Best Theme Park Innovations of 2021
Since its inception, The Walt Disney Company has prioritized innovation. It was the first film studio to make a full-length animated film.
Later, Disney managed the impossible in building an entire theme park consisting of attractions based on popular movies and television shows.
Now, many decades later, Disney still creates technologies that greatly enhance park visits.
Here are Disney’s best theme park innovations of 2021.
Spider-Man in Flight
This one’s more of a visual. Three years ago, Disney demonstrated this fledgling technology:
Then, when Avengers Campus opened, that innovation turned into this practical application:
Folks, Disney is spectacular!
Beacons of Magic
Somehow, Imagineers found a way to take existing Walt Disney World landmarks and transform them into gorgeous nighttime presentations.
I’m not talking about the shows coinciding with these visuals. I mean the landmarks themselves.
For the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World, Spaceship Earth at EPCOT added new, permanent special effects.
Here’s a look at the shiniest thing in Disney history:
Cinderella Castle’s Beacon of Magic show ain’t too shabby, either:
Disney has taken humanity’s love of shiny things and perfected the art with its Beacons of Magic.
Please put down your torches and pitchforks.
I understand the paid version with a similar name, Disney Genie+, upsets some fans.
However, I’m referencing Disney Genie, the virtual assistant that is free to use.
With this technology, you possess the entirety of Disney’s theme park knowledge in the palm of your hand.
Imagineers embedded Disney Genie in My Disney Experience for maximum efficiency. It allows you to anticipate the best times to experience Disney attractions.
Also, the virtual assistant will alert you to attractions close to you that may have escaped your attention.
While Disney Genie definitely has room for improvement, it has hinted at the future of park visits.
With this product, you’ll know everything about the rides, the dining options, the snacks, the adult beverages, and even the bathrooms.
Disney Genie is like Alexa or Siri, only for theme parks. And that’s amazing!
I often say that Disney bet on the wrong horse with MyMagic+. Regrettably, the company chose wearable technology just as smartphones ascended.
Now, you cannot walk five feet without noticing someone on their phone.
To its credit, Disney has adapted. The company isn’t ready to eliminate MagicBands as wearable park tech. Disney earns too much revenue from them.
Still, management understands that some people won’t pay for MagicBands. Instead, they prefer to use their phones.
So, Disney debuted this new technology. It provides many of the same services as MagicBands, only you don’t need a wearable.
You can enter a theme park, open a hotel door, or bill something to your room with MagicMobile. It’s awe-inspiring tech.
Merchandise Mobile Checkout
Technically, Disney introduced this in December of 2020. However, the technology remained in beta until the past month.
Now, several stores at Walt Disney World and Disneyland have fundamentally changed the way people shop.
More specifically, Merchandise Mobile Checkout allows you to skip the line at your favorite Disney store.
Instead, you’ll scan your merchandise yourself while you shop. Then, once you’re done, you’ll checkout via the app on your phone.
Finally, you’ll receive a QR code that you can show to a Disney cast member as you exit the store.
Your days of waiting in line to purchase products are coming to an end. Unfortunately, like Mobile Ordering, Merchandise Mobile Checkout is only available at some stores.
Still, Disney recently vastly increased the number of stores. So it’s only a matter of time until most Disney stores use Merchandise Mobile Checkout.
For two years, Space 220 seemed more cursed than Def Leppard.
Murphy’s Law was in full effect behind the scenes, as the Patina Restaurant Group couldn’t get the place open.
Then, when Space 220 finally opened in September, everyone understood the source of the delays.
The technology on display at Space 220 sets a new standard in immersive entertainment.
This “restaurant” requires a trip into outer space. But, before that can happen, guests ride a “Stellarvator,” a space elevator.
Obviously, you don’t really do this. However, when you look up and down in this enclosed space, the digital displays mimic an escape from Earth’s gravity.
You’ll totally buy into the illusion that you have traveled 220 miles into outer space.
While you dine, you’ll believe the theme even more, as digital displays blanket the walls. On these screens, Disney has created outer space effects.
You can watch some of the show here:
Disney and Patina deserve a ton of credit for working together to craft such a next-level dining experience.
WEB Power Bands
Do you not recognize the name here? You only would if you’ve visited Disney California Adventure or at least keep up with park news there.
Earlier this year, Avengers Campus opened. Along with it, Disney unveiled WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure.
This attraction allows guests to sling spider goo just like Peter Parker. It’s also an interactive ride similar to Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin.
Yes, a competitive scoring element allows you to gain bragging rights over your friends, presuming that you’re enough of a superhero.
Well, Disney also debuted devices called WEB Power Bands. With them, you unlock “multi-fire mode” on WEB SLINGERS.
In other words, you score more points. It’s a lot like the old Nintendo Power Glove, only it works.
Disney deserves plenty of credit for inventing a toy that comes with a legitimate purpose on a theme park attraction.
Okay, we are admittedly taking this one on faith a little bit. Here is a Disney cast member demonstrating the technology:
Later, the head of Disney theme parks, Josh D’Amaro, showing off the working lightsaber in front of a crowd of people:
At the 1:15 mark of this video, D’Amaro’s face represents all of us. This is a fantasy that some fans have had since 1977.
Others have spent their whole lives desperately wanting a retractable, glowing lightsaber. That time is now!
Feature Image: Disney