In honor of the 50th anniversary, Walt Disney World presents “Cinderella Castle Mural of Memories”, a virtual keepsake. While at Magic Kingdom, you can use the My Disney Experience app to add certain PhotoPass images to the castle using augmented reality technology via Snap.
It seems to work the same way as the augmented reality technology that’s already part of the Genie+ service, except with a few twists. We’ll go through the process as per Walt Disney World’s press release and then share our own commentary after that.
You will begin using the Cinderella Castle Memories Mural by selecting a portrait-oriented PhotoPass image from your Photo Gallery in the My Disney Experience app. If you’d rather not use one of these photos, you can also choose from Walt Disney World’s collection of stock images featuring favorite Disney icons and characters. (Although it’s a strange decision…what’s the point?)
This Cinderella Castle Mural of Memories product will retail for $9.99 and includes:
- A location of your choice within the available sections of Cinderella’s Castle to digitally pin your photo, which will be waiting for you and other guests to view again and again during visits to Magic Kingdom throughout the most celebratory magic of the world and beyond (for at least three years).
- A special video of your castle flying photo that can be downloaded and shared.
- The ability to download a high-resolution version of your pinned photo from your Disney PhotoPass gallery without a watermark (a $16.95 value), both in its original form and an additional version with a special border applied that includes your first name.
- If you’re a Cast Member, Annual Passholder, Disney Vacation Club Member, or Club 33 Member, you’ll even receive a personalized border to reflect your affiliation.
While exploring the Cinderella Castle Memories Mural, you can enhance your experience with AT&T 5G in select locations around Cinderella Castle. (I assume this is mentioned in the press release as Corporate Alliances and AT&T are the “official wireless sponsor” of Walt Disney World, but it might also make augmented reality a bit more reliable and slower?)
According to Walt Disney World, Cinderella’s Castle has undergone quite a few transformations over the past 50 years, but this beautiful collection of digital keepsakes is especially special because it’s created by the happy times experienced by so many of you. As the celebration continues, the company will be releasing additional sections of the castle for you to pin your memories to, so come back each time you visit Magic Kingdom to see how the mural has grown around your photos.
Walt Disney World also says it’s a way for the company to continue its “next generation storytelling” and “use innovative new technologies to engage guests at our theme parks.” The Cinderella Castle Memories Mural will join other experiences like Disney PhotoPass Lenses and future additions like MagicBand+ at Walt Disney World and Disneyland.
In terms of feedback, my first thought is that this looks a lot like a paid version of Magic, Memories & You, the first Cinderella Castle projection show from a decade ago. Or a virtual version of Leave a Legacy at Epcot or Walk Around the World in the Magic Kingdom area. Both of these have been removed for the past few years, but were popular and beloved by long-time fans before their demise.
This Cinderella Castle memorabilia mural seems to be trying to be that, but minus the cost of a physical product. Unlike a brick or stone pillar, it is not visible to anyone entering the park. While I like the idea of not cluttering up Cinderella’s castle with photos, I also don’t see the appeal of a virtual version of these offerings. Again, I’m an old man at heart.
The Cinderella Castle Memories Mural is also remarkable from my point of view because it sounds as Walt Disney World’s first foray into the metaverse and NFTs. It’s a very imperfect comparison, as it’s not even a remotely “pure” version of either. Nonetheless, it’s more or less a collectible that exists in the virtual world, so it’s on the spectrum of both. Sooner or later, we were going to have this conversation about Walt Disney World, NFTs, and the Metaverse, so it might as well be now.
Personally, I think NFTs are dumb and metaverse is a big tech “trying to make recovery happen”. (Watch me get it colossally wrong on both fronts over the next decade.) If the past two years have taught us anything, it’s that the virtual world is no substitute for real-world touch experiences. The latter is what humans crave, and there is an inarticulate joy in occupying physical spaces.
I’m going to digress a bit here, but this is all an unnecessary tangent anyway, so stop reading if you’re not interested in my off-topic ramblings. From my point of view, this enjoyment of physical spaces is naturally human.
That probably explains a lot of the nostalgia for the 1980s or 90s and shows like Stranger Things that are set in old malls. Or even those retro Pizza Hut commercials. The internet has been revolutionary and has improved our lives in myriad ways, but there’s something to be said for a simpler time of inviting physical spaces, even if we can’t fully explain the appeal.
Specifically, this is precisely why Walt Disney World resonates so much with people. To call theme parks a “repudiation” of the virtual world would be inaccurate: they were simply designed and mostly built before the internet. Although the intent differs, the end result is similar. For many commuters, they’re also the closest approximation to a good city — a city with walkable public spaces, efficient transportation, and things to do.
Walt Disney World’s grounding in the real world is likely why games on the Play Disney app (among others) have largely failed to catch on. It’s also why there’s been a backlash to recent additions that fundamentally undermine physical park spaces and encourage more screen time. (Genie+ would have been controversial even as a paid FastPass, but that’s not all of the current complaints.)
Technology can be leveraged to improve the physical world, but it also has pitfalls and too often undermines real life. Too many tech evangelists fundamentally misunderstand human nature, and these voices currently play an outsized role in the development of experiences and products. As we’ve written before, the tail shouldn’t be wagging the dog when it comes to technology, especially in thematic design.
When it comes to the Metaverse, in particular, it’s laughable to see retailers like Walmart creating virtual versions of their stores to navigate the Metaverse. There is no demand for this to exist, outside of extreme use cases. (I personally like browsing physical stores as a way to get out and do something; I also like shopping online for convenience. A Walmart you can visit virtually is literally the worst of both worlds, combining the downsides of each, but none of the upsides.)
Disney likely has a role to play in whatever the Metaverse will become, but probably not as a virtual substitute for the parks as they currently exist. Whether it’s a fun way to revisit defunct attractions or something else new, there’s potential there. But also, probably not for a mainstream audience.
I also think there is a future for virtual collectibles, but not like the NFT market currently exists. It’s a speculative bubble, and the most ardent proponents of NFTs no doubt realize that the only way it’s sustainable is as a quasi-pyramid scheme… which is probably why they won’t shut up about anything. relates to NFTs. Perpetual hype and new market entrants are the only thing keeping it going.
Luckily, this “Cinderella Castle Mural of Memories” isn’t really an example of a metaverse or NFT. At most, it’s Walt Disney World taking a step in that direction, seeing what kinds of products or experiences are viable in that general space. Specifically, they are the ones who get into the virtual collectibles game.
Personally, I have no problem with virtual collectibles, but I also don’t want them to be a runaway hit and supplant physical additions to the actual Walt Disney World parks. I think we’re a long way from that, especially given Disney’s “mixed” history with technology. Yet I also fear that this is the type of madness that could see billions of dollars of investment despite a limited market and no clear path to ROI. It wouldn’t be the first time Walt Disney World has done this with a technology initiative.
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What do you think of the Cinderella Castle Memories Mural? Will you buy this? Do you think it’s a fun offering that doesn’t need as much analysis, or are you worried that Disney is dipping its toes into more virtual products and experiences? Do you agree or disagree with our comment? Questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback, even when you disagree with us, is both interesting for us and helpful for other readers, so share your thoughts below in the comments!