Do you have what it takes to create a thrill ride? Or try your hand at taking a concept from sketch pad to reality? Or design a Disney theme park?  Yes, design a Disney theme park.

That is the challenge six college teams have embarked on as part of the 2016 Walt Disney Imagineering Imaginations Design Competition.  The contest, celebrating its 25th anniversary, challenged students to design a traveling experience that will tour small towns across the United States so families who do not have the opportunity to travel to a Disney destination can have a theme park experience in their own backyard.  The specifications for the traveling road show required the project operate in each town for two to three days, take no more than a day to set up and break down and embody the kind of family entertainment that Walt Disney envisioned when he first built Disneyland.


The six teams will travel to Imagineering's main campus in Glendale, California from January 25th to the 29th where they will present their projects to Imagineering executives leading up to an awards ceremony at the end of their five-day, all-expenses paid trip.  While at Imagineering, the college students will also have the opportunity to meet and network with Imagineers, go behind the scenes and witness first hand where Disney magic is created and nurtured and interview for paid internships as part of their visit.  Besides bragging rights in the competition, the top three placed teams will be awarded cash prizes with an additional $1,000 grant awarded to the first place team to be equally divided among its sponsoring universities.

Started in 1991 by Disney Legend and Imagineering executive Marty Sklar, the Imaginations program is one of the creative and unique ways that the Mouse House searches for the next generation of talented theme park designers.  The program has also sparked a separate competition sponsored by Hong Kong Disneyland.

The six finalists teams from eight schools for this year's competition include: California State University, Fullerton; Columbus College of Art and Design; North Carolina State University; Ohio State University; Ohio University; The University of Texas at Austin; University of Florida and University of Washington.

California State is proposing an interactive experience called “Disney Showcase: Monster Recruitment Rally” where guests are whisked away to Monstropolis where kids and families can engage in training and games designed to test the skills of new “Scarers” and learn firsthand what it means to be a monster.

“Ducktales – Camp Quack” by Ohio State and Columbus College of Art and Design will offer guests a chance to follow Scrooge McDuck and his nephews on adventures across the United States complete with groundbreaking technology to deliver a modern celebration of Ducktales for lifelong fans and those encountering the popular residents of Duckberg for the first time.

“Mickey's Magic Garden” from Ohio University and the University of Washington features a miniature, traveling theme park that creators promise would entertain families with custom design rides, walk-thru attractions, character meet-and-greet and a wide array of themed dining opportunities.


The University of Florida is pitching “Extravagizmo! Mickey's Inventor Showcase,” which student designers describe as uniting the timeless magic of Disney with the excitement of progress showcased at classic world's fairs.  Through interactive, hands-on experiences, guests would join Mickey and a new character created exclusively for the project in a one-of-a-kind showcase of magic and innovation.

“Hueroic” from The University of Texas at Austin takes guests on an unforgettable journey to explore the wonder and beauty of art and imagination.  Guests are immersed into a world of black and white and are sent on a race against time to rescue a kingdom and unlock the magic of color, light and inspiration.

Rounding out the six selected presentations is North Carolina State University's “Ostium: An Adventure Behind Every Door.”  Through interactive media and real world character greeting experiences, guests are invited to step into their favorite worlds inspired by the magic of Disney and Pixar stories like The Lion King, Frozen, Toy Story, and Finding Nemo.

For the past quarter-century, the Imaginations program has afforded hundreds of students from universities across America the chance to participate in the competition with many securing internships and employment with Walt Disney Imagineering.

Students' submissions become the sole property of Disney Imagineering and the company retains all rights to use and/or display the submissions and materials contained in them.  According to Disney, the projects and concepts presented are not necessarily intended to be built by Disney but rather they are a way for participants to demonstrate their skills and creative abilities.

So best of luck to all student competitors and as they await decision day remember the words of Uncle Walt, “Dreams, come true. It can happen to you.”