Design Tools

SketchUp

Design Tools: What tools are used? One subject that themedattraction.com has not addressed yet is the question of design tools: That is, what tools are used by designers to create theme park attractions? Sketchup is a great new tool for theme park designers. It allows a designer to quickly take a two dimensional AutoCad drawing and elevate it, quickly turning it into a three dimensional object. As a theme park consultants, we frequently create new attractions from scratch using their easy-to-use interface. The drawings are simple to both import and export to and from Autocad, making it a truly...
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I want to contact an Imagineer at WDI. How do I do this?

Eddie – I would like to contact Joe Lanzisero. Is there anyone who may have his mailing address? I have an idea for a concept/theme for Disney World that I would like to share with him. I don’t want any money. I don’t want to become an Imagineer. I just want him to listen to the idea. If he likes it, I would love no more than the joy of seeing it become a reality. Any suggestions? Thanks, Edwin Edwin – Nothing stops you from calling WDI (818-544-6500) and looking him up. My experience with WDI legal policy is...
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Themed Attraction Design, Part Three The Sixth Sense, the Story, and the Cliche`

In part one we explained how an immersive themed environment creates an envelope around the viewer with the intent to convince him that what he is experiencing is real.  This is accomplished by designing an environment that influences all five sense. But how do we complete the task?  How do we take a passive viewer and pull him from a relaxed realm as an observer into a realm of fantasy that truly seems real?  Part of the answer is in what we like to call the sixth sense.   In themed entertainment, this sixth sense is the imagination or the...
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How can I share my ideas with Disney?

Eddie – I would like to contact Joe Lanzisero. Is there anyone who may have his mailing address? I have an idea for a concept/theme for Disney World that I would like to share with him. I don’t want any money. I don’t want to become an Imagineer. I just want him to listen to the idea. If he likes it, I would love no more than the joy of seeing it become a reality. Any suggestions? Thanks, Edwin Edwin – Nothing stops you from calling WDI (818-544-6500) and looking him up. My experience with WDI legal policy is...
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Themed Attraction Design, Part One. Immersive Environments

Environments Like storytelling, illustration, or musical composition, the design of immersive theme park attractions is very much an art form. An artist’s canvas is limited in that it can only be seen. A motion picture or at a stage production is limited to sight and sound. But an immersive theme park attraction utilizes all the senses in order to seemingly take a person on a journey to the ends of the earth, or beyond. This experience oriented architecture is much more complex than many forms of art or entertainment because it must be cater to all the senses. Seeing...
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Show control: It’s all about the timing

“The key to great storytelling is not just in the content, but in the timing. . .” — Tom Soranno He’s a talented ride and show engineer who has played a major role in the design of many of the world’s newest and complex theme park rides.  Here’s our exclusive interview with Tom Soranno, ride and show engineer with ITEC Entertainment Corporation in Orlando, Florida. Nate Naversen:  Thanks for agreeing to this interview Tom. Just to start off, can you tell us a little bit about your position? Tom Soranno: Well, as a themed entertainment engineer, I am one...
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How to protect your intellectual property

Eddie – Once you have an idea and a portfolio made up for it, how do you make sure that the people you present it to do not reject you and then steal your idea. How can you prove it is yours? Steve Davis Steve – How do you keep them from stealing your attraction idea from your portfolio? You really can’t. If someone really wants it, they change it a bit and take it. In fact, when I was at WDI, I wasn’t even allowed to look at submitted ideas for projects without legal approval, which they almost...
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Adobe Photoshop

Design Tools: What tools are used? One subject that themedattraction.com has not addressed yet is the question of design tools: That is, what tools are used by designers to create theme park attractions? Photoshop is an invaluable tool in the creation of theme park attractions. Every show set designer should have at least a rudimentary working knowledge of photoshop. The beauty of this program is that like any computer program, it allows you to correct mistakes. Many of us remember the ‘old days’ when we would draw and redraw on a single piece of paper. The paper was handld...
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Imagineering Bio: Ollie Johnson

Oliver Martin Johnston, Jr. (born on October 31, 1912 in Palo Alto, California) is a pioneer in the field of motion picture animation. He was one of Disney’s Nine Old Men, and the last living member. His work was recognized with the National Medal of Arts in 2005.He was a directing animator at Walt Disney Studios from 1935-1978. He contributed to many films including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fantasia, Bambi and Pinocchio. His last full work for Disney came with The Rescuers, which was the last film of the second golden age of Disney animation that had...
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Tales from the Disneyworld Jungle Cruise

Candid stories from a former Disneyworld Jungle Cruise skipper By R.C. Loveland When I was being trained on the Jungle Cruise I learned about a trick the trainers liked to play on their trainees. I was taking a “dead” (empty) trip with my trainer to practice my spiel. He was sitting in the back of the boat and I was, of course, up front. We entered the temple so I sat down and watched the scenery. As I got to the end of the temple I stood up and turned around to get ready to spiel again. When I...
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Walt Disney Imagineering Bio: Milt Kahl

