Over the next few years, The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) has plans to bring one of its flagship franchises to theme park visitors in a big way. Star Wars land, a new 14-acre attraction, will be coming to both Disneyland in California and Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida, and it will officially be called Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge.
The attraction will provide a number of new ways for visitors to engage with the fan-favorite universe and will contain two featured rides. The first will let riders pilot and crew a life-sized rendering of Hans Solo's starship, the Millennium Falcon, while the second will place visitors on a Star Destroyer, in the midst of a battle between the Resistance and the First Order. Visitors can also lodge at a Star Wars-themed hotel, which has been described as "unlike anything that exists today."
What we didn't know until recently was the prominent role that graphics processing pioneer NVIDIA Corporation (NASDAQ:NVDA) is playing to bring Disney's plans to reality.
A truly immersive experience...
Technicians from Walt Disney Imagineering teamed with NVIDIA and video-game developer Epic Games to create groundbreaking new technology that would form the foundation for the new rides. NVIDIA released a still-in-progress animated sequence containing images from the Millennium Falcon. Visitors will be able to pilot the ship, fire blasters, and prepare for a hyper-space jump -- all as part of a critical mission.
The real-time flight simulator will feature ultra-high resolution graphics using NVIDIA's Quadro Sync technology to synchronize five projectors "for the creation of dazzling ultra-high resolution, perfectly timed displays to fully immerse the riders in the world of planet Batuu," according to a blog post on NVIDIA's website.
...using cutting-edge technology
The system will be powered by eight of the company's high-end Quadro P6000 graphics cards, helping to create a fully immersive experience. "Working with NVIDIA and Epic Games, the Imagineering team created a custom multi-GPU implementation for Unreal Engine."
Epic's Unreal Engine is a suite of tools that help developers design and build games, simulations, and visualizations, and it has served as the creation platform for many of Epic's most popular video-games titles, including Bioshock and Gears of War.
The animated sequence was produced by ILMxLAB, the immersive entertainment division of Lucasfilm's Industrial Light and Magic, which also produced Disney's recently premiered virtual reality attraction Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire.
Bei Yang, a technology studio executive at Disney Imagineering said, "Using the eight connected GPUs allowed us to achieve performance unlike anything before."
Theme parks for the next generation
The collaboration with NVIDIA and Epic Games show the lengths to which Disney is going to create a truly new experience for fans of the Star Wars universe. By bringing its box-office smash to life in these attractions, Disney will likely create increased visits at its parks and resorts. Last year, strong attendance helped buttress weak results in other segments, and it made parks and resorts Disney's fastest-growing business. The segment also generated one-third of the company's revenue and 25% of its operating profit.
Disney has long used the characters from its hit movies and television shows as inspiration for its theme parks, and it has occasionally used existing rides -- like Pirates of the Caribbean -- to generate box-office magic. The company has proven well that the secret to its decades of success is the interconnectivity of its businesses, with the popularity of each reinforcing the others.
Why mess with success?