D23 Expo Imagineering Pavilion, a Deeper Look

Written by Rick Wright. Posted in D23Expo, Features, Weekend Update

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Published on August 18, 2013 at 3:00 am with 13 Comments

For those of you who can never get enough of Disney reports and Andy Castro’s photography, here’s a D23 Expo recap with photos from Andy and commentary from  Alain Littaye. ~~Rick

D23 Expo Recap: Journey into Imagineering Pavilion


The highly anticipated third iteration of Disney’s D23 Expo opened its gates in Anaheim, California for three days of non-stop excitement. This year, the Disney Parks and Resorts pavilion was dedicated to the 60th anniversary of Walt Disney Imagineering. D23 guests learned more about how the Imagineers create Disney Parks attractions and about the different departments that make up Imagineering. Thanks to Andy Castro and Nicholas Miranda for the amazing photos.

WDI Imagineer Tom Morris was the Creative Director of “Journey into Imagineering.” Tom was Disneyland Paris’ Fantasyland and Sleeping Beauty castle show producer and worked on Hong Kong Disneyland, Walt Disney Studios Paris and the acclaimed Cars Land in California Adventure. WDI Imagineer Dave Fisher was the Show Producer handling all of the logistics and interface.

The facade of the pavilion is partly inspired by the actual Imagineering building at 1401 Flower Street, Glendale. As you will see below, Tom and Dave and the other WDI Imagineers did a great job on this year’s pavilion.




D23 guests first enter the pre-show room where they are shown a film.


The room contains multiple screens . Audience attention is first drawn to the screen at left. Then the doors to the right blow open, revealing a screen on the opposite side of the room.


In the model section of the pavilion, D23 guests discover artwork and models of legendary attractions that never were built, like the Epcot Space pavilion project on which author Ray Bradbury had collaborated.






The 1955 Disneyland “International Street” model was a treasure that has not been displayed to the public in decades.


Just imagine if this had been built behind Main Street to the East as originally planned by Walt.





Here’s a great and very interesting model of an early concept for Epcot’s The Land pavilion!






The main ride through the attraction would have been aboard suspended balloon vehicles.







There would also have been a carousel style theater.







Next, the model of Mickey’s house for Disneyland ToonTown.




Hello Figment!


Located near the models was the “Art Library”. The Art Library was a very small walk-through experience where video screens share background information on several pieces of early Disneyland artwork such as Herb Ryman’s original pencil drawing of Disneyland that Walt Disney took to the bankers to get money for Disneyland and the original black light painting of Disneyland that Walt showed the public on television. No photos or video were allowed in this exhibit because of the delicate nature of the artwork.


WDI Imagineers had promised something related to future attractions and they didn’t lie, there was indeed something about Star Wars and Avatar lands. However, it was more like hints for the fans. For Star Wars Land there were these wooden crates, supposedly sent from the other end of the galaxy and making a stop at D23 before being opened at Imagineering. Of course, Star Wars fans were scrutinizing the crates closely for hints!

Disney was obviously not ready yet to make an official announcement and to show more of the Star Wars land concept. The code name for this Star Wars land is “Orange Harvest.” Disneyland was built in an orange grove and Florida is the “Orange State,” should we expect a Star Wars land on both coasts?







Here’s the Illusioneering Lab, showing how WDI special effects are created.






Next is the “Ride Engineering” section where D23 guests learned more about how Imagineers actually create a ride.















Disney Parks also posted this video in which Imagineer Dave Fisher tells more about “Journey into Imagineering”!

Next up is the “Architecture Imagineering” section which is about the exterior and interior architectural design of an attraction. In this case, a large number of the documents on display are related to HKDL Mystic Manor.













The Experience Development Lab introduces new technologies –among them the upcoming My Magic + magic band.









WDI Imagineers didn’t disclose a lot about the Avatar land but they did display elements that Imagineers brought back from Pandora – no kidding. These items will help them design the Avatar land rides. Beyond a few hints, the Imagineers weren’t tipping their hand about Avatar land which will open at Animal Kingdom in 2017.






Were there clues hidden in these renderings?





Next, the Show Production section and Show Animation sections of the exhibit.












Let’s have a look at the “Dimensional Design” room.


Some models or sculptures of the Astro Orbiter, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and many more….












Let’s enter the Research and Development Room!


An early concept model for Spaceship Earth!











Here’s the programming console which WDI programmers use to bring to life Audio-Animatronics like this Hat Box Ghost below.



And here are two great videos showing the new Hat Box Ghost Audio-Animatronic in action!

