Disney World Selling Spots on Virtual Cinderella Castle Mural
In honor of the 50th Anniversary, Walt Disney World is introducing “Cinderella Castle Mural of Memories,” a virtual souvenir. While at Magic Kingdom, you can use the My Disney Experience app to add select PhotoPass images to the castle using augmented reality technology via Snap.
This sounds like it’ll work similarly to the augmented reality technology that’s already a part of the Genie+ service, except with a few twists. We’ll run through the process as per Walt Disney World’s press release, and then share our own commentary after that.
You’ll start using the Cinderella Castle Mural of Memories by selecting a portrait-oriented PhotoPass image from your photo gallery within the My Disney Experience app. If you prefer not to use one of these photos, you can also choose from Walt Disney World’s collection of stock images featuring Disney icons and favorite characters. (Although that would be an odd decision…what’s the point?)
This Cinderella Castle Mural of Memories product will cost $9.99 and includes:
- A spot of your choosing on available sections on Cinderella Castle to digitally pin your photo, which will be waiting for you and other guests to view again and again during visits to Magic Kingdom throughout the World’s Most Magical Celebration and beyond (for at least three years).
- A special video of your photo flying from the castle that can be downloaded and shared.
- The ability to download a high-resolution version of your pinned photo from your Disney PhotoPass gallery without watermarks (a $16.95 value), both in its original form and an additional version with a special border applied that includes your first name.
- If you’re a Cast Member, Annual Passholder, Disney Vacation Club Member, or Club 33 Member, you’ll even receive a personalized border reflecting your affiliation.
While exploring Cinderella Castle Mural of Memories, you can enhance your experience with AT&T 5G in select locations surrounding Cinderella Castle. (I’m assuming this is mentioned in the press release due to Corporate Alliances and AT&T being the “Official Wireless Sponsor” of Walt Disney World, but it also might make AR a little more reliable and less laggy?)
According to Walt Disney World, Cinderella Castle has received a few makeovers over the past 50 years, but this beautiful collection of digital memories is particularly special because it’s created by the happy moments experienced by so many of you. As the celebration continues, the company will be releasing additional sections of the castle onto which you can pin your memories, so check back each visit to Magic Kingdom to see how the mural has grown around your photos.
Walt Disney World also indicates that this is one way the company will be continuing its “next-generation storytelling” and “using innovative new technology to engage guests in our theme parks.” The Cinderella Castle Mural of Memories will join other experiences like Disney PhotoPass Lenses and future additions like MagicBand+ at Walt Disney World and Disneyland.
In terms of commentary, my first thought is that this is a lot like a paid version of the Magic, Memories & You, the first Cinderella Castle projection show from a decade ago. Or a virtual version of Leave a Legacy at Epcot or Walk Around the World in the Magic Kingdom area. Both of those were removed in the last few years, but were popular and beloved with longtime fans before their demise.
This Cinderella Castle Mural of Memories seems like it’s trying to be that, but minus the cost of a physical product. Also unlike a brick or big stone pillar, it’s not visible to everyone entering the park. While I like the idea of not cluttering up Cinderella Castle with photos, I also fail to see the appeal of a virtual version of those offerings. Then again, I’m an old man at heart.
The Cinderella Castle Mural of Memories is also notable from my perspective as it sounds like Walt Disney World’s first foray into both the metaverse and NFTs. That’s a highly imperfect comparison, as this is not even a remotely “pure” version of either. Nevertheless, it is more or less a collectible that exists in the virtual world, so it’s on the spectrum of both. Sooner or later, we were going to have this conversation about Walt Disney World, NFTs, and the metaverse, so it might as well be now.
Personally, I think NFTs are stupid and the metaverse is big tech “trying to make fetch happen.” (Watch me be colossally wrong on both fronts in the coming decade.) If the last couple of years have taught us anything, it should be that the virtual world is no substitute for tactile, real world experiences. The latter is what humans crave, and there’s an inarticulable joy about occupying physical spaces.
I’m going to digress quite a bit here, but all of this is a pointless tangent anyway, so stop reading if you’re not interesting in my off-topic rambling. From my perspective, this enjoyment of physical spaces is innately human.
It probably explains a lot of the nostalgia for the 1980s or 90s, and shows like Stranger Things that are set in old malls. Or even those retro Pizza Hut commercials. The internet has been revolutionary and improved our lives in myriad ways, but there’s something to be said for a simpler time of inviting physical spaces, even if we can’t fully explain the appeal.
More to the point, this is precisely why Walt Disney World resonates so much with people. Calling theme parks a “repudiation” of the virtual world would be inaccurate–they were simply conceived of and mostly built pre-internet. While the intention differs, the end result is similar. For many suburbanites, they’re also the closest approximation of a good city–one with walkable public spaces, efficient transportation, and things to do.
