This project was conceived by the University of Texas at Austin Team and created by the 2019 Walt Disney Imagineering’s Imaginations Design Competition. This project is the sole property of Walt Disney Imagineering and all rights to use these ideas are exclusive to Walt Disney Imagineering. The competition is a way for students and recent graduates to showcase their talents and for Walt Disney Imagineering to identify new talent.

Team Members

Vanessa Martin - Design/Business - Visuals, Narrative, Identity, & Exterior Design

Rachel Engelbrecht - Mechanical Engineering/Mechatronics - Wireframing & Research

Kayla Russell - Mechanical Engineering - Research and Attractions

Katherine Dannemiller - Civil Engineering - Building Specifications

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Project overview

The word luminare is defined as a shining heavenly body. Cultures all across the northern hemisphere along the arctic circle have gazed upon such a sight in the night sky and have created their own stories to tell what it meant. They saw vibrant colors that filled the sky and seemed to dance— what they were seeing were the Northern Lights. These cultures all experienced a unique set of emotions influenced by these lights- a certain lumiphoria, if you will.

Now, what if there was a way to experience the majesty of the Northern Lights and give guests the ability to share this set of emotions? How can we embrace the many cultures around the world while still showcasing these lights as the main event?

To answer these questions, we created the Lumiphoria installation, a feat of engineering and design that immerses guests using the science and lore of the lights. Guests start on the ground and finish in the sky in the perfect position to experience the lights in all of their majesty Guests will be taking away an experience they have shaped themselves informed by all of the cultures surrounding the lights.


The research

Our team began by researching everything we could think of concerning the Northern Lights. We researched where they’re most visible, the science behind them, and their cultural significance. Through this process we learned how the Lights hold significance in many cultures across the Northern Hemisphere, especially around the Arctic Circle. From this process we were able to pinpoint where we would want our attraction to exist as well as what it should prioritize in terms of what guests gain from the experience.


We then began thinking about the demographics of who would be engaging with our attraction. We drafted personas of people of different ages and interests to think about how we could design rooms that would be engaging for everyone. We decided we wanted to create immersive environments where people could learn about the Northern Lights in an engaging way without it feeling like they’re being taught.

Project archetype

Now knowing who and what we were designing for, the new question became how we would design it. What theme did we want to create? What tone did we want to give off to our guests?

We began to list qualities about the lights and what sort of impression they gave off. Words like wonder and magic came up, and we began to see our brand archetype of the magician start to come through. In selecting the archetype of the magician, we knew we wanted to create environments that would lead guests to experience the majesty of the lights.

Project mission

Looking at our research, personas, and archetype, we soon decided what the goal of our project should be: to allow guests to explore the majesty of the lights on a journey of their own where they are able to gain a newfound sense of the Northern Lights. We knew that this journey would need the Lights themselves to be the highlight, the culmination of all of what they’d experienced at our attraction up to that moment. Designing these experiences preceding the Lights became the new challenge.

the User experience

Guests will embark on a journey through the themes of creation, conflict, guidance and expression while accompanied by our AI Lumena. Guests begin their journey up spiraling escalators resembling the curves of the lights turned on their sides, the distance between the guests and the lights themselves shortening that much.


Floor 1: Creation

Once they reach the first floor they will journey through creation where they may learn more about our space and the different cultures in the theater in regards to how the lights came to be.

The main attraction on this floor is a theater which introduces guests to the history of the Lights.


Floor 2 & 3: Conflict/guidance

The guests will then travel through conflict, a space that has conflicting lights and sounds to represent the warring mindset and the fighting spirit. On this floor, guests are given small flashlights so they can interact with reflective tiles lined around the room. When these tiles are exposed to light they will light up and emit different sounds that may clash with one another creating a feeling of conflict.

Next they will progress through guidance, a floor dedicated to celebrating the cultures that viewed the Lights as a guiding spirit. The floor itself is designed after a simple maze to create a space where users can interact with their surroundings to guide themselves onward to the next floor. The hallways twist and turn to generate confusion but the walls are illuminated with the colors of the lights to generate the feeling of guidance.


floor 4: expression

Here, guests will experiences cultural performances that showcase traditional dances that fill the room with life and wonder. Guests are immersed in the traditional dances of cultures that believed the lights were dancing spirits via professional performances. The floor itself is setup as a ballroom with images of dancing spirits along the interior wall.


Floor 4: the view

Finally, guests reach the open viewing platform where they can choose between an indoor or outdoor viewing experience. This floor champions the lights themselves and gives guests an opportunity to digest their journey while viewing the lights with a new mindset, creating an intimate experience. This space boasts both an indoor and outdoor view of the lights as well as a sky bar for guests to relax in.

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