Last week Disney unveiled it's latest character in the parks, Luxo Jr, and after getting a chance to see Luxo in action this past weekend, I'm once again reminded by how innovative and detail oriented the Disney Parks are. Let's face it, after a few trips to Walt Disney World, we begin to take all the hard work that goes into every aspect of the resort area for granted. As frequent guests, we've come to expect the absolute best from Disney and it's a high bar that was set by Walt himself and it's something that park guests continue to hold Imagineers to even today. Luxo Jr is a classic example of the sort of high quality entertainment we've come to expect.
The reality is we don't really need the Luxo Jr character. Already, the attention to detail in Pixar Place is nearly unparallaled. The Toy Story characters that line the street from the monkeys in a barrel to the green army men tell a great story of the attraction and it makes for a visually stimulating experience. So without Luxo Jr, the area is still vibrant and appealing with a great attraction. When you add Luxo, you get that same vibrant area but you plus it and this plussing is what seperates Disney parks from others, in my opinion. Luxo Jr isn't going to make Disney any money directly; It doesn't charge admission to see it and it doesn't sell merchandise or food. It likely cost an untold amount of money to develop, build, and get to work correctly and yet Disney went ahead with the idea. What it does do is stop guests in their tracks and give them that "wow moment"; that epiphany of a moment where you stare at what's before you and think to yourself something along the lines of "Wow, that is cool!". We've all had those moments in the parks and Luxo is one of those.
Besides Luxo, Disney has gone above and beyond the call of duty in terms of entertaining its guests for years. Expedition Everest features one of the most impressive audio-animatronics in the form of the Yeti, which any guests who rides it once find it's necessary to ride again and again to get another look at this stunning piece of machinery. Of course, Disney's ability goes back to the days of Walt, when you had the Pepper's Ghost effect on the Haunted Mansion and the Carousel of Progress. What we find is Disney has a long history of these innovative ways to capture the imagination of its guests and convince them that Walt Disney World (and the other Disney parks around the world) aren't just another theme park, but rather a really different, and frankly superior, form of entertainment that is engaging and immersive.
What stands out to me the most with Luxo is it's ability to really convey emotions. That says something when what we really have is an enormous desk lamp. Unlike the characters in Cars, there are no features like headlights or grills to give the sort of emotions we are used. Rather, Luxo uses "body language" (if you can call it that) and the amount of programming and development that must have gone into creating this character must be astronomical. Luxo isn't some cheap robot that comes out, waves, and returns. When you see Luxo on his pedastool dancing along to the music, you really do get the sense that this is the character from the Pixar short and once again Imagineers have succesfully suspended our disbelief as we really do believe a desk lamp is dancing.
After seeing Luxo in action I couldn't help but remember once more why I come to Walt Disney World as often as I do and why I write this site about one it's parks. These sort of little things, like Luxo, aren't necessary and don't generate any revenue but it's exactly these little golden nuggets of entertainment that keep us all coming back again and again. The next time you're at Hollywood Studios and go to check out Luxo, I dare you not to catch yourself with a smile on your face, an open mouth and wide-eyed stare as you admire the genius of Luxo. Then again, if you're anything like me, you tend to do that a lot during your trips to Walt Disney World.