Walt Disney Imagineering has created some pretty incredible stuff over the decades, but few have been quite as embraced as Walt Disney World’s “real” lightsaber. It was fully extendable, just like the real thing and something we had never seen before. The invention was the work of Imagineer Lanny Smoot, who says developing the new lightsaber was even more difficult than he had anticipated.
Lanny Smoot has been inventing things for Disney Parks for over 25 years. His work has been so influential and inspirational that he was recently named one of the newest inductees into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. I had a chance to speak with Smoot this week and I asked him if there was any invention of his that he found particularly challenging to create. He gave me two different examples, but both were different variations of the classic Star Wars lightsaber. Smoot said…
I developed and researched and patented the world's most realistic extendable lightsaber. And that was shown in different places but in Starcruiser recently, and, you know, it seems like a simple thing to make something that in the movies is very easy to do in a movie. Our, partners on special effects have it pretty easy because you can fake a lot of things, but to have a true feeling lightsaber that looks like the ones in the movies in real life was a bit of a challenge. They also designed an attraction where you learned how to use a lightsaber against attacking drones. And again that required some technical thinking and how do you make this so that it's safe of course, we don't want to really laser our guests that and also so that it's fun and challenging for the people who are using it.
First demonstrated in a media livestream by Disney Experiences Chairman Josh D’Amaro, the extendable lightsaber was a hilt that could be ignited, as we’ve seen in Star Wars movies, that resulted in a full-size glowing “blade” extending up. It was used as part of a finale performance as part of the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser experience before it joined the list of attractions that have closed at Walt Disney World.
Lightsaber Training was an “onboard experience” for the Galactic Starcruiser. Guests used “training lightsabers” to learn to block incoming blasts. When I visited the Galactic Starcruiser before it officially opened for guests, I got to do the lightsaber training and I saw the extendable lightsaber in use, and both were quite impressive.
Of course, with the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser officially closed, both of these cool lightsabers, which took a lot of work to make, are unavailable to guests, putting them in the same class as Where's the Fire?, the Epcot attraction Smoot misses the most. I asked Lanny Smoot if he was aware of any plans to bring them back into Walt Disney World at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. While he didn’t confirm anything, it certainly sounds like the extendable lightsaber will return, and the technology behind the lightsaber training could be repurposed. He told me…
Well, let's put it this way. There are always going to be uses for lightsabers. They're not going away. And for the training experience, I'm not sure I don't know. But I have a feeling that it could come back in an even better way.
We know that Walt Disney Imagineering is already working on ideas of what to do with Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser now that it's closed. It will likely become something else Star Wars-related, so perhaps that’s where we’ll see this cool technology again. Imagineering is always working on new attractions for Walt Disney World, so we can be sure the building, and the lightsabers, won't be gone too long.