Interview: Answering “How do I become an Imagineer?” with Disney artist Don Carson

in Disney, Disneyland Resort, Theme Parks, Walt Disney World

imagineering

Behind all the magic created in Disney theme parks are countless engineers, artists, and designers who create the experience enjoyed by millions of guests each year. Disney calls them Imagineers, a combination of imagination and engineer, bridging the gap between science and fantasy to create believable make-believe worlds.

It’s a dream job for many, especially among Disney fans, who often hold Imagineers in higher regard than most celebrities and political figures. Imagineers are the “rock stars” of the themed entertainment industry, so it’s no wonder that positions at Walt Disney Imagineering are often strived for, but so difficult to land.

With few jobs ever available and thousands of interested applicants, the question is often asked, “How do I become an Imagineer?” With the aid of former Walt Disney Imagineer and current Disney freelance artist Don Carson, we attempt to answer that question, at least a little bit. There is no easy answer, as no one specific formula will offer anyone the coveted title, but a few helpful tips can begin a trip down the path toward creating Disney magic.

Audio Interview

Below is a partial transcription, photos, and additional details surrounding Don Carson’s journey to becoming an Imagineer and advice for all the future Imagineers out there. (That’s you!) If you prefer to hear Carson’s advice and stories rather than read them, listen to Show 309 of our Inside the Magic podcast, available for streaming from this web site as well as to download directly.

The interview begins roughly 30 minutes into the show. Just click here to listen or read on…

Background

Don Carson was employed at Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) in Glendale, Calif. from 1989 to 1995. He worked as Show Designer for Splash Mountain at Walt Disney World and in the development of Toontown at Disneyland in California. During his time as an Imagineer, Carson produced more than 700 concept drawings and paintings, many of which have ended up in the WDI archives, to potentially see the light of day again in the future.

Currently, Carson is a freelance artist, still contributing to Imagineering projects when asked, but also offering his artistic talents to other entertainment companies including Universal Studios. Carson’s online portfolio and blog offer a glimpse into the wide range of talent his possesses. Of course, with Carson not currently employed by Disney (or any one design group), his tips and opinions given below are not officially that of Disney or any other themed experience company, but completely his own, based on his personal experiences.

Carson’s own road to becoming an Imagineer is both typical and unique. Any time an Imagineer is asked how he or she came to work there, the answer generally involves a tale of hard work, perseverance, natural talent, and a bit of luck. Below is Don Carson’s own tale of finding his way into Walt Disney Imagineering.


QUESTION: How did you become a Walt Disney Imagineer?

DON CARSON: I actually didn’t even really know that Imagineering existed when I grew up in the San Francisco Bay area.

I actually went to the Academy of Art college in San Francisco and majored as an illustrator. Pretty much at that time illustration was kind of on the way out so we were basically learning the skills that were going to launch us into a career into editorial illustration and the like. And I found really quickly that I didn’t really enjoy working on “finish work” and I didn’t really enjoy working with advertising agencies. What I really liked was coming up with the ideas, getting it done roughly, and then forgoing that finished painting part. I had gone and talked to all of my counselors and head of the illustration department and she assured me that a career where you just came up with ideas and didn’t take it to a finish just didn’t exist. So I launched myself into an illustration career.

Probably about the time the new Fantasyland opened at Disneyland there was a lot of press and they talked a lot about these Imagineers – these people who designed the theme park attractions and I thought, ‘Oh, what I have a done? I just spent four years in college to learn to be an illustrator when really I wanted to be an Imagineer.’

On his own, Carson then produced around 150 paintings of elements of Disneyland, from door knobs to lamp posts, as he was a fan of the parks to begin with and thought this would be the perfect way to show his knowledge of the product as well as create a portfolio to show Disney.

He landed an interview at Walt Disney Studios, mostly “as a gesture,” as they were impressed by the amount of work Carson had put into his drawings without any real indication he would get his work published or even get a job there. But even with that initial meeting, it wasn’t until roughly six years later that Carson finally did land a formal interview with Walt Disney Imagineering.


DON CARSON: They asked the question: ‘Are you familiar with our product?’ and I whipped out hundreds of paintings and they went ‘Well, obviously you are!’


Timing was finally right for Carson to get a position at Imagineering, with ongoing projects including doubling the size of the Disney-MGM Studios and other large-scale projects in parks worldwide. During this rare time, Imagineering was hiring artists “off the street,” a practice not often done, especially today.

