This is Imagineering

Take a look at this photo. Here we have Walt himself, with a scale model of the Matterhorn at Disneyland. Sleeping Beauty Castle can be seen next to it, right in front of Walt. Take a look at the details:

  • The Skyway cables are visible going into the mountain (and coming out the back).
  • The Matterhorn model has its full range of colors–those of the mountain, and those of the trees on its side.
  • The photographs on the wall behind show different views of the mountain.

Disney Imagineers have traditionally gone to great lengths to create their attractions and theme parks. They just don’t “throw up a roller coaster” and paint it green like the Incredible Hulk. Even as late as the 1990s, WDI did all sorts of research to create the Animal Kingdom theme park–and it shows in the details. Take a look at this post from Disney Shawn for an in-depth look at those details. In fact, I recommend reading Shawn’s blog religiously. His examinations of Disney parks and their “plussing” are a real asset to the Disney fan community.

Look for more examples of these great images from WDI’s history in the weeks to come.

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An Imagineering tour

Ever wanted to visit Walt Disney Imagineering’s offices in California? If you are a Disney Cast Member, it’s easy. Drive yourself to 1401 Flower Street in Glendale, right off of I-5, and present your Disney employee ID at the reception desk. You can visit the cafeteria and Mickey’s of Glendale, the exclusive employee-only store that features Imagineering-logoed merchandise. (Most of us mere mortals have to resort to eBay to get that kind of stuff.)

If you’re not a Disney Cast Member–and you don’t know anyone at WDI who can get you in for a visit–your only real option is Google Earth (or Google Maps in your web browser). Fire up either one, and type in 1401 Flower Street, Glendale, California. After a moment or four, you should see a map. If you click on Satellite View in Google Maps, you’ll get the bird’s-eye view.

The pin location marks a small parking lot for the main entrance to WDI. Take a look at the street view in Google Maps and you’ll get a nice view of the nondescript building. You could drive right past it and never realize what it is. There’s no sign to announce the magic that takes place in this complex. If you pull in the parking lot and take a gander at the front door, the building’s street number sign might look familiar.

When I visited WDI in 2001, we were able to visit Mickey’s of Glendale by going to the WDI cafeteria, out the doors into a courtyard, which we crossed to reach the building housing Mickey’s of Glendale. We were advised not to wander any further than that. 🙂

The current satellite view of the WDI complex shows there is (or was) some earth-moving going on, so I cannot say for sure where MoG is at this point. It was housed in a trailer, and whether the trailer moved or MoG moved into new space is unknown to me. (Anyone know?)

As I dig up more information on different parts of the WDI complex, I’ll pass it on.

Imagineering.org in 2011

This blog has not received nearly the attention it deserves, so one of my resolutions for the new year is to post here at least weekly. Thanks to all of the readers in 2010!

2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Fresher than ever.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A helper monkey made this abstract painting, inspired by your stats.

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 12,000 times in 2010. That’s about 29 full 747s.

 

In 2010, there were 10 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 12 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 1,018kb. That’s about a picture per month.

The busiest day of the year was October 11th with 132 views. The most popular post that day was How to become an Imagineer.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were hiddenmickeys.org, disneyinsider.com, google.com, nsstudio.co.uk, and ryanchurch.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for disney imagineering, walt disney imagineering, imagineering, haunted mansion, and imagineers.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

How to become an Imagineer June 2010
5 comments

2

WDI FAQ June 2010
3 comments

3

Bookstore June 2010
1 comment

4

About/Disclaimer June 2010

5

What is Imagineering? July 2010

Imagineering on YouTube

Walt Disney Imagineering can be found all over YouTube. Enjoy!

The Seas With Nemo and Friends–Hit and Miss

Epcot’s The Seas With Nemo and Friends is a split decision. There’s so much about it to like, yet it lacks completeness, that we have to give it a Hit and a Miss.

On the hit side of things, WDI has done an amazing (no–really–an AMAZING) job in the queue area. Entering the building (after being greeted by the noisy gulls from Finding Nemo!) you find yourself in a cool, tranquil beach setting. Before you know it, you’re underwater. The ripples of waves play on the ceiling above you, and the rails that keep guests in line look and feel like they were just pulled out of a shipwreck (with a little cleaning up before installation).

It is at this point, however, that the show begins to go downhill a bit. If you think back to the original EPCOT Center that opened in 1982, everything in Future World seemed to inspire wonder and curiosity. The Living Seas (which opened a few years later) fit that mold. Guests learned about the unexplored world in our oceans. Even today, in 2010, we know more about outer space than we do about our own oceans. As visitors, we were able to tour Seabase Alpha. After a quick hydrolator ride down to the visitors level, we were able to marvel at the life contained in the huge aquarium. We saw research with dolphins and manatees. We watched divers in the tank feed its inhabitants and then tell us about the experience.

Today, we have a Fantasyland dark ride. (Don’t get me wrong–the Fantasyland dark rides like Peter Pan’s Flight and Snow White’s Scary Adventure are great attractions. But they belong in the world of fantasy.) Rather than learning about the seas, we are treated to the retelling of the Finding Nemo story. There is no question that the story-telling technique and technology are top notch. The problem is, we’re not learning anything along the way. Epcot’s pavilions should entertain and teach, not simply entertain.

After riding in our clam shell vehicle, we end up in the remnants of Seabase Alpha. The place looks tired, and it feels incomplete, like parts are unused. Fortunately, we do have Turtle Talk With Crush to entertain–and to teach. Overall, however, the perceptive guest is left with the impression that the show isn’t quite ready for an audience yet.

The Haunted Mansion–Hit

The Haunted Mansion is the first attraction featured in our series on WDI’s hits and misses. What makes the attraction a hit? There are so many things, it is hard to know where to begin.

Unlike the haunted houses that spring up like mushrooms each year in October, The Haunted Mansion is not designed to simply scare the heck out of you. No strobe lights, no blood scenes, no amateur hour here. The Haunted Mansion is designed to entertain you, using the ghostly world in a slightly sinister, slightly humorous way. The entire “999 happy haunts, but there’s room for one more” theme subtly tells you that you are merely a visitor, and that no harm will come to you. You can relax and enjoy the show.

And what a show it is! The tone is set in the queue where you see tombstones with humorous, pun-ny epitaphs. The stretching rooms are usually the first time we can hear our Ghost Host clearly (his opening lines in the foyer are usually drowned out by talking guests). The voice of Paul Frees, a legendary voice actor, is perfect for the role. The humor continues as the portraits stretch to reveal the way that some of the guests met their fate.

From there, you board your Doombuggy and head out on the tour. Ghost stories fill the library alongside terrific busts that follow you as you go through. Things try to escape: coffins, doors, all accompanied by creepy wallpaper.

One of the best visual illusions ever is featured: a head in a crystal ball. Yes, Madame Leota conducts her seance, followed by a view into the ballroom with dancing ghosts. A trip to the attic followed by a visit to the graveyard leads to a close encounter with a ghost who will “follow you home.”

Ghosts and the supernatural have been themes in literature and storytelling for centuries. People like to be scared a bit. Macbeth dealt with the ghost of his murdered father (or was it?). Edgar Allen Poe masterfully told tales of terror. Even Mickey Mouse had to take on ghosts in one of his shorts. All of those experiences, however, are two-dimensional. Even when viewing Macbeth on stage, there is typically a “wall” between the audience and the players.

The Haunted Mansion breaks through that wall and takes us into the world of ghosts, and you can’t help but chuckle along the way. What’s not to like?