Disney Imagineering Alternatives

While many people dream of becoming a Walt Disney Imagineer and work on theme park projects, the reality and odds of this actually happening – given the current state of the global theme park design business – are very slim. However, few people do not realize there are alternative companies to work for – beyond Disney Imagineering – who create amazing theme park and themed entertainment projects.

Many people do not realize that Walt Disney Imagineering does not self-perform all of their design work completely in-house. There are many reasons for this. The cost of on-boarding internal talent for projects in an industry which is very cyclical in nature is cost prohibitive. Also, the number of projects Disney has globally (when the economy is good) are too extensive in size to solely design within WDI.

WDI, Universal Creative, and other theme park and amusement park owners hire outside architectural, engineering consulting firms, subject matter experts, show vendors, design consultants, etc. to make up their entire design team and to bring their projects to fruition.

My point is, if you don’t land a coveted full-time position with WDI, there are many architecture and engineering firms and creative design companies WDI use – combined with a blend of WDI’s internal staff – to makeup a full project design team. Working for an outside company offers you the opportunity to work on theme park projects alongside the Imagineers.

Will you be able to call yourself an Imagineer? No, but you would be an employee with an outside company working on a WDI project. I can tell you, the outside design consultants I hired when I was at WDI were always right in the trenches with me on my projects. They were dedicated to my Disney projects often for several years during the design and construction phases working directly with the Imagineers, but getting their paycheck from another company. Is it the same – no. Being an actual Imagineer comes with additional benefits that even outside consultants cannot enjoy, but it gives you the opportunity to work on Disney projects which in itself is a privilege that only a few in the world can claim.

Learn about the Frequently Asked Questions of Disney Imagineers and Theme Park Architects.

This alternative approach to work with Disney Imagineering is not solely exclusive to Disney. Universal Creative, the Imagineering-like creative design group that designs Universal Parks and Resort projects takes a similar, blended talent approach. Many non-Disney and non-Universal theme park and amusement park owners, such as Sea World and Busch Gardens, Dollywood, Cedar Fair LP, etc. hire their project design teams from outside companies, since they do not have internal design studios within their company like Disney and Universal.

Regardless of your personal area of interest and passion regarding theme park design, there are a multitude of companies that provide those specific design services theme park and amusement park owners require. For Architects and Engineers, there are a small handful of firms in the U.S. that have internal themed entertainment design studios that have worked on a multitude of Disney, Universal, Sea World, etc. projects. The same can be said for Interior Designers, Creative design groups, Show design disciplines, Show vendors, ride engineering, master planning groups, etc.

I always encourage and can help guide those interested in truly working for Walt Disney Imagineering, however, if you do not land a position with WDI or Universal Creative, you have many alternatives to work on and design theme parks and themed entertainment projects.

Disney Imagineering Alternatives
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.
Scroll to Top