Turn the Impossible into Reality
As you walk into a place called “Bug’s Land” in California Adventure in Anaheim, California, you see yourself shrink into a new perspective. Who could possibly create such a detailed illusion? The Disney Imagineers. Ever since 1952, Walt Disney needed people to help him create this magical place and to continue his legacy. As Walt Disney said, “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.”
Imagineering is a term combining the words imagination and engineering. What exactly is Imagineering and how can I become one? This is a question I have asked myself many times. For me, as a child raised in Southern California, some of my first childhood memories involve Disneyland. It was one of my favorite places to be as a kid. As I grew, I began to appreciate the artistry and creativity of the attractions I experienced. Then I decided that I wanted to pursue a career with Disney. So many people have dreamed of being the mind of Disney but never know what to do. It is a dream too difficult to reach for many people. It is considered a very competitive journey, but once you are there it is a job with very few drawbacks.
Three years before Disneyland opened in 1955, Walt Disney decided he would need people to assist him in making his vision into reality. He needed people who were creative and had the skills necessary to construct Disneyland. He hired some of his own animators and other employees to help him. Ever since then the job is one of the most sought after jobs and is thought to be the best job ever by many people.
When you get to be an Imagineer, what is the process of getting your dreams into reality? The Walt Disney Imagineering company is in fact an incredibly complex process of creating the attractions in all the Disneylands in the world. Let’s focus on a more specific topic, the process of creating just one attraction in Disneyland. Like most processes of creating Disney attractions, it all starts with the story. Disney Imagineers consider the most important aspect of creating an attraction is the story. Everything has a story which sets the basis of the ride and how to will move along throughout the experience. In Splash Mountain as the original story went from happy to intense, you can see as you watch the scenes in the ride increasingly get darker and in intense moments that when they hit you with a drop. a ride with 3 drops and loops is exciting, having it be a part of a story is a much better experience. Imagineers want every quality attraction to come with a history and tale to tell.
Next, the Imagineers will draw an extremely detailed storyboard including everything to happen on the attraction. I was able to get in contact and interview Don Carson, a former show designer, who said, “My job was to do the very first sketches of what a new attraction “might” look like, and how it might function. Over the course of the project I might revise early designs, and often I will do new drawings and paintings to explain further how something should look.” Imagineers must continue to revise and develop their ideas until they are fully conceived on the storyboard.The Imagineers will then create a scale model on the attraction and
show it to the designers of the attractions in a scale model which is made to bee seen by the designers at the same height of the people that will be in the ride. Once it is approved, they will need to exactly match the scale on the model to start the construction of the attraction.
The story process is not limited to the rides in the park, but as well as the story of a show, parade, or even the Disney Resorts. For example, Aulani, Disney’s Resort and Spa in Ko Olina, Hawaii, is a resort that started with the same process as the rides begin, with the story. Imagineers looked to the culture of Ko Olina and centered their resort around the look and traditions of the area.
But, now that I know how truly great the concept of being an Imagineer and creating such detailed, complex attractions, how do I plan my path to success to achieve my dream job? Imagineering, being one of the most sought after jobs in the world, many people have asked this question. Many people think being an Imagineer just consists of artists who say they love Mickey Mouse, but to become an imagineer, you must be much more.
Imagineering has a job for almost anyone. You can be an illustrator, sculptor, a physics engineer, and even a computer software engineer. Even then, just having the skills isn’t enough. As with the process of creating an attraction, you need to know how to tell a story with your craft. Don Carson was asked a question of who, what type of person, and personality can become an Imagineer? Don said, “Someone who’s a huge fan and is very verbal about it is probably less apt to get in, because really you’re there to do the job. In fact, I’ve known people working in the industry who actually don’t like, necessarily, going to theme parks but they’re marvelous designers. They’re really, really good storytellers.” So, is it still okay to like Disneyland? Well the answer is yes, of course, just when you are wanting to become an Imagineer, think with a perspective crafting a amazing story and giving people an incredible experience and not just liking Mickey Mouse.
Being an Imagineer was always more than just creating the next new and upcoming ride using the latest technology. It was coming up with new ideas and developing the stories to tell to the people. Imagineers are always finding new ways to bring the impossible into the real world. Disney would always say, “ We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”
Here is trailer for a documentary about Walt Disney Imagineering coming in 2016