It's a small world, thanks to Google Earth
Disney and Google Earth team up to make virtual tours of the Magic Kingdom.
— -- Starting this month, you can tour realistic re-creations of Disney's Florida theme parks and resorts simply by clicking your computer mouse.
In a pioneering partnership aiming to go online Tuesday, Google Earth and Walt Disney Parks and Resorts will make it easy to take a virtual trip to Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Disney's Hollywood Studios and 22 Disney hotels and resorts.
Computer users will click on maps that show about 1,500 rides, restaurants and attractions in 3-D.
"It's a virtual walk-through of the whole property … the most amazing virtual tour of any place in the world," Walt Disney Parks and Resorts chairman Jay Rasulo says.
While Google Earth offers a growing number of 3-D images and gives bird's-eye views of theme parks, with links to information about them, the Disney project is the most ambitious and detailed 3-D production yet. It's "truly innovative and unique," says Google Earth maps director John Hanke.
Disney's Rasulo expects the map to serve as a cutting-edge trip planner ("it's one small step from actually being there") and an armchair diversion for legions of Disney World fans. Up to three-quarters of Disney World visitors are repeaters, Rasulo says; about one-third are adults. Disney does not release attendance figures.
The map began with eight photographers who canvassed every inch of Disney World for 10 days. Then their images were rendered in 3-D.
Click on Space Mountain, for instance, and you can view a video of the ride and get information such as height requirements. Put your mouse on the Grand Floridian and a video of the resort pops up. You also can check availability and rates and make a reservation.
For now, the map shows only exteriors. In the future, Web visitors can stroll into Cinderella's Castle or walk into a room at a Disney resort. Photographers are at work to map Disneyland Resort Paris (Euro Disney); other Disney properties may be next.