One Spark, Now A World: Disney’s Imagineering Story

The Imagineering Story is now available as a new series on Disney Plus. If you’re looking for inspiration about the origins of Disney’s culture and infamous theme parks, this is the happiest place to go!

Alongside the highly anticipated launch of the new “Star Wars” TV show, Disney+ now offers a documentary titled “The Imagineering Story” – an insight into the creation of Walt Disney’s infamous theme parks and creative legacy. At first, one might be sceptical that this new series is a creative ploy to advertise attendance and plan vacations to the iconic theme-parks (streaming inevitable revenue), but it is a refreshingly honest insight into the hard-work, persistence and dedication that’s entailed to actualise these dreams into a feasible reality.

The series highlights Walt Disney’s personal journey in parallel with the company’s and spreads a positive universal message about the power of creativity and the imagination. It’s a six-part docuseries that dives deep into the story behind the creation of the theme parks and attractions that are so universally revered today as well as Walt’s progressive team of ‘Imagineers,’ a term coined to reference the symbiotic combination of both imagination and engineering.

Photo Credit: Disney Plus

In the first episode of The Imagineering Story, the origins of Disneyland’s creations are unveiled. Starting with Walt Disney’s pure creative spark, the series tracks the long and arduous process of transforming Walt’s vision into a reality. It’s important to the audience that the docuseries provides a raw, honest recount of the difficulties encountered without the magic gloss and bubble-wrap.

In order for the series to truly reflect and not misguide the viewers on the genuine creative and commercial process, the incorporation of the company’s tribulations were a necessary inclusion. The most important lesson to take away from this episode was that Walt, despite being doubted by several of his Disney fellow executives (including his brother) and roadblocks such as malfunctioning rides and still-wet cement on the 1955 opening day, persisted with his creative vision. A story of hard-work, passion and perseverance.

Archival footage melded with present day interviews of the original Disney Imagineers encapsulates the creative endeavours and labour behind the creation of infamous attractions such as It’s a Small World (with the oh so catchy theme song) and the artful use of puppetry and animatronics to unite world cultures and spread a positive universal message. Other particular theme park attractions that director Leslie Iwerk’s draws attention to include the making of cult favourites The Haunted Mansion and Space Mountain.

The docuseries also highlights Walt’s innate and artful ability to delegate and surround himself with the creative and brightest minds. This is seen in particular with the creation of the Matterhorn Bobsleds ride (inspired by Walt’s regular visits to the Swedish getaway) in which Walt enlisted the assistance of designer and imagineer Bob Gurr, providing the viewer a fascinating insight into the ride’s creation and Tomorrowland’s creations. Herbert Ryman was another key influencer and imagineer part of Walt’s team that was responsible for the initial illustrations of theme park that turned into Disneyland, providing a tangible map and concept drawings to the park.

Photo Credit: Disney – Artist Concept Only Epcot (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow)

In the second episode following Walt’s death, the construction of Disney World in Florida as well as Epcot – Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (pictured above) becomes the primary focus. As Walt infamously said, Epcot “would always be in a state of becoming.” Epcot aims to bring immersive storytelling with a focus on future technology and community building. Projections of the future if you like.

Walt’s original vision was flooded with hope for the future, a Utopia of futuristic cities and mass transportation systems, however, his successors tangibly scaled it down to be a reflection of human achievement. It reminds us of the forward-thinking concepts envisioned by Walt and his team acting as a think-tank, inspiring countless generations. Ahead of his time, Walt’s team included technology such as touchscreens and voice identification prior to being adopted by the mainstream.

However, not all is rosy and magical in the episode with a tragic insight into the mass layoffs that occurred in 1982, exposing one of the several harsh realities the company had endured. Overall, these two episodes are fascinating and insightful, albeit slightly sanitised in terms of the labour disputes and Walt’s omniscient reputation for being demanding to his animators. Nevertheless, both episodes offer an emotional, nostaglic and heart-warming insight into the power of Walt’s imagination.

As charming as Walt is portrayed through this series, and justifiably so due to his incalculable legacy, director Leslie Iwerks is the daughter of Disney executive Don Iwerks and granddaughter of Ub Iwerks, the co-creator of Mickey Mouse, proving the docuseries intrinsic subjective bias.

Regardless of whether you love Disney or merely can’t stand the ostentatious ear-worm “It’s a Small World” revolving in your head like a never-ending pit of haunting nursery rhymes, Walt Disney has left an indelible mark on culture, inspiring countless generations through the power of creativity and imagination. From one initial spark of a mouse, to a culturally entrenched symbol of happiness and hope, Disney has truly created an immersive world for all generations.

What do you think of “The Imagineering Story” series? Let us know in the comments below!