Due to ongoing limitations on travel and gatherings, we are unable to present our traditional, in-person Imaginations Design Competition this year. We remain committed to this important initiative and are currently assessing the potential of a modified experience. Thank you for your interest, and please continue to check back for updates.

2017 Imaginations Finalists



Dreams do come true!

Six College teams are challenged to create new outdoor spaces within their own colleges and universities for

26th Walt Disney Imagineering Imaginations Design Competition

Final round of judging to take place at Imagineering’s

Glendale, CA campus January 23 – 27, 2017

December 20, 2016 | Glendale, CA – Finalists for the 2017 Walt Disney Imagineering Imaginations Design Competition were given an exciting and unique challenge: to apply the same design principles used in creating Disney’s famous theme parks, resorts and immersive experience to develop new outdoor spaces within their own college or university that could address the diverse needs of students, faculty and visitors while also providing a respite from the stresses of everyday life.

Of the many across the country who rose to the challenge, six college teams were named finalists for this year’s competition, and have created concepts as varied as they are creative:  a nature-inspired California retreat featuring aquariums and a private beach, tree slides and zip lines; a tribute to the culture of Washington, DC, offering guests the ability to become graffiti artists without permanent paint ; a multi-layered park environment paying tribute to local Native American culture; a man-made island with a waterfall and a cave that doubles as an ice skating rink in winter; an urban forest featuring five open air tree houses; and a giant hourglass in which guests can pause, relax, and feel as if they are actually stopping time.

These literal out of the park concepts are the results of months of collaboration and hard work from the top six teams representing 21 students from seven universities including the University of California, San Diego; Howard University; Carnegie Mellon University; Miami University; University of Notre Dame; Savannah College of Art and Design; and Iowa State University. The finalist teams were selected by experienced Imagineers working at the design and development arm of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.

Imaginations is a design competition created and sponsored by Walt Disney Imagineering with the purpose of seeking out and nurturing the next generation of skilled and incredibly talented Imagineers. Started in 1991 by Disney Legend and Imagineering executive Marty Sklar, the program showcases the innovation, creativity and collaboration for which Disney is well-known. It has also grown to include a separate version taking place at Hong Kong Disneyland Resort.

Throughout the years, hundreds of students from universities all across the United States have participated in this competition and had the opportunity to present their projects to Imagineering executives. Some of them have gone on to become interns or full-time  Imagineers, thus fulfilling their dreams of working on a variety of new projects for Disney theme parks and resorts around the world.

Imaginations opens up the opportunity for students to showcase their skills and talents to Imagineering through a multi-disciplined project, combining engineering, innovation and technical skill with artistry and immersive storytelling. Provided with a project challenge, students and recent graduates work in teams to deliver a concept similar to how Imagineers develop their blue sky projects. In a matter of weeks, teams have to leverage various artistic, technical and communication skills to prepare a submission that will appeal to judges whose backgrounds include a diverse number of creative and technical disciplines.

A panel of Imagineering judges applies the same criteria to the entries as they would to their own work that includes the team’s ability to collaborate across different disciplines and backgrounds; the mastery of their individual skills; whether the project provides an engaging guest experience; the ability to tell a compelling and engaging story; and knowledge and passion for the Disney brand and Walt Disney Imagineering.

The concepts presented by the finalists cover a wide range of skills and topics including:

Pacific Trove (University of California, San Diego): Pacific Trove is the birth of a new, rejuvenating outdoor space saluting the famed history and natural icons of La Jolla, California. Nicknamed “Jewel City” by early Spanish settlers, La Jolla’s legend tells the tale of a powerful jewel, to which the city’s beautiful, natural wonders owe their existence. In this project, the powers of the famed jewel have recently been reawakened, and guests follow the numerous paths to share an experience of rediscovering their relationship with nature, through walking trails, tree slides and zip lines.

Campus Canvas (Howard University): Campus Canvas is a celebration of artistic expression and creativity inspired by the street art of Washington, DC, using modern innovation to engage guests in becoming temporary graffiti artists while increasing the attractiveness and lively atmosphere of the college campus. Through the latest technology, art “painted” on special walls slowly fades, giving way to a new blank canvas every week. Guests unleash their creative spirit and connect with the artistic culture of the city, with the freedom and inspiration to create a diverse landscape, from a brightly colored giraffe one day to an abstract portrait the next.

Niihka: A New Tradition (Carnegie Mellon University/Miami University): The goal of Niihka is to create an outdoor space that celebrates the Myaamiaki Indian culture. The tribe once inhabited the land on which Miami University was founded. This project would provide an environment for guests to feel close to nature, through architecture and interior design. A multi-leveled space, the park would provide a number of diverse atmospheres, from structured to more relaxed, integrating technology and an innovative Smart Roof concept to remind the community of its Native American roots.

Spirit of the Isle (University of Notre Dame): The Spirit of the Isle is a unique project allowing visitors, friends, and students to momentarily enter into a stress-free world full of magical fun. Guests enter a manmade island from behind a waterfall and experience an engaging amphitheater unfolding below. Curious guests can choose to explore sweeping terraces or venture into a cave beneath the falls, which can double as an ice-skating rink in the winter.  For others seeking solitude, individual pods provide a place for quiet contemplation or creativity with hands-on interactive displays.

Hideaway Grove (Savannah College of Art and Design): Nestled amongst the Spanish moss in the heart of Savannah, Georgia, this urban forest offers a total immersion in nature that engages the senses, rejuvenates mind and body, and rekindles a childlike sense of play. A variety of unique spaces including five open-air tree houses serve as collaborative workspaces for small groups. A rotating selection of local restaurants offers a taste of the South, and an ongoing program would engage students to work with a local nonprofit and create artwork to tell community stories incorporated into a nighttime spectacle which would raise exposure and funds for the nonprofit’s mission.

Hourglass (Iowa State University): An hourglass symbolizes the constant ticking of time. But what if an hourglass is turned on its side and the sand becomes still? Hourglass at Iowa State University allows guests to pause time and find a respite from everyday stresses. Underground geothermal pods integrate with nature map projection and heated benches to allow visitors to rejuvenate themselves, while enjoying the natural beauty of the four seasons.

These six finalist teams receive an all-expense-paid trip to Walt Disney Imagineering in California, where they present their projects to Imagineering executives and compete for monetary awards.

Walt Disney Imagineering

Walt Disney Imagineering is the unique, creative force behind Walt Disney Parks and Resorts that dreams up, designs and builds all Disney theme parks, resorts, attractions, cruise ships, real estate developments, and regional entertainment venues worldwide. Imagineering’s unique strength comes from the dynamic global team of creative and technical professionals building on the Disney legacy of storytelling to pioneer new forms of entertainment through technical innovation and creativity.

For more information on the Imaginations Design Competition, visit  www.disneyimaginations.com


Frank Reifsnyder – Walt Disney Imagineering, (818) 544-2142

Tim Choy, Peter Goldman – Davidson & Choy Publicity, (323) 954-7510

The projects and concepts presented are not necessarily intended to be built by Disney – they  are a way for the entrants to demonstrate their skills and creative abilities. In consideration for the opportunities provided by the Imaginations Design Competition, submissions become the sole property of Walt Disney Imagineering and Walt Disney Imagineering retains all rights to use and/or display the submissions and the materials contained in them.