Since the age of 7, West Virginia University sophomore Benjamin Twiest has always wanted to be an Imagineer.
Not an engineer; an Imagineer.
Imagineers are the creative force behind Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. By combining engineering and imagination, they conceptualize, design and build Disney theme parks, resorts, attractions, cruise ships, real estate developments and regional entertainment venues worldwide.
“Everything that is seen, heard, touched, smelled and tasted inside a Disney Park comes from these masterminds,” Twiest said. “They also come from more than 140 different disciplines, including engineering, art, cooking, graphic design and the list goes on.”
Twiest, a native of Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania, opted to major in mechanical engineering at WVU. But before earning a degree, he wanted to pave his path to a Disney career by participating in its College Program. The program brings students to either Disney Land in California or Walt Disney World in Florida for one or more semesters.
“After massive amounts of research on the internet, I applied for a position on the DCP website,” Twiest said. “A while later, I got the opportunity to participate in a phone interview with a College Program recruiter. After waiting several more weeks, I received an email congratulating me on my acceptance into the merchandising section of Walt Disney World.”
While most students selected for merchandising end up working in one of Disney’s many gift shops, other seek positions as event guides, food service workers and character performers. The latter had Twiest’s name written all over it.
“Students interested in being character performers must go to an audition somewhere in the United States,” said Twiest, who tried out in Michigan. “During the tryout, performance specialists examined how well we could follow directions in dancing and how well we could animate our physical motions and expressions to tell a story. After waiting several more weeks, I got the fantastic news that I was in character performing.”
After a week’s worth of training, Twiest headed out into the Park as Goofy, Disney’s beloved pup with a Southern drawl.
“I had an absolute blast and I was really disappointed when it was time to leave at the end of my program,” Twiest said. “I absolutely loved making kids and their families laugh and smile through special interactions with the character.”
Over the course of his eight-week summer program, Twiest also had the opportunity to participate in an engineering class that discussed how engineering works at Disney and in their parks. According to Twiest, the class was an important next step toward what he hopes will be a career with Disney.
“In the near future, I will be applying for a summer internship at Walt Disney World for engineering. Since they recommend prior participating in the College Program as well as completion of the engineering class, I hope that my chances are good.
“In the end, this program was absolutely wonderful and magical,” Twiest added. “I highly recommend that no matter who you are or what your major is, you try out and see what it is like to work for one of the biggest and best companies in the world.”
Students interested in learning more about Disney’s College Program can contact Twiest through his WVU Mix account.