Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Achieving Your Childhood Dreams

Many of you may already know about Randy Pausch's story. But for those of you that don't, then its about time you heard about his inspiring story. . .

Dr. Randy Pausch was a professor at Carnegie Mellon University in computer science. He was diagnosed in 2006 with terminal pancreatic cancer and told that he had only months to live. The school had an ongoing lecture series called "the last lecture" in which professors were asked to prepare a lecture as if it would be the last one they would ever deliver. For Randy Pausch, it became the truth. Though Dr. Pausch lived a decent while longer than his prognosis suggested, he passed away on July 25, 2008.

Why is this relevant to Imagineering? Randy Pausch did some consulting during sabaticals for Imagineering and helped develop the virtual reality Aladdin's Magic Carpet Ride that had was featured at Epcot and Disneyland during the 90's. Randy also speaks a lot about his childhood dream to work for WDI and the persistance it took to realize that dream.

Here is the video of the entire lecture. Be forewarned, this lecture is an hour and sixteen minutes long. It is a very rewarding experience should you choose to watch it in its entirety. Notice that Pausch proudly wears his Imagineering shirt and name tag!

I understand that many people have time constraints, or a short attention span, so I've also included the reprised 10 minute version that Dr. Pausch presented on Oprah.

The worldwide popularity of The Last Lecture lead to a best-selling book adaptation, which summarizes the lecture and features more in-depth anecdotes and life lessons from Dr. Pausch. Even if you've watched the lecture, I cannot recommend this book enough, it has made a profound impact on me and should be a part of any future Imagineer's collection. Click on the cover below to head on over to amazon.com and pick it up

A memorial plaque with a quote from Dr. Pausch was also recently added outside the Mad Tea Party attraction at the Magic Kingdom in his honor . . .

"Be good at something; it makes you valuable. Have something to bring to the table, because that will make you more welcome."
- Randy Pausch

Friday, March 27, 2009

Books Books Books!

No aspiring Imagineer is complete without some of the inspiring books that cover everything there is to know about WDI. So just in case you've overlooked one of these gems, click on the covers to head over to amazon.com and pick a few up. Of course you can buy them from wherever, but from my experience amazon is usually the most affordable.

As for my personal recommendation, it depends on what your looking for. If your tight on funds or just looking for the best overall book, I would suggest picking up Designing Disney or Imagineering: a behind the dreams look. One book that future Imagineers may happen to overlook is Be Our Guest:Perfecting the Art of Customer Service. This book gives the reader an inside look behind the inner workings of Disney, and can oftentimes be found in university libraries.

Anyhow, on to the books!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Toy Story Mania coming to the Wii

Before I give my own opinion, here is the official press release from Disney Interactive Studios . . .

Beloved "Toy Story" Characters and Theme Park Attraction Provide Backdrop for Family-Friendly Carnival-Style Video Game

BURBANK, Calif., (March 24, 2009) Disney Interactive Studios today announced Toy Story Mania!, inspired by the Disney/Pixar animated feature "Toy Story," will be released exclusively for the Wii home video game console this fall. Toy Story Mania! showcases an array of entertaining games based on the new Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort attractions, while featuring the iconic characters and humor from the popular Disney/Pixar "Toy Story" franchise.

"The 'Toy Story' franchise is a fun, dynamic and heart-warming series containing characters and themes that connect with every age group," said Craig Relyea, senior vice president of global marketing, Disney Interactive Studios. "Toy Story Mania! combines those popular elements with the unique antics of the new theme park attraction for the ultimate in family entertainment."

In Toy Story Mania!, players experience the fast-paced, zany fun of the Toy Story Mania! theme park attraction, which is an interactive experience requiring 3D glasses and involving rapid or quick-firing shooting galleries. In addition to galleries adapted from the attraction, the game includes new and original galleries and a series of mini games, all hosted by beloved characters from the movies. The thematically-connected levels are designed for up to four players of all ages with competitive and co-operative multiplayer options. Toy Story Mania! also includes bonus 3D features, transforming the game experience with eye-popping visuals.

The Pixar-created "Toy Story" and "Toy Story 2" have both had successful box office and DVD sales. The Disney Digital 3D™ theatrical re-release of "Toy Story" is in the works and will open in theatres on October 2, 2009, followed by the 3D re-release of "Toy Story 2" opening on February 12, 2010, leading up to the premiere of "Toy Story 3" in 3D summer 2010. Toy Story Mania! is the first video game to place characters from these films into a carnival game setting and is expected to resonate with fans of the films and the attraction, as well as gamers who like pick-up-and-play party games

Developed by Papaya Studio, Toy Story Mania! will be available this fall exclusively for Wii.

