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 reality. How do you make that first step from dreaming about a flooded ghost town to actually realizing it? (If this makes no sense, just ignore it.) What is WDI looking for when you apply to be an Imagineer?

-David Howe

Well, now you meet your second imagineer! To answer your question about how to realize your ideas, it takes many things. Timing your idea to the needs of the client, the talent to execute it and initailly pitch its excitement and thrill long before it is realized, (Get the money…) and the team to carry the torch all the way to the finish line.

Second, Imagineering isn’t the only place to do this, I started at other parks and in other roles to get my stuff made. Disney isn’t always the best place to start. In my interview it outlines a different path. I came in with experience and at a higher level. Follow your passions and let them tell you where and when to start. Find out what you are best at and do that, the public will follow.

Eddie Sotto

CEO Sotto Inc.
Former Senior Vice President
Walt Disney Imagineering

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, 18-24 age target, thrill ride.) Or an inspiration from a creative executive or Imagineer. Usually, budget is assigned to a need as in above and a group is formed to address it. When a hot solution is arrived at, it is pitched to creative management and if it is embraced, it is fleshed out in a variety of ways. Sketches, models, written treatments are all done to determine the feasibility of the idea. The engineers, estimators, marketers, operators, all look at this blue sky idea and come away with projections of attendance, budget projections of cost, operational feasibility and even technical risk assessment. A business plan determines all of these factors together as a feasibility stage.

All going well, the job gets further defined as it is potentially viable and becomes more designed and technically investigated. Estimates become tighter and the script gets more real as well. Design development lays the groundwork for the final funding of the job to go into production. It goes to corporate for approval and the big check to actually build with a firm deadline, opening, technical risk factor, etc…

Next is the actual production and implementation of the show. the script is now finalized, even listing in a descriptive form outlining the elements and creative action of every set piece is locked down in a scope document.

Nomenclature and graphics are also written into separate deliverables in the show. Graphic labels on bottles on a shelf, to big marquees and window signs are written by the show writer to be cleared by legal and incorporated into design packages.

– Eddie Sotto

CEO Sotto Inc.
Former Senior Vice President
Walt Disney Imagineering

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 Island caves 5) Arguably, even the Indiana Jones queue at Disneyland or the Dueling Dragons queue at Islands of Adventure could be considered a walk-through attraction before the actual ride.

However, it still seems like these attractions lack the draw that even a “C” ticket dark ride garners. Why is this? Do you think there are solutions or is that just the way it is?

I welcome your comments. – Nate

Nate
I happen to like walk-thrus, but they lack the predictible capacity and ability to pulse guests through. They’re great when you can do 150 an hour. At 1000 THRC they suck. If you need to have groups go through and tell a story in scenes, it is really difficult. You can end up with this choppy continuity of “walk a while, load, do a scene, then stop the action to walk some more.”

The pacing is kind of sluggish and the scenes end up having to be of equal or double length (with twice the guests) for the capacity to work.

In a single file linear, “Continous event” walk through (haunted maze) where it is important to just attack the guest in zones, then you need to create ways separate the guests as to not give away what is ahead. Do the gags intermittently.

The issue always is, if it is really entertaining, people will stop and watch and never move on. A good problem to have until you need more people to see it. So you end up with a “Nice B” Attractions that have a passive appeal like the Tree House. Cool, but the scenes quickly satisfy most guests, they move on.

The cool part of walk-thrus is the intimacy. The “one on one” aspect. The high capacity walk-thru that is my fave is the Haunted Mansion, as you never think of it that way. The ride sucks the guests out of the walk through.

My guess is that guests are more drawn to rides as they are physical experiences that are visceral as you move thru spaces. (no one like marketing walk-thrus) The Halloween walk thrus are perfect as they really violate your personal space and allow live talent to intrude on it. They deliver on your expectation and can be loaded with live talent for short run events.

You also have issues controlling point of view in WT’s. It can be hard to entertain the third person in the back row of a group and give them the big effects. You end up elevating the show to play above the guests just to make the sightlines work. Walk-thrus can be awesome, but there are more pitfalls. Let’s all “crack the code” and do the ultimate walk thru! At WDI I proposed a number of them related to either big theatrical finale scenes (monsters, dragons) that emptied the line. It can be done, it is more difficult.

Good Q Nate, thanks for the interest.

Eddie Sotto

CEO Sotto Inc.
Former Senior Vice President
Walt Disney Imagineering

Once an attraction is opened, who is responsible for the upkeep when problems arise?

Eddie –

Once an attraction is opened, who is responsible for the upkeep when problems arise? I would imagine (pardon the pun) that the Imagineers are not responsible for this and that there is a group of maintenance personnel on site for such occurrences as ride malfunctions or routine maintenance. What qualifications might these cast members have? I’m curious if maintenance of the attractions would require similar qualifications to those of an Imagineer. I’m sure there is a need for plumbers, electricians, mechanics. But what about programmers and engineers?

– Russell

Russ,

This is a big issue for the folks who operate a park maintain it. The key is to recognize this and design with the ultimate maintenance in mind. Create things that can withstand the normal maintenance. Don’t force things into your show that are so intensive, you will be disappointed when they become exasperated and shut the effect that made your show cool…..off. The maintenance crews have to know how to maintain lights, effects, mechanical, animation, etc… It is a tough but rewarding job.

There are needs for all the disciplines you mentioned at most parks, they not Imagineers but you want them to take ownership in your vision, so their understanding of the vision is crucial.

– Eddie Sotto

 

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 that guys like Joe and I aren’t allowed to listen to Attraction ideas from the outside (free or not.)

