The Imagineering Story Miniseries: Ep 6 - To Infinity and Beyond
This episode primarily looks at the most recent attractions as well as future plans for the Disney company in imagineering. It really shows how far Disney has come and lets you know that they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. They have big plans for the future and some amazing stuff is coming our way. I honestly wish Walt Disney could see what the parks look like today. I think he’d be very proud to see how far they’ve come and that his dream is still alive.
When it came to Shanghai Disney, they spared no expense. Investing a whopping 3.7 billion dollars, the most Disney has ever invested internationally. To me this feels like this was their way of saying they don’t do things cheap and they don’t cut corners anymore.
They wanted to ensure they paid respect to Chinese culture while maintaining the Disney brand. Iger described this as “authentically Disney and distinctly Chinese”. They also wanted to make sure they were avoiding stereotypes and focus on the culture. Disney trained local artists and workers in all things Disney. They were taught on the spot and learned as they worked.
One of the rides they wanted to incorporate in the new park was Pirates of the Caribbean. However, they realized that in China they do not have the same sentimental connection to the ride as most do in America. Thus, they set off to reinvent the ride making the guest feel more like they are a part of the action. The ride was completely based on the movies and was nothing like the original ride. They heavily utilized technology and made it a completely unique new ride experience even though they used the same ride vehicles. Another ride that was unique to the park was the then exclusive Tron ride. Now the ride is currently being built in Orlando.
The castle was the largest Disney castle ever built. They constructed murals out of glass to represent the animals of the Chinese horoscope. Each a unique and beautiful work of art. It was crunch time leading up to opening day and everyone worked hard to get the park done on time. By the end the project cost 5.5 million dollars. However, it was all worth it when over 11 million people came to the park in its first year, surpassing the expectation.
The success of these projects pushed the imagineering team to keep going and stay motivated. The next project set in motion was Avatar’s Pandora. The question was how do we do this? There were a lot of challenges including It’s hard to scale, things float, and the characters are 12 ft tall. It made the most sense to fit into nature and the Animal Kingdom theme. In order to do this right they really had to understand the movie and the land the characters live on. It had to be worth seeing for people who didn't know Avatar. IN the end it was a success. The new area brought an increase of guests to Animal Kingdom and kept people staying well into the evenings. It really all came together and is a beautiful out of this world experience.
For the ride ‘Avatar Flight of Passage’ they utilized the ride system from ‘Soarin’. The animatronics on the two Avatar themed rides are arguably Disney’s best and bring you up close with the characters from the movie. The two rides have wait times anywhere from 2-5 hours even if you are there before the park even opens. (TIP: Don’t go on a day with extra magic hours as the line can already be hours long before the park opens).
The next addition to Disney in both Orlando and California was Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. It became the largest land with only a single theme. They wanted to include as much detail as possible to create the most authentic experience possible. Imagineers chose not to focus on a specific film/ era and instead focus on the feeling of discovery. Star Wars takes place in such a unique universe and I think this was a really good choice that allowed for them to have more creative freedom.
The park features the one and only Millennium falcon in front of the ride ‘Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run’. The ship provides a great place for a photo op and is just an incredible experience for fans of the film. What’s better than taking a photo with the millennium falcon? Riding or better yet piloting the millennium falcon. The ride is made to accommodate a large number of guests while creating a more personal experience, as you are put into small groups.
The second ride in Galaxy’s Edge is ‘Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance’. An extremely complicated and elaborate ride with programmed ‘lazors’, trackless ride vehicles, and a free fall drop tower all with the feeling of being on the actual star killer base. It really feels like you have been transported to a new world. When you step out and see all the storm troopers standing there it feels so real. Definitely the greatest ride in the park and worth getting there at 5 am for.
I think this is one of if not my favourite episode in the series because it is all about moving forward. It focuses on the future of Disney and it’s really cool to see the behind the scenes work on these projects. I respect Bob Iger and all that he has done for the company in the last decade. Bob Iger has since stepped down from CEO to Chairman and in his place Bob Chapek takes the reins during the pandemic.
I hope that you have enjoyed this series. I think it was fun to do a bit of a recap on each episode as well as give my opinions. I really enjoy this style of documentary and found the people they interviewed to be fascinating. This is my favourite documentary series and I loved re-watching it for a second time. It is because of this series and series like this that I do want to work for Disney. It’s interesting to get an insight into such a unique profession and how Disney has evolved over the years to become the super company it is today.