A Brief History of WDI, Walt Disney Imagineering

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Ever wander around the Disney parks, noting the interesting architecture, the attention to detail, or the clever puns and allusions? Ever visit a Disney hotel and think “Who comes up with this stuff?” Well, I’ll tell you: it’s the Disney Imagineers, that’s who!

First off, the term “Imagineer” comes from Imagine and Engineer, a portmanteau Walt was fond of.  Walt Disney Imagineering is the design and development arm of the Walt Disney Company. The Imagineers are some of the most talented and creative people on Earth, responsible for every Disney Park, hotel, resort, etc. you’ve ever seen.  They are made up of engineers, writers, architects, graphic designers, animators, show designers and more. However, they actually are better described as storytellers, dreamers, and doers.

To this day their resume includes: over 11 theme parks (including Disneyland Park, Magic Kingdom Park, Epcot, Disneyland Paris, and others), dozens of resort hotels (such as Disney’s Contemporary Resort in Walt Disney World), water parks, shopping centers, entertainment venues, even cruise ships, and more!

Originally founded in late 1952 under the name WED Enterprises (WED stood for Walter Elias Disney) to design and build Disneyland Park.  Originally the Imagineers were Walt’s chosen few, but today there are a large number of Imagineers. Their headquarters are officially in Glendale, CA but their satellites are all over the world.

Walt Disney was, of course, the first Imagineer. It was while he was sitting on a park bench watching his daughters play at an amusement park that he was inspired to build some type of “amusement enterprise” where parents and their kids could have fun together.  From that seed ideas began to take root and grow in his mind. Years later, Disneyland Park would open to multitudes of guests on a warm July morning.

Since their inception, the Disney Imagineers have continued to dream, create, innovate, and inspire others.  It’s been said that they frequently visit the parks to “walk in the guests’ shoes” and dream of new ideas. Next time you’re in the park, maybe you’ll see one! (Hint: the Sorcerer’s Mickey is on their nametag!).

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“I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing- that it was all started with a mouse.” – Walt Disney

The Imagineers. (2009). The Imagineering Field Guide to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. New York: Disney Enterprises, Inc.

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