When it comes to technology, there are some things I just cannot describe. Simply saying Astra Lumina is “kinda like a Disney show” does not do it justice.
Astra Lumina Night Walk is a magical walk along a trail at Anakeesta in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The park sits high above the city surrounded by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Even before the park opened, Anakeesta’s founder, Robert Bentz was in discussions with the Moment Factory, a Canadian company specializing in creating experiences that involve lights, sound, lasers, and Mother Nature.
Let’s see, how to describe Astra Lumina Night Walk at Anakeesta….
As you enter the show (it isn’t a show as we’ve come to expect a show to be), there are signposts preparing you for the story you’re about to experience. “We are always told to reach for the stars. What if the stars could reach for us?”
“It’s the story of stars falling on the earth,” show producer Christian L’Heureux explains, “Regenerating and then returning back to the skies. Super simple, but it’s dramatic at some points, fun at different other zones.”
As you walk the trail through the cool mountain air, suddenly laser lights shine down on the trail followed by thousands of tiny lights representing stars. As if the stars pass through you, they land on the ground and shine. Music and sound envelop the visitors as well. You can hear sound effects through dozens of small but invisible speakers. You can often even hear nature’s own soundtrack. As the breeze moves the trees, you continue down the path to see another section where the grounded stars regenerate.
“Astra Lumina is an immersive experience,” says Moment Factory’s Thomas Pintal. “It’s a night walk into enchantment.”
Hard to argue.
Pintal, who has been an integral part of Moment’s 15 other Lumina events explained one of the most important features is to include the forest in the story. That isn’t always easy to do with equipment spraying laser lights along the path. He says new technology makes it possible.
“We want the lights to just disappear and not see the fixture,” he said. “The new technology of LED gives us the opportunity to bring more lights without using as much power that was needed.”
A circular screen or glass provided a backdrop for a projection that continues telling the story. When the stars regenerate we see a massive ball of light and then the stars return to the sky through what I can only guess was some sort of tube lights. In the dark of the night with no other lights around, I never saw lines or strings or the projectors that create the magic.
“The technology is about making that illusion. Making us believe,” said L’Heureux. “A story making us believe we’re in a different place and in a different world.”
Astra Lumina Nightwalk at Anakeesta continues through December and will start again in the spring. Other night walks are in the works for other sites in the United States.