Hologram Walt at Disney100 Exhibition
Created for the 100th Anniversary of The Walt Disney Company, the Disney100 Exhibition invites guests to step into stories using innovative and immersive technology throughout ten galleries in the 15,000-square-foot museum. This will feature rare “Crown Jewels” plus Hologram Walt Disney! This post shares all of the details plus first-look video of Hologram Walt and more.
The world premiere of Disney100: The Exhibition opens February 18, 2023 at The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. Following that, Chicago and Kansas City are set as the next two stops on the North American tour. The international unit of the Disney100 exhibit will open on April 18, 2023, in Munich, Germany. More cities are to be announced in the coming months for both the domestic and international tours.
For the Disney100 Exhibition, the company has curated special behind-the-scenes glimpses into the creation of the most popular characters, films, shows, and attractions from Disneyland to Walt Disney World and beyond. The ten themed galleries feature moving stories, unique interactive installations, and informative background information to take visitors on a journey through 100 years of The Walt Disney Company, celebrating the animated classics starting with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and continuing through present day. In addition to Walt-era history, it’ll also have its share of synergy, highlighting the latest members of the Disney “family,” from Pixar to Star Wars to Marvel to National Geographic.
“As we prepare to kick off Disney 100 Years of Wonder, we are incredibly excited to bring this fantastic exhibition to life,” said Becky Cline, director, Walt Disney Archives. “We can’t wait for guests to experience their favorite Disney stories, characters, and attractions in new and immersive ways as we celebrate all the wonderful worlds of Disney.”
President and CEO of The Franklin Institute Larry Dubinski added, “The Franklin Institute is thrilled to host Disney100: The Exhibition, the first major event to mark the global celebration of Disney’s 100 years, allowing fans throughout the Philadelphia region and beyond the very first opportunity to see these crown jewels come to life in beautifully crafted galleries reflecting the creative empire synonymous with imaginative storytelling, innovation, discovery, and wonder.”
The Walt Disney Archives opens its vault of treasures, showcasing hundreds of extraordinary objects, including many of Disney’s “Crown Jewels” – more than 250 rarely seen original artworks and artifacts, costumes and props, and other memorabilia.
Ahead of the Disney100 Exhibition’s official debut, the D23 Disney Fan Club has unveiled 23 of these Crown Jewels, from live-action to animation to theme parks to a galaxy far, far away, the 23 items showcase a taste of the wonderful world of stories that will highlight the legacy of The Walt Disney Company at the exhibition.
The list of the 23 artifacts includes:
- Story Script Page from Steamboat Willie (1928)
- Visual Development Art for Alice in Wonderland (1951), created by artist and Disney Legend Mary Blair
- Concept Drawing of Disneyland by artist and Disney Legend Herb Ryman, graphite on paper (1953)
- Nautilus Special Effects Filming Model for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
- Engineer Mickey Mouse used by Walt Disney on Opening Day of Disneyland, 1955
- Disneyland® Park Jungle Cruise Attraction Vehicle Model used by Walt Disney, “A Trip Through Adventureland/Water Birds” – Disneyland (TV, 1956)
- Prop Storybook featured in Sleeping Beauty (1959)
- Clean-up Animation for Sleeping Beauty (1959), created by artist and Disney Legend Marc Davis
- Carousel Horse from Mary Poppins (1964), used by Disney Legend Julie Andrews
- Visual Development Art for The Little Mermaid (1989), created by artist and Disney Legend Glen Keane
- Genie Maquette for Aladdin (1992), created by artist Kent Melton
- Spell Book from Hocus Pocus (1993), used by Disney Legend Bette Midler
- Mater Maquette for Cars (2006), created by artist Jerome Ranft
- East High School Yearbook from High School Musical 3: Senior Year (2008)
- Visual Development Art Digital Painting for The Princess and the Frog (2009), created by artist Sue Nichols
- Visual Development Art Digital Painting for Frozen (2013), created by artist Julia Kalantarova
- BB-8 Puppet used in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017), and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
- Captain America Shield used in Captain America: Civil War (2016)
- Lumière Production Model for Beauty and the Beast (2017)
- First Order Stormtrooper Armor from Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019), designed by Michael Kaplan and Glyn Dillon
- Black Panther Costume from Black Panther (2018)
- Cinderella Castle Model for Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World
- Attraction Vehicle from Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland Park
Perhaps the biggest Crown Jewel of all will come in the form of Hologram Walt Disney, who will greet guests at the Disney100 Exhibition…
Here is a first look at the #Disney100 exhibition featuring Walt himself.
