/ Wednesday, August 21st, 2013
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expoloozaA Rare Look at the Creative Process

Hi Everyone! The D23 Expo offered attendees a rare first look into the unique and innovative worlds of which Disney comprises. Imagine my excitement when D23 announced Journey Into Imagineering as the theme for this year’s Disney Parks and Resorts Pavilion! I was a huge fan of their Carousel of Projects Pavilion in 2011 and could not wait to see what was in store this year.

To celebrate their 60th anniversary, Walt Disney Imagineering invited us to an Open House at “1401 Flower Street”. So, the famed Glendale facility was brought directly to us, by way of the pavilion. Their “foyer” video introduction hit just the right spirit. And when you walked inside, many Imagineering delights~past, present and future awaited.

The first thing you see is the rendering model for the Florida-themed Disney Springs. This long awaited transformation of IMG_3360IMG_3362Downtown Disney and Pleasure Island has slowly begun to commence at the Walt Disney World Resort.

Cast Member Artoo (R2-D2) greets you at Project Orange Harvest. The secret contents of these crates were like a little teaser for the Star Wars presence to come at the Disney Parks.

One of my favorite Imagineers, Chris Kelly (Be Our Guest Restaurant), was very excited to discuss the world of Pandora coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom as AvatarLand. A few years ago, when I first heard about AvatarLand, I was hoping it IMG_3367would be a sort of nod to the scrapped Beastly Kingdom. But she said AvatarLand is going to be completely different than what we imagine it could be. She likened Pandora to melding with the very mission behind Disney’s Animal Kingdom itself. Imagineering could not be more thrilled to bring this new experience to us. If you want a peek, here is a photo I took of the AvatarLand workspace.

A walk though of the Imagineering Art Library featured iconic concept art from the earliest days of Disneyland. Herb Ryman’s sketch of Disneyland amazed us. My sister even remarked about the pressure of his pencil strokes. It was incredible how close we were able to get to it. But it was Peter Ellenshaw’s Disneyland painting that was truly a once in a lifetime moment. Seen in black and white on the Disneyland TV show and thereafter as a backdrop to favorite Walt photos, this painting had a special reveal. Our “curator” gave us a very rare glimpse under black light, the way it was meant to be shown. She suggested Ellenshaw dotted the painting with leftover dark ride paint from Fantasyland to show what Disneyland (and the parking lots!) might look like at night. (No photography was allowed in this section).

Moving on to the Design, Engineering and Show Production workspaces, we were able to get close to: architecture renderings, facade painters, dark ride painters, audio-animatronics (Hatbox Ghost!) and effects design, maquettes, and show animation. You could even (virtually) ride Hong Kong Disneyland’s Mystic Manor on the famed Digital Immersive Showroom (DISH). We also got to participate in a play test for the Adventure Trading Company project as well as a play test for a Simon-style, in- queue game based on Mickey’s Fun Wheel.

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Of course, this is just a taste of what Journey Into Imagineering had to offer. I marveled at the skill and talent it takes to imagine concepts into reality. I have always been a fan of Imagineering, but to be taken behind the curtain like this was truly awe inspiring. This experience will not be forgotten.


All photos are by Fran Cassano.


For Fran Cassano, paper crafts have kept the magic of Disney a part of her everyday life. Fran invites us capture our own memories through Practically Perfect DISNEY Crafting… Break out the tools that have been gathering dust. And let’s figure out how, together!

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2 thoughts on “D23 EXPO: Practically Perfect DISNEY Imagineering”

  1. Darlene says:

    Oh these pictures & the article are awesome recap!

  2. Fran Cassano says:


    Thank you for such a kind response. It means a lot to me

    : ) Fran