There have been issues with people telling us their ideas and later suing WDI as if we had stolen them. In many cases we were already working on something similar, so we out and out stopped hearing suggestions.

Eddie Sotto

CEO Sotto Inc. Former Senior Vice President Walt Disney Imagineering

 

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 that guys like Joe and I aren’t allowed to listen to Attraction ideas from the outside (free or not.)

There have been issues with people telling us their ideas and later suing WDI as if we had stolen them. In many cases we were already working on something similar, so we out and out stopped hearing suggestions.

Eddie Sotto

CEO Sotto Inc. Former Senior Vice President Walt Disney Imagineering

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 never granted. Other companies are less restrictive and allow you to pitch things as long as you sign something. From their perspective, what if you show something they have already thought of? And are considering? Then they are trapped by you. Thus the no look idea.

Don’t make your portfolio about selling a particular idea, but rather selling you, your approach to design and thought process, talent, versatility and skill. Use examples of experience you have, hypothetical designs etc. perhaps something that is less treating to the client you are showing. If they hate the ride idea you are showing, and it’s all about that concept, then their distaste for the specific idea may overshadow your talent in general, and may sour the whole thing.

My experience has always been that I don’t care if they steal it as I’ll give them a free idea as the price of admission or as the means of showing what I can do. You don’t have to give it all away either. Give them the gist without all the detail. The “free idea” is really a means to show you and your ability to generate and execute many ideas, not a particular concept. Most people never execute their ideas anyway, so there is little actual threat. The industry is not used to buying ideas per say, and so don’t set yourself up for that expectation.

This is still a “chicken and egg” thing as how do you show how creative you are if they cannot look at it? That is difficult at best in some companies, but then show examples of how you create on a stage, or a product or a parallel industry. Just your art in many genres is helpful too. Maybe the park would accept a list of enhancements or improvement suggestions that you have seen in their park? That may be less of a new idea, just a way of showing your point of view.

I hope this wasn’t too confusing as every company has a different filter for ideas and pitches.

– Eddie Sotto

CEO Sotto Inc.

How do I make my theme park idea a reality?

Eddie –

My name is Anthony Preston I have been reading about Eddie and he sound’s just like me. When I was 5 years old I took my first trip to Disney World. I really liked the first thing I saw, which was the Indiana Jones epic stunt spectacular. It really impressed me. I grew up going to Disney world alot, and I wanted to be a theme park owner.

I have been working on theme park ideas since I was six. And now have a great plan. I want to create a theme park called ‘The Secret World’. But it is not so easy for me. I need some professional help. Can you please tell me where I should start?

Thanks – Anthony

Anthony – This is a tough question. Companies like ITEC Productions usually design and create based on a client that has funding or financing to execute or they flesh an idea out in order to go get further seed money to construct their park. In your case it seems to me that you need to articulate your vision first and then determine the fiscal feasibility with someone with the dough to bring it to reality.

My realistic side says that you develop your idea into a credible, logical state and use it as a portfolio piece to get in the door at a design firm or a park. Then you can hammer away at them to fund your vision while doing their bidding on other things. It seems like a high risk long shot to just hope that you’ll find an avenue to execute your vision in the near term. So my suggestion is to use it as a means of getting into the industry with the hope that it may fit into a later strategy of realizing your dreams.

– Eddie Sotto

CEO Sotto Inc. Former Senior Vice President Walt Disney Imagineering

How do I put my ideas into tangible form?

Eddie –

I have always had “ideas in my head” for themed attractions. But I have always struggled getting them out of my head and into a tangible form for others to see and evaluate. At 29, I am looking to totally change my career and pursue the themed industry. I have wanted to do this my whole life but I have always struggled to find the right approach to get into the business. With that said, I have a good friend who is a C.A.D drafter and he is willing to teach me the program. Do you think this is the right direction for me to go?

Thanks,

Steve Fenton

A. I’d say evaluate your talents as everyone has ideas but few can ever execute them and do so in a superior way. Ask yourself what the best way is for you to express your idea? Are you a good artist? Writer? Can you team up with someone to flesh out your early concepts. CAD drafting, is a good technique but is part of the execution. To express yourself and really convey ideas, think of the other areas that best suit your talents. i took set design, screenwriting and other story related courses. If you have a chance to learn something do it, it’ll always come in handy.”

Eddie Sotto

CEO Sotto Inc. Former Senior Vice President Walt Disney Imagineering

How is math used in Disney Imagineering?

Dear Eddie,

I’ve wanted to become an Imagineer for as long as I can remember. I am doing a report for algebra class. We have to pick a job that we would like to have when we grow older and explain how math is used in that job. Can you please tell me from your standpoint how it is used and what type of math is used most commonly.

Thank you in advance, Brendan Generelli

Brendan –

Well, depending on where you land at imagineering, math plays a crucial role in each area. In the engineering realm, everything from calculus to basic math is used to create the geometry, speed, force simulation, etc, for thrill rides. It is practically all math and calculations.

In my area of creative, basic math is involved in determining the hourly capacities of a proposed ride. It is the dispatch interval, how many seconds pass between sending out a vehicle. Divide that into an hour, then multiply the number of dispatches by the average number of guests in each car and you have THRC, the theoretical hourly ride capacity. This also is useful in determining the financial feasibility of a ride and is compared to the total guests in the park per hour as to whether it can be marketed as a major draw. Here math is used to see whether enough guests that come on a given day can actually ride the new Attraction. This whole thing goes on and on. But I think you get the idea on how math is crucial to the process.

– Eddie Sotto

CEO Sotto Inc. Former Senior Vice President Walt Disney Imagineering

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