Themed Entertainment
Behind the Magic: The Engineering of Themed Environments
Joe Ales

“Ultimately, the digital workflow process improves the quality of the finished attraction and speeds the time to opening day.”

Engineering for structures in a themed environment is both challenging and rewarding. It is especially gratifying to create structures that bring to life a video game, a popular movie, or a toy that is known and loved by millions of people.

Structures in themed environments are rarely straightforward and are often one-of-a-kind, like a rare sculpture; they demand truly creative thinking. As engineers, we must be technically and emotionally prepared for a highly interactive design process, continuously coordinating and integrating our structural solutions with a large and varied team of consultants and designers. And because theme parks are invariably created on highly accelerated schedules and the structure must ultimately support the themed story, we must be able to respond in real time to changes at every step.

With clients like Walt Disney Imagineering and Universal Studios, complex structural geometry is a given, requiring specialized skills and software tools. Parametric generation of the virtual model provides real-time feedback of numerous design options, allowing the client to see design changes made on the fly. This ability to quickly “optioneer” means a clear creative vision of the design solution, enabling the client more time to focus on all of the other aspects of the themed environment that will provide the ultimate in their guests’ experience.

To take that creative vision one step further, digital workflow tools have greatly increased the speed and customization processes to transfer 3D model geometry into detailed fabrication models, saving the cost and time of reproducing these models by the fabricators. Ultimately, and perhaps most importantly, this digital workflow process improves the quality of the finished attraction and speeds the time to opening day.

Joe Ales / P.E.
Joe is a Principal and Managing Director with Walter P Moore’s Structures group in Orlando, Florida.