Imagineering Legends

Walt Disney Imagineering Bio: Yale Gracey – from Disney Legends

Yale Gracey (Animation & Imagineering)   Always interested in devising gadgets and building models, layout artist Yale Gracey’s office at The Walt Disney Studios in Burbank was always cluttered with some of his lunch-hour experiments. One Saturday afternoon, as Walt Disney made his rounds through deserted offices to see what his staff was working on during the week, he came across one of Yale’s mock-ups, featuring the illusion of falling snow. Impressed, Walt later asked the gadgeteer to help research and develop attractions for Disneyland. John Hench, senior vice president of creative development, recalled, “Whenever we needed a special...
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Answers from Imagineers

What is WDI looking for when you apply to be an Imagineer?

Eddie, Just a few hours ago I met my first Imagineer at (believe it or not) an AIAA convention. He was discussing the F-22 and just happened to mention that he was hired by WDI as an engineer, and since then I have been looking at Imagineering sites and stumbled upon this one. I am in such awe of Imagineers because they create fantasy. Fantasy, to me, is something unbound and exaggerated, and an Imagineer’s main job is to bring it to life. How? I have often heard that a dreamer is no good unless he brings it into...
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Imagineering Legends

Walt Disney Imagineering Bio: Ward Kimball

Ward Walrath Kimball (March 4, 1914 – July 8, 2002) was an Academy Award winning animator for the Walt Disney Studios. He was one of Walt Disney’s team of animators known as Disney’s Nine Old Men. While Kimball was a brilliant draftsman, he preferred to work on comical characters rather than complicated human designs. Animating came easily to him and he was constantly looking to do things differently. Because of this, Walt Disney called Ward a genius in the book, “The Story Of Walt Disney.” While there were many geniuses at Disney, Ward’s efforts stand out as unique, especially...
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Imagineering Legends

Imagineering Bio: Walt Disney

For the company founded by Disney, see The Walt Disney Company. Walter Elias Disney (December 5, 1901 – December 15, 1966), was an American film producer, director, screenwriter, voice actor, and animator. He was the son of parents Flora and Elias Disney, and had three brothers and one sister. As the co-founder (with his brother Roy O. Disney) of Walt Disney Productions, Walt became one of the most well-known motion picture producers in the world. The corporation he co-founded, now known as The Walt Disney Company, today has annual revenues of approximately US $30 billion. Walt Disney is particularly...
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Answers from Imagineers

Who originally comes up with the concept or idea behind a ride?

Eddie, First of all, how does the designing process start? Who originally comes up with the concept or idea behind a ride? Is it a writer? Engineer? Group decision? What’s next from there? Does a story writer script it, then pass it on to a engineer to see how viable the project is? Or is a ride conceptualized, then handed over to a writer to script just the dialogue? Will – At WDI, there was no one way an idea came about. Sometimes they were a quantified business request from the operator (E-ticket $70m budget, 2000THRC, opens EPCOT 2001,...
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Insights from Experts

The Sliced Onion Technique: How to Theme a Space

by Nate Naversen This article discusses how to theme a space or an attraction building the way professional theme park designers do it. This is the technique that a host of experienced themed entertainment designers approach the design of a space from the perspective of theme. This technique, describe here is what we call, ‘the sliced onion’. An onion is built with layers upon layers, and this is how themed spaces are created as well. There are no established guidelines as to how many layers one adds when defining a theme. But there is a hierarchy that many themed...
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Answers from Imagineers

Why aren’t walk-through attractions more appealing?

Eddie – In the interview you mentioned that walk-through attractions are very difficult to make successful. I was wondering why you think they are more difficult to make work than attractions with ride systems? What must happen to make a walk-through have that edgy appeal we all crave? I can think of some examples of what I consider successful walk throughs are: 1) The Swiss Family Tree House 2) Haunted Houses…e.g. Halloween Horror Nights at Universal (especially when you have a lady friend clinging on you!) 3) The Sleeping Beauty Dioramma in Sleeping Beauty’s Castle 4) The Tom Sawyer...
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Insights from Experts

Roller Coaster Wait Times – A Budgetary Necessity

by Nate Naversen On a hot day in August, a family of 5 walks up to the hottest new “E-ticket” attraction and gets in line for a staggering 90 minute wait. At the end of the line is a new roller coaster, an experience that lasts just over 1 minute. Sometimes such long wait times are appropriate and can actually contribute to a positive guest experience. But more often, the need for a wait time is intentionally designed into attraction in order to preserve other elements of the ride or show experience. Budget – A Balancing Act If given...
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Imagineering Legends

