Disney Makes A Working Lightsaber, But You Won’t Be Cutting Down Stormtroopers With It (UPDATED)
If there’s one thing Sci-fi and fantasy have taught us, it’s that swords are cool, and among swords, there are few more adored than lightsabers. In 1977, George Lucas gave the world Star Wars, and since then, pretty much everyone enamored with Star Wars has had a similar fascination with lightsabers. And now we can all watch as Disney makes a working lightsaber and listen as millions of voices cry out in joy and suddenly reach for their wallets.
A Bit Like The Younglings
The first time a lightsaber appeared on the big screen was in Ben Kenobi’s house. Luke’s reaction to the weapon is a mix of reverence and childlike wonder, demonstrated as he looked thoughtfully at the weapon of his father before waving it around Old Ben’s living room. That attitude of innocent joy and devoted interest shared by fans has carried us through decades of waiting, hoping we’d one day get a working lightsaber. Then Disney came along.
Image via Lucasfilm
To be blunt, Disney’s lightsaber is just a toy. You’re not going to be lopping off the limbs of any long-lost family members, and that’s probably for the best. In the Prequel Trilogy and some other Star Wars stories, we see children using tiny, child-sized lightsabers. Those weapons weren’t as powerful as the lightsabers carried by Anakin or any of the Jedi Masters. That’s kind of what we’re getting: something that could be described as a lightsaber but lacks some of the functionality. It seems like a device that would be better-suited for Lucasfilm Games than Disney Parks, but it’s part of their plan to create an immersive Star Wars experience.
How Disney Makes a Working Lightsaber
It works a bit like a tape measure, only it glows, looks like a lightsaber, and can fully extend in about 1 second. Disney’s lightsaber blade works on the same principles as common tape measure, which have a relatively firm semi-circle that can extend and retract rapidly.
Disney’s saber gets its cylindrical shape from two such extendable pieces of semi-flexible transparent plastic attached to a cap that helps them to retain their shape. In the middle of the two semi-circles is a band of LEDs that is extended as the saber’s cap raises, and the transparent plastic diffuses the light. It may not sound exciting, but the effect should be appealing and better than anything we’ve had before.
Yes they did.
It won't melt through metal blast doors, or cut off your hand, but it does feature an illuminated blade that will extend and retract at the push of a button.
This animation shows the concept behind the tech. pic.twitter.com/e7fwP06CxF
— Ben Ridout (@benridout) April 12, 2021
Is it worth the excitement
Yes, some of it, but your satisfaction with Disney’s lightsaber is dependent on your definition of “working.” Is it important that you get something that can cut through a chunk of metal while looking a little bit like a lightsaber, then check out the one Hacksmith made. It’s basically a plasma cutter attached to a backpack, but it’s retractable, cuts through metal, and looks a bit like a lightsaber, so it’s inarguably awesome. Or do you prefer something to look and act more like the ones you’ve seen on screen, minus the cutting capabilities.
Next, widen the tapes and increase the curve, allowing them to partially wrap around each other and form a complete cylinder. Drive this system with a motor so both reels can be extended and retracted in synch at the push of a button. Now, you've got a lightsaber! pic.twitter.com/B3lLMmclDN
— Ben Ridout (@benridout) April 12, 2021
In this case, a “working” lightsaber means one that can extend, retract, and glow like a lightsaber, which is a far sight better than those plastic ones you can pick up in the toy aisle. It’s missing the Kyber Crystals, but what could you expect after most of them blew up in one Death Star or another.
Image via Lucasfilm Publishing
If you were excited about the prospect of a working lightsaber because you wanted to hack and slash your way through every limb this side of a family reunion, then probably every Jedi would agree that you shouldn’t have a lightsaber in the first place. Consider getting excited instead about the possibilities for things like cosplay, collections, and hitting your friends without removing parts of them. Rumor is that there’s going to be a feature of the upcoming Star Wars Galactic Cruiser resort, which claims you can “wield a lightsaber” as one of its exclusive amenities, and that’s probably just the beginning of what we’ll get to see.
UPDATE: The Lightsaber Revealed
On Star Wars Day 2021, Disney Parks released a short video featuring one of their Rey actors displaying the brand-new lightsaber. What’s amazing about it is that it is almost impossible to differentiate it from the movie-magic version we’ve seen in so many live-action Star Wars films and shows.
Featured image via Lucasfilm
Jessica Kanzler lives with her wife and cats and enjoys obsessively reading fantasy and talking about writing with anyone who won't run away. Jessica has an MA in Rhetoric, Writing, and Digital Media studies, and one of her students once said she “wasn’t cool, but was clearly trying.”