The director of a new documentary series about the artists and engineers who create the Disney theme parks has said she wanted to explore the “secret stories” behind the famous rides.
The six-hour series The Imagineering Story chronicles the history of Walt Disney Imagineering, the little-known design and development centre of The Walt Disney Company, which creates, designs and builds the theme parks.
Lesley Iwerks, who is the granddaughter of animator Ub Iwerks, who co-created Mickey Mouse, and daughter of former Disney executive Don Iwerks, said she grew up on the Disney studio site but never knew the level of effort that went into creating the attractions.
She told the PA news agency: “I had known about it all my life because my father and grandfather worked at Disney but I didn’t know the level of detail.
“There were a lot of things that were secret, secret stories behind the making of certain things that I didn’t know a lot about.
“What surprised me was just the level of detail that they went into with everything.
“You sort of take it for granted when you go to the theme parks, you go ‘OK, there is a really cool attraction’, but what ultimately is the story behind that? What did it take to create that?”
She added: “I had hoped that this film would broaden that knowledge base to the wider public about this group that has not been in the public eye for a few decades.
“I thought it would be interesting to go behind the scenes and tell the story of the folks that bring you the Disney parks around the world and what does it take to make those iconic attractions and iconic parks.
“We were really given that unprecedented access in this series. This was a first for Imagineering to allow a team to go backstage and really see things, and I know that I had to really try to convince some folks at Imagineering that we can do this, it’s going to be OK, and we are going to respect it and treat it with the proper way of shooting it that is not going to give away your secrets.”
Describing her childhood growing up in a Disney family, she said: “When you’re any kid you’re exposed to Disney things all over the place, but for us, when we were kids, my dad would bring home film prints and he built his own theatre inside the house and so we would be watching prints of 101 Dalmatians and all these other cartoons and the neighbourhood kids were coming over and having a little party and that was not a big deal.
“But later on you go ‘OK, that was kind of a cool opportunity’, it wasn’t like bringing home a home video.
“And he would say ‘Come on down to the shop over the weekend’ so I would go and have the opportunity to run around the back lot of the studio on a Saturday and have it to myself.”
– The Imagineering Story is available now on Disney+.