Imagineering Bio: Ub Iwerks

Ub Iwerks (Ubbe Ert Iwwerks) (March 24, 1901–July 7, 1971), was a two-times Academy Award winner American animator, cartoonist and special effects technician, who was famous for his work for Walt Disney. He was born in Kansas City, Missouri. His name is explained by his East Frisian roots — his father, Eert Ubbe Iwwerks, emigrated to the USA in 1869 from the village Uttum in East Frisia (northwest Germany). Iwerks was responsible for the distinctive style of the earliest Disney animated cartoons. The first few Mickey Mouse cartoons were animated almost entirely by Iwerks. He was considered by many...
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Insights from Experts

Trolley Parks – America’s First Amusement Parks

The Trolley Park may have been America’s first amusement park. These parks started in the 19th century and rose in popularity when Charles J. Van Depoele created an electric trolley pole which could power a trolley car. This new invention replaced horse-drawn streetcars in the United States around the beginning of the 20th century. Trolley Parks naturally followed. They were both picnic and recreation areas, and an attempt by trolley companies to earn extra revenue by providing customers a destination at the end of the trolley lines. These parks enjoyed a lot of success and looked upon the success...
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Insights from Experts

Attention to Detail: How the Details Make the Difference

These two pictures were taken at two different theme parks, owned by two different theme park companies. The train on the left is at a park on the West Coast, and the train on the right is in a park on the East Coast. Both trains look identical at first glance, don’t they? But upon further inspection, it is easy there is quite a lot of difference in the details that make one experience far greater than the other. When creating theme parks and themed attractions, attention to detail makes all the difference. I took these two pictures with...
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Show Writing

Enchanted Tiki Room Script

                      Preshow Before the Enchanted Tiki Room show begins, guests wait in the Tiki garden where statues of tiki gods describe themselves. Maui: My name is Maui, but teenagers call me Maui Wowie. My kids run late and that’s a crock, so I invented the first clock. Koro: A low ha! Wahanana wikiwiki banana. I am Koro, disco dancer! Today I no feel much like dancing. Big hangover! But last night, all tiki friends have big time back at my pad. Big party! When drums beat out the funky...
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Career Advice

Online Theme Park Engineering Class Peeks Behind the Scenes

  ORLANDO, FL — Have you ever gone to a theme park and wondered, “How did they do that?” Now you can find out, in Theme Park Engineering. This fun new online class surveys everything about the design of theme park attractions. The course is taught by Steve Alcorn, president of Alcorn McBride Inc., a company that engineers equipment for theme parks all over the world. “For over twenty years I’ve been having great fun bringing hundreds – perhaps thousands – of attractions to life all over the world,” says Mr. Alcorn. “Now it’s my students’ turn to do...
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Totally Fun Company

Theme Design vs Architecture

By Peter Alexander President Totally Fun Company So you want to design a theme entertainment project? Okay, so where do you start? You start by selecting an architect, right? Well, not necessarily! Asking an architect to create a theme project is like asking a multiplex theater designer to direct a movie: you’re putting the cart before the horse. In a theme resort, store, restaurant or any themed entertainment project you are creating a “show,” a three dimensional movie you can smell and feel. You are not creating a ‘place’ as architects do…you are creating sets, and populating them with...
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Theme Park Space Planning: The Mass Model

“The answers are in the model shop” – Michael Eisner Model building is an essential part of the development process for theme park and theme park attraction design. This article will discuss the first and most basic model used in the development of a theme park or theme park attraction: The mass model. As we frequently mention on this site, theme park design is a hybrid of architectural design, show set design, storytelling, site planning, and more. This aspect of theme park design focuses on the architectural aspect of theme park development, of which model building is a large...
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Insights from Experts

Learn From Your Mistakes – A Life Lesson. Nathan Naversen

This story is reasonably accurate, although most definitely hearsay and quite possibly exaggerated. But it is worth repeating because there is a good life lesson in this story: Many years ago there was a college student who wanted to become a Disney Imagineer and work at WED Enterprises, as it was called then. His goal was to design a theme park ride, a particular idea that he had imagined. Not just design it, but make it reality at a Disney theme park. So he spent days and weeks, and even months conceiving of an idea that he imagined. He...
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