Becoming an Imagineer…
I regularly receive emails inquiring about how one becomes an Imagineer. At the outset, let me state this clearly: I am not now, nor have I ever been, an Imagineer. I can’t help you get into WDI, nor do I have any contacts there that can help you get a job at WDI. Please do not send me your resume. I cannot hire you!
According to a recruiting brochure printed in the early 1990s, WDI employs people in the following fields, which are “just a few” of the many at WDI: Accountants, Advanced Technology Researchers, Architects, Architectural Designers, Audio/Video Specialists and Engineers, CAD Specialists, Carpenters, Civil Engineers, Colorists, Computer Software Designers and Programmers, Conceptual Designers, Construction Managers, Contract Administrators, Cost Engineers, Electrical Engineers, Electronic and Electromechanical Assemblers, Environmental Designers and Space Planners, Exhibit Designers, Facility Designers and Space Planners, Financial Analysts, General Services Support, Graphic Designers, Human Resource Specialists, Illustrators, Industrial Designers, Industrial Engineers, Interior Designers, Landscape Architects, Librarians and Information Specialists, Lighting Designers, Local Area Network Administrators, Machinists, Materials Applications Designers, Material Planners, Mechanical Engineers, Model Builders, Optics and Projection Systems Engineers, Plastics Fabricators, Producers, Production Artists, Production Coordinators, Project Estimators, Project Managers, Project Planners, Project Schedulers, Prototype Developers, Quality Assurance Engineers, Scenic Artists, Screen Printers, Sculptors, Secretaries, Show Technology Designers, Show Set Designers, Special Effects Designers, Story and Copy Writers, Storyboard and Sketch Artists, Strategic Planners, Systems Engineers, Telecommunications Specialists, Tool and Die Makers
Don’t see your speciality listed? Don’t worry! WDI employs Imagineers in more fields than are listed here–they even have at least one attorney!
The best source of advice on how to become an Imagineer is the Imagineers themselves:
- Doug Wolf, Project Manager, Walt Disney Imagineering–Florida ”Dream and pursue your imagination and goals. Do anything that stirs your creativity–read, write, draw, observe and travel. Learn what you enjoy and excel at, whether it be model-building, drawing, writing or construction. See if there’s a fit. Most likely there is since Imagineering encompasses almost everything imaginable. But above all, enjoy what paths your life travels and learn from each experience.”
- Joe Lanzisero, Senior Concept Designer ”[Executive designer and longtime Imagineer] Rolly Crump told me of some advice Walt Disney had given him: Become a student of life, be interested in everything. Be a life sponge, soaking up, observing and recording anything and everything of interest. Develop an attitude where you never stop learning.”
- Bruce S. Johnson, Research and Development ”Never pass up the opportunity to see new things, draw things, build things, talk to experts and learn new skills. I learned how to invent machines of all kinds over the years. I’ve worked as an auto mechanic, machinist, carpenter, factory worker, artist, concept engineer and many other trades. Some were for money and some were just for fun, but I learned from every one of them.”
- David Durham, Show Designer ”‘Educational Path’ doesn’t just mean classroom teaching. I think a lot of my education came from working at Disneyland. It also came from taking courses–psycholinguistics, nuclear biology, wood shop–seemingly unrelated to what I was studying. Taking nothing but design courses might make a good designer, but taking a variety of courses will make a better Imagineer.”
- Paula Dinkel, Lighting Designer ”Don’t try to be an Imagineer! Work hard to be the best you can be at whatever you do, get an education, keep on learning, maintain your sense of wonder and discovery and have a good life.”
- Kevin Rafferty, Show Writer ”Find out everything you can about every aspect of Disney. If you ever find yourself here, you will draw much from that knowledge. Better yet, find out everything you can about everything. If you are an artist–draw, paint, sculpt and write. If you are a writer–read, write, paint and sculpt. You never know what you’re capable of doing until you start doing it. More than anything, work hard and stick with it. Remember, the only time you will find success before work is in the dictionary.”
- Bruce Bader, Scope Writer ”There are lots of jobs here that you wouldn’t normally think about or aren’t normally found in other companies. Since many of these jobs don’t have traditional education or experience requirements, they might be a good way to get your foot in the door.”
- Ben Schwegler, Research and Development ”Pick a career you really like–I’m not kidding about this–even if it is something other people may tell you is not trendy, ‘has no future’ or seems to have a low probability of success, like art or botany. I think you can only be successful if you really like what you are doing.”
- Larry Nikolai, Show Designer ”Don’t give up. If you really want to be part of Imagineering, you will naturally keep growing while practicing and expanding your knowledge. Wander far and wide in your quest for experience. Don’t just limit it to what you perceive as the world of Disney. Imagineering is always growing, too. It is always looking for new realms, styles and possibilities.”
- Mark Rhodes, Show Writer ”Beg, whine and plead.”
Source: The Disney Magazine, Winter 1995, page 49. This issue also has a full article on how some Imagineers got their jobs (page 46). Back issues of Disney Magazine are almost impossible to get ahold of, but if you can find one, keep it (so long as you don’t steal it–The Mouse frowns on thieves).