Spectrum Conference in March


I will be attending the Spectrum conference hosted by the Rochester chapter of the Society of Technical Communication in March.

I will be presenting two sessions at the conference, both based on The Imagineering Toolbox.

The first is a presentation entitled “Disneyland Then, Now, and Forever: What Disney Parks Can Teach Us About Technical Communication” which provides an overview of some of the practices, principles, and processes used by Walt Disney Imagineering in the design and construction of Disney parks and attractions, and how those practices, principles, and processes can be applied to technical communication and information development to help us create effective and engaging experiences for our audiences.

The second session is a workshop entitled “The Imagineering Toolbox: Using Disney Theme Park Design Principles to Develop and Enhance Your Technical Communication Projects” which is an interactive session that includes group and team discussions and activities where we apply Imagineering principles, practices, and processes to example projects offered by attendees. Come prepared to participate and share your ideas.

Hope to see some of you there!


InterChange 2018 Presentations


Last week I attended STC New England’s InterChange conference. As I mentioned in my last post, I delivered two presentations:

I enjoyed the conference, met a lot of new folks, and reconnected with some people I hadn’t seen in quite a while.

Both of my sessions went really well (though I ended up running over time on both). The feedback I received was great overall, and I may have arranged for opportunities to present at future conferences and events.

You can find PDF versions of these presentations using the links below:



The Imagineering Toolbox at InterChange 2018


On Saturday October 27, I will be delivering two presentations at InterChange 2018, a conference organized by the New England chapter of the Society for Technical Communication.

The first presentation is based on The Imagineering Pyramid, and the second based on The Imagineering Process.

Session 1: Imagineering and Technical Communication: A Match Made in Disneyland

Walt Disney Imagineering is the division of The Walt Disney Company responsible for designing and building Disney theme parks—engineering the magic that millions of experience each year at Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and other Disney parks around the world. This presentation explores an “Imagineering Pyramid” of 15 theme park design principles, and how those principles can be applied to technical communication and information development to help us create effective and engaging experiences for our audiences.

Session 2: Designing Your Experience the Walt Disney World Way

From the moment you enter a Disney park—whether it’s at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or other Disney resorts around the world—you are immersed in an experience specifically designed to transport you to another world. In the words of Walt Disney, “Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy.” But how does Disney create such incredible experiences? Through a process called Imagineering—”the blending of creative imagination and technical know-how.”

This presentation explores the process Disney’s Imagineers use to design and build Disney parks and attractions, and how technical communicators can apply that same process when designing engaging and effective user experiences for our audiences. This session will also include an interactive workshop where we apply the Imagineering Process to an example experience offered by one of the attendees, so come prepared to participate and share your ideas.


I’m looking forward to these sessions as they provide an opportunity to talk about how to apply the ideas in the Imagineering Toolbox to a new field.




Imagineering Broadway – Recap

A couple of weeks ago I posted a series of Imagineering Broadway posts, based on content that was cut from the final published version of The Imagineering Process. This post recaps the series, and provides links to all eights posts.

Imagineering Broadway looks at the process by which Broadway musicals are conceived, developed, and produced through the lens of the Imagineering Process, and how the stages of the Imagineering Process align with the development of two popular Broadway shows:  Wicked and Hamilton: An American Musical.

The Imagineering Broadway series includes:

Introduction – an introduction to the series

Part Two: Prologue – the Need behind each show, and how each show got its start

Part Three: Blue Sky – where the initial vision for each show was developed

Part Four: Concept Development – where the shows’ creative teams flesh out and develop the shows’ story, characters, songs, and other details

Part Five: Design – where various show designers begin their work of designing the stage and sets, costumes, makeup, sound, lighting, effects, and other aspects of the shows

Part Six: Construction – where all of the pieces of the shows are brought together so they can be staged and the shows can (eventually) open

Part Seven: Models – where we look at how models of different types are used during the development of a musical

Part Eight: Epilogue – when the shows opened for audiences


Thoughts? Reactions? Love it? Hate it? Please let me know in the comments!

Video of Southborough Library Imagineering Process Talk


As I mentioned in this post, last month I gave a talk about The Imagineering Process at the Southborough Library.

Southborough Access Media recorded the talk and has posted it on their YouTube channel, or you can watch it here:

I probably babbled and rambled a bit and here there, but overall I think the talk went pretty well.

Once again, I want to say a public Thank You to the Southborough Library for hosting me, and to everyone who attended.

Take care!

Imagineering Broadway – Part Eight: Epilogue

This is the eighth and final part in an 8-part series that looks at the process by which Broadway musicals are conceived, developed, and produced through the lens of the Imagineering Process.

Epilogue: Openings, Evaluations, and Show Quality Standards

Present your project to your audience, allow them to experience it, and evaluate its success and effectiveness over time.