Advice for Students

Having found his way into Walt Disney Imagineering, worked among some of the world’s most creative and inventive minds for six years, and ultimately deciding to leave to pursue freelance work, Don Carson is in a perfect position to offer his advice for anyone seeking to follow in his footsteps. He does so via our interview below:


QUESTION: What should kids study in school to work toward becoming a Walt Disney Imagineer?

DON CARSON: Imagineering is such a large organization with hundreds of disciplines that if you’re interested in audio or you’re interested in engineering or you’re interested in architecture, they’re all possible jobs for you. One of my friends is a themed lighting designer and she designs all the one-of-a-kind light fixtures that are applied to the attractions and I just can’t think of a college that has a program specifically for themed lighting. What you have to do with Imagineering is you have to show them that you have the skill base to take on whatever the job is at hand that you’re interested in.

I was working as a show designer. There’s the show design and concept design departments and they’re the guys and women who are responsible for those first sketches that are done. Being a show designer can be a lot of different things even into the category of being an artist. You might be someone who spends your entire career doing nothing but storyboards so having a really strong basic drawing ability, any artistic foundation that you can get through art school is valuable.

If we’re talking specifically about what kind of schooling you should get and we’re talking specifically about doing a show design or concept design job, go to art school and learn all the basics because even if the industry changes […] those basic skills are still utilized whether or not you’re doing pen-and-paper or whether or not you’re doing computer work. And when you go into Imagineering or any theme park design company and you’re looking for work, the first thing they’re going to look at is whether or not you have the ability to draw and that you communicate the ideas that are in your head.

You never know from one job to the next what you’re going to draw. […] At Imagineering, you’re going to be asked to draw anything. So whatever training you can get, and I would recommend some kind of art training at art school, getting the ability to feel comfortable enough to communicate your ideas through drawings and no matter what you’re asked to draw.


Getting a job at Walt Disney Imagineering

QUESTION: What job should college graduates be looking for to gain experience before applying to Walt Disney Imagineering?

DON CARSON: Imagineering, being the pinnacle of theme park design, doesn’t want to necessarily talk to you until you’ve proven that you understand what they do. Although I can imagine you could bring in examples that showed you could do theme park design, if you come in with work you’ve done for other companies, that’s a sure sign that you understand this unique industry. […] Look at the other forms of entertainment, whether that’s a theme park company or even theatrical companies, people who do stage set design, any of those things will give you experience that will inform Imagineering that you understand their product.


QUESTION: “Imagineer” unto itself is not a job title. Can you give some example job titles that people actually perform while at Walt Disney Imagineering?

DON CARSON: There’s countless numbers of them. The closest to me was show design and concept design. There’s producers, production designers, dimensional designers – they’re responsible for the models -, sculpting, painting, various audio engineers, show writing – who are responsible for not only coming up with the scripts but also for recording all the talent, bringing that talent in and all the sound effects and the orchestration as well. There’s people who are responsible for making sure that the props are purchased. Prop purchaser is a full-time job for somebody who hunts the world for anything from pirate cannons to bird cages to fill the theme parks. There’s just no end to the types of jobs that are there.



QUESTION: What about personality? Is there an Imagineering culture that would help someone get in if they were a certain type of person?

DON CARSON: Someone who’s a huge fan and is very verbal about it is probably less apt to get in, because really you’re there to do the job. In fact, I’ve known people working in the industry who actually don’t like, necessarily, going to theme parks but they’re marvelous designers. They’re really, really good storytellers.

So one of the worst things you could do is go in there and say, ‘I love Mickey Mouse and it’s my dream to work on things that involve Mickey Mouse.’ It’s much better to go in and say, ‘I really, really understand this industry. I think my talent is a good fit and I’m willing to do whatever’s necessary to get in and help you do that.’


QUESTION: How does one actually go about applying for a job at Walt Disney Imagineering? Do you log onto a Disney career web site?

DON CARSON: I think the HR of any company would insist that’s the best way to get into the company. I’ve found it to be the opposite – that going in the front door is often a way to ensure you will never, ever work for that company. We live in a time of the Internet. You really need to foster relationships with people who are there or people who know people who are there.

