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Geeks Make the Impossible Possible

“If we can dream it, we can do it!”

Millions of people experienced those words as they rode my favorite theme park ride: Horizons in Epcot.

While the attraction is relegated to memory, pieces of it will always live on. If you are in line for Mission: Space, you may notice the badge in the center of the spinning station; it is the Horizons logo. In true Disney nerd fashion, I may or may not have the ride soundtrack and narration in my music library. And I ride Soarin’ for the orange scent borrowed from Horizons.

The ride was a unique challenge for the time. Imagineers were tasked with creating an experience tailored to the preferences and, well, dreams, of the guests. But each ride vehicle had to take the same track and finish at the exact same time. The idea was to provide this choice as the ride went on, not before boarding, so the attraction had to adapt to your whims.

How did the Imagineers make the impossible possible? Taking advice from their own attraction’s narration, they dreamed big. Upon Choosing your Tommorow Simulation (on a touchscreen appearing out of nowhere on the ride vehicle), you were sent into a future world of sights, movements, and sound. They decided on unifying the music and synchronizing the video experiences to each other. That way, everyone finished their own ride at the same time. No temporal distortions here.

This was in the 80s, when technologies powering your iPad were dreams seen only in sci-fi. But that’s what made it real, those dreams, fulfilled by a strong desire to make the future better.

Your credit unions began as a group of people pooling together their funds for the benefit of the community. What would they dream for tomorrow?

“I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse” – Walt Disney

Image from Horizons1 dedication to the Horizons attraction

Who’s Your Imagineer?

This post is a continuation of a previous discussion: R&D…Not Just for Tech Firms. If you are on a time-crunch, this one can be read on its own too, though I would strongly suggest you return to learn about how Research & Development can create more than the next phone or car.

As a lifelong Disney-geek, an easy way to send me into a “Mufasa!” frenzy is by leaning in and whispering the word, Imagineer. “Imagineer, Imagineer, Imagineer!”

Imagineers (ooh, do it again!) are the people behind creating Disney magic. From ensuring animation matches reality to creating a slice of the African Serengeti outside of Orlando, they bring ideas to life. Why did Bambi move just how a deer would? Imagineers studied small deer in zoos and the wild to gather all the intricacies of their behavior. How did they know Aladdin’s magic carpet would hold both his and Jasmine’s weight? Imagineers tracked down the oldest surviving magic carpets, then rode them with varying weights (turns out, a well-maintained magic carpet can fly with up to 500 pounds).

These are the people who dream it, then build it. The Epcot globe (Spaceship Earth) was an idea in the mind long before construction teams ever broke ground. In fact, it was said that it could not be done, that the supports wouldn’t hold it up. A giant geodesic sphere rolling through World Showcase was not the image Disney wanted the public to have. But there it is, time-traveling ride inside it and all. On behalf of many EPCOT (in the original all-caps) geeks, thank you Imagineers.

Disney is a place where magic and reality intersect for visitors of all ages. That’s no accident. Thousands, perhaps millions, of hours of brainstorming went into creating every attraction, process, and procedure to make the difference between a great experience and a magical one.

Look inside your own credit union. Do you have any Imagineers on your staff? Maybe they’re dormant because no one has asked for their input. Or they don’t feel it would be valued, since it’s not their department. Within the Imagineering department at Disney, every cast member is an Imagineer, from the master engineer to the front desk secretary. Talk about empowerment.

So, who’s your Imagineer?

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