Disney Backstage Magic

My STEP signature project consisted of a behind the scenes exclusive trip to Anaheim, California at Disneyland, Walt Disney Imagineering, and Walt Disney Studios. Over the course of four days, me and two other friends stayed on the resort at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel. We were able to go backstage and experience many parts of Disney that are generally unseen by the public with private tours from adventure guides, cast members, and even a couple Imagineers.

Part of the reason I drew to engineering was from my love for Disney and my experiences with Disney at Walt Disney World on several trips as a child. I was always very fascinated about the rides and attractions themselves and what went on behind the scenes. I loved the rides where I could learn new things, especially about science. While there, my parents would tell me about the people who helped design the parks, rides, and every little detail about Disney World and that they were called “Imagineers.” Ever since that point, that job has always been a dream profession of mine. I have been to Disney several times throughout my life and every time my family goes on vacation there, the trip feels magical and each trip is more unique than the last. This feeling is something that only Disney can create consistently and everyone working there does a fantastic job to help create a magical experience. I would love to be a part of causing that experience and happiness for many families to come in the future.

Being able to see and experience Disney from a new perspective changed the way I view everything they do. I was able to first experience the parks and attractions there, and then I was able to go backstage and see where all of the magic I just experienced comes to life. As an engineer, I love to learn about how things work and take things apart to see all the moving parts. These experiences allowed me to do just that. Disney, as a company, is often very secretive when it comes to their attractions and theme parks, making sure to hide the very things I was able to see from the general public. In several of our tours, we were not allowed to photograph certain areas, the most restrictive being the Walt Disney Imagineering building tour (my favorite unfortunately) Below is a picture of my friend, Joe, and I in front of the aforementioned building. I now am familiar with Disney as a company and how many of its parts work, such as Disney Studios, Imagineering, and many of the rides and attractions at Disneyland. I have gained a new appreciation for Disney and re-sparked my love for it as a whole. Hopefully, this new understanding will benefit me in my ultimate goal of one day becoming and imagineer.

Our first stop on our tour was a day at Walt Disney Studios. This lot is completely closed to the general public and other tours besides our own, Adventures by Disney. This was very cool to see since everyone else there besides our tour group worked at Disney. This tour definitely focused on the history of Disney and Walt Disney himself. We were able to see their corporate headquarters were many important decisions are made. We were able to see lots of older and cooler Disney entertainment props and items that are no longer in the parks or have been retired in the Vault. This was particularly neat because I remembered some of the animatronics and props from when I was a kid. Finally, we finished our tour getting lunch on campus at the same place Walt would eat at up until his death. It was surreal to sit and eat surrounded by Disney employees going about their day and eating lunch too.

Next, we made a visit to Walt Disney Imagineering. This was my favorite visit and part of the trip because we got to see what goes on behind the closed doors of Imagineering and what Imagineers do every day. We were introduced to two imagineers who would give us a tour around campus and being able to meet them and talk with them about my goals was awesome. Inside, we weren’t allowed to take any pictures but were able to see a scale model of a section of the new Star Wars Land that will be opening in Disneyland in June. Getting to see how detailed the model was and how many hours were put in on just a model and not even the real thing was eye-opening. We were then showed a room of many clay models, busts of presidents, and several small statues. It was very cool to hear the background of many of these creations. After this, we went listened to a sound sample of a ride at another Disneyland in their sound mixing studio with surround sound. Finally, we were able to take a tour of Disneyland and ride the initial proposal of the Cars ride in a room with augmented reality. This was fascinating to see since the room would shift to the perspective of whoever was wearing a hat with a sensor on it.

On the last day, we visited both Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure parks and were able to get backstage access to several rides and attractions there. We saw the inner workings of rides such as Indiana Jones Adventure, Radiator Springs Racers, and Soarin’. We got the chance to speak with those crew members who work on each of these rides and their ride vehicles. I learned so much about what all goes on behind each ride. After seeing the behind the scenes of the attractions, we then got the chance to ride them and see everything we had just learned and talk about come to life.

Being able to see the history of all the decisions and what went into the Disney that it is today was fascinating. Seeing the behind the scenes gave me a new appreciation for the hard work that goes into making the parks and the company running well. I also gained a ton of knowledge about how the attractions, parks, and company works as a whole. I learned about all the different types of jobs and imagineers and what it takes to make just one ride work well.

Seeing the ridiculous effort that Disney puts out to create the best experience for their fans and park goers definitely inspires me and encourages me to be passionate about the work that Imagineers do for Disney. Disney is able to make money but also be incredibly meticulous about their level of service, holding themselves to the highest standard and making sure to not disappoint their fans. This inspires me to be driven and passionate about whatever I will be doing in life. Speaking with each of the imagineers was also quite inspiring to hear where they came from and how they got involved. Hopefully one day I will get the chance to share my story with others in the same way as them.

I seriously appreciate STEP for providing me with this life-changing opportunity! Both STEP and Disney were able to make one of my dreams come true. Thank you!