Walt Disney World’s grounding in the real world is probably why games on the Play Disney app (among other things) have largely failed to catch on. It’s also why there has been a backlash to recent additions that fundamentally undermine the physical spaces of the parks and encourage more screen time. (Genie+ would’ve been controversial regardless as paid FastPass, but that’s not the entirety of the current complaints.)
Technology can be leveraged to enhance the physical world, but it also has pitfalls and all too often undermines real life. Too many technology evangelists fundamentally misunderstand human nature, and these voices currently have an outsized role in developing experiences and products. As we’ve written before, the tail should not wag the dog when it comes to tech–especially in themed design.
With regard to the metaverse, specifically, it’s laughable to see retailers like Walmart create virtual versions of their stores for browsing in the metaverse. There’s no demand for this to exist, outside of extreme use cases. (Personally, I enjoy browsing physical stores as a way to get out and do something; I also love online shopping for convenience. A Walmart that you can virtually visit is literally the worst of both worlds, combining the downsides of each, but none of the upsides.)
Disney likely does have a role in whatever the metaverse eventually becomes, but probably not as a virtual substitute for the parks as they currently exist. Whether it be a fun way to revisit extinct attractions or some other novelty, there is potential there. But also, probably not for a mainstream audience.
I also think there’s a future for virtual collectibles, but not as the NFT market presently exists. It’s a speculative bubble, and the most ardent backers of NFTs undoubtedly realize that the only way it’s sustainable is as a quasi-pyramid scheme…which is probably why they won’t shut up about all things NFT. Perpetual hype and new entrants into the market is the only thing keeping it going.
Fortunately, this “Cinderella Castle Mural of Memories” isn’t really either an example of the metaverse or NFTs. At most, it’s Walt Disney World taking a step in that direction, seeing what kind of products or experiences are viable in that general space. More accurately, it’s them getting into the virtual collectibles game.
Personally, I don’t have an issue with virtual collectibles, but I also don’t want them to be a runaway success and supplant physical additions to the actual parks at Walt Disney World. I think we’re a long way from that happening, especially given Disney’s “mixed” history with tech. Still, I’m also concerned that this is the type of folly that could see billions of dollars of investment despite having a limited market and no clear path to ROI. It wouldn’t be the first time Walt Disney World did that with a tech initiative.
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What do you think of the Cinderella Castle Mural of Memories? Will you be purchasing this? Think it’s a fun offering that doesn’t need this much analysis, or are you worried that it’s Disney dipping its toes into more virtual products and experiences? Do you agree or disagree with our commentary? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!
Love your photo of Spaceship Earth as well as you as The Genie. 😉 My sons will love them – I show him all of your photos. One is on the school newspaper at his college in Winter Park. My other son is also on staff in Hoboken for his school’s newspaper. Now I’m gonna go play with my imaginary pet. Bye!
I guess I’d rather have Disney spend a little bit of money out of Parks/Experiences/Products to do a virtual Walk Around the World than spend a lot of money to make me use a PowerGlove to enter a Virtual Magic Kingdom.\
I 100% agree with Tom, with a best case scenario that Disney’s questionable relationship with tech trends (Spending almost $1B collecting detailed data that isn’t easily analyzed in detail in a system that isn’t easily networked won’t be easy to forget) may make them not spend a lot of money on the next Juicero.
If Disney is serious about using cyberspace 3.0 as a way of being a tech company (with the comparable stock growth), they should at least use terminology that they own. Talk about people’s Avatars and, um, the term used to describe the computer world in TRON if they’re making more of those.
Oh, my goodness! I will never think of NFTs again without thinking of them “trying to make fetch happen.” So accurate. But if it ever takes off, they’re going to have to make the castle pink on Wednesdays.
I really relate to your nostalgia for the way we grew up in the 80s and 90s. Disney Parks are fantastic because they offer an escape from screens, social media, video games, streaming, etc. This is why my favorite rides don’t use screens of any kind. It’s also why I love broadway and stage shows and state/national parks and simply going for walks and driving down the open highway. As a pastor, I have engaged in a lot of online ministry during the pandemic. Some churches are discussing hosting services in Virtual Reality. It has become obvious that nothing can replace the value of being together in real time and space. In fact, there are aspects of “real presence” and how it affects our psychobiology and neurochemistry that scientists and sociologists are yet to uncover.
Love your posts. What we’re talking about is prep for the matrix. “Nothing is real. Strawberry Fields forever.”
Although the Leave A Legacy Pillars are gone the Leave A Legacy Photos are still there , just outside the Epcot entrance.
My wife and I still go to their current place and remember.
I see this as just another way for Disney to make $10 off each visitor. NFTs are silly! Who cares who has the rights to a stupid image? Why in the world would I want to “buy” a (nonexistent) space on the castle for my photo? Maybe I am an old fogey, and I am a senior citizen, but I try not to flush my money down a toilet. Even though the purchaser gets a file they could print out.
