Daniel Joseph in front of a Walt Disney Imagineering sign

BS '06

Like his hero Walt Disney, you might call Daniel Joseph BS '06 (Industrial Design) an "American optimist."

"I have always loved dreaming about the future and thinking there will always be something better coming," says Joseph, a special effects designer for Walt Disney Imagineering. "This meshes so well with Disney and how it has told the story of the future for so many years."

It took an optimist to pursue his dream job at "the Magic Kingdom" of the Walt Disney Company through many setbacks and challenges. If he had known everything it would take to land his dream job, says Joseph, he might never have gotten there.

When Joseph was 6 years old, he had his first glimpse of Disney World on a trip with his family. "I remember very specifically the Haunted Mansion, and the special effects were awe-inspiring," says Joseph.

Joseph pursued Industrial Design at UArts with the idea that the major would lead him to the only place he had ever wanted to be – the Walt Disney Company. He never stopped working on haunted houses and special effects, spending three summers working at Eastern State Penitentiary’s famed haunted house, "Terror Behind the Walls," while at UArts.

It was sheer optimism that led him to enter – and win – Disney's annual ImagiNations Design Competition as a senior at UArts. His winning design was a retrofit for a Disneyland attraction called "The People Mover" that had closed in the late 1990s. The original People Mover was part of the futuristic Tomorrowland and boasted the slogan "Ride Tomorrow's Transportation Today."

Joseph says he was attracted to the ride because he felt it said to the riders, "We need you to help us create the future."

"It engaged and questioned the rider to do something bigger than go on an attraction at a theme park," he says.

Prize money in hand, he headed for Los Angeles after graduation. He worked for companies that contracted with Disney, and then landed an internship in the Research and Development department at Walt Disney Imagineering. The internship finally led to the achievement of his long-held dream – a job in the Special Effects and Illusions department.

Today Joseph is a Disney "Imagineer" and spends his days brainstorming and creating models of buildings and designing special effects and illusions for Disney’s theme parks. Thirteen of his designs have been patented for Disney. One of his patented designs – a floor system that simulates the feeling of walking on and in a natural environment, such as snow – was featured in a PC Magazine article called "The Best Inventions of 2011 – So Far."

Joseph calls the foundation he received at UArts both rigorous and wonderful. The weekly presentations he had to give in front of a crowd and under stress were worth their weight in gold.

"It was painful a lot of the time," he said. "That's something I use every day. In front of six, eight, 10 brilliant people – I speak with confidence about my craft."

At UArts, he says, he learned "how to talk to people and convey ideas to people who aren't in your own brain."