The WDI Imagineers did an admirable job of creating an informative pavilion even though they didn’t have the luxury of new announcements to spice things up. Sure, we’d all love to see models of Shanghai, Star Wars Land, Avatar and who knows what else, but 60 years of Imagineering is certainly something worth celebrating. With another expo on the way in two years, we can count on all those things next time. But for now, those who visited the expo have a much better understanding of how Imagineering functions, and hopefully a deeper appreciation as well.

We’ll end this report with a great video filmed by Thomas the Imagineer which shows the full exhibit including the great pre-show!

Find Andy Castro’s full report on the D23 Expo [HERE].

  • Pictures by Andy Castro and Nicholas Miranda – Dateline Disneyland
  • Videos: copyright Thomas the Imagineer or Dateline Disneyland
  • Pictures: copyright Andy Castro, Dateline Disneyland – MiceChat.com

About Rick Wright

Rick has been a long term MiceChat author and co-founder of the Weekend Update. You will often find Rick in the position of "Greeter" at official events due to his warm and welcoming spirit. If you've got photos, news or trip reports to share, Rick would love to hear from you: [email protected]

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  • CaptainAction

    Looks like a great salute to Imagineers of the past. True Disneyland has been trying to do things like rides and areas which guests really appreciate.
    Disney World, on the other hand, the past 10 years is all about lazy Disney leadership and squeezing more profit from each guest which can only be defended by the 2-3 staunchest Disney lovers left.
    Look at Rapunzel’s Home way up there 10 feet in the air. Check out Beasts Castle 20 feet high on the little rockwork. Guests better bring there own imagination to try and compensate for the CHEAP BUDGET Disney World squandered on these two TOYS. It’s just embarrassing.
    Snow White ride turns into a revenue potential Princess photo op. The rest of new Fantasyland is all revenue centered restaurants and shops surrounded by rockwork.
    Now they want to cram Fastpass plus down our throats because it’s less expensive to disperse guests to areas which don’t need fastpasses like Muppet Movie, Tiki Room, Shootin’ Arcade, bathrooms, etc. than to build new attractions which guests will want to ride!
    Hold on to your seats though, Avatarland will be here in 5 YEARS!
    Oh, and don’t forget to check out the new $250 budget per attraction for interactive ques for the sucker guests. Oh and don’t forget the new Starbucks!
    Meanwhile, Universal builds Harry Potter lands in 1 and 1/2 years, and MANY new rides in 12 months SIMULTANEOUSLY, while Disney spends 3 years and counting on the Seven Dwarves Coaster.
    Wake up you Sleeping Beauties.

  • RodeToad

    “The code name for this Star Wars land is “Orange Harvest.” Disneyland was built in an orange grove and Florida is the “Orange State,” should we expect a Star Wars land on both coasts?”

    You may already know this, just in case it’s new to anyone, it’s a fun bit of star-wars-nerd trivia about the code name:
    “Orange Harvest” is also a pun-like reference to a bit of Star Wars movie-making history: While filming live action scenes from “Return of the Jedi” (Jabba’s barge scenes) in the California dessert, the Lucasfilm crew created a fictional movie name, and put the fake name on all of their signs, hats, shirts, and so on. They were trying to keep the film shoot a secret, so that the fans and the media wouldn’t find out they were filming a SW movie in the California dessert (it almost worked). They told people they were making a horror movie. The name of the fake movie was:
    “Blue Harvest” and it even had it’s own tag line “Horror Beyond Imagination”.
    And now we have “Orange Harvest” and “Speculation Beyond Imagination”!
    (and FYI – if you come across a “Blue Harvest” shirt or hat at a garage sell….buy it! They have become, of course, a highly prized collectors item).

  • Tielo

    I’m looking at this whole D23 from the outside as a former Disney fan (not exclusively though, I also love other nice theme parks) and I don’t get it. Yes I haven’t been there and never will be as long as they keep doing it during the summer time on the west coast, but what I have seen is a lot of glorification and commercials. The endless plugging of movies from companies Disney bought because they weren’t able to fix their own life action and animation studios. It’s sad to see, it’s lacklustre and sad. I just can’t get exited when I see good actors on stage who are doing a money job. Because there is no acting involved in any of these movies and them seeing there feels cheap.
    Then we see the whole imaginering thing. Teasing us with stuff we never got and looked much better in comparing with what we got and teasing stuff they are working on showing us nothing. Even the best thing in latest years they pulled out of their hat (Fantom Manor) feels old. Nothing of that ride its original. The ride system is there for years and wasn’t original for Disney and the whole manor thing is done before. Add projections and audio animatronics and we have a very nice but not that original ride. And at what costs? This ride costs a ton. I read in an interview they sneered at Universal complaining about the lack of animatronics in their rides but when you aren’t able to keep the cars ride, Splash Mountain or any ride they have operation at 100% you are a failure and don’t have the right to talk your competitors down. When I would compare Disney now to Disney from 1 year after the opening of EPCOT Centre there is a huge difference. They had amazing new ride vehicles, stories and ideas. Now everything is focus grouped with selling junk in mind. They don’t like to go new directions and their imaginering group is overpriced and under qualified. Other parks can do 10 times more with 10 times less and bring us new and exiting rides like Walt once did. The whole D23 is exactly what Disney is now, offering commercials and pretending to be something they aren’t anymore for a premium price.

