Joyce Rudolph, Enjoy!
ANAHEIM -- It's the little things that fascinate Disney Imagineer
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."