What’s the deal with these bird’s-eye photos of Disney’s Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida? They appear on Google Maps when you zoom in and click “Satellite.” They seem fabricated. Why?
1. Parades don’t do that.
Check out the configuration of the parade. Normally, the enter the Hub from the bridge at 10 o’clock, travel clockwise, and exit at 6 o’clock. Here, the floats go round and round the entire Hub as if it’s a carousel. In real life, floats pack together, with lots of dancers between them, and with no large gaps. But look:
Here, there are no further floats on Main Street, USA until you get down to Town Square. That may be because the images were taken at different moments and the grafted together, but there is still a big problem, because of other oddities. (Update: One commenter, below, has a suggestion for how this float configuration, at least, might have occurred.)
2) Crowds don’t do that.
There is practically no one at the park, and a thin bare line of people watching the floats. Anyone who has been to Disney World knows the crowds at the parade can be six deep. You often have to line up nearly an hour ahead of time to get a decent view. What’s more, the people have been allowed to block the entrance to Main Street, USA. Disney’s razor-precise crowd control measures would never permit it. It’s a visual lie.
3) Figures don’t do that.
The people are too big and unlike most places on Google’s Satellite View, they lack shadows. Check out the smudge standing in the street in the upper right detail of this image. It looks like a clumsy artist’s attempt at a princess in a dress.
Now compare it to the images in Epcot (some of which were taken, as @Epcyclopedia pointed out to me on Twitter, during a marathon). They look appropriately ant-like, with shadows. What’s more, you can see crowd-control barriers that don’t exist in the Magic Kingdom stills.
So why would MK’s park map be faked? To make it look more festive? Less unpleasantly crowded?
Google Maps has two sets of aerial images for the Magic Kingdom. One appears for long-distance images and one appears, with the floats I detail above, once you zoom in. If the detailed images were doctored to be more idealized, it could be an anti-terrorism measure. Gas plants and military installations have their details fudged to keep bad guys from plotting things. That sounds plausible at first — the park has admitted to implementing all kinds of undisclosed safety measures.
But that’s not likely, either, because here’s the same Magic Kingdom view on Google Earth, not Google Maps. Here, the image appears to be more accurate, so you can’t say that Disney has clamped down on all Google aerial images of its parks. (Apple Maps, too — not shown here — has an image that looks a lot more authentic, with floats and crowds of the correct placement and proportions.)
There is no disclosure stating these images have been doctored, but Google has been known to publish Photoshopped images on its aerial maps, and it is brazen about returning results that show what its algorithms think you want reality to be. Here’s an iMediaEthics story and images about a Dutch golf course that was turned from dusty grown to verdant green.
As that story reveals, Google licenses its aerial images. Anything could happen to them before they reach the company’s servers.
In 2008, Disney worked with Google to create a “3D” (actually 2-D but modelled) explorable version of its attractions.
But did anyone at Disney doctor its satellite images to pass on to Google, the gateway to so much of our reference material? Was the objective to appear more action-packed, less crowded — more “magical”?
Can you explain the lack of shadows, the size of the people? Did you know Google satellite images are sometimes doctored without leaving an obvious trace? Does it bother you? Can you find fakery at other major tourist attractions?
Do you expect perfect accuracy when you search for something on Google?