SIMI VALLEY, Calif. – A smiling Ronald Reagan waves to a crowd from aboard a rail car during a 1984 campaign stop in a new hologram revealed Wednesday at the late president's namesake library in Southern California.
"We think we made a good beginning, but you ain't seen nothin' yet!" the high-tech digital resurrection of the nation's 40th president exclaims in his steady voice, with a twinkle in his eye.
Reagan, who died in 2004, also shows up in a suit and tie inside the Oval Office and clutching a lasso alongside his dog, Victory, at his beloved ranch in two other holograms that will open to visitors Thursday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library west of Los Angeles.
The audio is edited from remarks Reagan made during his lifetime. The computer-generated imagery was created starting with a silicone cast of Reagan's head that was photographed from various angles with 300 cameras. His head was then digitally "placed" on the body of an actor portraying the president with full costumes and backdrops for the three scenarios.
Reagan's face comes to life via specific movements of the mouth, nose, eyes, cheeks and hairline manipulated by computers.
"We wanted to make President Reagan as lifelike as possible," said John Heubusch, executive director of the Reagan Foundation.
The library worked with the same special-effects technicians who helped bring singers like Michael Jackson, Billie Holiday and Roy Orbison back to life on stage.
The Hollywood firm Hologram USA helped create the holograms and the stage on which they're projected.
As a radio host, television star and movie actor, Reagan understood and appreciated new technologies, company senior vice president David Nussbaum said.
"He always thought many steps ahead," Nussbaum said. "If he was looking down right now on this project, I think he would give us his seal of approval. I think he would totally get this and support it."
Seeing her former boss "almost in the flesh" was "a little eerie, but at the same time very comforting," said Joanne Drake, who served as Reagan's chief of staff after the Republican left office following his two terms from 1981 to 1989.
"It's fun to think that he's standing in front of us," said Drake, who's now chief administration officer for the foundation.
Drake said future plans include bringing the holograms on the road.
"I do think we're going to see Ronald Reagan back in Washington, D.C.," she said.
Associated Press writer Christopher Weber in Los Angeles contributed to this report.