Disney’s MagicBands Inspires Hollywood Magic Castle To Spring Into The 21st Century

In April 2014, Josh Stern visited Walt Disney World on vacation and became enamored with their new RFID technology which had just debuted. His MagicBand not only allowed him to open his room, enter the park and redeem FastPasses, but also allowed him to use the band on interactive games like A Pirates Adventure – Treasure of the Seven Seas, which piqued his interest.

Copyright Walt Disney Company

Copyright Walt Disney Company

For those unfamiliar, A Pirates Adventure takes place in Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland where guests go on a scavenger hunt looking for clues to solve a mystery. At each location, they use their MagicBands to activate a scene that comes to life with lighting, animatronics and special effects. These are all triggered thanks to a technology that tracks the guest’s progress by reading a special code embedded in their RFID chip on the MagicBand.

Photo by Steve Buddin

Photo by Steve Buddin

Considering Stern works for the special events team for The World Famous Magic Castle in Hollywood, he knew he had to bring this interactivity to the most exclusive private club in the world.  “While the Magic Castle has been a fixture in California for over 50 years, technologically speaking, it’s been stuck in 1963,” Stern told me in a recent interview.

Photo by Steve Buddin

Photo by Steve Buddin

Immediately, his special events team (which he refers to as the “Boo Crew”) started working on a beta test for the RFID technology to be used during their Halloween yearly event.  The team, including Harry Evry and Jason Thompson, created special key chains available to members only and were sold online at $15 each.  After only two hours, they were completely sold out.

Photo by Josh Stern

Photo by Josh Stern

Each keychain is embedded with an RFID chip and is designed to look like the owl used in the Magic Castle logo. Once members arrive in the lobby while they wait to check in, they can test their keychain on a small candle to see if it’s working.  They simply touch the keychain to a yellow owl logo and POOF – the candle magically lights up.

Once inside the club, one of the scenes created for the Halloween event is a recreation of an abandoned pirate ship. The scene is lit with black light and in the corner of the room are two port holes with a digital ocean background projected just behind them. Members found the owl logo and touch their keychain to the owl and a scene plays out in the ocean, just for them.

Photo by Josh Stern

Photo by Josh Stern

“The response from the members who used the key chains was extremely positive,” said Stern. “We are now looking to include the technology in our future special events like New Year’s Eve, as well as create permanent interactive effects around the Magic Castle for members to use year round.”

Photo by Steve Buddin

Photo by Steve Buddin

For those of you who have never had the privilege to visit the Magic Castle, it’s already loaded with interactive gags that have been a part of the experience for members and guests for years. Now they have a chance to update them and not only bring in new technology, but can even tailor them to react differently to specific RFID codes.

Copyright Magic Castle

Copyright Magic Castle

“In the future, we want to use specific RFID numbers for each member so they can make effects happen around the Castle that are specifically tailored to them,” he explained. “Like the portrait gag.  We have a lot of ideas on how to bring the Magic Castle into the 21st century, while still maintaining its charm.”

Copyright Magic Castle

Copyright Magic Castle

Personally, I can’t wait to see what they do with this technology the next time I visit. Want to learn about my favorite piece of history in the Magic Castle with a link back to Disneyland? Click this link! For more information, visit www.magiccastle.com. Make sure to follow Theme Park University on Twitter and take a moment to like our Facebook page!

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