Disney used archival video and AI tools to create a lifelike hologram of Walt. The full-size digital avatar speaks in Walt’s voice as part of the exhibition. pic.twitter.com/Rz6yhxaKtZ
— Scott Gustin (@ScottGustin) February 15, 2023
Good Morning America visited The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia a few days ahead of its opening this weekend and shared a first look video (above) at the lifelike Walt Disney display.
The Walt Disney Company used archival video and artificial intelligence tools to create a lifelike hologram of its founder. This full-sized digital avatar speaks in Walt’s voice and appears as part of interactive exhibitions of Disney artwork, props and costumes that will tour the globe until at least 2028. Hologram Walt Disney will be located at the entrance of Disney100: The Exhibition and is sure to be one of the main draws–and topics of discussion when it comes to the interactive museum.
Turning to commentary, we’ll start by acknowledging how controversial this already is among Disney fans. This debate has actually been raging for years, starting over a decade ago when Hologram Tupac appeared alongside Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg on stage at Coachella. It was polarizing from the outset, but that hasn’t stopped the proliferation of the practice.
Since then, holographic appearances have been a way to fan the flames of nostalgia, stir emotion, and (perhaps most critically) generate revenue for the estates of dead musicians and celebrities. Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, Ronald Reagan, and many others have appeared in holographic form for concerts, rallies, and so forth.
Ethical quandaries about consent and legal considerations abound concerning the commercial use of holograms. Many states have already specifically addressed the issue, with new laws that authorize only the deceased’s estate with the control over the commercial use of the deceased’s image and likeness to turn that into hologram of the individual.
There have also been lawsuits arising out of these holographic likenesses. Following the Billboard Music Award performance by Michael Jackson’s holographic, Hologram USA filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Pulse Evolution over the underlying technology that was utilized.
Speaking of which, that technology is actually a form of Pepper’s Ghost, which should sound familiar to Disney fans. Imagineering has famously used this for decades in attractions like Haunted Mansion–among many others. It’s thus somewhat fitting for Pepper’s Ghost to come full circle, in a way, to bring back the company’s founder.
As for Hologram Walt Disney and whether it’s a loving tribute or creepy, I’m torn. Personally, I find using a hologram or any technology to bring people back from the dead to be unsettling and a bit dystopian. I’m honestly not even a fan of digitally deaging people for movies, and think there’s always an uncanny valley to it. In general, society’s ever-increasing use of AI doesn’t seem (to me) to sufficiently wrestle with ethical questions or the degree to which humanity should push certain boundaries. It feels like we’re putting the cart before the horse, but that’s probably beyond the scope of this post.
I also wonder how Walt Disney’s daughters would have felt about this. Diane Disney Miller founded the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco as a way to humanize her father, and the presentation of that excellent museum is a stark contrast to the way the company often uses Walt as a corporate mascot. The Walt Disney Family Museum opened in 2009 and Diane passed away in 2013. While we’ll never know how she feels about this, if she wanted her father to be presented as a hologram, she could’ve chosen to do so back then.
Conversely, there is the reality that hundreds of thousands of visitors are expected to purchase tickets to Disney100: The Exhibition during its global tour. Every single one of these people will start by seeing Walt Disney in holographic form. As odd as it might sound to diehard fans, this will be the very first introduction of any sort to Walt Disney for many exhibition attendees.
As the decades have passed since Walt Disney was a frequent fixture on television, awareness of the man has decreased. There’s no doubt a high percentage of guests who visit Disneyland or Walt Disney World each day who have no clue that the name is derived from a real person. Reintroducing him to the public, even in what’s arguably a creepy holographic fashion, could result in renewed interest in Walt Disney, the man, his legacy, and his artistic work.
That’s a definite positive, as is the wow-factor of a hologram Walt Disney. I’m personally all for experiences like this focusing as much on the past as possible, paying tribute and drawing attention to the founder of the company. Without Walt, this whole company and exhibition wouldn’t exist. If the company instead chose to relegate Walt Disney to a few video clips throughout the exhibit that ended up being overshadowed by impressive technology, fans would be complaining that there is not enough Walt. It’s a delicate needle to thread, and we can’t have it both ways.
