Becoming a Walt Disney Imagineer Top Five Questions

I’ve compiled the Top Five Questions I receive most about becoming a Walt Disney Imagineer. This are the questions I get most often from strangers or people I mentor who are interested in joining the famed theme park design company.

Click here if you would like to see the full list of Frequently Asked Questions.

Question No. 5

Q: How many years of experience does one need to be considered for a position as an Imagineer?
A: It purely depends on what role you are specifically trying to land at Walt Disney Imagineering. Imagineering does a really good job of defining their individual roles and the required years of experience (and if required professional certifications) for each role. For example, if you are trying to land an ‘Associate Architectural Designer’ role in Imagineering, that role only requires approximately 1-3 years of prior professional experience and no licensure or professional certifications. My role, when I was at Imagineering, required a minimum of 15+ years prior experience, I had to be a licensed Architect, and have a broad range of specific, professional related work experience.

Question No. 4

Q: How and why are theme park attractions designed?
A: Theme park attractions, regardless of whether they are rides, shows, restaurants, hotels, retail/merchandise locations, etc., are designed and built for a purpose. There are a multitude of reasons that prompt the need for a new theme park attraction, but at a high level here are some of the major reasons:

  • A rise in the projected theme park attendance requires additional attractions to accommodate a high Guest count
  • Projected theme park attendance increase requires more eating establishments, meals per hour, and additional restaurant seat counts.
  • A five to ten year projected annual attendance increase requires more on-property hotel rooms and more accommodation amenities.
  • An attraction is a day-one attraction (ride) with a low hourly Guest count and the theme park Operators need a new attraction in the same location with a more popular theme and story that will accommodate a higher Guest through-put and increased hourly count.

Question No. 3

Q: What computer software should I learn to prepare me for becoming a Walt Disney Imagineer?
A: Similar to which college degree you should pursue, the various types of software Imagineering utilizes depends – again – on your specific role and your role requirements. For example, if you would like to become a Ride Engineer they tend to utilize programs such as Solidworks to model concepts of ride components, ride vehicles, etc. Many of the Creative Studio roles require the use and understanding of SketchUp or even Maya to model early and on-going 3D concepts and ideas.

Question No. 2

Q: Do I need a portfolio when applying at Walt Disney Imagineering?
A: The short answer is yes. When applying to WDI, Universal Creative, etc.; they will require a professionally designed portfolio of your work for nearly all positions that are design-centric roles. If you are at the beginning stages of creating your portfolio or you would like to improve your current portfolio design, I suggest reading Stand Out: Design a personal brand. Build a killer portfolio. Find a great design job. by Denise Anderson.

Question No. 1

Q: What college degree should I obtain to become an Imagineer?
A: Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) has over 140 unique disciplines and roles within its organization. You should tailor your college/university degree path based on the role or function you desire. For example, if you love graphic design – WDI has a specific department focused solely on graphic design – you will want a college degree that is specific to graphic design or art direction. Check out our post on How To Become a Walt Disney Imagineer. Also, It purely depends on what role you are specifically trying to land at Walt Disney Imagineering. Imagineering does a really good job of defining their individual roles and the required years of experience (and if required professional certifications) for each role on their Disney Careers website. For example, if you are trying to land an ‘Associate Architectural Designer’ role in Imagineering, that role only requires approximately 1-3 years of prior professional experience, no licensure or professional certifications, but it will most likely require you to have either a Bachelor of Architecture degree, a Bachelor Science of Architecture degree, or a Bachelor of Interior Design degree – all from accredited degree programs. My role, when I was at Imagineering, required a minimum of 15+ years prior experience, I had to be a licensed Architect, I needed at least a Bachelor of Architecture degree (a Master of Architecture degree was preferred), and have a broad range of specific, related work experience. Other examples: if you are applying for a specific role at WDI that has the word ‘engineer’ in it, then you will be required at a minimum to have an engineering degree that is specific to the role you are applying for and may require you to have your P.E. (be a licensed engineer). If you are interested in applying for a more creative role at WDI, say in their ‘Creative Studio’, you will need to have a Liberal Arts degree say in illustration, animation, English (if you’re interested in becoming a Show Writer for example), etc. Again you will want to have a degree and skillset that is related to the specific role you are applying for.

Becoming a Walt Disney Imagineer 5 Most FAQ
About the Author J. Daniel Jenkins, AIA, NCARB is a licensed Architect, Theme Park Design Consultant, and former Senior Project Design Manager at Walt Disney Imagineering with over twenty years of subject matter expertise and design team leadership experience. Jenkins is the creator of themeparkarchitect.com who's goal is to teach individuals about theme park architecture and design, how to become theme park architects and designers, and discuss themed entertainment industry related topics. For nearly a decade, Mr. Jenkins has worked in the themed entertainment industry on new themed entertainment attractions, theme park lands, and new theme parks. Upon leaving Walt Disney Imagineering, Jenkins started his own Design Management Consulting company where he has consulted with and provided subject matter expertise and project leadership for new, confidential projects for several themed entertainment companies. Mr. Jenkins holds a five-year Master of Architecture degree from the Savannah College of Art and Design and a Virtual Design and Construction Certificate from Stanford University.
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