Disney Dream to Feature Enchanted Art

Disney Cruise Line

Disney Cruise Line will be premiering a new form of interactive storytelling on its soon-to-debut Disney Dream, and it's hidden in the ship's artwork.

As you stroll the decks, keep an eye out for "Enchanted Art," which springs to life with animation. Think, "Mirror, mirror on the wall..." gone high-tech.

AOL Travel News got to experience the interactive art on an exclusive visit to a Concept Lab on the Walt Disney Imagineering campus in California, where new features for the 4,000-passenger ship set to debut in January are under development.

There will be 22 pieces of Enchanted Art located around the ship, including in the atrium area, on passenger decks and in kids' program areas.

At first glance you see oil paintings, animation cells, travel posters, classic Disney photos and paper sculptures. But these artworks have a surprise hidden behind their seemingly-motionless façade.

Let's say you pause, as I did in the Concept Lab, to stare at an animation cell of the Disney classic film "Bambi." Suddenly, the artwork recognizes your presence, and things start happening -- Bambi begins scampering with friends Thumper and Flower, and a butterfly flies gracefully across the screen.

Or you check out a painting of "Minnie Lisa" (yes, like Mona, except Minnie looks a little less sullen), and suddenly birds start chirping in the sky and Tinker Bell whizzes across the painting.

But that's not all. Some of the art actually interacts with adjacent paintings. So, what you think are two still oil paintings of classic "Pirates of the Caribbean" pirate ships are actually, upon further inspection, warring vessels firing cannons at each other. If you listen, you can even hear the pirates in the paintings shouting, too.

Quite a creative process went into creating art that "comes alive," for the Disney Dream, says Estefania "Stef" Pickens, associate interactive show producer for Disney Imagineering. "You've never seen anything like this before."

Fancy gold frames hide LCD screens behind the art. Sensors trigger several seconds of animation each time someone pauses to look. And there are actually several sequences programmed for each artwork, so every time you stop you'll see something different.

"They look just like just another painting on the wall but they [the paintings] can recognize that you are there and trigger something special for you," Pickens says. "It's definitely unique."

The idea started with the Magic Mirrors in place at Disney stores. But Imagineers took that basic concept a big step further for the ship.

A large team, which includes animators, directors, producers and technicians, is behind the creation of the Dream's interactive art. Themes had to be chosen, animation sequences developed -- even the frames were a problem to be solved, as they needed to be attractive, while at the same time hide the technical components, Pickens says.

The ship has about 200 pieces of non-animated artwork too, and I can't help but think that in addition to the "wow" of the Enchanted Art, it will be fun to watch people wait in front of other artworks to see if anything happens.

Detective Adventure Games

As if artwork that springs to life were not enough, 13 pieces of the Enchanted Art around the Disney Dream also serve the dual purpose of being the key component in two new family-oriented adventure games.

Participants sign up at a kiosk and are given a detective's map to solve a crime -- either "The Case of the Stolen Painting" or the "The Case of the Missing Puppies."

The map comes with a card that looks like an ordinary playing card but is actually printed with a unique 2-D barcode icon. When you hold the "detective device" up to the Enchanted Art you discover it functions like a wireless game controller.

So, for instance, you follow the map to a Mickey and Minnie travel poster. When you hold up your detective card you trigger animation. The poster disappears and doors swing open to reveal a cupboard. A voice instructs you to hold your card in such a way to pull metal objects off the shelf to find a clue.

As I learned with Karen Leung, associate interactive show producer, manipulating the card takes a little practice just like using any game controller would.

The creators are play-testing the game with kids ages 5 to 12 and adults, too -- both on the Imagineering campus and the cruise line's Disney Magic ship.

Based on feedback, they designed the game so you can play at your own pace as well as start and stop -- just in case the kids need a potty break, nap or snack.

With six potential villains, like familiar Disney mischief-makers Cruella De Vil and Captain Hook, you can play several times without repeating a case.

There are even some laughs for parents along the way that will likely go over kids' heads -- the missing art, for instance, mimics real art, with Goofy subbing for "Washington Crossing the Delaware" and Minnie posing as Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus."

Pickens says the game generally takes 25 to 45 minutes to complete, and those who solve the case are awarded an "Ace Detective" title.

Steering a Ship

Using interactive animation technology, the Disney Dream also lets everyone take a turn at steering a virtual ship.

In the upper atrium area of the Dream sits a classic ship wheel. Turn the wheel and animation shows you as you maneuver Captain Hook's ship around Never Land Cove. There's even a clutch you can use to control speed. At the Concept Lab, I kept beaching the ship, but it wasn't my fault -- I was distracted by Tinker Bell.

While your kid is similarly distracted, have your camera ready -- the experience makes for a great photo op.

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