‘Star Wars’ VR at­trac­tion

Open­ing this hol­i­day sea­son, Se­crets of the Em­pire will blend vir­tual re­al­ity and real-world el­e­ments.

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS - By Alexa D’An­gelo alexa.d’an­gelo @la­times.com Twitter: @an­dan­gelo15

Se­crets of the Em­pire, blend­ing vir­tual re­al­ity and real-world el­e­ments, is set for two Dis­ney resorts.

There’s about to be a new way to ex­pe­ri­ence the “Star Wars” uni­verse.

An at­trac­tion that blends vir­tual re­al­ity and real-world el­e­ments will open at the Dis­ney resorts in California and Florida this hol­i­day sea­son, Walt Dis­ney Co.’s Lu­cas­film unit announced Thurs­day.

Lu­cas­film and its ILMxLAB im­mer­sive-en­ter­tain­ment unit are work­ing with the Void — a Utah com­pany that al­ready has made a par­tic­i­pa­tory “Ghost­busters”-themed VR ex­pe­ri­ence — to cre­ate the at­trac­tion, named Star Wars: Se­crets of the Em­pire.

“Star Wars: Se­crets of the Em­pire will al­low fans to move freely in an un­teth­ered, so­cial, and multi-sen­sory ex­pe­ri­ence, in­clud­ing in­ter­ac­tion with friends, fans, and Star Wars char­ac­ters,” Lu­cas­film and the Void said in a news re­lease.

Hint­ing that the at­trac­tion would in­clude things to hear, touch and even smell, Cur­tis Hick­man, co-founder and chief cre­ative of­fi­cer at the Void, said his com­pany com­bines “the magic of il­lu­sions, ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy and vir­tual re­al­ity to cre­ate fully im­mer­sive so­cial ex­pe­ri­ences that take guests to new worlds.”

The re­lease did not dis­close the price of ad­mis­sion, nor did it say what char­ac­ters or story lines would be fea­tured.

But an im­age re­leased with the an­nounce­ment shows peo­ple — one wear­ing a VR headset — ex­chang­ing fire with Stormtroop­ers in a lo­ca­tion that looks like Musta­far, the lava-rid­den planet where Darth Vader fought Obi-Wan Kenobi in “Star Wars: Episode III — Re­venge of the Sith.” With them is a friendly-look­ing Imperial Droid, pos­si­bly the re­pro­grammed K-2SO from “Rogue One.”

The at­trac­tion will be at Down­town Dis­ney at Dis­ney­land Re­sort in Ana­heim and at Dis­ney Springs at Walt Dis­ney World Re­sort in Orlando, Fla. Dis­ney­land spokesman Ge­orge Sav­vas said Thurs­day that he didn’t know where in Down­town Dis­ney it would go.

The Void pre­vi­ously cre­ated Ghost­busters: Di­men­sions, an at­trac­tion — un­re­lated to Dis­ney — in which users throw on a pro­ton pack, gun and VR headset and trek into a vir­tual land­scape that in­cludes a New York sky­scraper and the Stay Puft Marsh­mal­low Man. It is avail­able in four lo­ca­tions, in­clud­ing New York City.

Cliff Plumer, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Void, said the “Star Wars” at­trac­tion will use tech­nol­ogy that’s a lot more ad­vanced.

“The vis­ual fidelity, the sound, all the other sen­sory ef­fects.… If Ghost­busters was ver­sion one, it’s hard to even put a num­ber on which ver­sion this is be­cause it’s not ver­sion two,” Plumer told the Verge.

This isn’t Dis­ney’s first foray into in­ter­ac­tive ex­pe­ri­ences at the shop­ping mall­style ar­eas of its resorts. The “Star Wars” an­nounce­ment comes a month af­ter the clo­sure of the Dis­neyQuest in­ter­ac­tive gam­ing center at Dis­ney Springs in Orlando. The five-story build­ing was filled with new and old elec­tronic games, in­clud­ing four-sided air hockey, and it in­cluded a vir­tual jungle cruise at­trac­tion.

Dis­neyQuest ini­tially was en­vi­sioned as an ar­cade theme park that could stand alone in dozens of cities. A lo­ca­tion opened in Chicago in 1999, but it closed in 2001 af­ter two years of poor fi­nan­cial re­sults.

A new in­ter­ac­tive fea­ture, NBA Ex­pe­ri­ence, will take Dis­neyQuest’s place in Orlando. When Dis­ney announced NBA Ex­pe­ri­ence two years ago, the com­pany said it would fea­ture “hand­son ac­tiv­i­ties that put fam­i­lies and guests of all ages right in the mid­dle of NBA game ac­tion.”

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