In the past few years, “immersive” experiences have been popping up everywhere. Some are designed for photo ops (Candytopia, TFTI). Others focus on attracting hardcore fans (the Friends Experience, Harry Potter: the Exhibition). A third group utilizes 360-degree digital screens to make guests feel like they’re in a different world (Illuminarium, Van Gogh: the Immersive Experience). The new Immersive Disney Animation in Armour Yards (159 Armour Drive) falls into the latter category with one clear differentiator: Disney.
“We were looking for an amazing, popular artist whose work people know but would be interested in seeing in a new way,” says Corey Ross, founder the companies behind the experience, Starvox Entertainment and Lighthouse Immersive. “The 100th anniversary of Disney animation is this year, and we’re celebrating it.”
Ross started the company in Canada three years ago. He’s taken the Immersive Disney Animation across the world from Boston to Tokyo. In Atlanta, the company worked with the building landlord to lift the roof of the space by 10 feet to accommodate the experience.
Guests reserve a timeslot and select a level of ticket ($28-$45). Adults will likely be fine with the Basic, while children will appreciate the interactive wristband that comes with Premium Plus and VIP tickets. Typical event snacks, such as chips and candy, are available for purchase, but you’ll likely be walking around for at least part of the event, so limit your purchases to what you can easily carry.
The first thing I noticed, aside from the life-size painting of Anna and Elsa from Frozen, was that nearly all the little girls in attendance were wearing princess costumes. I immediately wished someone had reminded me to bring one for my 4-year-old daughter. She had to make do twirling in her leggings. Oh well.
The experience kicks off slowly with an exhibit about Disney animators and tables where guests can learn to draw Disney characters step by step. Half the tables are lower in height, a small touch that makes a difference to parents of young children. In the back corner of the room, a 3-D black-and-white Mickey Mouse on a ship is available for photos.
Next, we were invited into a room where the walls were covered in a projection of an animated scene with icons from various Disney movies (think Cinderella’s glass slipper and the candle from Encanto). My 7-year-old son enjoyed calling out these finds. Soon the music begins, and the room truly comes to life. Scenes from 46 Disney films throughout the years play consecutively, loosely tied together by the theme “Wishing, Hoping, Dreaming.” Projections are on every wall, the floor, and reflected in the octagonal mirrored structure in the center of the room. There are about 10 chairs, but most people wander around or sit on the floor.
The best part was the interactive displays. When “Under the Sea” plays from The Little Mermaid, seashells appear on the floor. Step on them, and they open. My kids went wild for this. Even better, cloudy bubbles rain down during Frozen and emit steam or smoke when popped. During The Lion King, leaves follow your footsteps. When “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” came on, everyone started singing at once.
“You’ll be inside this world of Disney in a way that you haven’t been before,” Ross says.
Like everything Disney, the animation experience is upbeat and playful. At one-and-a-half hours, it can get monotonous for adults, but my children never got bored. It’s not Walt Disney World, but for fans of Disney movies, it is magical.