The Future Of Disney Parks Includes Disney+ Synergy, Metaverse Integration, and...Real Working Lightsabers?

Disney Parks recently unveiled their hopeful plans for a massive expansion of Disneyland in Anaheim, California that would allow them to integrate attractions, restaurants, hotels, and more in a single area of the park. But that's not all Disney Parks has in store for the future of their theme park experiences.

In a recent interview, Disney Parks Chairman Josh D'Amaro talked about the company's vision for the future of their theme parks across the world. It should come as no surprise that Disney+ properties will begin to have a prominent presence in the parks, but the biggest plans that Disney has for theme parks come in the form of technology that will change experiences all the time. Oh, and Disney will reportedly be revealing real working lightsabers in the near future too.

CNN Business spoke with Josh D'Amaro about the future of Disney Parks in honor of Disney World celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. He said, "It's going to be fresh, it's going to be technology-ridden. It's going to be incredibly relevant to guests all around the world." Yes, this Josh D'Amaro certainly sounds like a real person and not a theme park advertising robot.

Integration of Disney+

We'll get to the expanding technology part in a moment, but first, fans can expect to see the incorporation of Disney+ intellectual property as years go on. D'Amaro said:

"Disney+ has been phenomenally successful at the Disney company. We have the benefit of having these unbelievably powerful assets in the ground and the combination of a company that's got such a strong and growing digital footprint, with the physical footprint, I think gives us opportunity to fuse those two things together like no other company can.

I think that as the Disney company continues to see such huge success with Disney+, and as you see new intellectual properties start to materialize -— whether that be in the world of Marvel or the Imagineers creating something incredibly new and interesting — that is the Disney difference. We will bring those things together to take to the world in a different way."

He didn't get specific about how Disney+ movies and TV shows could be integrated into the park, but it's probably a safe bet that they'll figure out a way to make The Mandalorian – and probably the rest of the upcoming Star Wars shows on the streaming service – part of the experience in Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge. Plus, there's Avengers Campus opening in June, an area of the park that D'Amaro says "will never be done." That means they will always figure out new ways of updating it, and that includes fresh technology that changes the experience in the physical park.

Upgraded Technology to Create a Metaverse

During the interview, D'Amaro also referenced the idea of a "metaverse" being created within Disney theme parks. What that means is that there will be a whole digital experience on top of the physical park structures and attractions. D'Amaro elaborated:

"It provides us with unending opportunities at these theme parks. It can bring Main Street alive in ways that you've never seen it before, never thought about it before. You can have the whole theme park participate in a game that culminates in a celebration at the hub at the top of Main Street. The possibilities are endless and I think that's where we're incredibly unique at the Disney company. This combination of a very forward-looking digital footprint with our legacy assets that we have in place, and making them incredibly relevant today."

This sounds like an idea that's still early in development and execution, though there are aspects of this kind of technology that have already appeared in Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge and will start to manifest themselves even more in Avengers Campus. Through the Disney Parks app on your phone, there will be virtual games and puzzles that allow you to interact with the physical park in unique ways. Currently in Galaxy's Edge you can use your phone to access the Star Wars Datapad to hack into various pieces of tech, translate alien languages, or play minigames that give you digital rewards. But Disney Parks hopes to expand that with more exciting and immersive technological advances in the coming years.

A Real Working Lightsaber?

Ever since the lightsaber was introduced in Star Wars back in 1977, fans have wanted to see the elegant weapon for a civilized age become a reality in the modern world. Unfortunately, science doesn't exactly allow for a lightsaber to exist in the way that it does in the Star Wars universe. But Disney has apparently figured out a way to make one for park-goers that appears much like the real thing as possible without being a deadly weapon.

You may remember that back in 2018, Disney filed a patent for a "Sword Device with Retractable, Internally Illuminated Blade." It wasn't referred to as a lightsaber, but we know a lightsaber when we see it. This build of a lightsaber replica finally allowed for a blade of light to completely expand and retract from the hilt without a hunk of plastic sticking out of it all the time. The new device was described thusly:

The new technology exemplified in this patent application is used to build a lightsaber hilt that works like a motorized tape measure. At the press of a button, the tapes will extend to a total length several times that of the hilt itself. The tapes will also have some kind of LED lighting inside, such that the lightsaber can light up similar to the way they appear in the films.

The same mechanics that operate to eject the blade will be used in reverse to retract the blade. The LEDs will be affixed to a tape that retracts onto a spool as the lightsaber blade retracts.

At a "Special Look Inside Disney Parks" press conference (via Collider), D'Amaro was said to have pulled out the new lightsaber in question and simply said, "It's real." Though he didn't show off the technology, it's expected that it will be revealed as part of the upcoming Star Wars hotel at Walt Disney World in Florida. Inside the resort, there's supposed to be an area where young Jedis can begin their training in their hotel rooms, which will likely include this lightsaber. Will it be made for sale to fans, or only made as part of the Star Wars hotel experience? That remains to be seen.

Disney clearly has big plans for the future of their theme parks, and it will be interesting to see how technology will come into play. There's a part of me that doesn't like the integration of digital devices at theme parks since we spend so much time on our phones and tablets out in the real world. It would be nice to have a park experience that stands on its own and allows for an escape from all that nonsense. Of course, it will still be possible to enjoy the park in the old fashioned analog way, but as time goes on, technology integration will likely become a cornerstone of the theme park experience, so we better get used to it.