On April 9, Disney hosted a virtual press conference emceed by Josh D’Amaro, Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products. The event was called “A Special Look Inside Disney Parks,” and it was an opportunity for the company to unveil some cool new attractions, like Avengers Campus, opening at Disney California Adventure on June 4.
The star of the event was undoubtedly a familiar Jedi weapon from the Star Wars universe. Just before D’Amaro signed off, he said, “You never know what we’re gonna come up with next.” Then he pulled out a lightsaber hilt (well, a “hilt-like” box), pressed a button and — as if by Disney (or Jedi) magic — a light blade extended from the hilt just like a real retractable lightsaber from the movies.
Unfortunately, there was no video of that amazing moment. The news conference was invitation only, and all attendees were asked not to record it. But Walt Disney Imagineer Scott Trowbridge took to Twitter to assure viewers the lightsaber was real and not CGI.
However, on May the 4th this week — Star Wars Day 2021 — Disney released actual footage of it in action, and we’ve got it at the bottom of this post.
Disney Made a Real Retractable Lightsaber?
To be clear, what D’Amaro showed wasn’t one of those plastic lightsabers with the clear blade that lights up and gets dented every time you hit it against something. No. This one even sounded real. But at the time he also disappointed legions of Star Wars fans when he said the lightsaber is not ready to be shown to the public.
According to Disney Information Station, Disney filed some patents in 2017, including one patent for a “sword device with retractable, internally illuminated blade.”
“The patent for Disney’s lightsaber is intriguing,” says DIS. “Basically, a plastic blade is cut in half lengthwise and rolled into a hilt on a spool like a tape measure. The blade will emit with the two blade pieces unrolling outward and connecting with an end cap which has a flexible strip with lights attached. It can also retract back into the hilt.”
VR developer Ben Ridout uses animation to go even further. “Did Disney invent a real working lightsaber?” Ridout tweeted. “Yes they did. It won’t melt through metal blast doors, or cut off your hand, but it does feature an illuminated blade that will extend and retract at the push of a button. This animation shows the concept behind the tech.”
Did #Disney invent a real working #lightsaber?— Ben Ridout (@benridout) April 12, 2021
Yes they did.
It won’t melt through metal blast doors, or cut off your hand, but it does feature an illuminated blade that will extend and retract at the push of a button.
This animation shows the concept behind the tech. pic.twitter.com/e7fwP06CxF
Next, widen the tapes and increase the curve, allowing them to partially wrap around each other and form a complete cylinder. Drive this system with a motor so both reels can be extended and retracted in synch at the push of a button. Now, you’ve got a lightsaber! pic.twitter.com/B3lLMmclDN— Ben Ridout (@benridout) April 12, 2021
DIS thought that maybe D’Amaro’s lightsaber wasn’t real at all (say it ain’t so!), and that it was just a bit of Disney foreshadowing. However, there is going to be a lightsaber experience on the upcoming Disney World Resort attraction Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser immersive hotel. DIS posited that the lightsaber from the press conference could be used in that attraction, a prop for a show, or it could be another (expensive) product for Disney’s many stores.
It turns out, they were right about the hotel and possibly the product.
The Disney video released today confirms that the new sabers will be part of Disney’s upcoming Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, which promises to take the initial premise of its Galaxy’s Edge park and expand it to an interactive two-night Star Wars adventure. Walt Disney Imagineering Research and Development are still working on the final product, but it will presumably be ready for guests to buy when the hotel experience launches in 2022.
Watch teaser footage of the Disney real retractable lightsaber in action here.