Whether that’s enough to justify the appearance of Hologram Walt is something I can’t answer. This is the type of thing academics and pop culture scholars have been grappling with since Hologram Tupac, and there’s still no consensus. Even before that, questions about whether the means justify the end have come up repeatedly in historic and educational settings.
At the end of the day, I think Hologram Walt is both creepy and cool–the two aren’t mutually exclusive–but it’s not for me to say whether it’s ethically appropriate. (Thankfully, as I am torn and don’t have a good answer to that.) Personally, I’m looking forward to Hologram Walt Disney, and I’m happy to hear that the man who started it all is featured front and center at this huge, high-profile exhibition.
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Will you be attending Disney100: The Exhibition in Philadelphia or elsewhere? Thoughts on Hologram Walt Disney? Is he cool, creepy, or both? Think this is a good way to expose new generations to Walt Disney, the man, or should the materials speak for themselves? Agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions? We love hearing from readers, so please share any other thoughts or questions you have in the comments below!
We are super excited to see this exhibit next Sunday! I live here in Philly and my eagle-eyed kids saw the sign tucked away 3 stories above us on a trip to the Franklin Institute about 6 months ago. I think other commenters made the excellent point that in some ways we can infer that Walt would have been on board because of his use of animatronic’s to portray other historical figures and his love of pushing the tech envelop. Perhaps he would have shied away from being compared to Lincoln, but Walt has also reached mythical status. I’m in my late thirties, so I didn’t grow up with Walt on TV, I’m looking forward to seeing “Uncle Walt” speak to me. I also think that as he’s being used to represent his own company, it’s not as jarring as if he was being used to sell vacuums or sneakers like some other dead celebs are made to do. I’m excited to see this exhibit and will almost certainly get teary eyed when seeing it.
Personally no issue with this at all and would like to see this in every Disney park in an appropriate and respectful venue like a reflections attraction or even at the end of a popular nightly fireworks and projections show. My first introduction to holograms is a wonderful memory of watching Elvis with Celine Dion on American Idol in 2007. It was a wonder then and given 15 plus years have passed, we can expect some truly great advances in technology. My only quibble with the Walt hologram is something is off with his hairstyle but that’s a small thing and probably rooted in my childhood memories of the wonderful world of disney Sunday night tv shows when Walt was older and more grandfatherly. When done with respect and dignity, holograms add a very personal presence to the Disney experience and remind us that a real man with a beautiful mind and spirit created this world. Never a corporation. The corporation is just the caretaker.
LOL at the Haunted Mansion photo innocuously placed in the article. As always, the subtle photo commentary is top-notch.
I hope this exhibit makes it way to the west coast. I have visited the San Fran museum. It was great. I think I spent 45 minutes just studying the map you have pictured. So fascinating to see what was envisioned and what was built.
I’ve always liked the idea of using holograms for educational purposes, like a next-gen version of the Lincoln animatronic from Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. Just think of how much more engaging it would be for all ages to learn about history from the historical figures themselves! It definitely makes history feel more immediate and accessible, and I could see how using AI to not just read out speeches or letters, but to answer questions and hold conversations would take the educational value to a whole new level. Outside of an educational context though… that’s where it starts to feel murky and even exploitative for me.
I tend to agree with Br16…there should be plenty of archival footage to introduce the uneducated to the Marvelous Mr. Disney.
I was a kid in the 50’s and don’t recall him ever looking anywhere near as youthful as his “hologram” appears. He was always very distinguished looking and grandfather’s, and a joy to listen to.
I can understand you being torn on what side of the Walt hologram you stand on. I think about how Walt Disney always pushed the artistic and technical barriers of his day. If the device or method enabled him to tell his story better, he would have used it like the Hologram. I am glad he his being represented to a new generation, so they can understand who was the guiding light to all the wonderful thing the man created in his career.
Will this show be at any of the Disney parks after it tours do you know?
I would like to see it if it comes to the mid-west.
I really enjoy your ability to bring us a story and present your view on it.
Keep doing what you do so well!
Just 99 years after President Abraham Lincoln’s death, Walt brought him back as an Audio-Animatronic for the 1964 Worlds Fair with “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. I think this hologram Walt Disney is just the next step in the evolution of a technology Walt himself had a hand in, so it seems fitting to me. It may not be quite that long since he passed away, but it was over half a century ago.
