The Pyramid in Practice – Theming and Imagination Dental Solutions

IDS_Logo

In this post, I want to look at a company called Imagination Dental Solutions and a somewhat unusual example of Theming known as “Dental Theming”.

Imagination Dental Solutions is an award winning design and manufacturing studio with a decade of experience creating themed environments for dental offices. That’s right, dental offices. And this is where “Dental Theming” comes in.

According to the Imagination Dental Solutions website, “Dental theming is the transformation of regular dentist office into an amazing and entirely different environment through the use if murals, gaming, and 3D elements….Our theming creates positive patient experiences. Children are excited to visit a themed dental office, making it easier… to provide them with a foundation for good dental health.”

I think this is a great example of theming and “using appropriate details to strengthen your story and support your creative intent”. The environments IDS creates are extremely detailed and elaborately themed, creating a transformative experience for their clients’ guests. The image below shows just a small sampling of the themed environments Imagination Dental Solutions has created over the last decade. You can see more at their website.

IDS_10_Years
Copyright 2017 Imagination Dental Solutions. All rights reserved. Used without permission.

 

As a side note, Imagination Dental Solutions has a relationship of sorts with the theme park industry. Their parent company is  Studio Y Creations, “an innovator and leader in the theming and display industry… considered among the best companies in the world for designing and manufacturing three-dimensional displays.” One of Studio Y Creation’s clients is Canobie Lake Park, a small, family-friendly amusement park located in Salem, NH (a park near and dear to my heart and one I try to visit at least once a year). You can see some of Studio Y Creation’s work at Canobie Lake Park on their website.

 

Thoughts? Let me know what you think in the comments!

More New Items in My Imagineering Library

I recently added a few more items to my Imagineering Library, and thought I’d share some pictures.

The first is Disneyland: The Nickel Tour – A Postcard Journey Through A Half Century of the Happiest Place on Earth by Bruce Gordon and David Mumford.

Disneyland_The_Nickel_Tour

I found this on eBay at a “reasonable” price, and can’t wait to dig in. Most of the books in my collection are focused on Walt Disney World, and I’m glad to be adding some Disneyland books to my library. This also includes this next one…

Next is The Art of Disneyland by Jeff Kurtti and Bruce Gordon.

Art_of_Disneyland

I got this one from Jeff Heimbuch, who is selling off some of his collection of Disney and theme park books. This book is filled with gorgeous concept art from Disneyland and it a welcomed addition to my Imagineering Library.

Last is Jack of All Trades: Conversations with Disney Legend Ken Anderson by Paul F. Anderson.

Jack_of_all_Trades

This is a new release from Theme Park Press (the same company that published The Imagineering Pyramid), and explores the life and work of Walt’s “10th Old Man”. Ken Anderson worked on several classic animated films including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and One Hundred and One Dalmatians and as an Imagineering working on Disneyland (including early designs for the Haunted Mansion) and Epcot Center. I’m looking forward to digging into this one too.

Thanks!

Story vs Storytelling: An Excerpt from The Imagineering Pyramid

I was recently a guest on The Mouse Knows Best podcast, and one of the Imagineering Pyramid principles we talked about was It All Begins With a Story. Our discussion centered around the role of story and storytelling in the Disney theme parks and one portion of the It All Begins With a Story chapter of The Imagineering Pyramid in particular, so I thought I would share the essay we discussed here.

TMKB

Story vs Storytelling

Imagineering has been using story as its “essential organizing principle” since its earliest days during the design of Disneyland, but the idea that “Imagineers are storytellers” is a more recent one, born during Michael Eisner’s tenure as CEO and chairman of The Walt Disney Company. Eisner frequently commented on the importance of stories and storytelling in the Disney theme parks, to the point where the meaning of the word story and its role in Imagineering has become somewhat clouded.

