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D23 Expo - WDI 60th: Leading a Legacy

D23 Expo 2013 - WDI 60th: Leading a Legacy

On Sunday there were a series of Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) panels celebrating their 60th Anniversary. At 2:45pm there was a panel titled Leading a Legacy that features Marty Sklar and Bruce Vaughn.

Geeks Thoughts/Observations:
I enjoyed this panel, having only two members there was more of a discussion feel to it and they covered a lot of ground and topics in a short time and rolled through quite a few guest questions too.

A couple notes from the panel discussion (I was taking pictures and video so these are brief):

  • They both saw their role as the Chief Creative Executive as that of a casting director.

  • Marty - He is jealous of all the new technology and tools that are available to current Imagineers that were not during much of his tenure and how this technology frees them up to be even more creative.

  • Bruce - He also views himself as a motivator for the Imagineers to keep them moving forward and focussed. He discussed how Imagineers do not just come to work.. they come to create, experiment...

  • Marty shared a famous Walt story of how John Hench came over to WED from the Studios. Walt talked to John and said you are going to work on my Disneyland Project... and you are going to like it!

  • The goal is to go from no idea is a bad idea to this is the best idea when working with the concept teams.

  • Discussed the Pixar Influence on Imagineering. John Lasseter brought in the Pixar Culture of Peer Reviews. Your team has to take the notes, but they do not have to listen.

  • Bruce - None of my ideas get done... now that he is the leader he is not an idea guy anymore.

  • Marty - Talking about the kind of people that succeed at Imagineering.. those that do not seek fame.. there is only one name on the door and that is Walt Disney.

  • Bruce talked about the challenge of creative meetings and having people leave the meeting excited about the project and its direction even if the whole meeting was used to completely move away from their concept.

  • Walt was never interested in what you had done.. he was always focused on what was next

  • Marty - One of the current challenges is there are now so many great companies, projects, and stories out there that lead to competition. Many are run by former Imagineers.

  • Talked about the culture at Imagineering of mentorship and managing the old vs. new Imagineers to keep everybody happy and productive.

  • Discussed how Imagineering is relearning the way they do things. For example in Shanghai Disneyland they are learning to deal with Chinas one child policy. With Hong Kong Disneyland they learned in China there are usually more adults than children in any given family/group because of this policy. So they need to be very clear on what each experience is and provide places to sit/relax/rest around the park.

  • They are using more and more local Imagineers to bring in the culture of the areas. For example Aulani in Hawaii .. where the idea was "Big H and little d".

  • Bruce talked about doing an initial site walk. He recently went to Shanghai and had one of those moments of wow.. when he stood on the spot where the castle will be and looked around at all the cleared and empty land around him. Much as Marty had done in Orlando, Tokyo, Paris, and Hong Kong.

  • Bruce told a great story of how when they were working on World of Color the original concept was to use new mixes of the classic Disney songs. He and several groups of fellow Imagineers drove to Anaheim for test runs of the show and went away trying to figure out why the show was not connecting. At one point they even wondered if the problem was could fountains just be boring? Then someone hit on it as the music and they changed to classic versions of the songs and everything came together and it was clear that fountains were not boring!

  • Marty discussed how he thinks the parks need more music, especially more original music, much like the classic attractions. He said you walk out of the park humming the tune or remembering the song such as Pirates, Haunted Mansion or Small World.

  • There was a question during the Q&A about Universal and its advances. Bruce gave the politically correct answer of them upping their game has pushed Imagineering and is good for everyone. He then went on to say "Bring it on!" and he views Imagineering as still having the advantage because of story and that no one can touch them.

Below are some pictures and a video clips from the presentation:


Walt Disney Imagineering documentary teaser/trailer was played before the session started:

D23 Expo 2013 - WDI 60th: Leading a Legacy

D23 Expo 2013 - WDI 60th: Leading a Legacy

D23 Expo 2013 - WDI 60th: Leading a Legacy

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