In 1952, three years before Disneyland opened. Walt Disney assembled a group of "visionaries, perfectionists and workaholics" to plan and design the future Magic Kingdom. After 35 years, these Imagineers — now a force of 700 — are still hard at work creating Disney theme parks and other resort and entertainment ventures. They are abuzz with energy. The acceleration of The Walt Disney Company under Michael Eisner and Frank Wells is propelling them into a fascinating and incredibly exciting future.
As President of Wait Disney Imagineering, Carl Bongimo strives to maintain a delicate balance. He sees Imagineering as a place where creative imaginations are free to dream. But it is also responsible for making those dreams a reality, which is no small challenge. Projects like Epcot Center, Walt Disney World, and Euro Disneyland rival some of the largest construction efforts ever attempted.
Walt Disney Imagineering occupies an unmarked building in Glendale, once the site of a cosmetics manufacturing plant. A walk through the cavernous, warehouselike rooms is a tease, since much of the activity centers around designs, models and mockups of theme park attractions that must still be kept secret. In less restricted areas, model makers can be seen building plastic foam miniatures of classic motion picture scenes for "Great Moments at the Movies," a highlight of the future Disney-MGM Studio Tour opening in 1989 at Walt Disney World. Other artists sketch layouts for a possible Disneyland jungle ride based on adventures of Indiana Jones. A sculptor puts the finishing touches on a three-headed troll for the forthcoming Norway pavilion, opening in 1988 at Walt Disney World. Elsewhere computer engineers work on the intricate innards of "AudioAnimatronics" characters for "Splash Mountain," opening at Disneyland in January, 1989.
"We have more than 40 projects in various stages of design and construction." Bongimo says. "They range from new attractions at Disney theme parks to innovative urban shopping and entertainment centers across the country. In all, it's approximately $2 billion worth of work.
"But Euro Disneyland is the major thrust of this organization right now. We're responsible for the master plan of the Magic Kingdom there, and all land planning for the outlying projects that will turn seven square miles of French countryside into a multi-billion dollar international showplace. We have about 120 people working full time on it, and they're supported on a part-time basis by other services and activities within our organization. We're also using tremendous resources on the outside, particularly leading architectural and engineering firms from France.