The Imagineering Pyramid – An Overview

So, what is The Imagineering Pyramid?

The Imagineering Pyramid is an arrangement of fifteen important Imagineering principles, techniques, and practices used by Walt Disney Imagineering in the design and construction of Disney theme parks and attractions.


The principles in the Imagineering Pyramid each fall into one of five categories or groupings, each of which forms a tier within the pyramid.


Tier 1: Foundations of Imagineering

The bottom tier of the pyramid includes the foundations, or “cornerstones”, of Imagineering. These principles serve as the base upon which all other techniques and practices are built. There are five Imagineering foundations:

  • It All Begins with a Story – Using your subject matter to inform decisions about your project
  • Creative Intent – Staying focused on your objective
  • Attention to Detail – Paying attention to every detail
  • Theming – Using appropriate details to strengthen your story and support your creative intent
  • Long, Medium, and Close Shots – Organizing your message to lead your audience from the general to the specific

Tier 2: Wayfinding

The second tier is focused on navigation and guiding and leading the audience, including how to grab their attention, how to lead them from one area to another, and how to lead them into and out of an attraction. The four Wayfinding principles include:

  • Wienies – Attracting your audience’s attention and capturing their interest
  • Transitions – Making changes as smooth and seamless as possible
  • Storyboards – Focusing on the big picture
  • Pre-Shows and Post-Shows – Introducing and reinforcing your story to help your audience get and stay engaged

Tier 3: Visual Communication

The third tier includes techniques of visual communication that are used throughout the parks in different ways. You’ll find examples of these in nearly every land and attraction. These principles include:

  • Forced Perspective – Using the illusion of size to help communicate your message
  • “Read”-ability – Simplifying complex subjects
  • Kinetics – Keeping the experience dynamic and active

Tier 4: Making It Memorable

The fourth tier includes practices focused on reinforcing ideas and engaging the audience. It is the use of these techniques which helps make visits to Disney parks memorable. These include:

  • The “it’s a small world” Effect – Using repetition and reinforcement to make your audience’s experience and your message memorable
  • Hidden Mickey’s – Involving and engaging your audience

Tier 5: Walt’s Cardinal Rule

The top tier contains a single fundamental practice employed in all the other principles. I call it “Walt Disney’s Cardinal Rule”:

  • Plussing – Consistently asking, “How do I make this better?”


[taken from “CHAPTER TWO: A Quick Look at the Pyramid” of The Imagineering Pyramid: Using Disney Theme Park Design Principles to Develop and Promote Your Creative Ideas]