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New immersive exhibits in Denver allow fans to experience virtual magic

A group of people, some children, spread out in an open, dark room looking over some lit-up tables with a screen showing a Disney movie image in the background
Michael Lyle, Jr.
Guests tour a section of the Disney Animation Immersive Experience at the Lighthouse ArtSpace in Denver on April 8, 2023. The exhibit allows fans to get an up-close virtual reality experience as if they were in some of the movie studio's legendary films. It's open throughout the summer season.

From the animations of Mickey Mouse to the sights and sounds of The Lion King, the Disney Animation Immersive Experience offers fans in Denver a slice of the greatest Walt Disney films and musicals from the past and the present.

Located at the Lighthouse ArtSpace Denver, the exhibit is a collaboration between Disney and Toronto-based Lighthouse Immersive. It's the latest exhibit from Lighthouse Immersive, which has produced other large visual presentations in Denver like the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit—which has gone on tour across the U.S. and around the world, as well as another exhibit based on the work of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.

The Disney Animation Immersive Experience first was launched in 2022 and it builds on the success of the Van Gogh and Kahlo exhibits.

Upon walking into the exhibit, guests are introduced to a section that touches on the history of the Walt Disney Animation Studios. Early sketches of Mickey are depicted along with some of Disney’s other famous characters.

From there, guests become part of the show’s main attraction as they step into the pages of Walt Disney animation history, including all the sights, sounds and visuals from the studio’s film library. Among the recognizable films on display are Peter Pan, Pinocchio, Aladdin, The Princess and the Frog and Frozen.

In one part of the exhibit visitors listen to a famous tune from The Little Mermaid,“Under the Sea,” while actual bubbles descend from the ceiling. The simulation gives gueststhe sensation of being thousands of feet underwater with the some of the film’s famous characters like Ariel and Sebastian.

This part of the exhibit appears to be a hit. On one occasion, children ran around the exhibit attempting to pop the bubbles descending down from above.

In another section of the Disney exhibit, kids could be seen putting their artistic skills to the test at stations where they could try drawing iconic characters like Mickey, Minnie and Goofy.

One exhibit visitor, Andrew DiFranchesco of Lakewood, stopped by the gift store at the end of the exhibit to purchase souvenirs.

"It was pretty nice and exciting," DiFranchesco said. "Reminds me of the Van Gogh experience, so this was a cool treat."

Another attendee, Gabriella Chen of Thornton, did not hesitate when asked who her favorite Disney character in the exhibit was.

"It was The Little Mermaid for me, for sure", Chen said with smile.

Craig Northrup, special events manager for Lighthouse Immersive, said the exhibit will be open throughout the summer months.

“We’re bringing back all the classics,” said Northrup. “It’s very mesmerizing to see how we’re encapsulating both time periods, from young and old. Everyone can experience this."

Tickets to the Disney Immersive Experience can only be purchased online. Single admission tickets start at $36 while family and group packages are also available.

I serve as the afternoon host for KUNC’s All Things Considered. My job is to keep our listeners across Northern Colorado informed on the day’s top stories from around the communities we serve. On occasion, I switch roles and hit the streets of northern Colorado digging up human interest stories or covering a major event that’s taking place in our listening area.
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