A common first type of opening for a Broadway show is the “out-of-town” tryout or preview. As David Cote explains the The Grimmerie:

“The out-of-town tryout is a time-honored ritual for the Broadway musical. In the tryouts, a show’s creative team can test the product out on audiences and get a feel for what works and what doesn’t. Tryouts can be exhausting but valuable periods in which the team fine-tunes a hit. Shows can literally be saved out of town, as the book writer feverishly tweaks scenes that don’t work or gags that fall flat. The composer, meanwhile, might find inspiration and pen a new song that goes on to be the show’s big hit.”

Following these types of preview openings, the shows are evaluated and tweaked, changed, and rewritten before moving to a main stage opening on Broadway. Once a show has been in production, minor changes to staging, lighting, and choreography take place as cast members change and producers looks for ways to save money and extend the show’s lifespan. If a show spawns a traveling production (which has happened with both Wicked and Hamilton), minor changes occur as needed to accommodate the different theaters in which the show is staged.


Wicked’s “out-of-town tryout” was at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco, officially opening on June 10, 2003 and running through June 29. The show’s reception was mixed, and several songs were changed and portions of the book were rewritten based on the feedback and reviews that followed. Interviewed years later, Schwartz recalled that “The show was well enough received that no one was panicking or feeling it was a disaster–no throwing of bathwater or babies… It was clear there was work to be done and revisions to be made in the book and the score. The critical community was, frankly, very helpful to us. We learned a lot from the reviews, which were honest and constructive in the aggregate, unlike New York, where the critics make up their minds before they come to the theatre.”

Wicked opened on Broadway three months later on October 30, 2003 at the Gershwin Theatre and it has remained there since. Wicked is one of the most successful shows in Broadway history, and there have been several other North American and International productions of the show.


Hamilton officially opened for previews at the The Public Theater in New York in February 2015. The production was extended twice, eventually ending in early May of that year. Following the preview, Miranda rewrote portions of some songs and the book, but the show remained largely the same when it moved to its current home at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway in August 2015.  The show has been a huge success, receiving extremely positive critical reception and having unprecedented box office sales. A Chicago production officially opened in October 2016, and the first US national tour began in March 2017, with a second tour set to begin performances in 2018.


Previous Imagineering Broadway installments:




Thoughts? Reactions? Love it? Hate it? Please let me know in the comments!

Imagineering Broadway – Part Seven: Models

This is the seventh in an 8-part series that looks at the process by which Broadway musicals are conceived, developed, and produced through the lens of the Imagineering Process.


Test and validate your design at each stage to help solve and/or prevent problems that may arise during the design and construction process.

Models can take many forms during the development of a musical, and include models of the sets, prototypes of props, and prototype costumes made of muslin and other inexpensive fabrics. Perhaps the most significant type of model used in musicals is what’s known as a workshop. In an article entitled How a Show Gets to Broadway on the Broadway Educators website, writer Paul Mroczka describes workshops as an integral part of the process when he writes:

“In a workshop, the musical is being developed in every way- the book, lyrics, and music may be changed, rewritten, cut and replaced. Dances are choreographed, scenes staged, and music, lines, and lyrics learned. As the show becomes refined, it will be performed for potential investors. The next step could be a production at a theatre in a large city, such as Chicago; a move to an Off-Broadway theatre, or a full Broadway production.”

As noted in earlier installments, both Wicked and Hamilton went through a series of workshops as the shows were developed from initial concepts into fully formed shows.


Eugene Lee, set designer for Wicked, “auditioned” for the job using a set model he constructed after reading a draft of the script. After building the model, he presented it first to the show’s director Joe Mantello, and later to the show’s writers and producers, talking them through the entire show. While many aspects of the show changed (Lee based his model on a draft script), he estimates that “a good 75 percent of what was in the model ended up in the show in some form.”

Another form of model used in the development of Wicked were Stephen Schwartz’s notebooks. As Cote writes “[E]ach song began the same simple way: with Stephen Schwartz scribbling ideas,s titles, rhymes, and snatches of lyrics in his many notebooks, then sitting at a piano in his home in Connecticut, plunking out various melodic lines.”


One type of model that Lin-Manuel Miranda and Alex Lacamoire used extensively during the development of Hamilton were demo recordings. Miranda “doesn’t record the musical ideas that swirl in his brain by notating them on lined sheets of paper with keys and sharps and flats. He used the music-recording program Logic Pro to create demos of most of the songs in Hamilton. He played chords on a keyboard plugged into his laptop, and created a rudimentary arrangement with sounds drawn from the program’s library of samples, adding vocals by singing or rapping into the little mic that’s attached to his headphones.”

These demo recordings helped Miranda convey his vision for the show with the creative team and actors, including scenic designer David Korins, costume designer Paul Tazewell, Renee Elise Goldsberry, the original actress who portrayed Angelica Schuyler, and Oskar Eustis, the artistic director of the Public Theater, where Hamilton opened in previews. In addition, these demo recordings also played a direct role in the development of the show’s songs and music, as orchestrator and music arranger Alex Lacamoire “[translated] the demos into notated music (the keys, the sharps, the flats) that would allow them to be played by a 10-person band.”

Previous Imagineering Broadway installments:




Thoughts? Anyone? Bueller?