Being able to have a conversation with someone, even if it’s, ‘I’m really interested in your work as a designer.’ I think designers, artists, engineers – they like to be recognized and if you’re honestly interested in the work that they do and you’re willing to – not pester them mercilessly – but to just [say], ‘Hi, I’m really interested in this industry. Can you help me? Can I talk to you? Can I show you some things?’ Give them the opportunity to mentor you a little bit and then at some point, if you feel as though you have enough stuff, [you can say], ‘You know, I’ve been working on this, you’ve seen the kind of work I’ve done, is there someone at Imagineering I should talk to, that I can mention your name?’ That usually works better for any company you want to work for. That inside connection is what gets you in there.


In Summary

It’s clear that there is no secret shortcut to becoming a Walt Disney Imagineer. Imagineering is held in such high regard for a reason, as those who do get to call themselves Imagineers have reached a position within a leading force of the themed entertainment industry. And anyone who wishes to pursue the dream to work there must arrive with a high skill level and expertise as anyone else who is employed at WDI. It’s not an impossible task, but it’s not an easy one either. Fortunately, there are plenty of stepping stones along the way. Carson highly recommends taking job opportunities in related companies in whatever field suits an individual’s own talents. Whether it be sound engineering, writing, or traditional illustration, Imagineering has a home for hundreds of skill sets and it’s simply a matter of honing those skills and seeking out the right avenue to show them off to a decision maker.


Don Carson offered many more stories and additional advice for getting a job at Walt Disney Imagineering, which you can hear unedited in Show 309 of our Inside the Magic podcast.

For additional advice for becoming a theme park designer, don’t miss our wrap-up of the Entertainment Designer Forum from April 2010, where we sought advice from seven leading themed entertainment experts at Walt Disney Imagineering and Universal Studios.


100 Comments

  1. Isaac

    hi my Mum and I have a great idea for a new theme park ride for Disney. It is a cool simulator and interactive rocket ride with a quirky twist. I am seven and a half years old and wondering if I could share my idea with an Imagineer. If you know of any Disney imagineers who are willing to listen to my idea i would be thrilled to share it with him/her.

    Thank you

    Isaac

    1. Ricky Brigante

      Disney’s Imagineers aren’t allowed to listen to outside ideas for legal reasons, but that shouldn’t discourage you from coming up with designs! At only seven and a half, you have plenty of time to fine-tune your talents, skills, and ideas to have them ready for when the time does come where you can formally present them some day. Good luck!

      1. Isaac

        thank you but i am not sure why they are not allowed to listen to new ideas. I live in Ireland and dont know who i can share my idea with. i just want to see if i am thinking up good ideas that the imagineers might condsider when developing new rides. Surely it is good to talk to the kids who will be the ones enjoying them.
        Isaac

        1. alexa

          There is one. Its newer, its called mission space and its at Epcot in Orlando, Florida. Its really cool! They simulate take off And returning to earth.

          1. Chase McKinney

            you do know thats been there since the day I t was open right….? and its not new either

        2. do not listen to nay-sayers, anything is possible.
          best bet tho is instead of sharing your idea, is to work on it yourself. Come up with the design and concept, draw it on paper or have someone help you draw/plan it.
          the more work you put into it and the more you improve upon your initial ideas the more likely it is to become a reality. you never know, maybe someday in the future you can pitch it/sell it to Disney yourself.

    2. sasha

      your too young to be coming up with ideas. no one wil listen to you.

      1. Sumomo

        Shut up, what the frick kindof statement is that? The truth shall come from the mouths of babes, fool.

        1. Pony

          Don’t feed the troll. Only a genuine a-hole would say that.

        2. Kevin

          You a-hole! The kid has DREAMS!! Let him be. Plus, he is only SEVEN! I want to be an imagineer too! And I’m only 12!! I’ve had many ideas but I haven’t tried to share them! So at least he got the guts to share his idea.

          1. FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS!!!!!!! I want to be an Imagineer to and have some ideas as well. Don’t let any of these people discourage you DONT GIVE UP 😀

      2. Michelle

        you are very mean sasha. I am 12 years old and I am infatuated with Disney every single DAY!!! dont you listen to her Isaac!!!!! believe your dreams like the song, ” when you wish upon a star”!!!!!!! 😀

      3. Sydney

        Well Sasha, you might think that he’s too young to make an idea but I bet you haven’t had one original idea ever. And I’d like to see you make something better. Gosh people like you need to get a life than bringing down the hopes of little kids.

