PHOTOS, VIDEO: Disney Parks Using Projection Mapping for Human Faces, Likely in Fantasmic

We’ve all seen the amazing projection mapping on Cinderella Castle during Magic Kingdom fireworks, and on the Chinese Theater during Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular. Well now, Disney is taking this technology to the next level: projection mapping on moving objects, namely, human faces. Dubbed the “Makeup Lamp,” this system is the first of its kind able to perform dynamic facial projection mapping in real time, without the need for any physical tracking markers, and without the latency normally inherent in live augmentation systems.

Makeup Lamps Live Augmentation of Human Faces via Projection Image2

The system involves a camera which tracks the actor’s face, a high-frame-rate projector running at a 480 Hz refresh rate, and some serious processing power in between the two. This system would have multiple potential applications in various Disney performance venues. As seen below, the projection follows a performer’s facial expression (a-d), act as a simulation of a spotlight (e), follow a performer’s moving head (f), and can “evolve” over time (g). The system is also capable of working with multiple different performers (h).


From a Disney show perspective, application (g) is especially exciting. Whereas the makeup projections of (a) – (d) can be achieved with standard makeup, a projection that can change over time can be used, for example, to transform pirates into skeletons in the new Fantasmic! show at Disneyland. Extending this technology from faces to entire human bodies will allow live actors to instantaneously transform their costume to something completely different! The scene in Disney California Adventure’s Frozen: Live at the Hyperion where Elsa’s costume is magically transformed in the blink of an eye (using standard theatrical techniques, but a difficult effect nonetheless) could be commonplace in all Disney productions with this kind of projection technology.

Below is a short video demonstration provided by the inventors.

This is reportedly the technology that will be used in Fantasmic! at Disneyland to turn Pirates into skeletons in a new scene debuting this summer.


  • Jason Diffendal

    Jason has been a lifelong fan of the Disney parks since his first visit at age 2. His biennial pilgrimages during his childhood accelerated into semi-annual visits by the year 2000, when he also Joined the Disney Vacation Club. Luckily, Jason’s bride-to-be was also a Disney fan, which allowed his infatuation with the Disney parks to continue, and ultimately culminated in their wedding at Disney's Wedding Pavilion in September 2003. Early in 2007, Jason began his involvement with the planning for what became Celebration 25, the unofficial fan gathering to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Epcot®. Soon thereafter, Jason met Tom Corless at a pin trading meet in New Jersey, and became part of the WDW News Today podcast starting with Episode 17. Jason has been involved with the WDWNT Network ever since, and can't seem to escape no matter how hard he tries. Contact Jason at jaso[email protected].

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