- “How many imagineers does it take to change a lightbulb? The answer: Does it have to be a lightbulb?. Imagineers take the notion of thinking outside the box way beyond it's limits.”
- ―Classic WDI phrase explaining an Imagineer's methodology.
Walt Disney Imagineering was formed by entertainment mogul Walt Disney on December 16, 1952 as WED Enterprises (WED: Walter Elias Disney) to develop plans for a theme park and to manage Disney's personal assets. It was originally an independent, private company, owned by Walt Disney himself, but on February 3, 1965, was merged into Walt Disney Productions. It is currently known as Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI), Disney Imagineering, or simply Imagineering.
Walt Disney Imagineering is much better known today for designing and building the world-famous Walt Disney Parks and Resorts all over the world;
- Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, USA
- Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA
- Tokyo Disney Resort in Urayasu, Chiba, Japan
- Disneyland Resort Paris in Marne-la-Vallée, France
- Hong Kong Disneyland Resort in Lantau Island, Hong Kong, China
The term "Imagineering" is a portmanteau word that combines "imagination" and "engineering." The first verifiable use of the term was by artist Arthur C Radebaugh to describe his work and was first mentioned in the article "Black Light Magic" in the Portsmouth Times. The article was published and copyrighted in 1947, and gravitated to Disney by unknown means. WED Enterprises applied for a trademark for the term in 1967, claiming first use in 1962.
The company was formed separately from Walt Disney Productions to keep the affairs separate. Although, when WED was required to design and build sets for Walt Disney's live-action television shows, WED and the Walt Disney Studios got closer together. In 1952 when WED were asked to design and build Disneyland, Walt and his brother Roy O. Disney formed Disneyland, Inc. to build, design, and manage Disneyland and produce the Disneyland television show. Disneyland, Inc was absorbed into WED Enterprises and WED Enterprises became a division of Walt Disney Studios - itself a division of Walt Disney Productions, now named The Walt Disney Company.
Walt Disney Imagineering is now the research and development arm of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, no longer a division of Walt Disney Productions. Imagineering also includes Walt Disney Creative Entertainment, the company which utilizes Imagineering techniques among others to create shows, fireworks displays and parades at the Disney theme parks which are significant enough not to be developed by the entertainment studios at that theme park.
The legacy and the history of the Imagineers is a very rich and complicated one. Ever since the founding of WED Enterprises, when Walt Disney's favorites at the Walt Disney Studios were handpicked to design an immersive themed experience now known as Disneyland, the company has been shrouded in mystery and its secrets are proudly guarded by Disney executives as senior as former CEO Michael Eisner, who had regular meetings with the Imagineers up until a few years before his departure.
In recent years, the company has been decimated and much of the research and development division was laid off, until the point where a few hundred Imagineers were employed by Disney, to perform basic and vital tasks at the theme parks. Much more recently, as Disney has publicly acknowledged the failures of Disney's California Adventure and the Walt Disney Studios Paris, and new management has been brought in throughout the company's different divisions, Imagineering has once again begun recruiting and the theme parks are now a buzz of activity, with a new attraction either being developed or having just opened at each of the eleven parks around the world.
In April 2006, John Lasseter, the new Principal Creative Adviser, a position created through the acquisition of Pixar by Disney, has made his feelings known about getting back to basics with Imagineering, such as focusing on the story-telling and not the technology so much. In a move which surprised many, he even made it known he would like Walt Disney Imagineering to return to the WED Enterprises name, partly in homage to Walt Disney and partly to regain the spirit that many feel left Walt Disney Imagineering in the late 1990s. He also said at the Walt Disney Company shareholders meeting in March that he felt that developing attractions based on movies to open in time with the movie's opening was a crucial step in moving Imagineering forward.
- Storybook Circus - Magic Kingdom
- Toy Story Midway Mania! - Tokyo DisneySea
- Grizzly Gulch - Hong Kong Disneyland
The corporate headquarters of Walt Disney Imagineering are in, and have been since the 1950s, Glendale, California. It is for this reason that there is no WDI field office at the Disneyland Resort, which is thirty-six miles away. There are two field offices at the Walt Disney World Resort, required for the sheer size of the resort. Both are relatively close to each other. There are field offices located at;
- Epcot and the Disney's Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World Resort
- Tokyo Disney Resort Administration Building, Tokyo Disney Resort
- The former WDFA field office, Disneyland Resort Paris
- Walt Disney Imagineering Hong Kong Site Office, Hong Kong Disneyland Resort
Non-theme park projects
The Imagineers have been called on by many other divisions of the Walt Disney Company as well as being contracted by outside firms to design and build structures outside of the theme parks.
- The very first Disney Store opened in Glendale, California, mere meters from WDI HQ, and was designed and constructed by a group of architectural Imagineers. The Store remains the only North American Disney Store (other than a Disney Store on the Disney studio lot itself) owned by the Walt Disney Company today.