      4. lovelyaly

        That was a very rude and unessecary comment. He has a dream and that makes it so that he will grow up and have this passion that he’s had since he was 7 years old, and he could very well become an imagineer

    3. rashad reidens

      YOU HAVE TO FIND SOME DONT LET PEOPLE DISCOURAGE YOU THATS WHAT THEY DO TO ME DO RESEARCH GET A JOB AS AN ENGINEER FIRST AND THEN GO FOR IMAGINEERING

    4. Keyton

      I’m only nine and I’m very interested in becoming an imagineer but how how do I need to start off my career and what do I need to be doing now?

      Thanks so much

      Keyton

  2. Zack S.

    Does anyone know if it’s atypical (or HOW atypical it is) for cast members of the Disney Parks to move around the company and/or possibly into the Imagineer position?

    1. Ricky Brigante

      It’s not atypical at all. Many Imagineers began their Disney careers working as everyday cast members in the parks. It’s a great way to make connections and learn of new opportunities. Disney often hires from within.

  3. Liza

    How many people apply annually for a position in Imagineering, and how many do they usually take on? Is this something you could really aim for as a career goal or do you need to keep your options open?

  4. Rachel

    I read in the interview that Disney would rather hire people who can draw, so do you have to be able to draw to be an imagineer? Would they even consider you if you couldnt draw very well?

  5. haley lortie

    i am 14 years old and i sent a letter to disneyland about a attraction idea. i understand your reasons on not being able to share but i want to be an imagineer when i grow up. in lifeskills we got jobs. imagineer was on my list and i didnt get the job and later on my teacher asked what it was. on the website it didnt have imagineering as a job listed so she asked me if i could write a job profile for it because she would like to hear all about it. do you think maybe you could help me with this?

    1. Samantha Aguilar

      Dude, not to be weird but i want to be an imagineer too and im also 14 . Im just excited that i saw someone my age who wanted to be an imagineer also, because nobody that i know really knows what it is. (:

      1. hannah w.

        no one in my school doesnt want to be an imagineer, im 13 and i am just like u. young but know what they want to be when they grow up.

        1. Michael

          hey!!!! All my life I’ve wanted to be an engineer for the imagineers and I’m also 14. y’all are the first kids my age I know that are actually interested in imagineering. everyone else just wants to be a firefighter or a police man when they grow up. it’s cool to finally meet kids my age interested in imagineering!!

          1. Katy

            I’m fifteen and I want to be an Imagineer! I’m possibly looking at my future coworkers :)

          2. Landon

            Hey I’m 13 and all my life I’ve wanted to be a disney imagineer and work as an engineer I love taking things apart and mixing them together I’m also interested in visual effects and coming up with technology that is an industry first hopefully I’m talking to some future co workers

          3. Haley

            ^_^ Imagineer dreamer here too! 15 and culturally knowledgable. Plan to going into either Ride design and engineering, audio engineering, or pastry. I am a good artist and a amazing audio engineer. My school ranks in the top theaters of the nation and I work in the audio crew, so I will have many years of GREAT practice. I also spend half my day, working in my highschool culinary arts program! I love telling stories with what I do. A lowerage of pitch and blurred sound can tell wonders. A slash in the cake can tell of anger or pain. I really want to work for Disney, because telling a story is what I love most. I want to share my imagination and cleverness with the world in a new way. Disney is just what I need.

          4. Janis

            AHHHH I want to be an Imagineer too! I love Disney, not just like Mickey and the princesses and stuff but the behind the scenes things, how they get ideas for characters and rides and shows. I spend my free time on Disney wiki and Disney World is my favorite place on earth:)

          5. Skye

            Hey! I’m 14 and want to become an imagineer as well! Good luck to all of you!

          6. Liz C

            I’m almost 13 and I want to be an Imagineer. I’m mainly interested in ride design and artwork. I’m in an advanced class at my school and there’s a unit we are going to do next year called roller coaster physics. All I know is that we have to design and roller coaster that would work in real life. I can’t wait!!! The sad thing is is that there are other things I want to be too. I don’t know how I could combine particle physics, chemistry, singing, and acting. The only other thing on my list was engineering and… Duh

          7. Hannah Jones

            Finally! Someone my age that is interested! I want to be one to! And, guess what? I’m 14 too! Future coworkers here :)

        2. Esme MJ

          i am also 13 and i want to be an imagineer so much.when i tell people this, i have to explain what they are and i get so frustrated. i feel really hapy that some people agree with me.

          1. Arina P

            Same here!!! I’m 13 and my dream is to become an imagineer. I’ve always loved engineering, and when I found a job that combined engineering and using my ideas to create something amazing, I was certain that this is what I want to be when I’m older. Best of luck to you!

