Video: NASA Summit Provides Rare Insight into Imagineering; Little Mermaid 3D Model and Kim Possible Expansion?

NASA recently concluded its first Information Technology Summit in National Harbor, Maryland at which Jack Blitch, Vice President and General Manager of Walt Disney Imagineering Florida, delivered an amazing presentation to the attendees full of videos, photos and information rarely available to the eyes and ears of the public. Fortunately for those many of us who couldn’t attend the summit and attend the presentation, C-SPAN did and has made the summit available online, which we now present to you below:

During his twenty-plus years with Imagineering, Blitch served as Project Executive for the construction of Disney’s Animal Kingdom and worked other projects such as Star Tours, Tower of Terror, the new Tomorrowland, Blizzard Beach and Soarin’.

After offering up a brief introduction to Walt Disney and his vision and inspiration for the Disneyland theme park as well as the Walt Disney World resort, Blitch showed the Walt Disney Imagineering Version 1.0 video released by Disney Parks back in 2009.

Blitch then began the meat of the presentation, how Imagineers create the attractions and theme parks we see today and will see tomorrow. From the ‘blue sky’ concept to concept development to pre-visualization (previz) to construction and production to rockwork engineering to ‘test & adjust’ to show quality standards, Blitch offers a true insider’s look into the process.

Using the Fantasyland Expansion as the primary example, Blitch demonstrates how Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) users computers to generate ‘6-D models’ to engineer a project before the construction beings, a concept pioneered by Disney in an effort to reduce costs and speed construction by avoiding potential problems on-site. Disney began using BIM-IPD on Soarin’ and — as an example — Blitch stated that had Expedition Everest been engineered using traditional methods, it would consist of approximately 20,000 construction documents.

Using The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure as an example of the BIM-IPD process, Blitch demonstrates how 3D modeling has evolved into 4D modeling in which the computerized model can actually project the construction over time which the Imagineers then use as a guideline for the attraction’s construction. Blitch adds a 5th and 6th dimension to the project development which covers cost as well as the capability of exporting various components of an attraction’s construction to its respective contractor/partner.

After explaining the steps involved in bringing the attraction to life, Blitch used Expedition Everest as an example, offering lots of concept art, photos and 3D models to show how it all comes together. For example, the mountain is first carved by hand by Imagineers as a physical model. That model is then completely digitized and computers use the 3D model to bend the steel precisely so that the result is exactly what the Imagineer first created. In fact, the systems used are so precise that Blitch says that there are points inside Expedition Everest where they had no more than a half-inch tolerance between the various steel systems.

The rest of the presentation involved talking about recent and new projects, but nothing terribly new to the Disney fan. However, NASA engineers were wowed by the innovations coming to the Disney Dream, including the Aquaduck water coaster (as Blitch points out, it’s not a slide because riders will be pushed upwards at points) and the virtual portholes in which Steamboat Willie was paying a visit in the distance (the virtual portholes will also feature greetings from Disney/Pixar’s Finding Nemo’s Peach and the house from UP.

Also of interest is Blitch’s passing remark that the Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure has proven to be so successful, that Imagineers are exploring the potential of bringing it to Walt Disney World’s other three parks.

[hat tip to wdwmagic]

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