For the first time ever, Disney has debuted a robot to replace costumed characters in the parks, or so it seems.
During a presentation on the first day of the SXSW (South By Southwest) event in Austin on Friday, Disney Imagineers debuted a new type of robot that can complex moves like humans and is designed to create an emotional connection with Guests while performing its “stunts.” Oh, and she looks just like Judy Hopps from Disney’s Zootopia.
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South By Southwest, abbreviated as SXSW, is an annual event held in Austin, Texas, that serves as the culmination of different film, media, and music festivals and conferences. This year’s event began on Friday and runs through Sunday, March 19.
Disney says that the amazing robot “incorporates motion-capture data to create performances that evoke emotion, giving Disney Imagineers a new way to bring out a character’s personality.”
Disney released another video of the prototype robot: pic.twitter.com/e2cmSkphid
— Scott Gustin (@ScottGustin) March 10, 2023
And all this talk about robots and artificial intelligence with the capacity to create an emotional connection with Guests and engage in an experience with them lends itself to further conversations about Disney’s possible plans to eliminate costumed characters in the parks during Guest meet-and-greets. There are a few reasons this could be the way of the future in the parks, and they make pretty good sense.
First, there would no longer be the concern about human Cast Members getting overheated in the costumes while meeting with Guests. While there would surely still be intermissions between meet-and-greet times in the parks, robots don’t have to have long breaks to cool off from the hot summer sun. The robots would need “handlers” in the parks to keep them from being touched, vandalized, or even accidentally broken, though.
Also, Imagineering’s new technology is designed to allow the AI to interact in a special way with each Guest. This would ultimately add to the magical Guest experience. On the downside, however, there’s something about meeting the iconic costumed Mickey Mouse at Disney World and Disneyland, and something makes us think that there’s simply no technology innovative enough to make us want to abandon a tradition that’s been in the park since Walt welcomed the very first Guests to Disneyland in 1955.