My friend Halloween decoration today featuring the Hitchhiking Ghosts from Disney's Haunted Mansion attraction. This reminded me of a moment from my childhood that I thought I'd share.
Most of you who know me also know that I've had a nearly lifelong fascination with theme park design and technology. That fixation began suddenly when I was (I think) 10 years old. Up until then, I always said I wanted to grow up to be an Inventor. Specifically, I wanted to build robots.
So one day when I was 10, I was exploring the attic for lost treasures when I found some old postcards from my parents' previous visit to Disneyland. Then I flipped to a postcard that looked a lot like this picture. I made my Mom explain to me what they were. Translucent robot puppets in a ride that looked like a giant funhouse of special effects. Something snapped in my head. From that moment on, there was no way for me to get enough information about Disney. Suddenly, I wanted to design and build my own parks which eventually turned into a desire to become a Disney Imagineer.
By the time my family made my first trip to Walt Disney World a year later, I had already collected tons of articles and books and photos of the parks. I already had the maps of the parks memorized and had detailed knowledge of the contents of most attractions (including names of some of the designers). It was everything I hoped it would be and more.
15 years later, I got to work for both Walt Disney World and Imagineering. I've taken many side-trips in my career but that goal of being a theme park designer has never changed. Even my decision to leave Disney was made as a step towards achieving that goal by varying my experience and moving closer to California where most of that work happens. I'm still working on it.
I've been asked many times throughout the years why I have this apparent obsession. I don't really know for sure (but it's probably this). All I know for certain is that moment when it started. I think it's strange, wonderful, and a bit scary that most of the direction of my life was dictated by a chance encounter with a postcard.
I'm just grateful my parents didn't have pictures of car dealerships in the attic.