Disney Imagineer is a stickler for detail

Joyce Rudolph, Enjoy!

ANAHEIM -- It's the little things that fascinate Disney Imagineer

Steven Miller.

As director of show production and installation for Disney's new

California Adventure, the Burbank resident guides the team of more than

400 people responsible for the Audio Animatronics that give life to the

theme park's characters. The team also is responsible for the sets,

lighting, scenic painting and audio-visual systems for the rides and


Thursday marked the public opening of the park, and employees of

Glendale-based Walt Disney Imagineering were there answering the media's

questions about the project, which took more than five years to complete.

The park is divided into three lands -- Hollywood Pictures Backlot,

Paradise Pier, reminiscent of the former Pike in Long Beach, and Golden

State, which features the state's people, history and natural beauty.

Some of the landmarks one can't miss are the mountain peak shaped like

the California Grizzly Bear and a smaller replica of San Francisco's

Golden Gate Bridge.

Disney Imagineers have created an adventure out of everything that's

great about California. When guests leave the new theme park, officials

said, they'll not only have experienced unique and state-of-the-art rides

and attractions, but also will know more about the history of the Golden

State and its people.

The new park had a soft opening starting on Jan. 6, as employees and

VIP guests got a sneak preview. Miller and his team have been getting

feedback and fine tuning the attractions.

"We've been setting the final audio levels and the speed of the rides,

and programming the doors opening and closing," he said.

One of the more popular rides has been Soarin' Over California, which

gives the rider a virtual hang gliding experience. More than 80 guests

are lifted 40 feet into the air and surrounded by a giant projection dome

that screens images of Yosemite, the Napa Valley, Palm Springs, Lake

Tahoe and other California landmarks.

Guests feel wind against their faces and smell orange blossoms as they

fly over an orchard. Miller's team perfected the scent system and the

wind effects for the ride.

One of the challenges the team had to overcome was the Audio

Animatronics for the Hopper character on the It's Tough to be a Bug!, a

three-dimensional attraction. The huge grasshopper had given the team a

lot of problems at Disney's Florida park. But Miller said those "bugs"

were worked out by the time the team created the California park.

His team is also responsible for the little details that most people

don't notice, like the light fixtures placed at the entrance of the bug

attraction. They are shaped like mushrooms.

There are some 4,000 light fixtures throughout the new park, he said;

2,000 were custom designed and built by his team. The other 2,000 were

built by outside contractors.

Another detail one might miss is a real NASA rocket cone displayed in

a corner of the dining area of the Taste Pilots' Grill restaurant.

Miller grew up in Glendale and is a 1968 graduate of Crescenta Valley

High School. When visiting Disneyland as a child, he remembers his

favorite ride was Pirates of the Caribbean. He's been with Imagineering

for 30 years. He started his career working in the warehouse and driving

trucks. He was trained on the job.

After work, Miller sometimes strolls around the park, checking for

burned-out light bulbs, listening to the guests' impressions and making

sure the park looks perfect.

"Watching the kids in strollers, taking it all in -- that's the

payoff," he said. "I'm inspired listening to what guests are saying. It's

the world's park now."

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