First off, what exactly is Imagineering?
Walt Disney Imagineering is the unique, creative force behind Walt Disney Parks and Resorts that imagines, designs and builds all Disney theme parks, resorts, attractions, cruise ships, and regional entertainment venues worldwide. Imagineering's unique strength comes from the dynamic global team of creative and technical professionals building on the Disney legacy of storytelling to pioneer new forms of entertainment through technical innovation and creativity.
Describe the process Imagineers go through to bring an idea to life.
At Imagineering it always starts with the story. Sometimes an idea comes out of a group brainstorm or an individual gets inspired. A team of artists, script writers, and model makers all work together to get a sense of what the attraction might look like, how the plot will unfold, or how they want the guests to feel along the way. Engineers, business planners, project managers and design specialists then figure out how to turn those original designs into something that can actually get built. We also "playtest" - try early prototypes out for ourselves to make sure that the experience is fun and compelling. It takes over 140 different disciplines and up to five years to translate an initial idea into a finished attraction, but from beginning to end every decision that's made ultimately supports that original story and idea.
What tools do you use during concept development?
Anything goes. There are plenty of examples where Imagineers have been creative with the tools they use. The idea for Soarin' Over California was initially built by Imagineer Mark Sumner using some toys he found in the attic. Regardless of your drawing ability, there are lots of different ways to communicate an idea. Some Imagineers prefer thumbnail sketches or a comic-book style storyboard, others write scripts or pull photos they like from books and magazines, while still others build large-scale models or create 3D computer renderings that can be explored in virtual reality. Usually the choice of what tool to use is based on what the individual Imagineer is comfortable with and the story they're trying tell.
What challenges do you face when developing a new idea?
Imagineering legend Marty Sklar has a saying that a blank piece of paper can be the most frightening thing in the world, and sometimes it really does feel that way. It can be a bit scary to try to come up with a brand new idea from scratch, but an easy way to sidestep that is to make a list of problems that you intend to solve, or things you want to do better, and work from there. A big part of working at Imagineering is that, in general, every project attempts to create something that's totally new and has never been done before, so you quickly learn to expect the unexpected. However, if you surround yourself with talented people who share your common goal, there's no limit to what you can accomplish.
Were you always interested in science when you were a kid?
For as long as I can remember I've been interested in science and figuring out how things work. I think I had my first radio controlled car for less than an hour before it was lying in pieces on my floor. Anything you could plug in, I took apart. In school I was always really interested in chemistry.
What's your advice for students who find science difficult?
I know a lot of people avoid science because they tend to think of it entirely as memorizing lots of facts and figures, which can be daunting. While it is true that sometimes you just need to remember certain things, science is basically about discovering the principles by which the world around us works, and that's a lot of fun. If a subject seems hard, take a step back and think about all the different ways that concept applies to you. Maybe it's the chemistry in the products you buy, or the ecosystem near your house or a theme park attraction you like - but once you've figured out how something impacts you, it's a lot easier to get excited about it.
What else interests you besides science?
Music has always been a particular passion of mine. I love to listen to it, write it, perform it, mix it, and produce it. I started out with the piano and I continued to pick up more and more as I got older. I studied Saxophone in Elementary School to be in the Jazz band, during Junior High my friend taught me bass and guitar as we worked our way through the Beatles Anthology, cello in High School because I like the sound they make�and somewhere in there drums. I still hope to be a rock star when I grow up.
What do you think teachers and students will love most about The Science Of Disney Imagineering?
Sometimes it's hard within the walls of a classroom or the pages of a textbook to feel that science is a very real part of our world and our everyday lives. For me, the more I can understand how a subject relates to my life and something I already enjoy, the more interested I am in learning more. This series so much fun because you get to see first-hand how the science you learn in school is actually used to create some of the coolest places, attractions and experiences in the world. Plus, you get to hear directly from Disney's artists, engineers and scientists about how they use scientific concepts to build new and exciting things while taking an exclusive, never-before-seen insider's tour behind-the-scenes at Disney Theme Parks.