      2. Ashley

        I’m also 14 and want to be an imagineer 😀

        1. Katia

          I’m fifteen, and engineering in this context is exactly what I want to do :) Although I love Disney, it’s more for the specific opportunities for design. Hope to see you all sometime in the future

        2. Travis

          I am 14 and want to be one too! 😀

          1. Ashton

            Guys, I want to be an imagineer too! And I’m also 13, I take engineering at my school and design buildings and robots all the time and i love it! It’s great to finally see other people with the same interest !

          2. Trace

            Hey! im 15 and i have wanted to be one my entire life! i spend my spare time Drawing the layout of the all the rides xD also i will find myself recreating the rides in my basement, Hopefully i will be one someday! 😀

        3. Chase McKinney

          Same here I dont see why people think its gay im also 14 1/2 and ready to work there

        4. rashad reidens

          I have some great ideas for the new avatar land and I want to share them with Disney i’m almost 13 I’ve got ways of making floating mountains, and the bioluminesinsent forest but I don’t no who to share them with. live in north Carolina we rule

      3. daniela mora

        im 13 and i want to be an imagineer too i thought i was almost the only one this little to “dream” about this. i would like to be one because it would be nice to create new rides and see people smiling about a ride YOU created

        1. Conner

          great! I am 15 and want to be one too and now i have competition…

          1. Rob

            Too funny…I am 38 and I want to be an Imagineer. I’ve been in I.T. for 17 years, and am considering going back to school for a design or engineering degree.

            Lots of talk about artists, but what about engineers? The whole of Disney property is like one giant robot, massive automation. That’s what I want to do, learn those systems and make them better.

          2. Lily

            Hey! I’m 13 too and I really, really want to be an imagineer. Think phsycology could help me (that’s what I want to study) I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one dreaming. So hello to my future coworkers :)

          3. Erin

            no one cares

          4. Lyn

            Woah I’m 16 and I really wanna be an imagineer too!!!Thrilled to see so many people with the same interests 😀
            I’m specializing in visual arts in a specialized arts school so hopefully that helps…but i don’t live in america.. :'(

          5. Izzy

            I know right

      4. Lizzy

        I want to be an Imagineer more than anything. I know you won’t take ideas, but here are 2 anyways.

        Baloony Baloons from Phineas and Ferb. I know, not very engineer like, but whatever.

        Tiana’s Palace Restaurant from the Princess and the Frog

        1. Tyler

          I’m turning 15 in a few weeks and I really want to be an imagineer similar to a lot of people on this page. I love how so many of the replies here are about kids like us talking about how much they love the Mouse and want to work for him. It would be cool if we could somehow connect aside from on this thread….

          1. rashad reidens

            it would be cool we all just had a chance to show our ideas to Disney that would be the greatest. praise jesus he rules

          2. Izzy

            That would be so cool 😀 i’m 13 and would really love to go into the engineering/ride design portion of imagineering does anyone know if there’s any other way to work towards this goal before the disney college program? I took the ACT this year (and got a 24 whoop whoop XD) along with other things such as the Duke TIP program so I can get into a good engineering college but even with all I’ve read it seems the earliest you can actually start the road to imagineering is in college if anyone knows any programs before then to help that would be great :)

        2. Izzy

          I think the resteraunt idea is really cool :) they don’t have anything tiana or princess and the frog related thing at all (at least in disney world I don’t know about land) it would kind of be like the “new” be our guest belle restaurant wouldn’t it? 😀 it sounds really cool I wished they would do some kind of contest thing where you could create this kind of stuff and then submit an idea…

      5. Kevin

        Nice to know we will all be working with each other one day!

    2. Antonela

      Hi i`m 13 years old. And i live in Macedonia. In my country is no way to get in disney company. Im so sad because of that. I am i very good artist. So i want te get in artwork in Disney. but I dont have idea how to enter there. So please help me to find my own way to build my career.

      Thank you all! <3
      Antonela.

  6. Sierra Stacy

    I have many ideas for attractions and such at disneyland, but I’m wondering Is there such thing as an imagineer that comes up with ideas and draws what thier imagining so they get the general picture? I’m 17 and being an imagineer has been my dream for a long time ever since i first went there at 3.I would love to come up with ideas cause i got a huge imagination and im very talented in art and drawing,im just not sure what kind of imagineer i could be? could you please give me some info I’m almost graduated from high school and id like to know were i need to go to be a imagineer.

