What is Imagineering?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 06 October 2019
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Imagineering is a portmanteau word which combines imagination and engineering. The term is most often associated with the Disney corporation, which maintains an enormous staff of imagineers to design new rides, resorts, water parks, hotels, theme parks, branded cruise ships, and other Disney real estate holdings. It also applies to other industries where staffs of highly trained individuals work together to develop and execute a concept, usually on a large scale like a theme park or branded hotel. Imagineering is a demanding, fun, and interesting career, and people with all sorts of skills can become part of an imagineering team.

People who are interested in pursuing a career in imagineering with Disney have a number of options that they can pursue. Actual engineers who can work out the mechanics of a ride or structure are very valuable, but so are individuals with creative talent and imagination who can dream up new and exciting concepts for their employer. Imagineers handle painting, wardrobes, animatronics, lighting, special effects, and all of the other individual elements of a project. Usually, they work as a team to exchange ideas and build stronger products.


All imagineering starts with a simple concept. The team works together to create a storyboard and script showing what the concept is going to accomplish. For example, a team working on a new ride might sketch out the various scenes that customers will see, and what will happen during the ride. For example, if it narrates a story or moment in time, storyboards will show who the characters will be, and what sort of actions they will be taking. If the idea seems workable, it is taken to the next step with a scale model, and engineers begin to work out the physical details of the project.

If the project meets with approval, the team starts working together on set design: how a store is going to be laid to be appealing, for example, or how a hotel room might be made to seem enticing to guests. Set design includes architectural design, paint, textiles, lighting, mechanical design, and countless subtle details to create a specific image. The team works together to realize the concept in a physical form. The imagineering team has started out with a concept and built it into a reality, whether it is an elaborately decorated cruise ship or a theme park ride.

When considering potential projects and developing ideas, members of an imagineering team keep the ideals and philosophy of the parent company in mind. The idea is to build up the company's reputation and offerings with solid concepts that are consistent with people's perception of the company. Disney, for example, is not going to offer a “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” theme ride, because it would not be in keeping with company values. An imagineering team tries to think of new, magical, and captivating things that will entice visitors back again and again.


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