“Disney Animation: Immersive Experience,” a new exhibit now open in Boston, has something that no other immersive experience to visit the city has: universal brand recognition.
Your average 7-year-old might be entertained by floor-to-ceiling visuals devoted to Van Gogh, Monet, or Klimt. But that same kid probably won’t squeal with joy when Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” or Monet’s “Poppies” comes on screen the way several children did when Mickey Mouse was projected onto the wall of The Saunders Castle at Park Plaza Wednesday night.
The exhibit is a partnership between Disney Animation and Lighthouse Immersive, the same company that brought several immersive experiences to the South End space beginning in early 2022 with an exhibit devoted to Frida Kahlo.
Unlike the aforementioned artist-driven immersive experiences, in which images and sounds play on a continuous loop, “Disney Animation: Immersive Experience” unfolds more like a film, with a distinct beginning, middle, and end. Sitting in the middle of the room, you’ll be able to watch as characters move from one wall to the next, and the floor shimmers with interactive visuals. Think of it as an unencumbered visit to the Omni Theater, one that lets kids run wild and occasionally shoots bubbles from the ceiling.
As a childless thirtysomething, I’m admittedly probably not the primary audience for “Disney Animation: Immersive Experience.” Case in point: At a preview of the exhibit at Lighthouse earlier this week, I was one of the few in my age bracket who wasn’t marshaling rambunctious kids.
But as Svetlana Dvoretsky, co-founder of Lighthouse Immersive, said in her opening remarks that night, “Disney Animation: Immersive Experience” evokes emotions that transcend age demographics.
“When you think of Disney Animation, the words that come to mind are love, comfort, joy, tears — good tears — and nostalgia,” Dvoretsky said. “Because this is the one company that creates experiences that the entire family can get together and enjoy.”
In my case, a heady mix of joy and nostalgia hit the moment the show began, with a bombastic, 360-degree version of “Circle of Life.” Seeing the opening number from “The Lion King” projected on the walls of The Saunders Castle at Park Plaza unlocked a forgotten childhood memory of seeing the film in a packed theater — one of my first moviegoing experiences ever.
From there, the show moves through 100 years of Disney history, showcasing everything from “Alice in Wonderland” to “Encanto” on floor-to-ceiling walls. Some songs, like “Circle of Life,” play out almost exactly as they did in original movie form. Others mix multiple Disney works together to produce something new. One segment, an ode to villainy that began with a segment of “Fantasia 2000” set to Stravinsky’s “Firebird Suite,” turned the floor into lava, encouraging kids to huddle together on the few scattered rocks projected on the floor.
At approximately one hour long, kids at “Disney Animation: Immersive Experience” may lose focus from time to time. But most I saw perked up when their favorite characters showed up on the wall, with “Encanto” and especially “Frozen” garnering enthusiastic responses.
The biggest question many families will likely have is whether “Disney Animation: Immersive Experience” is worth the cost of admission. A fair question, given that a single general admission ticket costs $39.99. I, for one, would advise against paying for Premium Plus ($49.99) or VIP ($99.99) tickets, which offer limited perks.
It’s entirely up to you whether $36-40 per person for what ultimately ends up being about a 90-minute experience is tolerable or not. For those who do take the plunge, however, “Disney Animation: Immersive Experience” offers a healthy dose of Disney magic at a fraction of Disney World’s prices.
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