    1. Julian

      Hi iam 15 and I also created many rides and ideas for the disney parks and since I was small my was to be working at disneyland and making smiles all day I need to know what I can study because I really want this so bad, I’m glad there is so many kids my age interested in this and I hope all of us will be co-workers one day

    2. rashad reidens

      seems like you really got something going on I have a great imagination to all though I’ve never been to Disney world I still read articles and watch videos about it so I can get some ideas and then make them better I have a notebook full of ideas and im still thinking now if we had a chance which we will soon so good luck hope you make got all my support. IM BLACK AND BACK

  7. Keith S.

    Hi, I am currently a Senior in high school who is striving for a job like this. This article was very helpful, but I think a one-on-one conversation would be beyond amazing. Is there any way to contact Don, whether it be by phone or email? I am already in the process of applying to colleges and I want to make sure that I’m even going in the general right path to getting in the theme park industry, not even specifically with WDI.

    1. Mollie

      I know this is an older post so i hope you see it. After your 1st semester in college ( providing good grades) you should look into the disney college program. You get to work and study at disney, a fantasmic way to get your foot in the doir!!

    2. rashad reidens

      HOPE YOU GET IT IN MY BEST HOPES. PRAISE JESUS AND STILL LOVE JEWS

  8. hannah w.

    hi im young but i definitely know what i want to be! an imagineer, i think i will be perfect for the job when im older. im very creative and great at math and science. the engineering part is perfect, before i just wanted to be an engineer but i found out about imagineering and i thought that imagineering is the job for me. i love challenges and i draw a little. i dont know what i like best, drawing and engineering. i never give up and i am always focus and ready for a new thing. i can multitask and very smart student, imagineering is the job for me when im older.

    1. rashad reidens

      I STILL WANT TO BE AN ENGINEER BUT ALSO A IMAGINEER I WANT TO DO AEROSPACE AND MECHANICAL EGINEERING AND ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING AND THEN AQUIRE THOSE TO IMAGINEERING IT REALLY SEEMS LIKE A FUN JOB

  9. Icecream035

    THIS IS A HUGE question I have about the DISNEY CRUISE line sail away party. I would love to know the name of the song they first play during the sail away party. It might just be made for the cruise but I would LOVE if it was released on iTunes.

  10. Delanie

    I’m a junior in high school seriously considering this as a future and something I want to strive for. Don repeatedly mentions that drawing is necessary and while my art skills aren’t terrible, graphic design is what I’m really interested in and since it wasn’t mentioned specifically, I wanted to know if that was a skill they look for?
    Thank you. :)

  11. Michael

    Hi, my name is Michael, I’m 14-years-old and all my life I’ve wanted to be an imagineer. I’m not so much interested in designing or drawing up the attractions all that much because I’m a pretty terrible drawer, but I just wanted to know if that would still be something that might stop or prevent me from becoming an Imagineer. I’m in the 8th grade and I’m one year ahead in math. I’m taking algebra and passing with high A’s in the class. I’ve been very interested in the field of mechanical and civil engineering and I was only wondering if my lack of artistic skill and ability to draw would in any way prevent me from becoming an engineer for WDI.

    1. Kirk Bonds

      Hi Michael, At 66 I am a retired Imagineer. I worked there from 1998 to 2009 and worked on many amazing projects with incredible people many of whom I am still in contact with today. I was at various times a Production Designer, Senior Dimensional Designer, and Concept Designer…also on the BOD for MUG Disney and member of Tiger Team in Creative Computing. It will probably surprise you that I majored in Aerospace Engineering in college but got my degree in Creative Writing. I have spent many years as a one-of-a-kind furniture maker/ woodworking professional. Math and science are a PLUS when it comes to Imagineering…creative thinking, good people skills, and doing a great job. Saying “YES” -Let’s do it! You can check me, personally, by googling Kirk Bonds/ LinkedIn>>>My BEST to you.

    2. Ethan

      yeah, same boat as you, Michael. I’m great at math, and I am interested in becoming and architect, but I am a terrible drawer. I am looking for the same answer, “do you have ti be able to draw to be an imagineer?” I feel as if I am a great storyteller, but, I think one of my disadvantages is that I can’t draw. ismthere anybody out there with advice in how to make it without being a good artist, or if I have a chance?