Overuse of the term story and the strong emphasis on story and storytelling employed by WDI is considered somewhat controversial on some internet blogs and discussion boards. Many online commentators believe that to say that Disney attractions all tell a story is to overly simplify what WDI does. Some critics even go as far as to suggest that the Imagineers at times rely too heavily on telling stories with their attractions. And while the idea that “Imagineers are storytellers” is often promoted by the Disney company in their own blogs and videos about WDI, there is an argument to be made that some of the original Imagineers didn’t consider themselves storytellers at all.

One example is Disney animator and Imagineer Marc Davis, who didn’t believe that theme park attractions were a storytelling medium. Davis went on record several times regarding his views.

In The Unauthorized Story of Walt Disney’s Haunted Mansion, Jeff Baham quotes from “Marc Davis and the Art of the Haunted Mansion”, an article published in issues 30–31 of Haunted Attraction Magazine:

You know, the first guys that worked on [the Haunted Mansion] could never sell it to Walt because they were trying to sell this story about this bride who was left standing at the altar, and this groom had died a horrible death. The thing was, I found out—and Walt agreed—that this was not a story-telling medium. These attractions at Disneyland and Disney World are experiences, but they are not stories. You don’t have a story that starts at a beginning and goes until the end…. These things I worked on had no story at all, and I think they worked, too.

In The Disneyland Story, Sam Gennawey quotes Davis from issue number 16 of The “E-Ticket” magazine:

My point of view on all of these attractions is that they are a series of experiences. You aren’t telling a story in the Haunted Mansion any more than you are trying to tell a story in Pirates of the Caribbean.  You’re showing some pirates in a lot of interesting situations, but you don’t really have a beginning or an ending. They’re a series of situations, not a story. I think that is why Walt never bought the Haunted Mansion in his time.

Davis believed that theme park attractions provide their audiences not with a story, but with a series of experiences. In his resignation letter, Imagineer Tony Baxter writes: “Legendary Imagineer Marc Davis once said, ‘We don’t really have a story with a beginning, an end or a plot…. It’s more a series of experiences … building up to a climax.’”

In a letter to Jack and Leon Janzen from The “E-Ticket” magazine, Imagineer Christopher Merritt quotes Marc Davis when he writes:

I think it [the Hatbox Ghost] was a good idea at the time. Remember, the mansion had been worked on for a number of years, and Walt had never bought what they had come up with. I don’t recall why we took this [the Hatbox Ghost] out, but we were no longer trying to tell a story about the bride. Walt’s attitude was that he didn’t want a story, but a series of experiences and situations. Perhaps this figure didn’t lend itself to this.

In an essay that opens the Imagineering chapter of the book Marc Davis: Walt Disney’s Renaissance Man, Imagineering executive Marty Sklar acknowledges Davis’ views, saying: “In joining the Imagineers to create what he called “experience rides”, Marc Davis became the most prolific Imagineer of his time in developing ideas and drawings for Disney park attractions.”

But even if we agree with Davis, that doesn’t mean that story hasn’t been, and isn’t still, a foundational tool in the Imagineers’ toolbox. I believe some detractors have gotten themselves too hung up on the word “story” and some of its narrative connotations, and this has led them to forget the role that story has always played in the design of Disney theme parks.

As Didier Ghez writes in Disneyland Paris: From Sketch to Reality:

Walt Disney was, foremost, a storyteller. As a result, everything starts with a story at Walt Disney Imagineering. Every detail of every land in the park has to be backed up by a story, a “mythology”. Often, the story would never be a part of what the guests would experience, but was used as a strategic outline in guiding the design process. It is the thread that holds it all together, the script from which all the elements flow coherently: design, models, color, backdrops, props and costumes.

And it’s the essence that distinguishes a Disney park and its lands from all other parks.

