Back in the summer of 2012, Disneyland added a new “feature” to the very popular “World Of Color” show at Disney’s California Adventure Park. “Glow with the Show” ear hats, which individual park guests can purchase for about $25.

What do you get for your $25?

You get a Mickey Mouse type ear hat with some very fancy electronics. The hat contains an infrared receiver that allows the LED lights in the ears to change colors as directed by nearby transmitters that Disney has installed. The effect is that the hat changes colors to match what is happening in your surroundings.

When a big percentage of the crowd has purchased, and is wearing the hats, the effect is really amazing. Check out the video below of how the ear hats extended the stage of the World Of Color show and turned it into something really unique and immersive.


Check out the amazing effect when many people wear these hats.

What happens when not everyone has purchased, and therefore isn’t wearing these glowing ear hats, and you don’t get the effect of a sea of people adding to the effects of the show?

Maybe we will find out.

Ears Debut At Disney World

Disney is adding the Glow With The Show technology to Walt Disney World:

  • October 15, 2013: Ear hats will begin to work with Fantasmic! at Disney’s Hollywood Studios to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the show (has it really been that long?).
  • October 19, 2013: Ear hats begin to work with the Celebrate The Magic projection show on Cinderella Castle as well as the Wishes fireworks show.
  • Christmastime, 2013: Ear hats will work with the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at the Studios, and also the Christmas edition of the Wishes fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom, called “Holiday Wishes: Celebrate the Spirit of the Season.”

Disney World is going full speed ahead with this technology.

Ear hats arrive at Walt Disney World. Photo credits (C) Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Ear hats arrive at Walt Disney World. Photo credits (C) Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

But again, what if many people don’t buy the ears?

Hang in there with me, folks.

Some say this is a classic case of the “prisoner’s dilemma.” That is a classic game theory question where police arrest two criminals. If both criminals remain silent, they both get small sentences;  if they both confess, they both get medium sentences, but if one criminal rats out on the other, his partner goes to jail for a long time but the tattle tale goes free.

Under this game theory, it is statistically best if you always betray your partner (i.e. you tell on them). Interestingly, John Nash, the Nobel Prize winning mathematician portrayed in the movie A Beautiful Mind, documented this effect.

So, all that game theory is well and good, but what does it have to do with Disney World?

Glad you asked.

If you purchase the Glow With The Show ears for $25, you produce a better show for everyone else around you, but not for yourself. After all, you can’t see your own glowing ears.

If you don’t purchase the ears, but everyone else does, you get a better show and you keep your $25.

If nobody purchases the ears, nobody gets the benefit. By the way, if only a few people have the ear hats, the overall effect of the hats is kinda lame.

See The Dilemma?

It will be interesting to see how many people purchase the ears. Perhaps Disney will play it out for a while, hoping that many people will buy the ears. I suspect that they will be selling these ear hats from the portable carts that pop up each night to sell glowing light sabers and the like. If many people buy them, it will be great. If they don’t, perhaps Disney will offer some incentives.

Would you buy “Glow With The Show” ear hats for $25?