Model-based Design Reshaping Disney Parks Written 29 July 2015

Speaker: Micahel Tschanz, Walt Disney World®

by Lawrence Garrett, AIAA Web Editor

Michael Tschanz, director of technology and analysis with design and engineering at Walt Disney World®, delivers remarks on, “Developing Creative Storytelling Using Model Based Design,” July 29, at the 2015 AIAA Propulsion and Energy Forum.

Engineers can be a great asset to creative storytelling, and model-based design and engineering are helping to reshape The Walt Disney Co. theme parks, said Michael Tschanz, director of technology and analysis with design and engineering at Walt Disney World, during “Developing Creative Storytelling Using Model Based Design,” a lecture at the 2015 AIAA Propulsion and Energy Forum.

There’s been a change in culture at Disney over the past 15 to 20 years, Tschanz said, “in how we build and design new attractions, new guest-facing experiences, and some of it has to do with transferring technology that all of you have been involved with for decades.”

Tschanz, “an old aerospace guy” who spent 13 years at Texas Instruments working on guidance and control systems, said he learned there that a lot of design work could be done before actually building things.

“In the aerospace industry, that’s paramount … you’re not going to be able to just throw some things together and hope it flies,” Tschanz said. He said Disney is trying implement more detailed and rigorous engineering principles among "frankly, a group of people who don’t normally think about this on a daily basis."

Tschanz said Disney is incorporating a lot of design and engineering tools, from 3-D simulations and analysis, to model-based design for attractions, agent-based design, animation design and even a transportation simulator.

Walt Disney World is 47 square miles and Tschanz is responsible for helping to ensure everything works correctly. That, he said, is the job of design and engineering.

To help oversee these operations — from boats to monorails, trains and rides — Disney relies on mechanical, electrical and computer engineers. As Tschanz put it: “Literally, across WDI, there’s 1,200 disciplines in and of itself.”

Tschanz shared some of the inner workings of some of Disney’s attractions, such as its Rock ‘n’ Roll Coaster, which uses a Linear Synchronous Motor Launch System, where engineers oversee things like ride track, software controls and braking systems.

Because Disney does not have the luxury of building and redesigning, Tschanz said it has started to use more model-based design. Adopting that methodology was a challenge at first. Tschanz said Disney started small with only a couple of projects initially.

“Once we’ve built up some of these scientific methods, of figuring out how to look at rides and shows in a very precise physics and mechanical way, then we can start pulling all that technology back to the beginning and then using it to help design all the way through the design process,” Tschanz said.

He added that Disney designers also do a lot of work in computational fluid dynamics, mainly due to their water rides, and use ride development simulation tools in design processes. He said this technology has been very helpful and “allows us to get the story exactly right.”

Tschanz said Disney also is taking a “foray into model-based design techniques,” citing its Star Tours ride as a prime example, where they put C3P0 as the pilot droid. Model-based design helped Disney “understand how both the animated figures will work functionally over time, and how will they will look from an aesthetic and from a creative design perspective,” he said.

Tschanz also discussed Disney’s use of agent-based modeling in which the models are looking at tens of thousands of people, or “entrance and exit dynamics.” He said designers can use agent-based modeling for cars as well as people. Tschanz said this work is significant because “we want to make sure any of the work that we do on Disney property can support the amount of people that will be driving and using vehicles on the park itself.”

Tschanz concluded his remarks by citing one of his favorite Walt Disney quotes: “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious, and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”


All 2015 AIAA Propulsion and Energy Forum Videos