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…

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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Your Thoughts

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!

19 Responses to “Hologram Walt at Disney100 Exhibition”
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