This second round of 50th birthday offerings seem really lame. We got a plastic coke bottle shaped like an old glass Coke bottle. And now a WTF virtual mural photo thing. I kind of thought that there would be more … I hated that castle cake at the time, but now I think “at least they went big”. But then again, I’m nearing 50 myself and I doubt I’ll put much effort into celebrating that milestone either. Maybe they are just old and tired :). Thanks for the excellent commentary!
Yeah, but hopefully you won’t throw yourself a low-effort 50th birthday party that lasts 18 months. 😉
Loved the mean girls reference. Would you, or any of your readers be familiar with a program that had guests leave “memories” at customer service at Disneyland? According to my 80 year old cousin my late mom did this in 1987 at Disneyland.
If I could access this record it would be amazing, but the idea of waiting in line at customer service with a bunch of people complaining about genie only to have someone give me a blank look, and the people in back of me muttering is daunting..
I know you are too young for this but thought you might know some history, about what he is talking about?
I remember how those “forever” bricks disappeared in disneyworld and can’t imagine that some written or recorded “memory” would be retained from 1987.
WAY too confusing and another way for Disney to make money off of us. What happened to the “Bubble”???
“Personally, I think NFTs are stupid and the metaverse is big tech “trying to make fetch happen.” Amen. This was a great rant/tangent/ramble…thank you for posting it.
I’m not that old (40) and I work in technology, but I am a full on Luddite with this push for AR, VR, and any reality that isn’t, well, real.
I want nothing to do with any of it, I’m not letting my kids near it, and I think it’s all incredibly lame.
I totally agree!!
I was hoping you would post about this mural castle thingy because I saw the announcement elsewhere and didn’t understand it. Through no fault of your own or your very detailed explanation/comparisons…I still don’t understand it haha. And I definitely don’t understand why I should be paying $10 for it.
I also agree with your take on the virtual world with one slight exception. I think there would be a huge market for visiting the parks virtually, not as a replacement of actual visits, but for those of us not local to Orlando to get our Disney fix in between trips. The POV videos and background music loops on YouTube are fairly popular, and I would love the opportunity to “ride” HM in a visually realistic way after a long day at work. That would not affect my desire to be in the parks for real in any way, and it would just make me excited for my next visit. Like you said, virtual does not replace the physical experience. But it could be a dang good substitute in between trips and one that Disney could potentially pull off in an engaging way.
I agree with your exception to the extent that there would be a market for this. What I don’t see is Disney going all-in on that, for fears of it cannibalizing the actual product. It wouldn’t, of course, but that would be the internal argument. Beyond that, I actually think there are a lot of interesting use cases for the metaverse and Disney–I just am skeptical this particular company can execute on any of them.
My biggest fear is that we’ll get the metaverse (or a lot more AR) layered on top of the existing parks infrastructure as an alternative to new physical construction. Much like we’ve had interactive queues and the Play Disney Parks app layered on top of the existing experience.
In the 90s Disney put out a PC “game” called Walt Disney World Explorer. It was a very simple point and click CD-ROM where you could explore the parks and resorts, learn about their history, and experience the sights and sounds (the music was GREAT).
I wish the company would issue something like that again, utilizing modern tech. There’s definitely an audience for it.
I had no idea what direction this article was going to take, but now that I’ve read it I can see your exact point, and why this does seem to be a toe dipped into the virtual assets pool. Personally, I also don’t see a lot of use for the metaverse or NFTs. At least in my corner of the internet, these are not things that anyone was screaming for…or…at least not as valuable items? I mean, we’ve had virtual pet collecting sites since Neopets…and NFTs seem like just some extreme version of that. We also know where that ended up, so there is precedent here.
But, for small-priced things? Sure, maybe I’d pay 10 bucks for my image on a virtual castle so that I could show it off to my friends. Why else does any of this exist, except to gloat about having it and then post about it on Instagram/Facebook/Insert Choice of Social Media Platform here?
Virtual collectibles are hardly new, and are becoming increasingly common in video games or elsewhere. Even though I personally think they’re stupid/uninteresting, I could see that being huge for the company. Disney fans love to collect things, especially products perceived as limited or exclusive. There’s even an upside to that, as it means less production of junk and waste.
What I hope doesn’t happen is Disney getting into the NFT “craze” in earnest. (Air quotes because the bubble is already deflating.) It’s sleazy, speculative, and the company should know better.
Thank You for voicing that. I was wondering if I was the only old fogey left.
Guess I’m an Old Fogey too! I miss the days of just “going to Disney” Now, I have to prep months in advance, and even with my annual pass I can’t always get in, I’m supposed to pay extra to see the rides I already paid for in my very expensive pass. What the heck, Disney????
I am totally with you. I had not heard of this till I saw the Disney Tourist Blog post, and I felt myself internally saying “Amen!” as I read through it. We are flesh-and-blood people with five senses; we are not virtual beings and nothing, IMHO, can be as satisfying as physical reality!