This 'real" lightsaber is probably the highlight of this year's SXSW

In a moment that shocked the audience, Disney Parks and Experiences Chairman Josh D’Amaro unveiled an actual working lightsaber prop.
Christopher McFadden
Disney SXSW boss has unveiled a new working lightsaber prop.

Ivan Costa/Twitter 

Josh D'Amaro, in charge of Disney Parks and Experiences, recently gave a talk at the SXSW festival. While this isn't particularly exciting, what he unveiled during the talk was; a working lightsaber prop.

The talk, "The Art & Science of Disney Parks Storytelling," ended with a startling incident that left the audience in awe. After showcasing a highly dynamic character robot and a glimpse of "Smart Hulk" in his time travel suit, D'Amaro presented the "true wow moment." On cue, he revealed a genuine-looking lightsaber hilt with a button push. After pressing the button, a realistic-looking blue lightsaber blade emerged from the handle.

D'Amaro explained that he was holding one of the lightsabers used onboard Disney's ultra-expensive "Galactic Starcruiser experience." Still, it appears to grow right out of the hilt itself, unlike the ones seen in video footage, which have a tube sticking out of the hilt that is not retractable.

D'Amaro then introduced Leslie Evans, who oversees Research and Development for Disney Imagineering. She explained that the project was challenging and aimed to "build film moments in the real world."

While technical details on how this was achieved have not yet been publicly announced, one fan of Deadline shared a link to a Google Patents page that seems to include schematic diagrams of the hilt and a description of how the device works.

The patent says that the lightsaber is made so that the energy blade can be extended, retracted, and it looks like it comes from a handle. The lighting effect gives the impression of bright, hilt-based lighting, which adds to the authenticity of the experience.

The patent also explains that the special effects device comprises two long plastic cylinders cut down the middle and rolled in opposite directions. These compact cylinders of material can be provided on a pair of spools or reels and are housed within the body of the hilt assembly of the lightsaber prop.

A motor within the hilt body unrolls the rolled/spooled plastic blade body members from their reels/spools to extend the blade. Each blade body member passes through a blade-forming guideway or passageway that "zips" the two semi-cylindrical body members together as they leave the hilt body, forming the energy blade.

This 'real" lightsaber is probably the highlight of this year's SXSW
One of the diagrams of the lightsaber from its patent.

To retract the blade, the process is reversed, with the motor acting to wind the pair of spools to reel or rewind the extended blade body members into the hilt body and onto the pair of spools/reels.

Pretty cool! We think you'll agree.

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