- Environmental and graphic design for The Disney Cruise Line and DCL's Castaway Cay
- Imagineering have co-operated with Walt Disney Consumer Products on four more occasions for Disney Stores. Firstly, WDI developed the Walt Disney Gallery at the Main Place Mall in Santa Ana, California (open for a short time in the 1990s, next to the still-operating Disney Store), and then a Roman themed Disney Store at The Forum Shops at Caesars in Las Vegas, Nevada. Two more themed Disney stores were opened in San Francisco, California, and New York City, New York - the latter having been developed into a World of Disney.
- After the purchase of the Disney Stores by The Children's Place in 2004, Disney developed a more exclusive chain of flagship Disney stores, called World of Disney (see above). Located in Lake Buena Vista, Florida (at the Walt Disney World Resort), Anaheim, California (at the Disneyland Resort) and New York City.
- Former Senior Vice President of Imagineering John Hench designed the "Tower of Nations" for the opening and closing ceremony of the 1960 Winter Olympics, where Walt Disney was Pageantry Committee Chairman.
- Imagineering designed galleries and exhibitions for the Autry Museum of Western Heritage in Los Angeles, California.
- Imagineering developed the Encounter Restaurant, a science fiction themed redesign of the restaurant suspended at the top of the 135-foot parabolic arches of the iconic Theme Building at the Los Angeles International Airport.
- Imagineering manufactured flight attendant uniforms for Northwest Airlines from Claude Montana designs in 1989 due in part to the fact that Northwest's then-CEO Al Checchi was also a member of The Walt Disney Company's board. The WDI-made uniforms only lasted until 1992.
- When Disney purchased ABC, the Imagineers remodeled the ABC Times Square Studios in New York City.
- Imagineering designed exhibits for the Port Discovery children's museum at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, Maryland.
- When Disney purchased the California Angels, they renamed the team to Anaheim Angels, and Walt Disney Imagineering and HOK Sport renovated the then-30-year-old Anaheim-owned Anaheim Stadium, adding modern amenities.
An Imagineer (officially known as a Walt Disney Imagineer), is an employee of Walt Disney Imagineering, or any other employee of The Walt Disney Company given that title. Nearly all Imagineers work at the corporate headquarters in Glendale, California developing ideas and attractions for Disney parks. During the construction of a major project, Imagineers sometimes are deployed to work on-site for six months to a year. The word was created by Walt himself, as a portmanteau of imagine and engineer.
Imagineers come in all forms; artists, writers, architects, landscape architects, engineers, model builders, construction managers, technicians, designers and a whole range of others. Past Imagineers include Alan Kay, Bran Ferren, Robert Swirsky, Lee Adams and Danny Hillis.
Walt Disney Imagineering
- Chief Creative Executive - Bruce Vaughn
- Chief Development and Delivery Executive- "Craig Russell"
- Executive of Master Planning and Development- "Wing Chao"
- Executive Vice President, Senior Creative Executive - Tom Fitzgerald
- International Ambassador - Marty Sklar
- Senior Vice President, Creative Development - Tony Baxter
- Principal Creative Adviser - John Lasseter
- Including more.
Walt Disney Creative Entertainment
- Executive Vice President - Anne Hamburger
- Creative Director - Steve Davison
- Hench, John, with Peggy Van Pelt. Designing Disney: Imagineering and the Art of the Show. Disney Editions, 2003, ISBN 0-7868-5406-5.
- Imagineers, The. Walt Disney Imagineering: A Behind the Dreams Look At Making the Magic Real. Disney Editions, 1996, ISBN 0-7868-6246-7 (hardcover); 1998, ISBN 0-7868-8372-3 (paperback).
- Imagineers, The. The Imagineering Way: Ideas to Ignite Your Creativity. Disney Editions, 2003, ISBN 0-7868-5401-4.
- Imagineers, The (as "The Disney Imagineers"). The Imagineering Workout: Exercises to Shape Your Creative Muscles. Disney Editions, 2005, ISBN 0-7868-5554-1.
- Imagineers, The. The Imagineering Field Guide to Epcot at Walt Disney World. Disney Editions, 2006, ISBN 0-7868-4886-3.
- Imagineers, The. The Imagineering Field Guide to Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. Disney Editions, 2005, ISBN 0-7868-5553-3.
- Kurtti, Jeff. Walt Disney's Legends of Imagineering and the Genesis of the Disney Theme Park. Disney Editions, 2006, ISBN 0-7868-5559-2.
- Alcorn, Steve and David Green. Building a Better Mouse: The Story of the Electronic Imagineers Who Designed Epcot. Themeperks Press, 2007, ISBN 0-9729777-3-2.
- Surrell, Jason. "The Disney Mountains: Imagineering at Its Peak". Disney Editions, 2007, ISBN 1-4231-0155-3
- Walt Disney Imagineering careers page on disney.com
- Walt Disney Imagineering internship opportunities
- Rebuilding Tomorrowland, Scott Kirsner, Wired Magazine vol 10.12, September 2002.
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