If there is any job at Disney that many dream of becoming, it’s an Imagineer. These are the people who dream up the Disney theme parks, attractions, hotels, cruise ships, and everything in between. From illustrators to architects, engineers to show writers, graphic designers to lighting designers, there are over 140 different options underneath the title of “Imagineer”.
Brian Collins is a former Walt Disney Imagineer, who helped create the magic in every theme park at Walt Disney World. He was a script writer for favorite attractions such as The Great Movie Ride, the Jungle Cruise, and many locations throughout Epcot’s World Showcase. He even worked closely with Show Set Designers and Producers, to help bring the magic together.
During one of our many visits, Brian graciously offered to take my husband and myself through the Magic Kingdom, pointing out items only an Imagineer’s eye would notice. As someone who has visited the parks frequently, I was in absolute awe of the (new to me) information he provided! In fact, he offers these tours on a regular basis! (More information is at the bottom of the post.) Here’s a quick look into some of the “behind the scenes” of my tour with a former Imagineer!
What are your favorite parts about your tours?
Brian: I love taking people through the parks and being able to show it to the from a completely different perspective than they are used to. There is so much cool stuff that goes into creating the magic at Disney most people don’t realize–the storylines, colors, music, architecture & design, special effects, etc. My biggest compliment is when I take someone through the parks who have been to Disney many times before, thought they’ve “seen it all”, and then have them tell me they learned so many new things. I love that feeling of being able to share new insights. It also gives me a chance to reminisce a little and tell some personal stories of how I helped contribute…and also pass on some tidbits told me by some of the legends I got to meet such as John Hench and Rolly Crump.
What are some of the biggest changes you have seen at Walt Disney World over the years?
Brian: I think Walt Disney Imagineering has always stayed true to making sure the story is the base for all experiences. In many ways, attractions and enhancements are still designed with the same approach Walt and his original Imagineers used. What’s different now, however, are the tools and technology that today’s Imagineers have. You also see Disney tapping into their much broader portfolio of products, companies and franchises. In Shanghai, Pirates is going have a distinctly new and different feel than any of the others, as the attraction is going to be heavily based on the film versions of that story–not so much the traditional Marc Davis one. Star Wars, Toy Story, Avatar and Marvel are other examples. Hopefully, though, Disney will never wander too far from their roots too. Those classic animated features are a huge part of what the Disney “magic” is!
What are some “hidden gems” runners can look for as they participate in a runDisney race?
Brian: I would say to take some time to try and focus in on some of the design elements I mentioned before–the colors, music, architecture, etc. Notice how they change and adapt based on where you are in the parks or on property. These same design principles hold true in the resorts as well. The landscaping and textures at the Polynesian are very different than you’ll see at the Grand Floridian or the Wilderness Lodge. See if you can figure out how Imagineers have adapted the environments to tell the story of where you are–kind of like a mental scavenger hunt. It might be a fun way to help focus your mind on something different than the running itself…and before you realize it, you’ll be crossing that finish line! And when you’re done, sign up for one of my tours so I can walk you through the parks and show you some other cool details! (Megan’s Tip: He will even slow it down a bit if your tour is the day after a race, just as he did when I toured with him the day after the WDW Marathon!)
Stroll with a Former Imagineer
If you are interested in a tour with Brian during an upcoming trip to Walt Disney World, he offers a strolling tour, as well as a dining experience. The strolling tour is approximately 3.5 hours in length, exploring Magic Kingdom with up to 6 people. Beginning at the Train Station, Brian will tell some fantastic stories (and answer your questions) as you make your way through the park. He will even let you know what FastPasses to get ahead of time, so you can discuss certain rides (like the Haunted Mansion) in more detail. The cost is $299 (flat rate) for up to 6 people.
Megan’s Tip: Ask about “No Seen Green”, as well as what the different colored pavement in Frontierland represents. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions! Brian gave me great insight on how the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train was constructed, including the unique material used.
For those who want to extend their time with Brian, you can also add on a lunch or dinner. This is your opportunity to continue the conversation – listening to his stories and trivia, while asking your questions as well! This is an additional $125 (flat rate), or you can book this separately from the strolling tour.
If you are interested in adding this option to your runDisney celebration, you can click here to easily book your tour online. Feel free to contact Brian with any questions you may have by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, be sure to let him know The Runner’s Guide to WDW & Beyond sent you!