Introduction: Hack Disney's Made With Magic Products to Power a LED Skirt

About: An artist, tech enthusiast, and computer programmer with a variety of cosplay prop making experience. Currently working with Eclectic Elathera making a variety of interesting geek art and cosplay items.

For several years the Disney theme parks have had a technology called "Made With Magic" or previously "Glow With The Show". These items are LED costume pieces (Bows, wands, ears, etc) that will light up to match the color of various shows during the night. This instructable shows how to take one of those props and turn them into a complete costume for something like the Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. The principals applied could also be used for any similar LED controller prop.

Step 1: Materials

  • Made with Magic product to modify (the Minnie Bow is easiest to work with, but other items can be used as well)
  • Solder
  • Soldering Iron
  • Prototype circuit boards (4x6cm minimum)
  • Wire
  • 6x PC817 Optocouplers
  • 6x C2655 Transistors
  • 2x 230 ohm Resistor
  • 6x 1k ohm Resistor
  • 2 Strings (or 1 string split in half) "Dumb" 5v RGB string lights (Not the individual addressable LED lights you see around a lot)
  • 8x PCB mount screw terminals
  • USB to 5.5mm x 2.1mm DC power
  • 5.5mmx2.1mm female to screw down terminal
  • USB Power pack (preferably 10k-20k mAH)

Optional but recommended

  • Heat shrink for wires
  • Multimeter

Step 2: The Isolated Amplifier Circuit

While this guid is focused on extending Made with Magic, this circuit can be used to amplify any circuit you are trying to tap into. Made with Magic is just a specific use case with 2 controlled RGB LEDs. Understanding this circuit is the key to making the LED controller work on a lot of lights instead of the 2 it normally controls. It's a lot to take in at once if you aren't familiar with circuits so I'm going to try and break it down.

First, let me explain what we are trying to achieve. The Red, Green, and Blue signals from the Made With Magic Controller need to be taken and amplified so that a set of color changeable string lights can be powered instead of the 2 LED's. To do this we need to create a 5v circuit that can handle the power required by the string lights (around 1 Amp for a medium length of string lights). The Made with Magic controller is 3v and is not designed to power that many lights.

A simple amplifier circuit would seem ideal for this, except the Made with Magic controller puts the control for the LED on the negative side. This means one 3v in for the LED, and red, green, and blue paths out which will break based on the controller. Keeping this circuit completely isolated is really the ideal and is accomplished through optocouplers.

Optocouplers, however, are rated for low power and therefore must be amplified using a transistor. A simple amplifier circuit takes the signal the optocoupler sends while allowing the LED's to get the full power.

On the Made with Magic side, the part of the MWM controller we want to tap into is the 2 LED's which are controlled by the rest of it's circuit. We don't want to interfere with the rest of the circuit since it does a lot of work, most importantly decoding IR signals into RGB signals for each LED. What we do is solder wires onto the resistors after the LED, effectively bypassing the LED and Resistor.

Each LED has 4 connections on the Made with Magic Controller: +3v, Red(-), Green(-), and Blue(-). How to solder these will be explained later. For now, it's just important to understand that we will take the +3v input, put a small resistor after it, and use the Red, Green, and Blue connections to signal our Optocoupler when to switch the circuit on the other side.

Step 3: Soldering the Made With Magic Controller

Welcome to the the hardest/scariest part. Care should be taken when soldering onto the Made with Magic board, because if the PCB is ruined the controller is ruined. For that reason I recommend attaching to the machine soldered parts and leaving the board mostly as is. The image above shows that you CAN remove the LED and solder onto the connections, but I can personally say this is fragile and those contact points can tear off easily.

The Made with Magic controller is a circuit that varies quite a bit depending on the product you get. There are plenty of teardown sites out there with circuit diagrams, but we're only worried about the LED parts. Around each LED there are 4 connections. 3 will have a resistor just after them, those are the Red, Green, and Blue circuits. The last connection will be a +3v input into the LED that powers all three colors. You can either use a multimeter to check which is Red, Green, and Blue or wait until you have the full circuit up and match colors to the LED on the controller. If it is the same as the ones I've worked on, you can also find the +3v contact, and then the rest will be Red, Green, and Blue clockwise from that connection and just follow the printed circuit.

If you follow the 3v back, it should connect to a round metal terminal point. That is where the first wire is attached. A wire is then attached after each of the resistors (LED -> Resistor -> our wire).

Step 4: Building the Isolated Amplifier Circuit

Now it's time to take that little pile of electronics and make the circuit. If done carefully using the listed components, the entire circuit can fit inside a small prototype board. Part of the reason for that is a 4 connector optocoupler instead of the typical 6, and the layout of the transistors (always check with the specifications for parts you order to understand where each connection is, for example transistors can place the signal connection in the middle or on an end).

A nice technique for keeping this clean is soldering "traces", effectively drawing the circuit in solder on the other side of the prototype board. I will try to add a picture of this in the future, but directly following it may not work if the parts aren't the exact brand that I used. You can also create the connections using jump wires if you wish, it will just look a little different.

Step 5: Putting It All Together

For the electronics, now you just need power. The MWM controller can be left as is if you want, or you can buy a 3v battery holder (CR2/photo batteries are easy to use) and replace the connections on the Made with Magic board to that.

For the 5v input that is split and used to power the string lights I'd recommend the USB battery pack listed in the materials. You can buy USB to DC power cables easily, and then just get a matching female power plug to screw down connectors. A good 10k mAH or 20k mAH battery pack for cell phones can easily get you a day of use on your string lights.

The last part is putting it into your project. You now have a set of string lights that will change to match Disney night shows, but you need to put it into something pretty. For the ladies, a skirt works well and the electronics can be mostly hidden in a bag (cloth, because the MWM controller needs to be able to see the infrared signals to work). If connections are done with quick connections (I used JST SM connectors) you can even disconnect circuit boards from the lights that are sewn into clothing. Anchoring the boards inside a small box also helps a lot for managing everything. I personally chose to 3d print a box around 6inx6inx1in and could put everything except the USB battery pack into it (3v battery holder, MWM board, and amplifier circuit). Those files are included in stl format for those that want to try it, and the case itself should be printed with a semi-clear plastic to allow IR through.