This is an excellent point! Walt did more or less the same thing with Lincoln, and although there are some hilarious anecdotes about how people reacted to the robot, I don’t think there was any debate about ethics. (Of course, I wasn’t alive then–so maybe there was. In any case, it’s accepted without any issue whatsoever today.)
I also have mixed feelings about the Walt Hologram, but my mind went straight to Mr. Lincoln, too.
As far as ethics surrounding Mr. Lincoln, I remember in The Imagineering Story (definitely in the book, I think also in the documentary) that Marty Sklar told this story:
“One night there was a big thunderstorm, a week before the figure had to go to New York and they were still trying to program it,” Sklar said. “A big thunderstorm, and nothing would work. And I remember Marc [Davis] saying, ‘You know, I think God doesn’t want Walt to do this.'”
(Side note, it isn’t the same thing because it’s a living person, but at the Chasing Rainbows Museum at Dollywood there is a Dolly Parton hologram (or “Dollogram,” if you will) and I get a kick out of that – since we know Dolly approves of it I’m hoping that it will keep on keeping on long into the future.)
I am continually astounded by the false claims that these types of projections are holograms. There is NO SUCH THING as a moving image projected three dimensional hologram. Just like all the dead singers who have returned to the stage, Walt Disney is a Pepper’s Ghost.
Even if technically inaccurate, hologram is a known term that succinctly describes what people think they’re observing. Nobody outside of theme park fans and magicians knows what Pepper’s Ghost means. If you told someone Tupac Pepper’s Ghost was at Coachella, they’d either be confused or terrified. However, Hologram Tupac brings delight and no fear.
I am planning to head to Philadelphia to see this, but I’m also quite torn on this hologram of Walt. There is so much footage of him from tv specials and his Disneyland show. Maybe show some footage of that instead to give younger visitors a sense of his voice and personality? There is something creepy and borderline disrespectful to his family about this.
That looks way different from what I imagined a hologram Walt-Disney to be, but…still seems pretty cool. We’re getting to the point where there are very few people still alive who have met the actual man, so I agree that it’s a good way to introduce him to a new generation. I think that will end up being a key distinguishing marker, as the distance in time from a person’s death makes it a little less like bringing them back to life and a little more like an imagined version of him. This is, after all, just an actor playing Walt Disney…a computerized individual portraying him to the best of its ability given the information provided, using digital images as its makeup. So long as those programming the AI are giving it a vast database to work with, then it’d be as equivalently authentic as, say…Tom Hanks looking at that same info and doing his best to duplicate it. IMO, anyway.
Seems like it might actually be worth making a trip for, as nothing cool ever comes to STL…
I agree with most of this, although I’d say there’s a distinction between Tom Hanks as Walt and AI as Walt, in that it’s obvious to most reasonable viewers that the former is an actor portraying a person. Still, I think your points stand and are well made.
For me, intent also matters. There is obviously no nefarious motive here–it’s not like this exhibition is going to be a major revenue engine for Disney and the company isn’t trying to “cash in” on Hologram Walt. This is entire exhibition is largely for the purposes of education and awareness. In that spirit, a holographic depiction of Walt makes sense and is appropriate.
Thanks! I do *get* why people find it creepy, but it just doesn’t bug me for the same reason you mention – intent. If we use this tech to teach while being as faithful and respectful as possible, it could really be such a great asset…
A dear friend saw the exhibit a few days ago and said it was incredible – that I must go when it hits the West Coast. He didn’t even mention the Walt hologram specifically, so perhaps it wasn’t jarring to him. That said, I grew up seeing Walt on TV, and I cry every time I look up to see the lamp on in his apt over the fire station at Disneyland. I’m sure the hologram will make me feel emotional.
When I think about it objectively, holograms aren’t any more “real” than film or 3D or VR. It’s just a different way to tell a story. What could be more Walt-like than that?
“When I think about it objectively, holograms aren’t any more “real” than film or 3D or VR. It’s just a different way to tell a story. What could be more Walt-like than that?”
I think the distinction is not in various forms of media, but between what is real and what is manufactured. This isn’t simply archival footage–it’s that mixed with AI to create something new. I assume that’s the issue for people, and one that wouldn’t exist if this were the Disneyland opening day speech (or other existing footage) that were converted into a hologram.
We are going to the exhibit in Philly in a few weeks. I’m excited to see the hologram. I think I would find a hologram creepy if it was someone I had experienced “living” . But I’m far enough removed from Walt that It doesn’t bother me.