“Story”, then, serves as an elegant shorthand for “the core idea that underlies each attraction”. I recently discovered that this view is shared by at least one current Imagineer. In an essay entitled “A Story by Any Other Name” in The Imagineering Field Guide to Disney California Adventure at Disneyland Resort, Imagineer Alex Wright explores the idea of story and explains how WDI employs a broad definition of story that is intended to encompass all manner of experiences that guests encounter in Disney parks. In his words:

It’s often said that everything we do at Imagineering is about story—and it is. But that phrase in and of itself is really just shorthand for a much more nuanced idea of what “story” means in our medium of Disney parks. It doesn’t mean the same thing that it would mean if we were writing a book, making a movie, drawing a comic strip, or even standing on a stage telling a story to an audience. None of those media are approached in exactly the same way by the creators in those fields, so why would we expect that this one wouldn’t follow its own path?

Following this introductory paragraph, Wright examines how story can have different meanings depending on the type of attraction or venue, and how guests serve as collaborators in the storytelling that takes place in the parks.

 

Thoughts? Tell me what you think in the comments!

 

Interview on The Mouse Knows Best Podcast

TMKB

Tonight (technically last night, since it’s after midnight as I write this) I recorded an interview with Cody, Jared, Joe, and Jenn from The Mouse Knows Best podcast. We talked about Imagineering and several of the principles in The Imagineering Pyramid, including It All Begins with a Story, Hidden Mickeys,  and The “it’s a small world” Effect, as well as my favorite Disney animated films and park attractions, and how I got interested in Imagineering way back when. It was a great conversation and I really enjoyed meeting everyone.

The episode should air soon. I’ll be sure to post about when it’s live.

Thanks!

Updated Resources Page

I recently realized that some of the links on the Resources page were bad. I posted The Imagineering Pyramid discussion guide, workbook, and endnotes in a “public” Dropbox folder and linked to those documents, but Dropbox recently removed “public” folders, so I had to change the links.

My apologies to anyone who tried to download any of these and ended up at a “file not found” page.

Take care!

New Items in My Imagineering Library

I recently added a couple of new items to My Imagineering Library.

The first is The Hidden Mickeys of Walt Disney World by Kevin and Susan Neary. As the title suggests, this book is a guide to Hidden Mickeys at the theme parks, resorts, and other areas of Walt Disney World. I picked this up during our recent trip to Walt Disney World.

Hidden_Mickeys

I haven’t had a chance to compare this side-by-side with the original Hidden Mickey book by Steven Barrett (which I referenced when writing The Imagineering Pyramid and is a must have for those interested in Hidden Mickeys), but I expect that together they form are a pretty exhaustive look at Hidden Mickeys at Walt Disney World (as least as of when the books were printed).

Another new addition to my Imagineering Library is The Magic Kingdom Storybook, written and illustrated by Imagineer Jason Grandt. I’ve been wanting to pick this up for a while, and planned to buy it at Walt Disney World during our recent visit. Unfortunately, I was not able to find it while there (I wasn’t able to check every shop, but couldn’t find it at either The Emporium on Main Street, U.S.A. in Magic Kingdom, or at the World Of Disney story at Disney Springs). I ended up buying this through the Shop Disney Parks smart phone app.

Magic_Kingdom_Storybook

I’ve only had a chance to flip through this so far, but this book features lots of gorgeous artwork with hidden surprises (or Five-Legged Goats) for fans of the Disney parks.

Take care!

Imagineering Process Sneak Peek – An Overview of the Process

This post provides a sneak peek of The Imagineering Process: Using the Disney Theme Park Design Process to Bring Your Creative Ideas to Live.

The “Imagineering Process” is a simplified version of the process Walt Disney Imagineering uses when it designs and builds theme park attractions, resorts, and other venues.

There are seven pieces or stages in the process. Five stages form the core of the process, while the other two serve as Prologue and Epilogue for the process.

01_process

The following diagram provides a visual representation of the Imagineering Process. As you can see, the Prologue (Needs, Requirements, and Constraints) leads to the five core stages of the process:

  • Blue Sky
  • Concept Development
  • Design
  • Construction
  • Models

These stages in turn lead to the Epilogue (Openings, Evaluations, and Show Quality Standards).

The book will explore each of these stages in more detail, including how each is practiced by Walt Disney Imagineering as well as how each can applied to your own creative ideas and projects.

 

Thoughts?

Tell me what you think in the comments!