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  • Gregg Maedo


At Disneyland, magic is found in the smallest of details. Recently, we had the opportunity to collaborate with Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) to design safety railings for staff and guests at one of their Disneyland rides, Gadget Go-Coaster. The concept of a safety rail seems like a somewhat utilitarian, simple, and straightforward project. As we quickly found out, however, it came with its own interesting set of challenges.

When I first opened the email from WDI and saw the intent for the first time, my immediate thought was – how is somebody going to build this? To describe the project, it is a rail that looks like a popsicle stick supported by a set of golf tees, which originally was to span the entire length of the landing where it was to be installed. Working through the design with WDI, we created a set of plans and were preparing to start construction.

Tight scheduling and complicated details highlight the need for a good team

About two weeks before construction was to start, we were informed that the railing would not be permitted on half of the landing because it was considered a “grabbable” surface and fell within the ride safety envelope. We were then provided with a new challenge when we received an additional sketch depicting a “Tinker Toy” inspired wall for the other half of the guard rail. We soon found that in order to keep the proper scale and feel of the pieces, we would be further encroaching into the ride envelope, or into the required egress path.

In the process of finding resolution, we carefully drew and redrew the plans until we were able to find a solution that would comply with the safety requirements for the ride while still maintaining the required egress clearances. Along with these challenges, we also had to figure out how to anchor, support, and build the shapes WDI required in order to detail them properly on the plans. Due to the limited timeline for design and construction, we found that things were being built at the exact same time as we were receiving shop drawings and issuing comments. I have to admit, I was pretty nervous when I visited the site for the first time to see the progress!

A Happy Ending

Finally, the rail was built and the project was completed successfully. Fortunately, WDI had put together a great team. Our coordination with the construction team went smoothly and the project team was happy with the results. When I complete projects, I like to think back on the process, and try to review the lessons that were learned in order to avoid repeating the same mistakes. This project taught me not to underestimate the small, seemingly unimportant details. We learned that even building elements considered utilitarian and mundane can greatly affect the experience of a facility. We are now starting to understand how attention to the smallest details can enhance the “magic” of our projects, and I will carry this thought with me throughout my current and future designs.


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