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A Dreamfinder’s Guide to Imagineering Your Life – I


DF SlugToday’s lesson is for you.

Yes, I mean you, sitting in the back. You probably hoped I’d never call on you and you wouldn’t be dragged into the discussion. Well, you were wrong. Today’s subject is you… so listen up. There will be one hell of a test years from now.

Since you’re hanging out here at TPU, there’s a good chance that you harbor some kind of desire to be an Imagineer. If not to have the actual job, then to cultivate the creative faculties to see the world as they do and – perhaps someday – to create something as grand and popular as a Haunted Mansion or a Peter Pan’s Flight.

After all, this isn’t your typical theme park fan site, is it? You could be somewhere else online right now, downloading pictures of Dumbo… or ride soundtracks… or reading about the next tsunami of merchandise to be released. But you’re HERE, reading about the industry, and what makes it tick, so I’d say you’re not just a fan – you’re a student.

Good. Great. So was I, once.

Photo by Michael Barry Schweitzer

I may have started as a fan; living in Southern California and visiting Disneyland twice a year. But I decided to become a student, and set out at the age of 14 to learn everything I could about how the park worked.

I never collected merchandise or pictures of Mickey; I collected books and facts. I interviewed ride operators and anyone with a connection to the company, and the second I was old enough I got my first Disneyland job – issuing costumes for the 1970 Christmas Parade.

It wasn’t the job I dreamed of (comic at the Golden Horseshoe Revue), but to my young mind it felt like a first step in the right direction. And exactly ten years later, I was a comic at the Golden Horseshoe Revue!

Photo by Larry Nikolai

Now this is the point where you might expect me to ask: “Where do you want to be in ten years?” Well, I’m not going to… I don’t care where you want to be in ten years.

What I want to know… and what I want you to ask yourself is this: Where do you dream of being in ten years?

If the Blue Fairy showed up at the foot of your bed tonight… (after you finished screaming and combed your hair) what would your dearest wish be for your future life?

Think about that a minute. No need to be definitive, this wish is not legally binding… the important thing is just to have a vision of your future that fulfills you. And I mean all of you – especially that ‘child within’ that Walt Disney always mentions in those corporate quote-thingys.

Have you got something? Something specific? Good. Now here’s a tip on how to know if it’s the right vision for you: While it’s easy for you to imagine what it will be like when you get there, another part of you realizes that it can’t be done. It’s impossible. And any sane person would advise you not to try for it.

If it’s the right vision for you it’s still there, burning bright… and you hope – you know – it’s what you really want. Congratulations! You’ve just taken the first step toward making your dream come true.

Image by Joshua L. Harris 2012

So I’m writing this article, and I think: now’s the time for that old saw from Lao Tzu: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Wanting to get the quote exact, I Google it and find this on QuotationsPage.com:

Although this is the popular form of this quotation, a more correct translation from the original Chinese would be “The journey of a thousand miles begins beneath one’s feet.” Rather than emphasizing the first step, Lao Tzu regarded action as something that arises naturally from stillness. Another potential phrasing would be “Even the longest journey must begin where you stand.” Thank you, Mr. Tzu! That’s exactly what I was going to say… start living your dream where you are, today.

My best friend and I made 8 millimeter films while we were in grade school. I spent hours using construction paper to turn my little red wagon into a Batmobile. Since I had to spend the summer of 1969 in remedial Spanish and couldn’t get to the new Haunted Mansion in Anaheim, I designed my own version in class (it was more fun than learning Spanish).

My first attempt at being an Imagineer consisted of putting my baby sister in my ‘Batmobile’ and towing her around the back yard, while I narrated the ride. Funny thing about that is: Tony Baxter was doing the exact same thing when he was my age, creating primitive ‘ride-thrus’ for his friends in a field adjacent to his home.

I’m no Tony Baxter… but neither was Tony when he started. He made himself ‘Tony Baxter’ by living a life full of such dream-motivated nonsense. You can, too. You do it by following your bliss. Take any path, any job that moves you toward that vision you have inside you. I assure you those early choices won’t make the most ‘financial sense’, but your soul will be enriched by the experience. And you’ll see your dream grow nearer and clearer.

Emma flies

Sketch by Emma Leavitt

The young lady in the sketch is Emma Leavitt. She’s our Graphic Goddess, the person who created our banner and our company seal. This drawing is something she did on her own, one of several that caught my eye on Facebook and inspired me to seek her out to work on the TPU site. The skills Emma’s developed, her excellent vision and talent with various mediums… all were inspired by her dream of one day doing this for a living. But Emma’s not waiting for that first break (and she never asked for permission to fly the Dreamcatcher); she’s living her dream now!

Next time: Practical pointers on nurturing a dream…

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  1. gimpyfig
    Posted March 24, 2013 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    Excellent article and so true. Emma your artwork is fantastic!

  2. Posted March 25, 2013 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing that, Ron.

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