A virtual visit to where dreams come true

Thursday, June 5, 2008 at 6:30 AM



If you've used Google Earth to explore possible family vacation destinations, then we have a treat for you: Disney has introduced a new layer for Google Earth that allows you to explore the company's popular Orlando attractions including Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. The new layer can be accessed in either the "Preview" or "Gallery" folders of Google Earth, or by selecting one of the 3D buildings in the resort.

It shouldn't be a surprise that Disney pushed the user experience of both 3D models and KML to new heights. For example, the KML layer that showcases each park incorporates both video and Flash animations. Open the balloon for Cinderella Castle and you'll be waving a magic wand and spreading pixie dust just by moving your mouse.

Further, it wasn't enough to model the nearly 5000 structures within the park, so Disney included significant amounts of real-world objects such as a monorail, picnic tables, benches, streetlights, signs, and trees. LOTS of trees. As in thousands of them!

All this effort results in an incredibly rich 3D experience - something that just can't be matched with a traditional web site. If Disney's goal is to capture imaginations, then I think they've hit it out of the park. The image quality and level of detail in the 3D models is fantastic - you can even read the menus in some outdoor restaurants!

Parents of Mickey-loving kids be warned: this new layer is sure to result in a change to your summer vacation plans!