The Imagineering Story is a docuseries on Disney+ that details the many years of the people who created every park, every ride, every land, and every experience since Walt Disney himself. I am a giant nerd for theme parks and Imagineering, so I had to watch this series and now I share my thoughts with you all.
The series is in six parts, so I’m going to talk about each section and then how it works as a whole.
The Happiest Place on Earth
We start at the very beginning with Walt Disney himself creating Disneyland. Learning how Walt made all the magic from nothing is truly fascinating. He was truly an Imagineer himself, not just a CEO or President. Disneyland was truly revolutionary in many ways thanks to the minds of Imagineers and all of their diverse backgrounds that make them so unique. We get to see some background on various popular attractions, such as Pirates of the Caribbean. And the footage from all of this actually happening in the 1950s, so we get to really see how they did it all. He truly was a visionary and it is amazing to see him at work. My geeky heart was full watching this episode in particular.
This episode follows everything Disney himself touched and worked on and ends at his death. And listening to past Imagineers who worked with Walt speak on that nearly made me cry. It was amazing to hear Walt talk about Disneyland, which he loved so dearly, and how his vision came to life.
What Would Walt Do?
Following Walt’s death, this episode covers the transition and the obstacles faced without their leader. I think this is the part of the Imagineering history that not many really know much about, including myself. The main focus is on the completion of Walt Disney World in Orlando which was Walt’s last wish to his brother Roy who took over the company.
Also during this time was the beginning of expansion overseas with Tokyo Disneyland. Learning how Disney made it’s way overseas is definitely fascinating because I don’t think it is the story we expected. And what they do with the overseas parks always interest me since the likelihood I will get to visit them is not very high. The most interesting part of all of the overseas park discussions in this series to me is the culture of the country melding with Disney, both successfully and horrible failure.
The Midas Touch
We now enter the Eisner period, where the company is taken over by Michael Eisner as CEO and Frank Wells as President. One piece of this era the episode covers that I found particularly interesting is Disneyland Paris. Seeing footage from that time period and learning about how the culture in France rejected Disney is fascinating.
I’ve watched and read about the Eisner era before, but I wasn’t really aware of what all he did that he did well. When he had Wells by his side, it was similar to Walt and Roy Disney’s partnership. Eisner was the creative mind who asked Imagineering to make bigger and better things. Wells was a balance to keep things realistic and financially doable.
Hit or Miss
The most interesting part of this episode is listening to the Imagineers of the time talking about how it was and what went wrong after Wells died. Business people did not see eye to eye with the creatives in Imagineering, and that led to tension, time crunches, and cheaply made amusements. Among the failures is California Adventure, which I remember visiting in its original state and it was not great, and Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris as an attempt to rescue the already failing Disneyland there.
There is some success in this part, with the development of the Disney Cruise Line, Animal Kingdom, and Tokyo Disney Sea. However, the tensions between Imagineers grew because of differing budgets on projects and watching the two happen simultaneously via this series is fascinating.
What is super interesting in this episode is learning about projects that never made it off the drawing board. Disney’s America being one and WESTCOT, the west coast EPCOT, being another. I hadn’t heard about either of these before, and seeing some ideas that didn’t work out is an interesting piece of the Imagineering history we rarely get to see.
A Carousel of Progress
Taking over for Eisner is Bob Iger, who is the current CEO of the company to this day. And we are currently experiencing Iger’s impact and how he has revitalized Imagineering. Under Iger, we got Cars Land, Haunted Mansion Holiday, Mystic Manor, and a new park: Shanghai Disneyland.
To me, it was so nice watching the Imagineers fix the broken and sad parts of different parks and really bringing new innovations and creativity. And learning about Iger’s philosophy for running the company is equally interesting and you can see it at work.
To Infinity and Beyond
We end this series with the creation of Shanghai Disneyland, where the Imagineers were challenged with not creating a copycat park but creating new, bigger, and better attractions. This park is special and unlike any of the others, and learning more about it fed my Disney Parks geeky heart.
The very end of this episode is showing us what is coming in the future and a glimpse of what the Imagineers are making with their magic now. I’m not going to spoil what they shared, but I will say my jaw literally dropped. We’re in for some amazing things from the magical minds of Imagineering.
Overall, this series is amazing. It is so full of fascinating history from the 60+ years of Imagineering and I could definitely watch more. There was no part of the series where I was bored or wished they talked about something else. Writing this post was a challenge to not just go on about all of the interesting things I’ve learned. I’m thinking about watching it again honestly because I truly found it very interesting.
What have you been watching on Disney+? Share your recommendations in the comments!