I Saw A 'Real' Star Wars Lightsaber In Person And It Blew My Mind

Disney purchased Lucasfilm in 2012 and, while the focus was largely on the new "Star Wars" movies that would be made as a result of that acquisition, that was always just going to be the tip of the iceberg. Naturally, Disney Parks has made incredible use of the franchise, putting Galaxy's Edge in its theme parks around the world to immerse fans in a galaxy far, far away. From personal experience, I can tell you that it's a remarkable experience. But Disney Imagineers, it seems, are just getting started, and I got a glimpse at something pretty damn remarkable at this year's SXSW: a real f****** lightsaber! Or, at the very least, as close to the real thing as any of us are ever going to get. Probably.

Josh D'Amaro — Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products — took the stage at the massive festival in Austin, Texas to discuss what he and the Imagineers do at the company. More to the point, he offered a glimpse into some of the most cutting-edge things they've been working on and, after taking us through some lightsabers out there in the marketplace, including one that you can get custom-made in the parks (again, an incredible experience/product), he then brought out the real deal, met by gasps of awe and excitement from the audience.

The lightsaber in question is used at Disney's Galactic Starcruiser, which is a multi-day experience mimicking a cruise through the "Star Wars" galaxy. We've known these lightsabers exist for a little while now, but dear reader; seeing one up close and personal like that was goosebump-inducing. Disney, through its endless innovation and desire to wow the public, brought something to life that many of us have been dying to see our entire lives. It was, in a word, magical.

Making Fiction Feel Real

We've all seen toy lightsabers for many years. Some of the plastic ones even have blades that go into the hilt, but they never looked or felt totally real, despite Lucasfilm's best efforts to squeeze money out of fans such as myself for decades. And make no mistake, I paid good money to build a lightsaber during my visit to Galaxy's Edge, a decision I do not regret. But as incredible as it is, it's still a hefty hunk of metal with a big, light-up bar coming out of it. What I saw on that stage was a weapon for a more civilized age: a blade of light extending from a carefully-crafted hilt. Is it capable of melting steel doors? Probably not, but it looked real enough that I wouldn't care to find out.

Seeing the actual lightsaber blade in that dimly lit, crowded room was jaw-dropping. Fortunately, though, Josh D'Amaro decided to pull back the curtain a bit and clue us in as to how they actually managed to pull this off. Imagineer Leslie Evans briefly joined him on stage, and shared some of what it took to make the Jedi's weapon of choice feel and look real.

"No one asked for this specifically," Evans revealed, explaining that her team took it upon themselves to understand that, if they could make it work, Disney would find a use for it. Indeed they did. In this case, making an entire audience s*** their pants in wonderment. At one point as Evans was monologuing, D'Amaro ignited the saber without warning. "You can't resist it," Evans quipped, hardly joking.

How The Hell Did They Do This?

Leslie Evans also brought one of the prototypes on stage to demonstrate what something this impressive looks like in the early stages. It is, admittedly, far less impressive, looking like an odd hunk of junk assembled in someone's garage for who knows what. "This thing is made from parts that are 3D printed, laser cut, things we bought off the shelves," Evans explained. But when it came to the real thing? It was far more precise.

"By the time we get to that final saber, every part in there is custom-made. There's so much we had to get right. The color temperature. The brightness. The sound. And we had a lot that we had to cram into what's actually a relatively small hilt. We even had to build our own spectral oven at R&D so that we could build that blade material."

Josh D'Amaro then cut Evans off for fear that she was going to ruin the magic of it all, though she did add that they made over 100 prototypes before getting to the saber that was brought out on stage. Judging by the reaction of the crowd (myself included) when he lit it up one final time, it was well worth it. This is Disney magic at its finest and, in hindsight, the pairing of Disney Imagineers and "Star Wars" always seemed like a remarkable idea, capable of delivering magic to the masses.

Read this next: Every Star Wars Project Currently In Development

The post I Saw A 'Real' Star Wars Lightsaber In Person And It Blew My Mind appeared first on /Film.

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