“I’m holding a real lightsaber,” said Josh D’Amaro, the President of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, as he demonstrated a retractable lightsaber at the South by Southwest (SXSW) technology, film, and music festival. The videos of the talk show went viral as D’Amaro ignited and then retracted the device in front of the crowd.
Several Twitter users pointed out a patent supposedly filed by Disney for this version of the device. According to the patent, the “retractable blade lightsaber, internally illuminated” uses motors to roll up a “blade” filled with a flexible strip of lights hidden in its handle.
“The device includes two long plastic semi-cylinders, and these two blade body members are rolled perpendicular to their length, creating compact cylinders of small volume material that can be delivered on a pair of spools into a handle,” the patent explains, along with designs for the device.
“To extend the blade, a motor provided in the handle rolls out the blade body members from the spools. Each blade body member passes through a guide path that forms the blade, which nests the semi-cylindrical blade body members together as they exit the handle. To retract the blade, the process is reversed.”
The lightsaber is used in shows at Disney World, but it is not currently available for sale to the public.
The Real Lightsaber
Due to safety concerns and likely many other equally important concerns, the lightsaber will not cut through objects like they do in Star Wars movies. However, an amateur YouTuber created a retractable lightsaber that made it into the Guinness Book of World Records last year.
Alex Burkan, who runs the YouTube channel Alex Lab, created a device that can produce a 1-meter-long plasma blade when turned on. The 2,800-degree Celsius blade can even cut through steel.
“The key component of my lightsaber is an electrolyzer,” Burkan explained to Guinness World Records. “An electrolyzer is a device that can generate a huge amount of hydrogen and oxygen and can compress the gas to any pressure without a mechanical compressor.”
However, unlike a real lightsaber or the ones presented by Disney, the blade only operates for about 30 seconds at maximum power, making lightsaber battles short-lived unless they happen near charging points.
Burkan also added, “sometimes the lightsaber explodes in the hand due to hydrogen flashback.”