Brian Correll: Disney Fanatic and Wannabe Disney Imagineer.
From my earliest Disney memories, it was always a coin-toss between The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean as to which was my favorite ride. Watching the animatronics in Pirates and the ballroom ghosts in Haunted Mansion I always wondered, “How did they do that?” To be able to work and learn in that Disney Magic has always been a dream of mine, and now being retired from the “pay the bills” job, I am free to pursue my dream job of becoming a Disney Imagineer.
So why do I want to be an Imagineer ? As an adult, I created my own haunted house which eventually became a charity haunt occupying a 12,000 square foot building replete with animatronics and special effects in 3 separate, themed mazes. During my 8 years running the Friends of C.I.D. (Center for Individual Development) Charity Haunted House, I learned many skills -mostly self taught- such as:
- Basic electrical: wiring everything from motors, lighting, control boards, and sound effects;
- Welding: Oxyacetylene for shaping metal, and MIG welding for building armatures for props;
- Mold making: Lifecasting, prosthetics for makeup applications;
- Programming: Bluepoint animation boards, working with servos;
- Set design: Building and painting techniques, using items for something other than their originally intended purpose.
One project that used most of these skills was building my own full-size animatronic skeleton. I purchased a 4th quality Bucky Skeleton and made molds of every single bone (with the exception of the skull) using RTV silicone. I assembled the bones and built armatures with pneumatic rams to lift him to a standing position and outstretch his arm. I installed several servos to move his jaw, rotate his eyeball, turn his head, and retract his fingers. Using a control board, I laid down audio track and synced his jaw movements and speech, as well as eye and head movements. This skeleton started out his “life” as a pirate, but along the way has been re-costumed as a mummy and a zombie.
Perhaps the most personally gratifying part of running a charity haunt had nothing to do with animatronics or special effects. The builders and live characters at the haunt (70+ per night on show nights) were almost all high school aged volunteers. I loved working with the kids and teaching them how to collaborate, work as a team and learn leadership skills, in addition to teaching them how to use tools and creatively re-purpose things. We always started with a backstory and created props and scenes to move the story along, stories to which our volunteers were encouraged to contribute. My team worked hard to make sure that our haunt was family friendly with a customizable scare experience, not something usually seen in haunted houses.
I am the guy who will “run until done.” I know the type of hard work that it takes to put on even a comparatively small event that involves guests and animatronics. Collaboration, dedication, and passion for animatronics are what I bring to every one of my creative endeavors.