Milton Erwin Kahl (born March 22, 1909, in San Francisco, California, USA; died April 19, 1987, in Mill Valley, California, USA, of pneumonia) was an animator for the Disney studio. Kahl is often considered the finest draughtsman of the Disney animators. For many years the final look for the characters in the Disney films were designed by Kahl, in his angular style inspired by Ronald Searle and Picasso. He is revered by contemporary masters of the form, such as Andreas Deja, and Brad Bird. In the book The Animator’s Survival Kit the author Richard Williams makes repeated reference and...
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Imagineering Bio: Ollie Johnson

Oliver Martin Johnston, Jr. (born on October 31, 1912 in Palo Alto, California) is a pioneer in the field of motion picture animation. He was one of Disney’s Nine Old Men, and the last living member. His work was recognized with the National Medal of Arts in 2005.He was a directing animator at Walt Disney Studios from 1935-1978. He contributed to many films including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fantasia, Bambi and Pinocchio. His last full work for Disney came with The Rescuers, which was the last film of the second golden age of Disney animation that had...
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Insights from Experts

Mickey’s 10 Commandments – Marty Sklar

Every theme park designer should know what’s been done in the past.  Benchmarks and precedents are extremely important.   With that in mind, you should learn the ten guidelines to theme park design developed by Walt Disney Imagineering President Marty Sklar. Mickey’s 10 Commandments 1. Know your audience – Don’t bore people, talk down to them or lose them by assuming that they know what you know. 2. Wear your guest’s shoes – Insist that designers, staff and your board members experience your facility as visitors as often as possible. 3. Organize the flow of people and ideas – Use...
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4. Theme Park Master Planning – The Attraction Mix

The Attraction Mix – by Peter Alexander This is your big decision: what kind of attractions are you going to offer, and at what level of quality and professionalism? Part of this depends on your competition, and just how good you need to make the park to be the best in its area. For example, today, Universal Studios and particularly in Florida, is known for it’s high tech, story oriented rides. But, if the Disney company hadn’t beaten Universal to the punch and opened their MGM Studio Tour before Universal’s in Orlando, none of those rides would have ever...
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3. Theme Park Master Planning – Park Layout

by Peter Alexander Park Layout When people think of Master Planning, a lot of them think of how the park is arranged, which is what we call “park layout.” There are as many ways to lay out a park as there are designers who do it, but a few have been used more often than not, so we’ll touch on those first. The Disney approach, seen in the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland, is what could be called the Icon Design Philosophy. The big Icon for Disney is the Castle at the end of Main Street, and that is also...
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2. Theme Park Master Planning – The Theme

The Theme A “Real Theme Park” needs a theme, which is a funny thing to say, but have you ever noticed that a lot of the places we call “theme parks” don’t have much of a theme at all? That’s because a lot of them are not really theme parks, they are just amusement or thrill ride parks with some pretty scenery stuck in between giant iron rides that look like Martian machines from The War of The Worlds. For this discussion, we are going to stick to “Real Theme Parks,” a term which describes Disney, Universal, many of...
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1. Theme Park Master Planning: So you want to build a theme park?

by Peter Alexander President; Totally Fun Company. So you want to build a theme park? What do you do? Where do you start? How about taking some cool rides, and putting them together with some good restaurants, fun stores and pretty landscaping? Well, you can do exactly that, and some people have, but if you want to make your theme park work you’d better do some master planning. The Numbers Game If you want to build a theme park, the safest place to start is by doing a feasibility study. This study will tell you what kind of market...
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Walt Disney Imagineering Bio: Mary Blair

Mary Blair (October 21, 1911–July 26, 1978), born Mary Robinson, was an American artist best remembered today for work done for The Walt Disney Company. Blair produced striking conceptual art for such films as Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan. Her style also lives on through the character designs for the Disney attraction “it’s a small world”, as well as an enormous mosaic inside Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Blair was honored as a Disney Legend in 1991. Born October 21, 1911 in McAlester, Oklahoma, Mary Browne Robinson moved to Texas while still a small child, and later to California when...
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General information

Ask an Imagineer!

Do you have a question about themed entertainment design?   Feel free to ask it here.  We’ll answer back as soon as we can. As well, if you are an experienced professional in themed entertainment design and would like to help answer questions, we’d love to consider you as a moderator....
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Imagineering Bio: Marty Sklar

Martin A. “Marty” Sklar is The Walt Disney Company’s international ambassador for Walt Disney Imagineering, the subisdary of the company which designs and constructs the Disney theme parks and resorts across the world. Sklar was formerly vice president of concepts and planning for the company, before being promoted to president, and then eventually taking the position of vice chairman and principal creative executive of the company before his current role. Born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, Sklar was a student at UCLA and editor of its Daily Bruin newspaper in 1955 when he was recruited to create an 1890s-themed...
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