26 November 2007

Your Mind Will Expand

George McGinnis’ beginning with Disney’s Imagineering, or more precisely WED Enterprises, as it was called when he began with the company, was like any storybook ending, a dream coming true. Sought out by Walt Disney, offered a position as an Imagineer, and given projects that would reshape the face of Tomorrowland and beyond, this was where George McGinnis’ journey began.

In 1966 George McGinnis was just completing his B.S. in Product Design at Art Center College of Design. His senior design project was an underground linear motor shuttle for the Northeast Corridor. Though the project came in a disheartening second in the Alcoa Project at the Art Center, an aluminum garden cart claimed first place, talk of the project reached Walt Disney’s ear. Linear motion was, after all, the method with which the PeopleMover was to be propelled. Walt decided to take a look at the project, bringing him a who’s who of Imagineering Legends: Dick Irvine, Bob Gurr, Roger Broggie, and John Hench. After inspecting the project, Walt Disney invited George McGinnis to come and examine the PeopleMover test track that WED Enterprises, specifically Bob Gurr, was working on. While returning to the Studios, Walt mentioned, “We can use another Industrial Designer at WED.”

During the first six months of George McGinnis’ work for WED Enterprises he met with Walt Disney six times. His work included concepts and renderings of transportation models, including models for the Progress City display, some of which gained infamy when included in The EPCOT Film. These tasks given to George McGinnis, if not daunting, were surely imperative to the future of Disney, given the significance that has been heaped upon The EPCOT Film. Near the end of those first six months, the guiding force behind WED Enterprises, and all things Disney, Walt Disney, passed away. While the company’s future seemed uncertain, there was no wavering inside of WED Enterprises, “We were finishing up Tomorrowland and WDW was under construction and there was an Epcot plan,” George McGinnis recalls.

The finishing up of Tomorrowland, in Disneyland, included the Mighty Microscope for Adventures Thru Inner Space and the winged rocket with boosters for the Tomorrowland Rocket Jets, both of which opened in 1967. The Mighty Microscope was an impressive thirty-seven feet wide by twelve feet tall, and was the focal point of the Adventures Thru Inner Space queue. Guests in the queue would see the omnimover vehicles, dubbed atomobiles, move into the microscope with a flash, a similar flash occurred in a clear section of the microscope where guests in the queue could see the atomobiles, or rather mini-atomobiles, shrinking as they approached the snowflake to begin their travels thru inner space. This simulated the action taking place to guests already on the ride. As for the Tomorrowland Rocket Jets, these successors to the Astro-Jets/Tomorrowland Jets were placed on top of the PeopleMover platform during Tomorrowland’s revitalization, as per Walt’s suggestion. The center rocket’s, or column’s, design, complete with rocket boosters and realistic N.A.S.A. rocket paint job, was left to George McGinnis. (A quick aside, it is this version of the Astro-Jets/Tomorrowland Jets/Rocket Jets/Astro-Orbiter, along with another of George McGinnis’ projects, Space Mountain, which is seen as part of Todayland in the flyby scene of Meet the Robinsons.)

In his first two years as an Imagineer, and even before, while attending the Art Center, George McGinnis already had his mind towards improving the future for everyone, a lofty goal that had weighed heavily on the mind of Walt Disney as well. These concepts would continue to show their merits through the work of George McGinnis. Yet, these were only his first steps, some would call them giant leaps, into Imagineering. The Magic Kingdom, alongside Walt Disney World itself, was awaiting his full attention, and, further on down the road to tomorrow, EPCOT was beckoning.


Lou Mongello - WDWRadio.com said...

Great post about George. His contributions to Imagineering and the attractions we all still enjoy are remarkable.

Forgive the plug here, but if you want to hear an interview I did with George a couple of months ago, you can find it on my WDW Radio Show site at wdwradio.com.

He is a fascinating man with wonderful stories to share. A true, deserving Legend of Imagineering

Ryan P. Wilson said...

That was a great interview Lou!

For those of you who want hear some of George McGinnis' stories from his own mouth, check out Show number 27 of the WDW Radio Show. I highly recommend this interview to everyone.

Unknown said...

Ryan--good secondary plug for the interview with George McGinnis. it is a great one. I will be loading that one on the MP3 player for the trip to MouseFest.

And a great article. Thanks!

theDisnerd said...

Lou commented on your blog (of course he did, your blog is amazing)!!! I would die, if he commented on mine!