Sara Thacher:
Imagineering Participatory Play
In Disneyland And Beyond

Since its earliest days, Disneyland was designed to be a place for families to spend time together in an active engaged way. The theme park was envisioned as an immersive, transportive place. Or as its creator Walt Disney said: ”Disneyland is like Alice stepping through the Looking Glass, to step through the portals of Disneyland will be like entering another world.”

For more than 60 years, Disney Imagineering (the design group responsible for the theme parks) has taken up the challenge of creating experiences that immerse Guests of all ages in stories created uniquely for the parks and those inspired by Disney films. Imagineers are constantly developing new ways for Guests to engage with these characters, environments, and each other.  In this session, we’ll look at a history of these participatory interactions as well as some of the latest ‘playtests’ from Research and Development.

About Sara

Sara Thacher is a Creative Lead at Walt Disney Imagineering Research & Development in Glendale, California, where her particular interest is in designing for participation. Before joining WDI, Sara worked as an independent experience designer and culture engineer managing interactive, transmedia projects with a focus on storytelling, public space, and urban exploration. She was Lead Producer and Experience Designer for the alternate reality game The Jejune Institute.

”Experiences are the things that live in our bones even beyond the time that we do them. We live more fully and make stronger memories when we are active participants rather than passive observers.”

Picture of Sara Thacher

About Imagineering

Walt Disney Imagineering is the division responsible for the design and construction of Disney theme parks, resorts, cruise ships and other entertainment venues. Over 140 different job titles fall under the banner of Imagineering, including illustrators, architects, engineers, lighting designers, show writers, graphic designers and game designers. WDI is one of the world’s oldest companies committed solely to the design of multi-sensory experiences in specific physical locations. In 2014, the Disney theme parks hosted 134 million visitors.