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.

2018 Imaginations Finalists

College Students Strive to Become Future Theme Park Designers in 27th Imaginations Design Competition

Six finalist teams to present Walt Disney Imagineering theoretical concepts to revitalize “ghost towns”

December 21, 2017 | Glendale, CA – Walt Disney Imagineering – the design and development arm of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts – selected six teams of finalists to compete in the 2019 Imaginations Design Competition, to be held January 22-26, 2018. This year’s teams represent five universities including: Baylor University, Muhlenberg College, Otis College of Art and Design, University of Pennsylvania and Savannah College of Art and Design.

Imaginations is a design competition Walt Disney Imagineering created with the purpose of seeking out and nurturing the next generation of diverse Imagineers. Started in 1991 by Disney Legend and Imagineering executive, the late Marty Sklar, the program has grown to include a separate version sponsored by Hong Kong Disneyland.

Teams were challenged to select an actual abandoned “ghost town” from anywhere in the world and revitalize it. The location could be a working town, a historical landmark, a living museum, a themed experience, or whatever else the contestants dreamed up. Entries had to consider the historic value, as well as have respect for the traditions and communities of the original and surrounding areas of the location.

Students from the six teams will receive an all-expense-paid trip to Walt Disney Imagineering in California where they will present their projects to Imagineering executives and compete for awards. The top three placed teams will be awarded cash prizes. Finalists also have an opportunity to meet and network with Imagineers, go behind-the-scenes to see how Disney magic is created, and interview for paid internships during their visit.

Of the many teams across the country who rose to the challenge, the six college teams named as finalists for this year’s competition have created concepts as diverse as they are startlingly creative: A high-adventure outdoor retreat in the Alaskan wilderness created from a once abandoned copper ore refinery; an abandoned underwater city in Port Royal, Jamaica, offering guests the ability to explore the city through state of the art tunnels; a Japanese hot spring transformed into a guest driven experience in which there are spirit encounters with a personalized side kick; a rocket ship which transports guests to a space station featuring tour ships which can transport guests to the Hubble Space Telescope, among other space icons; a Japanese spaceport featuring two unique museums; and a vast underwater Chinese city featuring hotels, resorts, and a roller coaster.

Teams consist of two to four college students and recent graduates who come from a myriad of majors comparable to the more than 100 disciplines at Walt Disney Imagineering including: animation, architecture, communications, computer science, construction/project management, creative writing/screenwriting/playwriting, design, engineering, English, fine arts, game design and/or development, graphic/communications design, illustration, industrial design, interactive media design, interior design, landscape architecture, media production (digital, TV, film), theater design and production, urban planning, and visual arts.

Provided with a project challenge, teams work to deliver a concept in a similar way to how Imagineers develop their Blue Sky projects. In a matter of weeks, teams have to leverage their various artistic, technical and communication skills to prepare a submission that will appeal to judges whose backgrounds include a wide array of creative and technical disciplines.

The projects are judged on mastery of skills and talents, guest experience, diversity and market perspective, uniqueness, adherence to project challenge, and team collaboration. The judges are looking for the ability to recognize the cultural nuances of the selected location, expanding the boundaries of what currently exists, and an evaluation of its business implications and impact on the community.

Judges also examine the teams’ ability to tell a compelling and engaging story, broad appeal to a wide audience, and a knowledge and passion for Walt Disney Imagineering – where Imagineers blend storytelling with the latest technologies to create immersive experiences that delight families all around the world.

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. Many of them have become interns and fulfilled their dream of working alongside Imagineers. Some have even become full-time Imagineers and returned to serve as judges for future Imaginations competitions.

2019 Imaginations Finalist Teams

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.

Savannah College of Art and Design – Carlos Ginatta, Michael Howell, Maria Mondloch, Maya Vyas
Built around the sunken ruins of the 17th century city of Port Royal, this exploration center takes guests below the waves to discover the city’s vibrant history. At Caguaya, guests explore the city through state-of-the-art tunnels never before used in open water, get a closer look with augmented reality-enhanced helmet dives, and help plant scientifically engineered super coral. To finish their visit, guests experience a live performance from a fully submersible theatre that transcends land and sea.

Exploration Outpost
Muhlenberg College – Andrew Carey, Noah Sunday-Lefkowitz
Reusing the crumbling infrastructure of an old mining town, Abigail Walker, now in her 90s, and her family, with the guidance of the National Park Service from Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, have rebuilt the community of her past. Once abandoned and falling to pieces, the Kennecott Copper Ore Refinery, located in the expansive Alaskan wilderness, is now bursting with life as Exploration Outpost: Kennecott, a high adventure outdoor retreat. Guests are welcomed into the Exploration Outpost by Abigail’s extended family and local guides offer exciting, adventurous excursions.

Kessler Project
University of Pennsylvania – Bennet Caraher, Anthony Nardone, Jessica Peng, Elizabeth Reckart
The Tiangong-1 is the heart of the Kessler Station, a space center for the cleaning of the hundreds of thousands of pieces of debris orbiting the Earth at speeds of up to 17,500mph. Also serving as an inter-orbital museum, the project repurposes abandoned and soon-to-be outdated landmarks such as the Hubble Space Telescope, Vanguard 1, the International Space Station, and the Tiangong-1, to be visited by guests as part of an all-day space adventure.

Lion City
Baylor University – Erin Saylor, Andrea De Oliveira, Josh Martin
Lion City immerses guests into the Chinese Qing and Ming dynasties. They enter through HydroGliders, giving them an overview of the original city in a fun interactive way with a 360-degree view of Qiandao Lake and the vast underwater Lion City. Once the guests have entered, they are treated to various interactive experiences, including the centerpiece ride – Dragon Dynasty, a rollercoaster that allows groups to compete against each other to help their respective dragon guide gain control of the city. There are hotels that allow people to experience a night underwater.

Otis College of Art and Design – Kaho Horiuchi, Kentaro Yajima, Yumi Yamazaki
Tucked away in the far corner of the Kinugawa River in Tochigi, Japan lies an
elaborate vacation spot, popular for its beautiful nature and hot springs. Closed during the economic crash of 1991, this ghost town has now been revived as Oniba. Once in the park, guests create their own personalized companion and guide called Mabu. With their Mabu, guests can enjoy activities and encounter spirits, complete with souvenir, customizable Mabu accessories.

Spaceport Hashima
Savannah College of Art and Design – Cameron Hoss, Corrie Pickering, Claire Puginier, Emily Sasaki
Located a few miles off the coast of Japan, Spaceport Hashima is an epicenter of both traditional and Japanese culture. Created from renovating existing buildings from a former Japanese ghost town, Hashima is a thriving interplanetary terminal surrounded by a world-class luxury destination resort, featuring museums, world-renowned restaurants and lively nightlife, as well as research and development facilities.

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.

The name “Imagineering” combines imagination with engineering. Building upon the legacy of Walt Disney, Imagineers bring art and science together to turn fantasy into reality and dreams into magic.

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


Jennifer Liu – Walt Disney Imagineering, (818) 544-6130
Tim Choy, Peter Goldman – Davidson & Choy Publicity, (323) 954-7510