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.

2019 Imaginations Finalists

College Students Strive to Become Future Theme Park Designers in 28th Walt Disney Imagineering Imaginations Design Competition

Six finalist teams to present their designs for guest experiences involving a Natural or Ancient Wonder of the World

December 21, 2018 | Glendale, CA – Walt Disney Imagineering – the design and development arm of Disney’s theme parks and resorts – selected six teams of finalists to compete in the 2019 Imaginations Design Competition, to be held February 4-8, 2019. This year’s teams represent California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo; Olin College of Engineering; Savannah College of Art and Design, University of Florida, University of Southern California; and University of Texas at Austin.

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

Teams were challenged to create an experience that explores a Natural or Ancient Wonder of the World. 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 brilliantly creative: the Grand Canyon, the Lighthouse of Alexandria and two projects each featuring the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the Northern Lights (aurora borealis).

The contest proved challenging with a focus on places that are difficult to enjoy either because they are remote, inhospitable, or no longer exist. Students created experiences that explore and share these Wonders safely for a wide range of guests, at or near the original presumed location. The designers had to consider how guests could have a communal and family friendly experience as a group; how traditional methodologies and advanced technology solutions would allow the experiences to be shared; and they had to be mindful to honor the environment, history, codes and local ordinances.

Teams were encouraged to tap into the expertise of everyone on their cross- disciplinary team in supporting this idea.

The projects — to allow modern audiences with an encounter out of the reach of most guests — are also interesting for what they could not include: Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality or Mixed Reality based solutions and they must be free of Disney intellectual property.

Students from the six finalist teams will receive an all-expenses-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. All 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.

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 own 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 guests from 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.

University of Southern California – Rachel Bennett, Hyunjee Ryu
The theme park Atsanik is specifically inspired by the Labrador Inuit legend regarding the aurora borealis, where it was believed that honored mortals ascend to become the Selamiuts: dwellers of the sky, the spirit guides of the glorious. Guests can walk into a crystalline aurora cavern to eat, delve into more Inuit folklore at an interactive museum or on a dark ride, dangle on the ropes amongst the forest, and roll down and around the Labradorean mountains and fjords. The park’s emphasis on nature and its native culture transforms all the conventional rides, food and exhibits into unconventional experiences that transcend themed entertainment and cultural immersion.

Olin College of Engineering – Miranda McMillen, Eric Miller, Benjamin Ziemann
The Kiiġuyaruq Express is a five-day wintertime train journey starting in Anchorage and extending all the way north to some of the most inaccessible and secluded regions in the world. On each day of the journey, the train stops at the site of a historical event or culture, and guests disembark into a lovingly recreated vision of the past where they can use their personal compasses to act as agents of the Northern Lights, assisting the people they meet with various problems, while collecting memories to contribute back into the Northern Lights.

Oasis Resort
University of Texas at Austin – Nicole Mae Bariuan, Roxolana Krywonos, Juan Felipe Suarez, Scia Verma
Inspired by the rich stories surrounding the existence of the Hanging Gardens amidst Babylonian Culture, Oasis: A Disney Resort and Spa serves as a relaxing and immersive retreat for families and friends alike. With a towering central garden and wildlife spread throughout, Oasis brings the wonder of the Hanging Gardens to then country of Qatar. The resort mirrors a living oasis – epitomizing the vision of a completely sustainable ecosystem in the midst of an arid climate. Whether it’s strolling along the sparking blue path or gazing up at the constellations from the observatory, Guests will be treated to an enchanting experience drawing from both contemporary Arabic and ancient Mesopotamian culture.

Port Pharos
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo – Kyle Branch
University of Southern California – Triet Nguyen
Savannah College of Art and Design – Brooke Pandos
University of Florida – Jessica Woody
Port Pharos is an explorative and heuristic resort formed by fleets of ancient ships traversing waters surrounding a reborn Lighthouse of Alexandria, creating the floating city the harbor once was. The resort is designed to honor the history, architecture, and ecosystem around the Lighthouse of Alexandria. At Port Pharos, Guests are transported back to ancient Alexandria where they are free to explore, relax or play in its diverse range of offerings. The resort is designed to comply with LEED Silver standards.

The Rose of Babylon
Savannah College of Art and Design – Nicholas Hammond, Remi Jeffrey-Coker, Carolyn Teves, Ezekiel Waters
The Rose of Babylon is a botanical inquisitorium for people of all ages and a modern re-imagining of the ancient Hanging Gardens of Babylon that serves as a spark to rebuild the nation of Iraq. The Rose is an immersive experience for guests from around the world and a public center for the citizens of the startup community supported by the Rose. The inquisitorium is composed of three main exploration opportunities. Guests can slide through a submerged, overgrown shipwreck to discover the history of ancient civilizations, and learn about the benefits of partnership and innovation as they play alongside world-class researchers. The experience is punctuated by the miraculous Hanging Garden where guests can bask in the glory of agriculture from around the world and actively contribute to the spread of resources and the growth of new life.

The University of Texas at Austin – Vanessa Astronoto, Quan Ha, Kellie Nguyen, Hannah Williams
Unearth: The Grand Canyon’s Hidden Realm introduces visitors of all ages and abilities to a fully actualized land that enables them to actively engage with one of the world’s most fascinating landscapes. Guests embark on an immersive quest in search of a mythical civilization buried deep in the heart of the Grand Canyon. On their journey, they are able to explore the canyon’s unparalleled beauty up close. A guided riverboat tour down the Colorado River takes them on a search for clues to the location of the hidden realm. While located within the bounds of the Grand Canyon National Park, Unearth is in close proximity to the Hopi and the Navajo Nation reservations. Travelling to Unearth is an authentic way for guests to explore the Grand Canyon’s ecosystems, gain an understanding of its rich geological story, and come to appreciate the cultural significance of the area.

Walt Disney Imagineering
Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) is the creative force that imagines, designs and builds all Disney theme parks, resorts, attractions and cruise ships worldwide, along with overseeing the creative aspects of Disney’s games, merchandise and publishing businesses. Imagineering’s unique strength comes from its diverse global team of creative and technical professionals, who build on the Disney legacy of storytelling to pioneer new forms of entertainment.

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


Frank Reifsnyder, Walt Disney Imagineering – frank.reifsnyder@disney.com (818) 544-2142
Peter Goldman – Davidson & Choy Publicity – p.goldman@dcpublicty.com (323) 954-7510