I must admit, at first, this sounded like a great idea to me. But the reason why it sounded like such a good idea was exactly what lead me to think otherwise. Every time I've been on the ride, I immediately want to jump right back in line the second I've finished. From an Imagineering (and business) standpoint, this is priority number one. An attraction's success can oftentimes be measured by it's re-rideability. This beg's the question, why would you give people the opportunnity to NOT have to visit the parks in order to experience an attraction. Now granted, I don't think sitting in your living room playing the wii version of TSM will be anything like experiencing the real thing (and not nearly as tiring for your arm!) . But there is something about the exclusiveness of our favorite attractions that make them special. The fact that that I can't just buy a game or watch a video and be satiated by anything but the real thing makes it that much more magical when I do go to the parks. Who knows, maybe this is purely financially motivated, and perhaps if nothing else will act as a big advertisment to get people to the parks. But I worry that these artificial experiences, especially as technology progresses, will begin to take away from the genuine experience.

Also, this just in. Autopia is coming out on Xbox 360. Looks intense!

But NO bumping

Monday, March 23, 2009

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

Intrigued by the title? Interested in a quick and fun read? Do you like the idea of a compelling book set in Disneyworld? Am I asking too many questions?

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom is a fantastic little science fiction story that takes place in the 22nd century mostly throughout Walt Disney World and the Magic Kingdom. Now if you hear "science fiction" and get the urge to start running away like I mentioned the plague, you would be making a huge mistake. I would never consider myself to be a fan of the genre, and yet I genuinely loved this story. Its also refreshing to read a book that incorporates Disney in a unique way that isn't a children's book. Plus, no exaggeration, it took me about two nights to read it from first to last page and I was hooked the entire time.

Best of all, you can download the book for free here! No strings attached, right from the authors website. No time for books? or just can't read? (I hope its not the latter!) You can also download a free audiobook version here.

So if you have a decent imagination and a love for the parks, which is why you're reading this blog in the first place, then download this book pronto and let me know what you think!

a random note/tip before delving into this book is to read up on the wikipedia entry that explains what an adhocracy is. I had heard the word before, but it was helpful looking up the definition since its a term that is frequently used in the novel.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Bon Appetit!

The newest character to debut from of the Living Character Initiative at the parks is none other than Remy from Pixar's Ratatouille! Guest's visiting Epcot's Chef de France restaurant can meet the little chef himself for the next 6 months.

here are some videos of Remy in action!

I think the living character initiative is very forward thinking, and a step beyond costumed cast members. Bringing these characters that wouldn't translate too well into costumes. . .

Remy by bryanpage.

. . . creates a really magical experience where guests can feel as though they are truly meeting characters like Remy face-to face. This is a great example of how Disney Imagineers continue to think of new ways to create unique and memorable experiences for guests every day.

Interviews with Imagineer Tony Baxter

Here is an little excerpt from a great interview with Imagineer Tony Baxter, Senior VP of creative development and the lead behind attractions like Big Thunder Mountain, Indiana Jones (Disneyland), as well as as many others.

"I had been a Disney geek since the day that Disneyland opened. I was fortunate to have been able to tour Imagineering just before I began working at Disneyland. The day that [Great Moments with] Mr. Lincoln came west--two shows were running simultaneously at the New York World's Fair and at Disneyland--I saw the show and I thought it was so amazing. I said, 'That's it. I'm signing up today to get a job here.' In the five years I worked at Disneyland, I sold popcorn, scooped ice cream, and eventually worked as a ride operator at the attractions. In the summer of 1969, I joined the Submarine Voyage crew.

I studied landscape architecture at Cal Poly and developed an idea for a Mary Poppins-themed attraction as a course project. A friend at Disneyland was able to get it to Imagineering where they passed it around. That led to a second, more in-depth tour of Imagineering. It was a reality check. They told me [my project] was pretty good for someone starting out, and then showed me the work that was done there. It was overwhelming, but it was sort of a kick in the can. As a result, I changed my career and school and went to Long Beach State to study theater design.

After graduating college, I applied at WDI [Walt Disney Imagineering, then known as WED--for Walter Elias Disney--Enterprises] and submitted my portfolio, which included an attraction I developed based on the film, The Island at the Top of the World. I had invested my entire senior year in the project. Ultimately, the film was not a hit--but I got the job.

