Disclaimer: While I took lots of notes for this panel, a lot of what I wrote down was paraphrased and or summarized (and/or could be wrong). Most things I wrote down may not have been in the exact words of the Imagineers. Also some portions of the panel are incomplete. There were times where I wasn’t sure what they were saying or what they were talking about. In this panel, they seemed to have talked about a lot of WDW attractions, which I unfortunately am not very familiar with. If you were at the panel, please correct or add anything that may be wrong and/or missing!
The moderator for this panel was Chris Montan. He was joined by Joe Lanzisero, Eric Jacobson, Kathy Mangum, Daniel Jue, Joe Rohde, and Tom Fitzgerald.
Before the interview began, Joe Lanzisero talked a little about Imagineering and working for Disney. He said that they aim to entertain.
Chris started off the panel asking each person what they did before working for Disney. Joe Rohde said he was a troublemaker. In high school, he was dared to do the set design for “Tempest” and that’s how he started off interested in this field. He also mentioned that he’s a very budget conscience person.
Eric Jacobson said he always loved Disneyland. He auditioned for the parade, and was hired as a Christmas tree. But somebody got sick and he later was “promoted” to be the rear end of the Jungle book elephant.
Tom Fitzgerald started off doing attractions at Walt Disney World. He became interested in Imagineering and tried his hand on making models. He then interviewed with Marty Sklar and showed Marty one of his models. Marty told Tom that he’ll hire Tom if he never makes another model again. Tom said that even though Marty hated his model, Marty saw his potential and that was why he hired him.
Kathy Mangum worked at Disneyland in Adventureland. She was an English major and one day saw an internship(?) available to be a writer at Disneyland and she applied and got the job.
Daniel Jue originally aspired to be an engineer because of his father. However, in high school, he was involved with stage crew and loved it. When it came to applying for college, at first he selected engineering as his major but thought about what he actually liked to do and then decided to major in Theater instead.
Chris then asked the panel what were some things you need to do to become an Imagineer. Eric said that you need a degree of talent and passion. Stick with what you’re doing, and don’t say no to any opportunities.
Joe Rohde also mentioned that “you have to be the type of person who is willing to share” because you have to share and convey your ideas.
Joe Lanzisero said you need to be comfortable at a desk and draw. Also you have to love people to do this job.
Daniel Jue mentioned that he used to be a scenic carpenter for the Disney stores. He said the job got kind of repetitive and so he decided to try out Imagineering. He also mentioned that you have to “love what you’re doing.”
Chris then asked Joe Rohde how did set designing prepare him to do projects like Aulani. Joe Rohde said that set designing is like an illusion. (I didn’t catch the rest of what he said. He kind of digressed)
Chris next asked Joe Lanzisero what keeps the Imagineers going? Joe Lanzisero said that you have to find what is going to be entertaining. You also have to figure out the core pieces that’ll connect with the audience emotionally.
Chris asked Eric what is the hardest part of his job. Eric jokingly said, “Working with Kathy.” The hardest part of his job is prioritizing and balance.
The last question Chris asked Joe Rohde is how do you create something that didn’t exist anywhere on the Island (referring to Aulani)? Joe said he had to first ask what makes Hawaii, Hawaii? The answer is it’s Hawaii. Joe said that it was important to involve a lot of Hawaiians and learn about them and their culture. Then after, he had to think about what Disney knows how to do and figure out what can Disney do with the Hawaiian people’s story?