1 February 2023

Disneyland Paris recently debuted a new Marvel Universe-themed drone show entitled Avengers: Power the Night. The eight-minute production—which also uses fireworks, projections, and an appropriately heroic soundtrack—features 500 drones, and its cost is estimated at $13 million. 

Quite an investment—even for "Disney Magic."

Disneyland Paris partnered with France's Dronisos company to develop the Avengers show.

"We start with creative brainstorming," Disney designer Ben Spalding told Forbes' Caroline Reid. "Everything starts with an idea and foundational planning–what do we want to accomplish, how long do we want the performance to be, when will it happen, and how far can we go, creatively speaking."

Like many cinematic ventures, the drone-show designers used storyboards to set the action. Then, animation software produces a 3D rendering that can be viewed—virtually—and eventually translated into flight paths for the drones to follow.

Watch Marvel Heroes Come to Life Using Drones

The drones used for the Avengers show are based on the Parrot BeBop 2 quadcopter, but enhanced with special hardware and software. For example, the drones are stripped of unnecessary weight (so they can stay aloft longer), and the cameras common to consumer drones are replaced with the multi-coloured LEDs needed to render the images. 

It's interesting to note that the drone show evolved from Disneyland Paris looking to think outside the box for its 30th anniversary last year. Due to the proximity of five villages and 30,000 residents, the massive fireworks shows—and the resulting noise and ash they generate—that are usually launched at Disneyland Anaheim and Disney World in Florida were deemed inappropriate and unviable. Initially, projections were used to enhance the limited pyrotechnics at the Paris theme park, and drones were also in the mix. 

Eventually, things got crazier. Avengers: Power the Light, for example, deploys 500 drones to produce the detailed images desired by the production designers.

But the increased drone presence "comes at quite a cost," admits Spalding.

On its website, Dronisos broke down the cost of a single show featuring 500 drones at $136,000. The company says its cost structure includes 3D simulations, choreography, rehearsals, and up to 15 minutes of flight time. The show took three months to produce, and even though it is computer controlled, human pilots—and their fees—are still required to check the system, ensure a clear flight area, and give the final go-ahead if everything seems safe to launch. Dronisos uses four pilots to monitor the Disneyland Paris show.

Avengers: Power the Light is scheduled to run 95 days, which is how the $13 million investment in the production was calculated.

But while $13 million may appear to be a stratospheric cost, the figure is reportedly less than one percent of the 2021 expenses incurred by Disneyland Paris' operating entity, Euro Disney Associés.