It’s still amazing to think about how much Disney expanded its resorts during the early years of Michael Eisner. This growth continued through the ’90s and included the opening of Tokyo DisneySea in 2001. Larry Nikolai started at Walt Disney Imagineering during the height of this era in 1990. During his 28 years at Disney, he worked closely on so many cool attractions around the world. Larry is my guest on this episode of The Tomorrow Society Podcast to talk about his remarkable career.
This episode covers many of the highlights from Larry’s work as a Show Designer and Creative Director. Before joining Disney, his first project was the Monster Plantation (now Monster Mansion) boat ride in Six Flags Over Georgia. He learned the ropes there and went on to design animatronics restaurant shows in the 1980s. He also honed his design skills on TV and film projects before reaching WDI. His early attractions for Disney included Splash Mountain and overlays for the Country Bear Jamboree, both in Tokyo. He frequently worked in Japan and became the Creative Lead and Art Director for the Arabian Coast at Tokyo DisneySea.
One of Larry’s favorite projects was The Little Mermaid – Ariel’s Undersea Adventure for DCA and The Magic Kingdom. He describes some technological advances that were part of that attraction, including the incredible Ursula animatronic. He also had the chance to update two classic Disneyland attractions, Peter Pan’s Flight and Alice in Wonderland, for the 60th anniversary. His fandom made the experience of enhancing the classics a special one. We close the interview by talking about Larry’s work on Shanghai Disneyland plus some advice for aspiring Imagineers.