by Mitchell Swailes
As many people know, I am a Disney enthusiast. There are very few days where I’m not wearing something Disney related, or planning my next trip to a Disney Park. This September, Disney held their bi-annual event, D23 Expo, the ultimate Disney event in California. This convention, which hosted an estimated 140,000 attendees, is where all the new breaking Disney news is announced.
While there were many different offerings, my favourite was the Wonderful World Of Dreams pavilion, an area dedicated to the Disney parks and what’s coming next. With displays of the prototypes of the stuntronic robot that leaps in the air over buildings like Spider-Man to miniature models of the new attractions and lands coming to Disney Parks around the world, this pavilion had everything for Disney Park fans.
This pavilion, more importantly, had the Imagineers that are currently working on the displayed projects. For non-Disney readers, Imagineering, a portmanteau of Imagination and Engineering, is Disney’s creative engine that designs and builds all things Disney theme parks. As someone who went to Engineering school with the goal to eventually become an Imagineer at Disney, this was the highlight of my trip.
One of the Imagineers I spoke to is a ride system programmer who’s last project was Star Wars: Rise of The Resistance, Disney best of the best attraction that you can read about in my last STEM with M article.
When asked about the most challenging project he told me a story. This story is now what we now at Una Buro call the “door” story. In the first version of the attraction, all the doors, with a click of a button, would open at the same time. As far as the program was concerned, all eight doors were treated the same, there was no distinction from one door to another.
After testing, the ride designer requested that door number 3 needed to open slower than the rest. While the designer thought this request was quite simple, it really was not. In fact, the code needed to be rewritten entirely to meet the requirement. The code went from simply every door being the same to having each door be individually identified to have door 3 open at a different speed.
I laughed because I find myself in the exact situation often, albeit the scales are different; for him it’s opening doors, in my case, it’s changing the behaviour of a clone button. Things that may seem simple are actually very complicated on the backend.
There is a special kind of complexity in the developer world that not many people get, and it was a funny eye opener that someone who works at a huge corporation like Disney and gets to work on the coolest projects in the world still has the same struggles as I do. It warms my heart that although I don’t build theme park attractions everyday, I experience similar challenges at work as those who do.
- Simple things can be quite complicated on a programming level
- Even Disney Imagineers have similar struggles as I do