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MouseStation 81 - Imagineer Alex Wright

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Featured Topic - Imagineer Alex Wright

This week, we've got an interview that Mark did with Imagineer Alex Wright, who he first interviewed back on Episode 7.


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Alex is the show set designer for the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor. The attraction originally had a sneak preview for guests, was closed for retooling, had a press preview, was retooled again, and finally opened officially in April. The retooling was based on reactions during the previews.

The changes largely increase the audience's chance to participate with the cast of monsters. The differences in how the monsters view our world is fun for people because it highlights the difference between the monster world and the human world.

Early on, the audience wasn't always ready for the type of show that they would be experiencing, while the changes do a much better job of maintaining the energy that the audience brings with them and setting their expectations for what would be coming with the show.

Each monster has many people who help them with the many shows that they perform. (wink wink)

From Alex's Imagineer's-eye view, the things to watch out for is the fact that you're transitioning between the human world and the monster world, and that you should be prepared to talk to the monsters because you never know when the monsters are going to talk to you.

Since Monsters opened, Alex has had the opportunity to work on the Haunted Mansion renovations, assisting with show set installation. He has also spent a lot of time working on a new exhibit for Innoventions that will open early next year. He's now working with the California installation team on developing show set sketches and designs for last-minute changes that are going in. He can't discuss what's going on, other than the fact that he's working on it.

In the Haunted Mansion, he worked on the grand staircase scene and the stretching room. Mark noted that he had actually had a stretching room full of first-timers the night before, and they had actually started screaming before the recorded scream.

Alex is also the author of the popular series of Imagineering Field Guides.


Alex Wright is also the author of the series of Imagineering Field Guides. Cover artwork © Disney.

Thus far, the Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Disney's Animal Kingdom books are currently available. The Disneyland book will be released next year (and is currently available for pre-order). The next book after that will be Disney's Hollywood Studios, and then the Disney's California Adventure book will come out after that park's reworking is completed.

Alex really enjoys working on the books, as he's a huge Disney fan himself and it's a great extracurricular project to be working on. He's tried to strike a balance between showing new artwork that people haven't seen yet and showing some of the classic artwork that everyone expects to see.

The most challenging part of putting the books together has been which stories to tell in which book and to maintain a logic to what goes into each book within the context of the series.

Mark's son enjoys the list of different Imagineering disciplines at the front of each book. Alex notes that it's not a complete list, and that each of the ones listed have subdivisions within them as well.

Mark's son wanted to know what the best type of schooling would be for someone that wants to be a concept designer. Alex recommends that you find your niche, enjoy it, and pay attention to what's going on in the world. Follow your interest, then figure out how it gets applied into the Imagineering process, which revolves around story and design.

After the interview, Mike asked Mark which of the books that he has so far, and Mark had to admit that he only had Magic Kingdom and Epcot, and that he still needed to pick up the Disney's Animal Kingdom guide.

Mike asked Mark if he thought that the new Monsters Inc. show would be around for at least 10-15 years. Mark thinks that it will, unless someone comes up with a really great idea to go into that space, since they seem to have found a way to get people into the show much more consistently. As long as they can keep the "monsters' helpers" up to par, the show should be around for a long time.

Mike asked about how they handle the texted-in jokes. Mark noted that they make mention that they're doing a bunch of audience-submitted jokes before running through them. Of course, his joke wasn't selected to be used in the show.

Mark also talked about the change in the refurbishment dates for Spaceship Earth on the Walt Disney World calendar and a little about what he's heard is going on in the attraction, but there's much that he hasn't gotten clearance to talk about.

Mark also mentioned that Mike needs to see the Haunted Mansion when he goes down for MouseFest. He and Mike then proceeded to get silly in talking about trying to do a show during MouseFest.

Mark thanked Alex for talking with him, and Andrea Finger of Imagineering for setting up the interview. He mentioned that the interview actually took place at the only place in the Magic Kingdom where there is no background music. (You'll have to listen to the show to hear where that is.)

What did you think of the interview? Let us know by sending an email or calling our toll-free feedback line (1-866-939-2278) and let us know what your favorites are!

Wrapping up

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The MouseStation crew (@MouseStation) currently consists of Mark Goldhaber (@MPMark) and Mike Demopoulos (@MPMike).