Disney plans ‘Star Wars’ virtual reality attraction

LOS ANGELES — There’s about to be a new way to experience the “Star Wars” universe. 

An attraction that blends virtual reality and real-world elements will open at the Disney resorts in California and Florida this holiday season, Walt Disney Co.’s Lucasfilm unit has announced.  

Lucasfilm and its ILMxLAB immersive-entertainment unit are working with the Void — a Utah company that already has made a participatory “Ghostbusters”-themed VR experience — to create the attraction, named Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire.  

“Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire will allow fans to move freely in an untethered, social, and multi-sensory experience, including interaction with friends, fans and Star Wars characters,” Lucasfilm and the Void said in a news release.  

Hinting that the attraction would include things to hear, touch and even smell, Curtis Hickman, co-founder and chief creative officer at the Void, said his company combines “the magic of illusions, advanced technology and virtual reality to create fully immersive social experiences that take guests to new worlds.”  

The release did not disclose the price of admission, nor did it say what characters or story lines would be featured.  

But an image released with the announcement shows people — one wearing a VR headset — exchanging fire with Stormtroopers in a location that looks like Mustafar, the lava-ridden planet where Darth Vader fought Obi-Wan Kenobi in “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith.” With them is a friendly-looking Imperial Droid, possibly the reprogrammed K-2SO from “Rogue One.”  

The attraction will be at Downtown Disney at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim and at Disney Springs at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla. Disneyland spokesman George Savvas said Thursday that he didn’t know where in Downtown Disney it would go.  

The Void previously created Ghostbusters: Dimensions, an attraction — unrelated to Disney — in which users throw on a proton pack, gun and VR headset and trek into a virtual landscape that includes a New York skyscraper and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. It is available in four locations, including New York City.  

Cliff Plumer, chief executive of the Void, said the “Star Wars” attraction will use technology that’s a lot more advanced.  

“The visual fidelity, the sound, all the other sensory effects … . If Ghostbusters was version one, it’s hard to even put a number on which version this is because it’s not version two,” Plumer told the Verge. 

This isn’t Disney’s first foray into interactive experiences at the shopping mall-style areas of its resorts. The “Star Wars” announcement comes a month after the closure of the DisneyQuest interactive gaming center at Disney Springs in Orlando. The five-story building was filled with new and old electronic games, including four-sided air hockey, and it included a virtual jungle cruise attraction.  

DisneyQuest initially was envisioned as an arcade theme park that could stand alone in dozens of cities. A location opened in Chicago in 1999, but it closed in 2001 after two years of poor financial results.  

A new interactive feature, NBA Experience, will take DisneyQuest’s place in Orlando. When Disney announced NBA Experience two years ago, the company said it would feature “hands-on activities that put families and guests of all ages right in the middle of NBA game action.”

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