The Walt Disney Imagineering campus is rarely open for outsiders to visit. Which makes sense since Imagineers are busy dreaming up the future of Disney’s global theme parks and resorts in there.
But the Imagineering buildings also serve as something of a living museum documenting the history of Disney’s theme park development, so a chance to visit, even virtually, is pretty exciting. That’s why we’re excited to hear that Disney Parks has released a virtual tour of Imagineering’s campus.
The virtual tour appears to be an update to a video made about 6 or 7 years ago. It features Ann Myers, who was at the time a Creative Design Studio member at Imagineering, as our host.
Part one of the tour is now available. We like how features the ‘welcome to Imagineering’ video, which is a take on 1950s documentary videos with stiff, but slightly humorous narration..
Alas, part one is not so much a tour of the building, but a look at exactly how Imagineering is organized. There is one cool section of the building at the end, the ‘Monorail Hallway,’ which looks like a cross between Star Trek and a travel brochure.
Walt Disney Imagineering evolved out of Walt’s need for a skunkworks lab where he could test ideas for his concept of a little park where adults and children could enjoy attractions and entertainment in a safe, clean environment. That core group of Imagineers invented an entirely new artform — 4D experiential themed spaces.
Even though the original team of Imagineers was housed on the studios lot in Burbank, Walt actually formed “Walt Disney, Inc” in December of 1952 which later became “WED Enterprises” as a separate company from his studio operation. As the team grew larger and needed more space to explore Walt’s ideas for growing Disneyland, they moved to a small campus located on the former Grand Central airport in Glendale, CA (about 10 minutes away down Riverside Drive) in 1961 eventually taking over a number of buildings including a former Bowling Alley.
The name “Walt Disney Imagineering” didn’t become official until 1986.
A tour of the Walt Disney Imagineering facilities is pretty rare. But if you want to visit in person your best bet is to book one of the Adventures by Disney experiences that includes a visit. We also recommend Leslie Iwerks’ terrific “the Imagineering Story” documentary on Disney+.