    • CaptainAction

      Hey Tielo, but what about that innovative Dumbo ride they put next to the other Dumbo ride? How about the innovative replacement of their coffee shops and bakeries with Starbucks. There’s something you don’t see every day…oh wait…yes, we do see that every day. How about the new Little Mermaid ride! It has less special effects than the decades old Pinocchio Ride. That’s innovative! Oh wait, bad argument again.
      When our former Disney fans family of 5 goes to Universal we stay at the Portofino, a beautiful 4-5 star resort. As a Loews First member, after a few stays, we receive a FREE upgrade to a gigantic suite with 2 full baths, $100 meal credit for Portofino restaurants, a wonderful boat which takes us from the resort on a magnificently landscaped mile long ride to the front of the parks, where our room key skips 95% of the lines. All this is less with an AP discount than 2 rooms at a value resort at Disney with a bus ride. At Universal, if I show my Amex and bought my annual passes with it, they have an air conditioned lounge with free kettle chips, granola bars, bottled water, etc.(Can you imagine Disney offering this?).
      Then we visit parks which are building new lands in 18 months or less, multiple new rides in less than 12 months, and all simultaneously! Feels great to be appreciated! Universal is trying in every way to appreciate and give to the theme park guests what they really want! Can’t wait for the day, coming very soon, in 2014, when more folks visit Universal than Animal Kingdom, Disney Studios, or Epcot. Next stop, beating attendance at Magic Kingdom. All while Disney keeps sqeezing us for nickles, cramming fastpass plus down our throats, turning off coke muggs, replacing rides with revenue centers, spenfding 3 years working on 1 ride (7 dwarf Coaster), 5 years on new lands (Avatar-which is way tired and done), etc.

  • Bb5

    The International Street reminds me of Islands of Adventure’s Port of Entry.

  • Eagleman

    Deeper Look…..into D23……..
    Rick ,Very interesting….enjoy…….
    Thank You

  • DisWedWay

    On Tony Baxter’s weekend of becoming a Disney Legend officially, it was great to see his model of the Land Pavillion he had envisioned years ago. The hot air ride balloon vehicles would have been a bit of Peter Pan and Skyway which guests would have enjoyed even today if it were to be built. I missed seeing the Western River Expedition model this time around. I’m glad so much of Mark Davis can be found suggested in Paris Disneylands Thunder Mesa Phantom Manor in a more macabre vision by Show and Land Producer Jeff Burke.
    “Youth is no guarantee of innovation.” says James Bond in Sky Fall, as a Q,M and Moneypenny are replaced by younger versions.

  • 3rdGateFan

    great video , Does anybody know how many acres is Mystic Point , and would it fit in DCA’s remaining timon lot?

  • michael darling

    Hat Box Ghost? Hello.

    • http://micechat.com Dusty Sage

      It was almost an emotional moment for me to come face to face with the Hatbox Ghost. And they let me play with the controls. Wow!

      Now, lets hope he makes his way back into the Mansion. There’s a space for him across from the bride.

      • michael darling

        Odd they would create such an animatronic, and not use it. (!) Odder still, most of us thought they’d reintroduce him secretly. Are they tiipping their hand? This seems very out in the open. Lets hope so.

        I bet it was fun to manipulate him. And here’s hoping they give him that elfish shape….hunched over, skinny bent legs, etc. but maybe that version would not complement the bride?

        Constance has such a commanding presence, could the HB Ghost really ever be her match? I see him as the one who caught the bride and made her his own. Maybe I have my storyline mixed up?

        As far as Disney Leadership always “hanging onto the past”, I’m sorry. Just HOW OLD are the Simpsons?

  • CaptainAction

    Yes, while Current Disney Leadership couldn’t innovate their way out of a hat box…you can always hang on to the past. Can’t have the present or the future at WDW, but the past will always be there to continue talking about, over and over again.

  • julesofhearts

    I LOVE the hidden Mickey in the (sadly) never-to-be-realized version of Spaceship Earth. Despite the lack of official announcements, I am devastated that I was not able to attend this D23 Expo. I studied Art History in college and hope to pursue a career in that field. Seeing all of these amazing hidden historical gems would have been a dream come true for me!