      1. Izzy

        Same as you and Micheal i am ahead in math (7th grade and taking Algebra 1) I’m not an expert on imagineering but since I want to be one too when i grow up i have done some research and as far as I can tell it depends on what aspect of imagineering you want to go into like if you want to work with the actual park attractions designing them and such (like I want to) im guessing you have to be good at either graphic (computer) designing or sketching by hand but I really doubt that if you are smart enough and have a lot of drive that you’ll be turned down just because you aren’t the best drawer :)

  12. Laurie

    Hi, I’m in my early 40’s, and I am interested in becoming an imagineer for Disney. I have a passion for dance and theatrical productions. I also enjoy building sets and painting models and props. I am creative, and I’ve been in the wrong career for years. I’m saving my money as I speak to be able to go back to college and pursue something creative that I love. Can you please give me advice as to what major I should pursue if I want to work for Disney or any other theme park? I was thinking maybe Set Design, or SCADS major titled: Themed Entertainment Design. School is so expensive, and I want to make sure I’m going in the right direction. I read Shelby’s profile on the Disney careers website, but it didn’t tell her education background and how she got there? Thank you for any advice you can give me.

    1. Kirk Bonds

      Hi Laurie, Becoming an Imagineer at Disney is often a twist of fate, not only for myself but all who work there. Many came there from the School of Art and Design in Pasadena but many have not. I did not. There is no career track to Disney Imagineering that I know of. I spent ten years there and still don’t know how I got the job but Disney payed to move me from Santa Rosa, CA to LA…all expenses…when I was 40. A great ten years and I get my retirement check every month. I do not know what I did right, even today. You might do what I did which was send your resume with photos and cover letter to WDI, 1401 Flower, Glendale, CA addressed to Human Resources. It may take months for a response. Four months in my case. Personally, please check Kirk Bonds/Google/LinkedIn…My Best to you

      1. Pony

        Kirk, I wanted to thank you for chiming in about the subject and also being so candid about age. I got my BFA in 1992 and I just never thought about a career in or with Dusney at that time. Now, I’m 43 and I’ve resigned myself to it never having a chance in my life. I’ve been doing my own artwork now for a decade after a decade In art direction and design. Just reading what you wrote gives me hope that all may not be lost in the sands if time. I love to design, create and paint stories of emotional impact. I just never thought anything less than an illustration major right out of college had a shot anymore. I still aware my best years of possibility are behind me, but I’ll keep creating, keep painting and keep hoping. Forever the optimist. THANKS! – Stephanie

  13. Crysta

    Hi im only 11 years old and i have a really good idea of a disney ride that i think could work.Its a ride where your a “fairy” and face down and turn and twist through the world of “Pixie Hollow.” do any of you think this ride could work?

    1. rashad reidens

      THIS IS MY BIRTHDAY JULY, 9 OH YEAH TURN TWELVE NOW IN 2014 BOUT TO TURN 13. PRAISE JESUS LOVE JEWS

  14. Crysta

    I thought mabee if my ride works disney will ask me to come up with more ideas and i could be an imagineer when im older.

    1. Haley

      Sorry, your ride does somewhat exist and it would work but, Disney does not accept any outside ideas for legal reasons as stated above. If Disney would accept outside ideas, it wouldn’t quite be the way it is now. Keep the idea an strive high to one day be able to share it! :)

  15. Katie

    I know it’s fun to come up with the big-picture stuff, but there are very few people needed to do that kind of thing. Most of the Sr. Show Designers came into the organization years before and worked on many projects first before laying out a show. And even then, you have to remember that you work for a company, and you’re not Walt. You’re told what kind of attraction to design, how big, what the theme is, and what the budget is. You don’t just do whatever you want. And you don’t sit around and create on your schedule, you create what someone told you to create, and you come up with it quickly. You’re very busy, and it’s not all fun and games.

    Almost everyone at WDI came in with a particular set of skills. You need to be the expert, go-to guy that can solve a problem on the spot. When you prove that you can solve problems that are thrown at you, and you can communicate and work in multidisciplinary groups very well, you are asked to lead designs. But remember– it’s what you were told to design. For the first 20 years. It’s work. A lot of work. And if you can buckle down and do the work, you might be the right type of person.

  16. Tyler

    Hello! I will be turning 15 years old in a month and I love drawing Anime. I attend a school for arts and I wanted to know how can I do an internship at Disney Land/World for drawing? Could someone please help me with this or at least lead me in the right direction.

    Thank You!

