J. Miles Dale Talks Immersive Disney

The Canadian producer and director is known for his work on “The Shape of Water.” His latest project, Immersive Disney, is coming to Detroit next month.
Photograph courtesy of Lighthouse Immersive.

Joining the ranks of events like Immersive Van Gogh and Immersive Nutcracker, Immersive Disney, which is set to come to Detroit in February, brings some of the most beloved Disney movies to life through projections, music, and movement.

J. Miles Dale, a Canadian producer and director who has worked on hit movies such as The Shape of Water, and Antlers, is the executive creative director behind the experience. He wanted to create a story that would bring the magic of Disney to life in a way that is more easily accessible than the parks.

“Not everyone has a chance to go to the [Disney] parks every year, or any year sometimes, so to be able to bring that to people was [one] inspiration,” he explains. “They can’t get to Florida for a week, but by taking a couple of hours on a weekend, they can feel some of that Disney magic.”

It all started last year with an idea and a mutual friend with Corey Ross, a co-founder of Lighthouse Immersive Studios, which produces the immersive experiences. After a conversation with Ross, Dale reached out to a contact he has with Disney Labs and found that Disney was looking to do something special in honor of their 100th anniversary in 2023.

“We thought that this was a great place to start because there are so many loved [Disney] characters in all of our lives. There’s some [Disney] movie, or movies, and songs that have really been foundational for all of us,” Dale explains. “They also wanted to honor the animators and performers, singers, songwriters and everyone who had been involved.”

“Not only does [the show] feel like a Disney experience with a number of the favorite characters, and favorite songs that feels like a projected show, but also in our installation, we’ve created an environment where you can understand and see how animation is made,” he adds.

Immersive Disney’s run-time is about 50 minutes and features a wide variety of Disney movies and characters including classics like Snow White, ‘90s flicks like The Little Mermaid and The Lion King, and of course, more modern films such as Frozen and Encatnto.  

It also includes some of the most beloved Disney songs either in full context or in a montage, along with elements that guests can interact with.

According to Dale, there are three galleries that fill with bubbles of all sizes, including some smoke-filled ones, courtesy of the creator of the Gazillion Bubble Show. In the Moana gallery, a field of lava is projected onto the floor that moves as the guest walks through it, and in the Peter Pan gallery, Tinkerbell will sprinkle you with a bit of pixie dust that forms around you.

“You stand there and wonder how that is happening,” Dale says of the pixie dust experience. “It’s magical, you’re surrounded by it and affecting it.”

In addition to the films, Immersive Disney also features character sketches and show materials that have never seen by the public before because they’ve been stored in the Disney archives. Plus, drawing tables where kids can try to draw their favorite characters.

With Immersive Disney, “I think we wanted people to be entertained, but to also leave smarter,” Dale explains. “They’re seeing all these character sketches and images and understanding how those are made — and I think that’s what Disney really wanted. It’s a celebration of not only the art, but also the artists.”

Immersive Disney is coming to the Lighthouse Artspace at 311 E. Grand River Ave., Detroit, on Feb. 9, 2023. It will remain open through May 14. Individual tickets start at $39.99

For more information, visit lighthouseimmersive.com, and find even more things to do in metro Detroitat HourDetroit.com.

About J. Miles Dale

Headshot of J. Miles Dale. // Photograph courtesy of Carol Fox and Associates Public Relations.

J. Miles Dale is an Academy-award winning producer and director who regularly collaborates with director Guillermo del Toro and has worked on films like Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Antlers, Mama, The Vow, Endless Love, and Shape of Water, which won an Academy Award for Best Picture.

As he tells it, Dale came into directing and producing film because he was “sick of school” and wanted to get into the job market.

“It was an ‘I started at the bottom’ kind of thing. I started as a runner and worked my way up,” he says. “I love the business. My father was a musical director when I was a kid, and we moved to LA from Toronto when I was 8. I grew up in the business and had a sense of it.”

He loves the business mainly for the creative aspects, along with the challenge of doing something new every day and working with different people on every project.

“I kind of get bored easily,” he says. [The work] is kind of a challenge and I get to flex different muscles every time. That’s what’s fun for me. It’s exciting every time.”

And his greatest film achievement to date? Obviously, his Academy Award, but also working on Nightmare Alley during the pandemic.

“[Shape of Water] is the top of the mountain for us in the profession. We didn’t expect it — a love story between a lady and a fish wasn’t expected to have that kind of result. It is nice to have the recognition of my peers that I have so much respect for,” he explains. “In Nightmare Alley, we filmed for six weeks and then we shut down for six months and I had to keep it together, so as challenging as Shape of Water was, Nightmare Alley was also challenging.”

To learn more about J. Miles Dale and his work, check him out on IMDB.