Creating My Own Theme Park with Imagineering in a Box

Have you heard about Imagineering in a Box? It’s a FREE online course from Khan Academy that gives a behind-the-scenes look at how Walt Disney Imagineering creates the immersive worlds and intricate attractions found in Disney theme parks around the world. Imagineering in a Box offers lessons that walk you through the design process to create your own theme park land. I’ve been working though the lessons myself, and LOVE watching the Imagineer interview videos where they share their insight into the creative process. Take a look at my theme park design below, and let me know what you think.

Imagineering in a Box

Ever since I was a kid going to our local amusement park school picnic, I’ve loved rides and roller coasters. That feeling only grew stronger when I started raising my own children and we shared a passion for going to Disney’s theme parks, meeting our favorite characters, and stepping into the stories we read about and watched on screen.

Walt Disney World 2002

My daughters Maggie (age 4) and Evie (1 year old) at Walt Disney World in 2002, photo by Dave Parfitt

As my daughters grew up, they wanted to become Walt Disney Imagineers themselves and create their own lands. My youngest daughter Evie decided to go to college to study theater production and design, and before Evie left home, she accompanied me on an Adventures by Disney Backstage Magic trip with an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of Walt Disney Imagineering in Glendale, California. The trip was a dream come true, and inspirational for Evie as she went off to pursue her own dreams.

Walt Disney Imagineering

Entrance to Walt Disney Imagineering, Glendale, California, photo by Dave Parfitt

Right now (March 2020), I’m finding myself with more time at home due to the coronavirus global pandemic. I thought this might be a great opportunity to try out the Imagineering in a Box course myself, and learn more about the creative process behind the design of a theme park land, its attractions, and characters.

Imagineering in a Box

Creating a theme park land with Khan Academy’s Imagineering in a Box, photo by Dave Parfitt

I’m really enjoying the lessons on immersive storytelling from people like Joe Rohde, creative executive for Walt Disney Imagineering. With Imagineering in a Box, I get to go behind-the-scenes and hear directly from the Walt Disney Imagineers themselves as they share lessons on creating worlds, building attractions, and bringing characters to life.

Joe Rohde

Screen shot of Khan Academy’s Imagineering in a Box

The first lesson of Imagineering in a Box asked two questions. What kind of land will you create? And what is a story that takes place in this world? I thought about places I’ve dreamed of visiting, and stories I’ve wanted to bring to life. Three ideas immediately came to mind:

  1. from my background as a neuroscientist, I’ve dreamed of exploring deep inside the brain.
  2. my father worked on the Apollo mission, I’ve fantasized venturing to distant planets in our solar system.
  3. from watching “In search of…”, I imagined stories of lost civilizations and ancient mysteries.

I settled on exploring one idea in particular – the outer space connection to ancient cultures (i.e., Alien Astronauts).

Easter Island Sketch

Map and sketch of Easter Island from J Gilbert’s log of the voyage of HMS Resolution through the Pacific from 1772-1775. This image is from the collections of The National Archives UK, retrieved from Wikimedia Commons

Right now I’m just getting started, but I’ll continue to update this post as I progress through the Imagineering in a Box course, and share the concept for my theme park land. I’m excited to use this new found time at home to flex my creative muscles and gain a deeper appreciation for theme park design. Plus, once my daughter graduates college with her degree in theater production and design and becomes a Walt Disney Imagineer, this Dad will understand a little more about her craft.

Walt Disney Studio Lot

Dave and Evie Parfitt on the Walt Disney Studio Lot April 2019, photo provided

To check on the FREE Imagineering in a Box course, head over to the Khan Academy website. For more family travel news, reviews, and trip reports, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on InstagramTwitter and “like” our Facebook page, too.

About Dave Parfitt

Married, father of two girls, and living in the heart of the Finger Lakes. I'm a runner with a PhD in neuroscience and a passion for travel.