Disney contest gives students a close look at theme park design
The first Disney Imaginations Shanghai Design Competition, a local version of Walt Disney Imagineering’s Imaginations Design Competition created in 1991 in the United States, ended late last month, with the team from East China University of Science and Technology beating five other finalists to win the contest.
Launched in June, the competition was open to students in five universities in Shanghai, as part of the company’s efforts to scout for local talent in theme-park design and innovation in immersive recreational experiences and to help promote the growth of China’s creative industries.
“The competition is all about imagination and how talented people come up with ideas. If you can dream it, you will be able to do it,” says Howard Brown, general manager and regional executive of Walt Disney Imaginations Asia.
Each team had to submit their design concepts for creating opportunities for guests to explore the natural and ancient wonders of the world. These projects are not intended to be built by the company but serve as a creative exercise for the students. The submissions were judged based on factors such as conceptual design, technological innovation, creativity, teamwork and storytelling.
The winning project, titled Pa-RoDye, was themed around the Paricutin volcano in Mexico. The team from East China University of Science and Technology proposed a volcanoshaped structure that would replicate the experience of a volcanic eruption and allow guests to taste the country’s cuisine in a Mexicanthemed dining room located within. This replica volcano would also have an open-air music hall where visitors could listen to Mexican music.
“This project is a great chance for us to view Disney’s magical resort from the perspective of its engineers and to learn about stuff done by its engineers,” says Tao Maiqiu, team leader of the Pa-Ro-Dye project.
“We needed to see the resort as a dreamland for people of all ages, both children and adults. This was a key rule we bore in mind while designing the project for the competition.”
Some of the things taken into account, says Tao, were safety and barrier-free access for children in strollers or people with disabilities.
The winning team will receive a sponsored trip to the Walt Disney Imagineering headquarters in Glendale, California, where they will go behind the scenes and learn from the creative community there. After the trip, the team will start an internship at the Shanghai Disney Resort, the trip’s sponsor.
Murray King, the resort’s public affairs vice-president, says: “China now has one of the largest theme park markets in the world. And we are excited to see that China also has a wide range of talented young students to support the industry’s rapid growth, in areas such as creative visual arts, engineering, technical design and animation.”
Zhang Wei, the team leader behind another project, entitled Mount Olympus, says that the competition was a source of valuable experience for them regarding the integration of art and imagination into a real engineering task.
“Our team was inspired by the legendary throne of Zeus at Mount Olympus, and the character of Hercules, who’s famous for his superhuman strength in Greek mythology,” says Zhang. “We managed to add these imaginative elements into our project through which visitors could learn about Greek mythology and act as heroes trained by Hercules and other heroes. For us, the whole process of the contest went beyond the textbooks in class.”