Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Imagineering History: Touring My Mecca Pt. 1

My life may not get better than how great it was on Friday, August 3.

That was the day, thanks to a friend of a friend, I toured Disney's Glendale campus, home to Imagineering (which I was not authorized to tour. They keep that place locked down like they're designing the next iPhone in there), and the Imagineering library, which holds some of the most iconic pieces of Disney history.

When I got there, one of the first things I saw as I walked to meet our host was an old entrance to a bowling alley, which has since been converted into offices for Imagineering, and was used as the exterior for Jack Rabbit Slim's restaurant in "Pulp Fiction." A cool fact, but anyone can walk by and see that. Like the saying goes, it's what's on the inside that counts.

We met our host, and the first thing I noticed was a full size print of a stretching room painting from the Haunted Mansion. It was cool, but just a taste of what was to come. We then walked down a hallway with all the highlights from the Disney parks, both domestic and international.

Then it was off, through the new courtyard area, to the library. In that library, Imagineers go to research everything. I was told the library had nearly every National Geographic ever printed, so the Imagineers can get every natural detail right when creating their own environments. We went into the children's library, where, if you pulled out a book, chances were some historic imagineer had picked out the same book years ago. If you were lucky, the book's library slip would be the original, documenting all who had read it before you, maybe John Hench, maybe Bob Gurr. Maybe no one, because someone decided they wanted a centerpiece for their personal collection.

From there we walked by a model of Disneyland constructed of pieces you would receive month-by-month if you were subscribed to a certain magazine. There were a lot of pieces. We also passed a tiki-room animatronic. Herb Ryman's personal library, donated from his estate. It was cold in there, to keep the history fresh. Open up just about any book, and there you could fin Herb's personal notes.

It was off to another room past a Walt Disney World Mr. Toad ride vehicle, and into a room full of binders that had every single detail of every attraction, from the specific color a certain feature was painted. The time I could have spent in there nerding out. We were shown a revolving file cabinet that was so large, the building had to be built around it. All that in old-form, paper media. I was told it was getting digitized. It should be done by 2035. That year was made up.

Another thing we were shown was the room where they do some of that digital documenting, with, ironically, a camera that seemed to be from the Ansel Adams, completely non-digital era. What wasn't old school was the device they used to capture those images, which cost thousands of dollars and produced multi-gigabyte images.

But that was just the beginning... Stay tuned for part 2 of my report!


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