If you’ve ever wanted to feel like you were stepping into the middle of your favorite Disney animated musical numbers, singing alongside your favorite characters and really becoming part of their world, you’re going to love the Disney Animation Immersive Experience. Even better: it may be coming to a city near you!
Brought to you by Lighthouse Immersive (who you might know from other exhibits themed to Monet, Van Gogh, and King Tut), 10 cities across the USA and Canada will play host to this larger-than-life animation experience featuring your favorite songs, scenes, and characters – plus lots of fun surprises.
Just like Disney on Ice, this is a third-party entertainment experience like no other. (But don’t confuse it with Disney’s own Disney100: The Exhibition, which arrives in Philadelphia, Munich and London later this year as it embarks on a 5 year tour. And yes, we’ll be covering it, so stay tuned!)
What Happens at the Disney Animation Immersive Experience?
The marketing for the experience is magical, but a little vague, so before you load the kids in the car and head on down to the Lighthouse Artspace, here’s what you need to know:
The experience is part exhibit and part show, all housed within a warehouse environment that lends itself to wide open spaces perfect for projection technology. You’ll want to buy your tickets online and sign up for a timed entry, but keep in mind that it’s recommended to arrive about 20 to 30 minutes before your scheduled entry time.
Pro tip: Keep those tickets handy, you’ll need them a few times! Either print them or take screenshots on your phone; I had a lot of trouble connecting to the internet inside a huge concrete building to pull up the tickets in my email.
You’ll have time when you arrive to mill about at the snack bar, the gift shop, or taking advantage of photo ops (in Toronto we have a giant inflatable Mickey as well as statues from Zootopia and Frozen to take selfies with). There’s also an educational component, where you can take a self-guided tour around interactive displays that show you how animation evolved from pencil sketches and storyboards into full-color, multi-plane animation cells. This part is pretty cool for older kids and adults, but little ones might be a bit bored.
Next, you’re ushered into a huge, open space where the show will happen. Everyone on the same timed entry moves from the exhibit into the main show together. The whole experience takes about 2 hours, but the show itself is around 45 minutes (we arrived at 11 AM for our 11:30 entry, the show started around noon, and we were done at 1 PM – your mileage may vary!).
The show is a non-stop musical sensation: Think of it like a clip show (do they still make those?!) of major Disney hits. Some, like “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” feature the music set to a montage of related Disney scenes.
Others, like “The Circle of Life,” feature footage that closely mirrors the scene you know and love, just on a massive scale and all around you. Those scenes were my favorite, as they really show off how the technology and space can work in harmony to create something amazing.
After those two opening numbers, the show moves into a “Try Everything” montage bookended with Zootopia footage, a “Part of Your World” montage featuring famous Disney castles showing off the mutiplane camera effect you just learned about in the gallery, and – because it’s not Disney without fireworks – there’s even a section that has guests’ interactive wristbands (included with certain ticket types) light up to “glow with the show.”
Next you’re transported to the world of Encanto for “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” set in the windows and doorways of Casita. “Poor Unfortunate Souls” headlines a villains montage that kids didn’t find too scary thanks to the bubbles released to really give that under-the-sea feeling. At this point the kids noticed that the floor was interactive and they could “splash” in the waves or kick the leaves in the next number, “Colors of the Wind.”
The “You Can Fly” montage featured beloved characters like Pegasus, Sisu, and Baymax, and “At Last I See the Light” made everyone feel like they were floating in a see of lanterns with Rapunzel and Eugene. “Almost There” got the crowd really excited, and then “Firebird Suite” from Fantasia 2000 led us into some more nature-related scenes.
Moana was joined by Grandma Tala for “I Am Moana (Song of the Ancestors)” in an epic wrap-around projection, which moved right into “Show Yourself” from Frozen II (no snoap here – they used smoke-filled bubbles as a stand in for snow, and the kids went wild!). Elsa was the perfect lead-in the the final montage set to “When You Wish Upon a Star.”
The show was pretty amazing to watch! You can see it for yourself here:
Where Can I Get Tickets to the Disney Animation Immersive Experience?
You can find out all the details about the experience here, but if you want to know where and when it’s on, just click each city name below to get ticket info for that location:
- Boston: February 23 – May 29, 2023
- Cleveland: January 19 – April 10, 2023
- Columbus: April 6 – June 18, 2023
- Denver: February 16 – May 29, 2023
- Detroit: February 9 – May 14, 2023
- Las Vegas: March 30 – September 3, 2023
- Minneapolis: March 23 – June 18, 2023
- Nashville: February 9 – May 14, 2023
- San Antonio: February 28 – May 29, 2023
- Toronto: December 21 – March 19, 2023
There are three kinds of tickets:
- Basic, which just gets you in the door (what most people probably need)
- Premium Plus, which lets you rent a cushion to sit on, provides an interactive glowing wristbands, and gives you a nice print as a souvenir (get this if you really want to the glow bracelet)
- VIP, which includes everything in Premium Plus (but you get to keep the cushion), a souvenir laminate, and skip the line/concierge service (from what I saw, this was totally unnecessary to enjoy the show)
Ticket prices vary by day and time but you can save when you buy 4 or more tickets by buying a Family & Friends pack at any of the levels.
Is the Disney Animation Immersive Experience Good for Kids?
In a word, yes! But there are a few things you should know.
Will kids get scared? That’s up to your child, but from what I saw, it wasn’t too dark or scary for even the smallest kids; it’s brighter than a movie theater.
Will kids get bored? You know your child best – if you think they won’t be interested in the gallery before the show, arrive right at your entry time to cut down on the waiting around. That’s the biggest complaint I heard from parents around me at the show.
Will kids have to sit still and be quiet? No! They’re encouraged to run around and play with the bubbles and floor projections, sing along, dance, and have the Best! Day! Ever!
Will my sensitive kid be okay? The show isn’t too loud, but there is a lot of stimulation. At the Toronto show there was a “still” gallery with all the projections but none of the extra elements. If that sounds like the right speed for your family, get in touch with your local venue to confirm if thats available to you.
Can I See the Disney Animation Immersive Experience at Disney World or Disneyland?
No, this one is just a show on the road! But, if you like the idea of learning about animation in an incredible show format, check out Cirque du Soleil Drawn to Life at Disney Springs!
All animation images featured in our photography of the event are copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.