Though much of their work is clouded in secrecy, the Disney Imagineers have been surprisingly open about their creative process. In autobiographies and nonfiction we’ve learned a lot about how the Disney magic is made possible.
From the tricks of the trade to the meaning of Imagineering itself, Walt Disney Imagineering has a solid idea of what it means to do the work they do. Here are 8 principles every Imagineer commits to.
1. Imagineering is a form of storytelling
When you enter Disneyland, Walt Disney World, etc. you’re becoming part of a story bigger than any one individual. The Imagineers feel strongly that the Disney parks are all stages for their works to perform on. The design of the attendee experience is even referred to by Imagineers as “The Art of the Show.”
Imagineering legend John Hench likened the design of theme parks to making movies, using a lot of principles from filmmaking to develop the parks. One technique that Disney parks regularly use is forced perspective. Designers play with scale to influence audience’s perception of size. Cinderella Castle, for example utilizes this to make it look much taller than it actually is.
To come up with great ideas, Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) churns out a lot of ideas that aren’t so great. Imagineers don’t want to inhibit the flow of ideas, so they encourage a rapid fire of them. They believe that there’s no such thing as a bad idea, at least at first.
Brainstorming sessions are common events at WDI, giving the Imagineers a chance to get together and let the creativity flow.
3. Detail is crucial
The Imagineers’ use of detail is admirable, and a big reason many of us appreciate the Disney parks so much. All the little touches, from the Mickey Mouse symbols all around the parks to the smell of fresh-baked cookies on Main Street, are what make the parks so special. It should be no surprise that attention to detail is an big concern of Disney Imagineers.
In The Imagineering Field Guide to Disneyland, famed Disney historian Alex Wright and other contributors highlight the importance of kinetics, otherwise known as the use of motion, writing that it emphasizes the life and energy of an attraction.
A ride can become more kinetic with the help of moving vehicles, active signage, changes in lighting, special effects or even hanging banners or flags that move as the wind blows. It’s one of the primary tools in the Imagineering toolkit when it comes to designing rides.