Disney Imagineering Design Contest And A Local Connection


Recently, I saw on Twitter that the folks at Walt Disney Imagineering awarded winners in their annual student competition called Imaginations.  You may have heard of Imagineering, but they're the team who designs and builds the experiences in Disney Parks and Resorts.  But, you are probably like me and have not likely heard of the "Imaginations" competition.  The themed design competition opens up an opportunity for college students across the country to showcase their skills and thinking to the amazing collection of creative talent at Walt Disney Imagineering (and hopefully learn some things along the way).

They've done this for 29 years and it was started in 1991 by Disney Legend Marty Sklar.  From the release on the winners:
For nearly three decades, Imaginations has served as a prestigious design competition with the purpose of discovering and nurturing the next generation of Disney Imagineers from a diverse array of disciplines and skillsets. Founded in 1991 by former Imagineering executive and Disney Legend Marty Sklar...
Based on the Imaginations design competition site, it appears that every year they issue a new set of guidelines and focus for the challenge.  (Some of the past projects are shared on the site.)  For this year's competition, the hosts at Imagineering asked the teams of college students to think about creating an 'installation' at their own campus or town in a place that already exists/is part of the fabric of the community.  From the "Challenge" description:
Create an iconic installation on your campus or city that serves as an inspiration, honors the past, and is a vision of the future... In telling the very unique story of your chosen spot, it should respect and integrate local traditions and geography. Your icon should be a place to gather and celebrate, as well as reflect and educate the community. A concept that will go down in history as symbolic of your campus or city.
There's also some design student - or themed entertainment student - nerdery in the challenge:
The designers had to consider how guests could have a communal and family friendly experience as a group as well as how traditional methodologies and advanced technology solutions would allow the experiences to be shared. They also had to be mindful to honor the environment, history, codes and local ordinances.
Alright, you're probably saying:  enough about the competition and how it was structured.  Why post about it here on my blog?

Why post about it?  Well, first because Disney (and Imagineering) fascinates me.  But also, because there's a local connection to the Chicago area where we live.

The winners were selected from six finalists with the overall winner coming from a team out of the United States Naval Academy.

However, it turns out, one of the members of the 3rd-place team from the Savannah College of Art and Design is from Naperville, Illinois.  Just a couple of towns over from where we live.  From this Daily Herald story:
Anyone can enjoy theme parks because they're fun. 
But a Naperville native who recently placed third in a Disney contest for aspiring designers is a fan for deeper reasons. 
"Theme parks can dissolve time and create these family bonds," said John Manos, a 2016 Naperville Central High School graduate now in his senior year at Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia.

...Manos and three of his classmates -- Nayelin Delgadillo, Chris Feliciano and Oki Honda -- placed third for their concept installation "Urban Jewel." The design created a pedestrian bridge over a highway to revive the site where a public square used to be and turn it once again into a gathering space for students, locals and tourists, Manos said.
The Daily Herald feature includes a few other nuggets like how the team went out to meet the Imagineers and closes with him expressing his desire to catch on with an internship in Glendale at Disney Imagineering.

I love everything about this story. And all the angles that have played out in it. First, I love that the Naval Academy beat out the design schools.  Kinda great.  And I love that there's a story about a local young man who went to school (that we know well!) at Naperville Central and has these dreams of being an Imagineer as clearly ON.HIS.WAY.

Also, as a Communications and external affairs professional, I have to express my admiration for the work here.  Specifically, the ability to garner 'localized coverage'  due to the nature of telling this story.  Besides the local story that I came across, there are tons of others.  Like here, here, here, here and here (among others).  A nice flex for the team looking after the earned coverage.  Reminds me a lot of the takeaways from this Rob Plays YouTube video about the Disney Goofy Games (and the local coverage that it generated.)

My oldest daughter has - on occasion - put down "Disney Imagineer" on various school work when asked about 'What she wants to be when she grows up'.   I smile everytime I see it.  And know that we should feed her curiosity and make sure she navigates any hurdles in her way.

I can't wait to share this story with her and say: See!  You, too, can do this.  You *can* be an Imagineer if you work hard and harness your creativity.

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