I think Disneyland is unique, because it is theater and it uses a landscaped environment and architecture to tell its stories. So I was well versed in all three of those areas. It worked out well. I sort of stumbled into my profession."

Check out the rest of th interview here

Here are a few more interviews with Tony Baxter that are definitely worth a read.

2007 Interview with Tony Baxter

1995 Interview with Tony Baxter (a bit dated, but a bunch of great stuff)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Waste Please

When I'm at the parks, I always find myself rushing to the next attraction, armed with my fast passes. Maps!? No way, I know all of the shortcuts and the quickest routes. I'm sure many park enthusiasts like myself find themselves in this hyper productive mood, and with good reason of course. But unfortunately a result of this is that we miss all of the small beautiful details imagineers have added around the parks to add to the experience. Trash cans are one of those details, so lets take a look at some and see how many you can identify where they are located and in which park. Highlight the area below the picture to reveal the answer! Some may have their location incorporated into the design, so if you miss those . . . well then we may have some problems I think. . .

Epcot - World Showcase

Hollywood Studios - Tower of Terror

Magic Kingdom/Disneyland - Tomorrowland

Epcot - The Living Seas with Nemo and Friends

California Adventure/Epcot - Soarin' over California

extra points if you can tell me WHO this famous trash can is:

Disneyland/Magic Kingdom - Push the Trash Can in Tomorrowland

hint - this one is from one of the WDW resorts!

Polynesian Resort

Disneyland/Magic Kingdom - Main Street USA

Magic Kingdom - Liberty Square

Disneyland - The Haunted Mansion

of course you can tell which land, but which park? (its overseas!)

Hong Kong Disneyland - Main Street USA

Animal Kingdom - Africa

Disneyland/Magic Kingdom - Frontierland

Disneyland/Magic Kingdom - Fantasyland

Animal Kingdom - Dinoland

Magic Kingdom - Liberty Square

Animal Kingdom - Camp Minnie-Mickey

Hollywood Studios - Backlot

Animal Kingdom - Asia

The Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort

Disneyland/Magic Kingdom - Adventureland

California Adventure - Paradise Pier

So, how did you do? Any favorites? Some were pretty tricky! There are a lot of these little details throughout the parks that are worth taking the time to stop and notice. Now if you'll excuse me . . . I have fast passes to Indy, then I'm hitting Jungle Cruise, stopping for a Dole Whip, and avoiding the long lines at Pirates during the parade!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Shoot for the Moon

Here is a great special that BBC put out about the making of Space Mountain in Disneyland Paris. Great stuff, I've always loved the Jules Verne inspired theme of Discoveryland in DLP as well as Mysterious Island at Tokyo DisneySea. This video is particularly unique in that it highlights many of the struggles Imagineers endured and obstacles they overcame in the creation of this attraction.


After finally coming to the realization that I wanted to be an Imagineer, my first natural reaction was "Where do I begin?". Imagineers have come from a variety of diverse backgrounds, each with their own stories as to how they began working for the mouse. Many possess impressive resumes, a master's degree (or two!), and loads of experience. While others have never made a step into a college classroom. One thing that most Imagineers do share is that they all started as interns and have worked their way into a full time position. Today, Imagineering internships are hard to come by and are extremely competitive when they are available. Luckily, Disney has provided college students a great way to showcase their talents directly to the Imagineers themselves through their "ImagiNations" contest.

You can check out the ImagiNations website by clicking the the logo above. The website has some great videos and all of the information you need for the competition. I'm currently working on forming my team and looking to submit a project for 2010. This is definitely something that any aspiring Imagineer should participate in, and I will be documenting my progress and journey along the way. I have spoken with several people that have been involved with the contest (one of which won!) and they all emphasized how memorable of an experience it was, and how it serves as a realistic introduction to what being an Imagineer is all about.


Where to begin? Welcome to what will hopefully become a blog for those with a passion for all things that are related to Walt Disney Imagineering and the theme parks around the world. I am currently a college student studying Graphic Design and Visual Communications and hope to one day become an Imagineer myself. The purpose of this blog is for me to share my passion and hopefully build a community of others who share this passion for Imagineering. I do not have a specific formula to follow, but anything I post will be something I find relevant, inspirational, or helpful to others.

"Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world."
- Walt Disney