  17. Will

    I am 16, from England and i am in college studying IT and History is it to late/long shot to become an Imagineer expecially because i haven’t studied things to do with it (my english and maths grades are not so good so it was hard picking subjects). I think the exterior and interior make disney how it is now, along with the characters of course.

    1. NEs

      IT is always a desirable quality. You shouldn’t have a problem getting in, and a history buff can be a good creative consultant.
      Keep Creative!
      ~NES

  18. sarah b

    I was just wondering if there was a college for this kind of thing. I was wanting to know becasue i would love to become a disney imaginer some day. I relize that they cant help us with our ideas i was just needing some help. Thanks

  19. Lindsay

    Wondering if anyone can help me with my question. My dream has always been to draw for Disney, i will have completed my AS in graphic design soon and have put together a portfolio and reel to present. However, i live in Florida and always figured it would be easy to do an intern or get a foot in the door since im so close to WDW, but from online info it looks like to do my dream i would need to live in California! Can i be in Disney animation and live in Florida?
    Lindsay

    1. Matt

      I would also like to know!

    2. NES

      I would recommend continuing on your college path and possibly considering the Disney College program, where you become a cast member at WDW. This would provide some experience with Disney, and show the company that you know their “product” and have good working volition.
      Keep Creative!
      ~NES

  20. geneva

    This has really inspired me to pursue this career. I’ve had a love for disney my whole life and want to have a job in a creative field. Thank you for this post, and thank you for helping me see through to this.

  21. Matt

    Hi, I want to be an Imagineer when I grow up and I’m 12 wanting to know if you have to know how to draw or if you could have other talents and still get the job because frankly I’m not that talented but if being an artist is very helpful for this job I will work on this skill. Currently I am reading a lot of Imagineering books and trying to develop my creativity because that is key in this profession. I imagine things and see what I an do to make something better for myself and others in my day because I like problems and fixing them and improving everyday. I see and hear that Disney is all about progress, for example the carousel of progress which I enjoy and am very fascinated by it when I see what thought and time must of went into it to create the ride and all the others the way you make the robots move and how real they look is incredible with the timing just right and the lights on the person that is talking so you know who is talking is very fascinating, thank you and I someone hopefully a Disney employee could answer my question about drawing and read my paragraph.

  22. Ameen Makanvand

    This is so weird! I’m fourteen years old and I want to be an imagineer to! So far I have to ideas for Disneyland. One is to create a, network of undergound Monorails with a station in each major city in southern california. So bottom line-inside of driving to Disneyland, Disneyland comes to you! The other idea is to create an extention of Disneyland which will be a simple, vast, quite, and calm area a sleepy and dreamy feel to itconsisting a fields of grass, trees, an enchanted forest and statues of your favorite Disney characters lounging about.

    1. Keyton

      I think that is a great idea! I’m only nine and I too want to become an imagineer. I think that would be great to not have to drive and pay all this money to fly so that is a cheap fast way to earn money.

  23. Keyton

    I’m nine and I am very interested in becoming a disney imagineer but what do I need to do right now when I’m at a young age to help me when I get older? I would love to animate for disney but I have no idea how to start. If you could help me please do.
    Thanks,
    Keyton

    1. Izzy

      Hi :) I’m 13 and want to be an imagineer too unlike you I want to go into the ride design aspect but I’ve done some research in all the aspects. For animation I would purse graphic design and art as a main interest since almost all animation is done with computers now-a-days and you want to animate it would be at least a starting place to look into programs online or camps that can teach you how to design graphically and animate using programs on the computer good luck and i hope you succeed!

  24. Julie

    I’m sixteen years and I’m not a big fan of amusement parks, but the work done at Disney is very inspiring! I want to get onto the right path to becoming an imagineer,what should I study in high school and college? Getting to put out all my crazy ideas would be a dream come true! If anyone knows where I should start please do tell! Thanks!

  25. We stumbled over here coming from a different web address and thought I
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  26. Mitchell

    Ever since I was little I knew I wanted to work for Disney. Even though I’m a college athlete now, I still want to peruse that dream. I understand there are a lot of people wanting the same career as me, but I just don’t know where to start. Where do I begin, where do I apply, and who do I need to talk to. I’ve seen many Disney sites for applying for a job, but most say that there are non available. I certainly don’t want to give up. What can I do?

  27. Loved your imagineering story and actually used it as a link back in my blog to help those interested in getting a career as a Disney Imagineer. Thanks!

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