When I was young I wished desperately to be involved in the design and creation of theme parks. But information of any kind was extremely hard to come by. Employment opportunities in our region or even country weren’t even a remote possibility. In those days there was no internet. Disney Imagineering was a closely held secret. I lived in a tiny town on the west coast of Canada, very distant from where this wonderful magic was created. (We still live in a tiny town on the west coast of Canada, but now the world beats a path to our door.)
Even so, I was not deterred or discouraged. Far from it. I have always lived by the notion that the greater the challenge, the more the opportunity exists to be creative.
On my infrequent visits to Disneyland or Disney World as a young man, with my family in tow; I was the fellow trying my hardest to peek over the construction walls at new projects to see how these wonderful lands and attractions were made. I was the guy who was looking into every corner of the park, scratching at the surfaces, and trying to learn the materials and techniques they used. I rode the rides multiple times, often looking backwards, to do my best to figure out how it all worked.
As a young kid I remember brief peeks of upcoming attractions on the Wonderful World of Disney television programs but I never could get enough information about the backstage details. Years later I discovered the Disney Magazine which sometimes featured construction shots of upcoming attractions. I pored over those pictures with a magnifying glass to not only see what the article was about but also see what was going on or displayed in the background. Seeing those few pictures fed a creative fire inside and made me even more eager to discover much, much more.
I started building creative projects for our kids when they were small but my tools and skills were rudimentary at best. I had absolutely no idea how to make permanent and durable features. I had so very much to learn and I wasn’t giving up. Over time I slowly built up my skills, learning largely through hands-on experience. I learned to draw, weld, fabricate, sculpt, paint and most importantly figure out how to solve complex problems. I filled our dumpster with projects that did not work many times. I learned much in the process. Gradually, our jobs became larger and more creative. Our reputation grew and spread far and wide. From time to time, by chance I would meet someone who would share some tidbit of knowlege and experience which I appreciated greatly.
With each project I gained experience and confidence. Our beginning projects were small and simple but people took notice. I became ‘the guy’ who’s known to dream up creative solutions. Each project was a stepping stone to the next – always in an upward trajectory. We discovered our niche market and specialized in small and medium sized regional attractions and theme parks as well as world class dimensional signs.
These days so much more is available online and in print. Modern materials and tools make creating easier than I ever dreamed possible back in my beginnning days. Disney Imagineering (and others) have published some wonderful books that open those top secret doors just a tiny crack. The web overflows with awesome information.
The reality is still that the themed amusement industry (as far as design and construction are concerned) is largely hidden from the public’s view. Most designers and fabricators operate behind tightly locked doors. I’ve been privileged to tour Imagineering and Universal Creative and other similar places. I’ve been generously afforded the opportunity to tour backstage in some of the world’s largest theme parks. But each time I’ve had to sign a multi-page non-disclosure agreement which I wouldn’t think of breaking.
During each backstage tour I am positive I never saw the really good stuff. Taking even a single picture to record what I witnessed during my visits was absolutely out of the question. When I do have the chance to talk privately with industry creatives or tour a creative workshop it is with the unspoken and clear understanding that what I see or hear is top secret and cannot be shared. I respect and understand all of that.
I absolutely LOVE what I get to do in our studio. Even after decades in the business I still am excited to go to our shop and create magic each and every day. The reality is that I haven’t actually worked since the day I retired from my regular job (at the age of 23) to work on my own. I love to teach and share our projects and I LOVE to light fires of excitement in others. This is a wonderful business!
At Imagination Corporation we want to open our creative doors wide. With a grateful nod to those who did share their valuable knowlege and experience with me on my journey, we want to share all we can about what we do and how we do it. It is our way of passing the torch to those who are coming up in this business. Hopefully it will help raise the bar for everyone.
Each day we post to our journal titled “The view from our window.” about the ongoing creative projects under way in the studio. These daily posts date all the way back to March of 2014 and there is a whole lot of information there.
We offer a deeper look behind the scenes with a blog titled ‘Behind the brush’ This blog takes readers through step by step procedures and projects. We add to the blog at least two times each week.
We also write an ongoing blog of our own personal project, the Hazelnut Inn
For those (like me) who love to study concept art we offer a showcase of concept art
We also have youtube channel with a wide variety of videos.
And once each year (generally in the fall) we open our studio doors for a three day hands-on workshop to twenty students from around the world. In these workshops our studio is wide open. Ask any question you wish, take all the notes and pictures you can. Study our projects in progress. Get your hands dirty on small personal projects that use every process and material we use in our larger projects. The seats for these workshop always sell out extremely fast. We will soon announce the dates for the 2022 workshop. To see a short video about this workshop go here.