Disney Imagineer Mari Fontiveros in the Imagineering office

From Passion to Project: One Engineer’s Journey to Becoming a Disney Imagineer

At Walt Disney Imagineering, science is more than a discipline; it’s a daily tool we use to craft magical experiences, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. This National Engineers Week, we’re celebrating the innovation and impact of our engineers within Imagineers.   

For Maria (Mari) Carlota Fontiveros, a 2017 Imaginations Design Competition participant turned Associate Mechanical Engineer, the unique blend of science and art at Walt Disney Imagineering was the missing piece she was seeking for a career that combined her passion for both. 

Disney Imagineer Mari Fontiveros stands in front of Mickey mural

Innovation from Start to Finish 

In her role, Mari designs and produces Audio-Animatronics figures for attractions. She collaborates closely with the creative team to bring characters to life, utilizing her 3D modeling and programming skills. Mari’s involvement spans the entire process, from assisting with the assembly to troubleshooting any issues that may arise while installing the figures into attractions. 

Mari is currently working on Louis, the jazz-loving, trumpet-playing alligator from the Walt Disney Animation Studios’ film “The Princess and the Frog,” who will be coming to Tiana’s Bayou Adventure! 

For Mari, working on Louis has been a joy. “Working on this figure has been an amazing experience! It’s a unique character we haven’t done before at Imagineering. It was my first project with the team, and it’s been fun because he’s all about being happy so making him come to life has been a satisfying puzzle.” 

Being a part of projects like Tiana’s Bayou Adventure has broadened Mari’s view of what science can be used for. “I always loved riding attractions and witnessing the special effects within them, without thinking about the people behind them or the work that went into it. Working in Imagineering has shown me how science is applicable to so many diverse elements within theme park experiences. There are so many possibilities of applying science to various aspects, breaking boundaries, and constantly seeking what’s next, making science a dynamic and ever-evolving field with endless opportunities for improvement and innovation.” 

Disney Imagineer Mari Fontiveros works in the office

Celebrating National Engineers Week

This week (February 18–24, 2024), we’re celebrating National Engineers Week — an annual observance established by the National Society of Professional Engineers to ensuring a diverse and well-educated future engineering workforce by increasing understanding of, and interest in, engineering and technology careers.  

Reflecting on growing up, Mari shared, “In school, I was really good at math and science; those things clicked in my brain. I liked that things made sense and everything worked. However, my extracurricular activities involved painting, playing the guitar and other creative endeavors.” 

Mari credits her aunt and uncle, both engineers, as influencers who guided her into the engineering world. Her older sister was also pivotal in Mari discovering Imagineering, having encouraged her to watch “Behind the Attraction” on Disney+. Once she decided to pursue engineering, Mari earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of South Florida. She participated in the Mechanical Electrical Computer Hub (MECH) club, where she led the creation of robotic prototype characters — something that has continued in her current role. 

Disney Imagineer Mari Fontiveros with her family

“I create 3D models, work on programming and assist the animators by conducting simulations to understand how the Audio-Animatronics figures can move,” she explained, emphasizing the interdisciplinary nature of her work that allows her to blend creativity with technical skills. 

Inspiring Women in Engineering

Mari advises aspiring women in science: “If it’s something that you like and something that you enjoy doing, don’t be afraid of it. Go for it. Don’t be intimidated by being in a more male-dominated industry. You’ll find a lot of women that like doing the same things as you do.” 

In fact, most of the Imagineers on Mari’s team are women. “It’s a unique experience to be part of a team where the majority are fellow women engineers, and it reflects a positive shift in the industry towards greater inclusivity for women in engineering.” 

Walt Disney Imagineering supports initiatives like Girls Who Code, FIRST Robotics and our global Imaginations Design Competitions, aiming to inspire the next generation of scientists and technologists, recognizing their potential to shape extraordinary experiences through the fusion of science and imagination. 

Mari concluded, “I enjoy science, and if you love science, you should pursue it and do all the amazing things you can do with science.”