and the audience’s collective gasp followed by applause.
D’Amaro explained he was holding one of the lightsabers used onboard Disney’s ultra-expensive Galactic Starcruiser experience, but video of those lightsabers shows they have a tube sticking out of the hilt, which is not retractible. D’Amaro’s seems to grow right out of the hilt itself.
The Parks and Experiences Chairman then brought Leslie Evans onstage. She runs R&D for Disney Imagineering. “This was a hard project. This was not easy,” said Evans. She said part of the aim of the project was to “build film moments in the real world.”
D’Amaro said, “I love firing this thing up,” before hitting the button again.
Deadline reached out to Disney Imagineering for details on the lightsaber that appeared onstage, but did not hear back.
One fan posted a link to a Google patents page that appears to have schematic diagrams of the hilt and a written description of how the device achieves its magic. If you want to preserve your sense of wonder, stop reading here.
The explanation reads as follows:
…the special effects device (or energy sword, lightsaber prop, or the like) is specially configured to provide an extendable and retractable energy blade that appears to emanate from a handheld hilt due to a lighting effect that appears to provide bright hilt-based lighting.
In some useful embodiments, the special effects device includes two long plastic cylinders that are cut lengthwise. These two pieces (or blade body members) are then each rolled perpendicular to their length (or their central axis), which creates compact cylinders of material of relatively small volume that can be provided on a pair of spools or reels. The spools holding the blade body members, along with other blade-producing elements, are housed within the body of the hilt assembly of the special effects device or lightsaber prop.
To extend the blade, a motor provided in the hilt body is operated to unroll the rolled/spooled plastic blade body members from their reels/spools with each member (or blade half) acting much like a metal carpenter’s tape measure. Each blade body member passes through a blade forming guideway or passageway that acts to “zip” the two semi-cylindrical blade body members together (or with portions along their length overlapping each other or one nesting inside the other) as they leave the hilt body, thereby forming the energy blade. To retract the blade, the process is reversed with the motor acting to wind the pair of spools to reel or wind the extended blade body members back into the hilt body and onto the pair of spools/reels.
Must Read Stories
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.