“It’s my dream to be an Imagineer when I grow up.”
These were the words of 11-year-old Ross, a devoted roller coaster enthusiast and Make-A-Wish kid, whose dream of meeting Disney Imagineers and experiencing Disneyland’s coasters was fulfilled last week.
To prepare for this special wish, a select group of Disney Imagineers gathered to brainstorm a one-of-a-kind experience for Ross and his family. This would involve an Imagineering campus tour led by the Imagineers themselves, offering Ross a unique opportunity to witness the design process and everything that happens behind-the-scenes. Then, an entire day spent at Disneyland Resort where Ross could witness the thrill of the coasters in real time.
Disney and Make-A-Wish have worked together to make more than 150,000 wishes come true, and Imagineers are always eager to play a role in bringing a child’s wish to life. Just last year, wish granting returned to Walt Disney Imagineering, making Bella’s wish to meet an Imagineer a reality. Tours of Walt Disney Imagineering are rare. However, just like Bella, Ross was able to step into the hub of science and technology – the only think tank envisioned by Walt Disney himself.
“It’s a really amazing, special thing to have somebody choose to come here as their wish to see what Imagineers do and how we do it,” says Ric Turner, Principal Production Designer that has held the title of an Imagineer for 29 years.
Planning The “Practically Perfect” Make-A-Wish Trip
From the moment the Imagineering wish-granting team was told that Ross of Scarsdale, NY had a wish request to meet them and experience the coasters, Ric Turner, Mark Mesko, Tracey Noce, Steve Roach and others stepped up to the plate to brainstorm all the unique things they wanted to share with Ross for this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Creative Director Tracey Noce shared, “You can tell by interacting with Ross that he is so excited and passionate about rollercoasters. He probably knows more about roller coasters than I do at this point, which is saying something.”
After finalizing details of the tour day and preparing for the special arrival, our passionate Imagineers were excitedly awaiting Ross and his family who would be traveling from across the nation for this momentous occasion.
Exploring the Creative Hub
During the Imagineering campus tour, Ross got the chance to explore multiple facets of the coaster building process from blue sky ideas all the way to riding them.
“We were able to allow Ross to see some behind-the-scenes looks at actual simulations of some of our current rollercoasters, and he got to see how we modeled these rollercoasters completely, before we ever designed the first piece,” explained Mark Mesko, ride engineering studio executive.
After the tour, Ross shared, “I learned that there’s so much more to rides than just the actual ride itself… there’s sounds, visuals, animatronics – there’s story that these rides can tell.”
From Sketch to Scream: Disney Edition
In the spirit of a truly special experience, the team wanted to make sure Ross could also experience the magic firsthand.
Despite never setting foot in Disneyland Resort, Ross had stated that his favorite roller coaster was the Incredicoaster in Disney California Adventure Park. And finally, the moment arrived for Ross to embrace the thrill after delving into the design and build process behind it – an experience that meant the world for a “Behind the Attraction” fan.
Tracey, the creative director of the Incredicoaster and a cancer survivor herself, expressed, “The idea that we get to show him things no one ever gets to see and then go ride the attraction with him, is such an awesomely gratifying experience for me as somebody that knows what it feels like to be a kid in treatment and that he’s going to have a good time and not have to think about any of that.”
Disney is honored to be the world’s largest wish granter for Make-A-Wish as we’ve worked together for over 40 years. And it’s not every day a child specifically wishes to have an Imagineering experience.
“An Imagineering wish is so special because we’re in the memory-making business,” Tracey added. “We create these places for people to enjoy – to make memories. And if you’re just a little part of that process and get to see the joy on somebody’s face, it’s such a special and wonderful thing.”
A heartfelt thank you to Ric Turner, Mark Mesko, Tracey Noce, Steve Roach and all the Imagineers involved, for not only making Ross’s wish come true but for inspiring a generation of dreamers who will carry the magic forward.