Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Virual Reality & Disneyland

In 1955, Walt Disney Imagineers achieved virtual reality with Disneyland. Eight Imagineering principles explain how they did it...
Eight Principles of Imagineering

According to Disney historian Alex Wright and contributors to The Imagineering Field Guide to Disneyland, Imagineering consists of the following eight basic principles.

1. Area Development: “The interstitial spaces between the attractions, restaurants, and shops. This includes landscaping, architecture, propping, show elements, and special enhancements intended to expand the experience.”

2. Blue Sky: “The early stages in the idea-generation process when anything is possible. There are not yet any considerations taken into account that might rein in the creative process. At this point, the sky’s the limit!”

3. Brainstorm: “A gathering for the purpose of generating as many ideas as possible in the shortest time possible. We hold many brainstorming sessions at WDI [Walt Disney Imagineering], always looking for the best ideas.” The rules include remembering that there is no such thing as a bad idea and that nothing should stifle the flow of ideas.

4. Dark Ride: “A term often used to describe the charming Fantasyland attractions, among others, housed more or less completely inside a show building, which allows for greater isolation of show elements and light control, as needed.”

5. Elevation: “A drawing of a true frontal view of an object—usually a building—often drawn from multiple sides, eliminating the perspective that you would see in the real world, for clarity in the design and to lead construction activities.”

6. Kinetics: “Movement and motion in a scene that give it life and energy. This can come from moving vehicles, active signage, changes in lighting, special effects, or even hanging banners or flags that move as the wind blows.”

7. Plussing: “A word derived from Walt’s penchant for always trying to make an idea better. Imagineers are continually trying to plus work, even after it’s ‘finished.’”

8. Show: “Everything we put ‘onstage’ in a Disney park. Walt believed that everything we put out for the Guests in our parks was part of a big show, so much of our terminology originated in the show business world. With that in mind, ‘show’ becomes for us a very broad term that includes just about anything our Guests see, hear, smell, or come in contact with during their visit to any of our parks or resorts.”

Source: The Imagineering Field Guide to Disneyland by Alex Wright and the Imagineers (Disney Editions, 2008).

Now Is the Time for the Future

At the entrance to the original 1955 Tomorrowland, the first attraction to come into view was a tall clock structure. This was the Clock of the World, which declared that now is the time for the future. This clock was intended to symbolize the incredible futuristic world about to be entered. Standing more than 17 feet tall, the clock looked much like a squeezed soda can topped with a half sphere, gold-spiked anodized aluminum sun and a stylized silver crescent Man in the Moon face. The blue tiles encircling its base depicted the vast universe.

Few passersby stopped to notice that the timepiece showed not only the time in Anaheim, California, but also around the world. Other than serving as a convenient place for parents to meet their kids, the clock rapidly faded into obscurity. The towering red-and-white TWA Rocket was a much more-remembered symbol of Tomorrowland.

The Clock of the World is now gone, with only some first-generation Disneylanders able to recall it. The clock continued to faithfully perform its timekeeping duties until it was removed in 1966, along with the widespread demolition of the original 1955 Tomorrowland. The exiting of the clock was captured in a photo showing the timepiece, minus its top ornamentation, being hauled away with the lower edge of its blue “universe” mosaic tiles broken off at the base.

Sometimes the future can be treated rather shabbily.

Imagineering Realism And Fantasy

To realize his Disneyland vision, Walt Disney assembled a talented team of Imagineers, who would transform ideas and dreams into reality. Looking up at the second-floor windows along Disneyland’s Main Street, you can see painted signs with the names of people and their businesses. While the businesses are somewhat fictitious, the people are not. These are names of Imagineers—such as Harper Goff, Ken Anderson, Herb Ryman, and Sam McKim —and others who played significant roles in making Disneyland happen. Even Walt Disney’s father, Elias Disney, has a window with his name painted on it with “Contractor Est. 1895” listed.

Goff, with his background in designing movie sets, would lend a hand with Main Street and the Jungle Cruise ride. Anderson, trained as an architect and all-around designer, worked on many last-minute Disneyland projects. Ryman, a versatile artist who rendered the dazzling overview of Disneyland in 1953, would later help conceptualize New Orleans Square. McKim, a multitalented artist, rendered concept sketches for Disneyland and other Disney projects.

These and many other Imagineers to follow helped dream and bring Disneyland into existence.

VISIONS: Imagineers in Search of the Future
Gary Dehrer
The Futurist
March-April 2011

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