Glow With The Show

If you’re not already familiar with the Glow With The Show ears they are a set of Mickey Mouse ears sold at Disneyland California Adventure (and other Disney theme parks) that integrate with their World Of Color show. Here’s a video:

If you’re just interested in the short “HOWTO”, jump to the bottom of the page, or just continue reading for history, technical discussions and explanations of each moving part.

Since the release of the ears there were a few active discussions on reverse engineering the control of the ears. The most definitive one I know about was on DoItYourselfChristmas. It was so active and instrumental somebody who isn’t involved in the Christmas lighting community joined the forums for the discussion. The individuals working on it found each other via YouTube videos, comments, etc. If you’re interested in the history of that discussion and the reverse engineering, you’ll want to read this thread. Warning: it’s over 30 pages!


The relevant posts for the protocol that I followed are here: #1 #2 #3 #4 #5.

I’d like to extend a personal thank you to the users instrumental in the knowledge of the protocol are: Jon Fether, Timon, and RobG. Thank you gentlemen for your hard work!

Arduino Code

rjchu from DIYC took the knowledge laid out in the protocol and wrote some basic arduino code using my horae renard code to read renard data in, and spit out the GwtS IR protocol. Ironically I ripped out my renard code so I could glue in Komby RFPixelControl code. This made it such that I could use an RF1 to receive 2.4GHz RF wireless data via the onboard nRF24L01 module, and connect IR to then control the GwtS ears. Thanks -joni- for the lookup table and arduino code.


I need to give another mention to Komby for the RF1 and the RFPixelControl library. I was already familiar with the code-base from my work getting GECEs working and other refactoring work I did with Komby on this, so utilizing the RF1 was a no-brainer. Thanks Greg for the amazing work you’ve done on the RF1s and nRF front for the DIYC Christmas lighting community!

IR Flood

A sticking point I kept having was the layout of an IR flood to blast the IR signal from a controller to the lights. Thankfully for me, LabRat on DIYC had a project he abandoned which used IR communications. He graciously offered to sell me a couple IR flood boards he made for the cost of the boards/BOMs/shipping, or so he said. It was so cheap I think he cut me a deal. Thanks Andy!



RF1 and waterproof connectorThis is assuming you already have knowledge of Komby’s nRF wireless controllers. You should already have a working transmitter that will get your sequence data from your control machine to the air. You should be able to follow the Getting Started Guide to set up your environment and program both the transmitter and receiving RF1.

In addition to what Komby’s website has, you will need to install the Glow with the Show Arduino library. In a nutshell I wrapped the code that rjchu wrote into an Arduino library for easy portability between Arduinos and projects.

Once you have those prerequisites met, you can simply open the “GWTSReceiver” example sketch from the Komby RFPixelControl Arduino library. Once opened, you will need to either set up your unique ID (if using OTA). If you’re not using OTA, set your data rate, RF listen channel, and pixel start channel. Leave the data pin set to pin2, as that’s the data pin on the RF1 device that you will use to drive the IR flood. The channels you’ll set up are for each ear. Each ear is treated as 1 pixel (a.k.a. 3 channels) and therefore you need to send 6 channels worth to the RF1 in your sequencing software. The code that -joni- wrote takes those 6 channels and finds the closest color in the known GECE pallete to send out via IR.

This is a shot of the GwtS ears on when I was prototyping.         This is a shot of the GwtS ears off when I was prototyping.

IR Flood

The flood is a simple design that takes in power that feeds a mosfet to give high current to the IR LEDs from a low current signal wire. In my scenario, the power source will feed both the RF1 as well as this board. Since ATMega328 pins can only handle a spec’d 40mA of current the IR LEDs need much more current to blast the IR signal sufficiently so the mosfet is used to bump the current provided by the microcontroller.

This shows the LabRat daughter board I used.         Glow with the Show prototype setup.


A couple of years ago I purchased a dozen 500-watt flood lights when they went clearance. A couple were used for Mighty Mini flood lights, the rest sat in a box in the rafters for a project such as this. They’re a great size for flood lights like this, and easily fitting custom projects that need to be visible and still be waterproof.

I pull out the portion of the flood that holds the halogen bulb and using simple L-brackets I can make holders for various boards. This is almost exactly how I mounted Mighty Minis in the past.

IR flood connector sticking out of the flood enclosure.         IR Flood in flood-light enclosure.


The way the RF1 is laid out, I feed the DC input with enough power for both the RF1 as well as the IR board. The power output pins on the bottom of the RF1 will then pass voltage/current directly to the IR board.

The Results

Once everything is all tied together, it went out in the yard. The RF1 went in a 1″ PVC Enclosure just like the other ones, and the pigtail connected to the one coming out of the flood that feeds the IR board. Unfortunately I didn’t get quite the range I had hoped, so I have a few options I’m going to look at for 2014. First is a second flood that’s portable, utilizing a battery and hoping that the RF range is better than the IR range. This means I can more easily move the flood around for use. Second is a 10W LED IR flood. I scoured the web last year for something like this before LabRat’s offer and didn’t find anything. This might be a bit better solution with the right control board.

This shows the camouflaging used to hide the yellow flood light enclosure.         IR flood next to the tune-to sign in 2013.         IR flood placement in the 2013 display

Teaser Videos