Until now, Disney was worried about the reliability of wireless networks for controlling its rides.
"You put 100 people on a wireless network, and it's not going to work predictably," Noonan says. "We had to make it very predictable. We had to guarantee we could handle updates in a 60th of a second…Our network is based on 802.11 technology, but it's the kind of network you'd find in a factory versus a home or office."
Noonan pointed out that the industrial strength wireless network used on Toy Story Mania! is secure. "We had to be careful about security and predictability," he says.
One reason Disney's Imagineering team chose 802.11 wireless technology is that it's proven.
"We don't like to use bleeding-edge things," Noonan says. "We like to stick to technologies that are considered leading-edge….As engineers, we try to minimize the technical risks."
The wireless network powering Toy Story Mania! is working so well that Disney plans to incorporate more wireless networks into its amusement park rides.
"We've had a lot of interest from various engineering teams from both parks," Noonan says. "We have a new attraction coming in Anaheim that's going to use the same network technology."
The success of Toy Story Mania! not only points to the future use of wireless networks in Disney resorts, but it also takes the integration between physical rides and special effects to a whole new level.
"We always integrate the ride and the show to some degree and get the guests involved as much as possible," Noonan says. "If anything, this ride taught us how powerful it can be if you do it really well."