Lessons Learnt from Disney’s Future Imagining Principles

By Debbie Meltzer

“Imagine what you could do – if you could do what you imagine…”

Exploring Walt’s Imagineering Principles and the machinations of building a dream.

We’re pretty damn sure it was our generation that invented virtual reality. As far as we know, 3D HDTV, Augmented Reality and the other hyper realities are a product of the 21st century….

But in reality virtual reality began in the 1950s when Walt Disney and his Imagineering team unleashed their powers to create a true virtual reality world.

Imagineering is a term that combines “imagination” and “engineering” technical know-how. In contrast to popular belief, it was neither founded by Disney, nor originated then but popularized by Alcoa around 1940. Then, a century later, it crept into the world of gaming and computer technologies.

walt disney

Still, the capacity to get into you, and make you feel you are completely into the experience, was launched in July 18, 1955 – when the first customer purchased an entry ticket and walked through the passageways into Disney’s Main Street.

Here, in place of a humble California orange grove, rose the construction of a remarkable new landmark. And just like James Cameron realized when he made Avatar, Walt knew – Disneyland was not going to be a regular park setting.

After all, both men shared a talent – To make us feel like we are completely absorbed into an extraordinary world, light years away from everyday life.

Sure, in the 21st century, a whole suite of simulated virtual reality applications evolved. But back in the 1950s people already experienced it – at Disneyland.

In the last edition of The Futurist, Gary Dehrer explored Disney’s Imagineering principles and the machinations of building a dream.

How is a dream built?
Not as dreamy as you think.

According to historian Alex Wright, Imagineering in Walt’s world was a process of eight key stages.

1. The first – Area Development focused on the architectural structure and the landscape setting, with attention to propping and special enhancements. The principles of area development were laid out from the entrance to the park. Town square served as the gateway to Disney’s virtual reality. Every entrant began the same journey with a one-two punch. Disney cleverly fused his animation, film and incredible storytelling talents to lure visitors into a new reality, in a similar way to how video game makers trap their audience.

2. Blue sky represents the early stages of idea generation. At this stage it was boundaries-free for the creative process. Disney let his Imagineers demonstrate how the sky is the limit. But big dreams didn’t emerge out of thin air. Walt realized he needed a talented army of cross-disciplinary professionals who could breathe life into his creations through advanced engineering technologies and creative. When asked about his secret to his success, he answered one word – Curiosity.
“We open up new doors because we’re curious…curiosity keeps leading us down new paths. We’re always exploring and experimenting.”

3. Brainstorming – was used for developing the park and solving problems. Brainstorming propelled successes and salvaged failures. Most importantly – there was no such thing as a bad idea.

4. Dark ride – was a term used for shows and events in isolation that enhanced the sensory experience. The power of the dark rides, like the Peter Pan thriller, immersed people into the fantasy. Together they worked to capture moods and attitudes – all the essentials for setting the scene for a virtual reality adventure.

5. Elevation – Enter 3D story telling. The imagineers detailed the images and settings essential for telling the story. Imagineer John Hench explained: “Mood is created by the sensation of carefully orchestrated and intensified stimuli of color, sound, form and movement.”

The imagineered elements of storytelling generated a virtual reality by inviting the audience into a fantasy in a larger than life setting.

6. Kinetics – Movement and motion in a scene gave it life and energy…. Disney knew that moving stories from film to real 3D environments meant his audience had to be proactive – they had to use their imagination. He was confident they would put their trust in the illusions and let themselves truly enjoy the experience. To Walt – the biggest attraction was the people.

7. Plussing – Walt believed in always aiming to make an idea better – as far as he was concerned, there was no such thing as a finished work. It must always be alive. From the word go, Disneyland was meant to be subjected to ongoing change and innovation, while remaining loyal to the kingdom’s DNA. This is how the vision was kept alive.

8. Show – The show evolved into something broad that stretched into anything guests could experience through their senses. At the Disneyland University – staff was not just trained for the job, they were prepped for performing, for always being happy and cheerful as though they were on stage at all times. The giant Disney characters – Mickey, Minnie and more, that silently engaged the crowds augmented the plight to fantasy.

When Disney assembled his collaborative team of Imagineers – he created an extension of himself, long after his death. Till today it is Disney’s show. He may be gone, but the show goes on. Perhaps Steve Jobs could learn a thing or two from Disney’s immortal success.

Disney continues to exist as a childhood utopia, a keyhole into a better future, where people can feel good about themselves.

http://www.allbusiness.com/population-demographics/demographic-trends-life-expectancy/15259864-1.html Personal futuring – Marketing to a new segment – the 90s+?

Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world. Walt Disney

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