Sometimes starting from the very bottom is the way to go. Just ask Kevin P. Rafferty when he first joined Disney, not as an artist as he had dreamed but as a lowly DMO (Dish Machine Operator) at Disneyland. After earning his degree in art, Kevin eventually got his foot into the door at Disney’s Imagineering and began his 40-year career as a proud Imagineer, contributing to several projects like Epcot, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, and Cars Land. In this book review, Magic Journey: My Fantastical Walt Disney Imagineering Career, Kevin takes us behind the curtains and gives a peek into what it takes to actually plan and develop the rides and shows at Disney’s theme parks all while infusing Disney’s signature creativity and magic.
One of the highlights of the book is seeing how a career evolves from the viewpoint of one of Disney’s prominent Imagineers, allowing readers to see what life was like back in the day when Disney’s theme parks were growing around the world. Working with legends such as Jim Henson and voice actors June Foray and Don Rickles to developing popular attractions like Toy Story Mania and Mickey’s Philharmagic, Kevin’s reservoir of stories from his time with the Big Mouse is vast and impressive. My favorite story is Kevin’s experience planning the Pan Galactic Pizza Port at Tokyo Disneyland. He not only had to develop the characters and story behind the pizzeria but also pitch the entire concept to a room of Japanese executives who could only understand him through an interpreter. The story is a great example of how a true Disney believer wowed a foreign audience and succeeded in spreading the Disney magic in another country.
The book’s best example of how Imagineering works from start to finish is Kevin’s time on Cars Land. From a slow-burning idea in his mind to a full-blown attraction site based on a popular Pixar film, Kevin describes the long process to bringing Cars Land into reality, complete with a 10-day expedition on the actual Route 66 for inspiration. Reading how much attention to detail, passion, and hard work went into building Cars Land gave me a greater appreciation for Disney’s Imagineers.
Magic Journey is a fun, insightful ride through a man’s career as an Imagineer who worked on some of Disney’s most popular attractions. Captured in a book gorgeously designed, Kevin’s energy and enthusiasm spills out of each chapter and can be felt throughout the book. His journey from a humble dishwasher to a respected Imagineer should encourage other dreamers to actively pursue their goals. Kevin spent 40 years at Disney, working hard on an endless line of projects, but his enthusiasm in spreading happiness never seemed to waver. Although Disney appears to be more interested in buying intellectual property and counting dollar bills, Kevin’s excitement and childlike wonder for his work as an Imagineer is a breath of fresh air and reminds readers of what Disney truly stands for: creativity, wonder, joy, and magic.
Have you ever wanted to be Imagineer? What’s your favorite Disney ride or attraction?
Special thanks to Disney Editions for providing a free copy of this book.