Disney is a global company with over 200,000 employees, each one doing a particular job at any particular time to make magic happen in some shape or form. From Disneyland attraction operator to Marvel Studios visual development artist, a job at Disney spans a lot of different disciplines.
What if there was a product that showcased a lot of those jobs? Oh, and capture the people doing them in real-time all around the globe?
That’s exactly what Disney Publishing chief editor Wendy Lefkon thought of, and together with a global team of photographers, writers, and editors, “One Day at Disney” was born.
We spoke to Wendy about the book and eventually the Disney+ documentary over the phone a few weeks ago. Enjoy our Q&A with her below.
DE: How did the idea for “One Day at Disney” come about?
WL: The project was cooking for quite some time, then we put it away, then we revisited it again. It wasn’t until this past December that we really found our footing to start the book.
The idea came from different people around the Company, including Disney CEO Bob Iger, who thought it might be fun to document a day in the life of Disney through the people who work for it. There are hundreds of thousands of employees that Disney has and each one is unique and has their own story.
We wanted to capture that and felt that a coffee table-type book would be the right way to do that. Gathering the content to fill the book would be a story in itself.
DE: Why did the team choose one day in February to document the jobs?
WL: While the massive employee roster is impressive, it’s also impressive to know that there’s always someone at the Company working to make the magic happen. It’s all happening at any given time, any given day – globally.
For example, there’s a scuba diver at 1 AM PT getting ready to clean the lagoon of Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage at Disneyland park. At the exact same time (4 AM ET), Good Morning America host Robin Roberts is getting ready to go on the air.
It’s an interesting angle that quickly became the core of how we would tell the stories of these people. We eventually decided to make our global capture day for February 21, 2019.
DE: What was the criteria for choosing what jobs were to be featured in the project?
WL: The parameters in selecting people to be featured were people who had interesting jobs. For one, it would somewhat be unique to Disney. You could be an engineer or artists, but we wanted to document how being a Disney engineer or artist would be unique.
The other parameter was that the job needed to be visually interesting. The whole idea was to photograph the people and them doing their jobs. While you might be an analyst looking at spreadsheets at a desk, it wouldn’t make for a beautiful portrait for a book compared to seeing an Imagineer working on Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Other factors in selecting those who met that criteria included availability, information sensitivity, and more. Overall, we wanted to make sure that every division of the Company was covered [pre-Fox acquisition].
DE: What was needed to get the project off the ground? Were the logistics difficult?
It all needed to be captured within a 24-hour period. We kept to that. We also needed to find photographers and writers who could document it all. Then all that content needed to be uploaded to where I and our writer could view it all and begin putting it together.
We ended up using our global team of amazing ABC and Disney Parks photographers [a little over 100 of them] to capture and built proprietary software to store all their content.
At the end of the week after capture day, myself and the team took a look at all the photos that were taken of the subjects, and they all looked fantastic! We were surprised that nothing went wrong and everything looked great. It all worked well! I’m really grateful to the team for pulling it off.
DE: One could take the whole One Day at Disney project and consider it a great recruiting tool for the Company. Did you think of it that way or appreciate that notion at all?
WL: While we didn’t think about it at first, we also knew this project would be a place where people could share their thoughts about about working for Disney.
Some of them grew up always wanting to work for Disney, while others just happened to get an opportunity unexpectedly. I think the book covers a wide range of roles the Company offers, so we hope it will inspire future people to explore career opportunities that only Disney can offer.
DE: Did you include any profiles of people that were less enthusiastic to share about their job?
WL: For the most part, the people and their stories we covered work really hard and they admit the projects can be long and tiresome as all jobs end up being.
However, it all seemed to circle back for these people, like when they see the faces of guests who just rode their attraction or got to meet Mickey. The smiles and genuine appreciation for their work was all worth it.
Our author Bruce Steele, who interviewed our subjects, made sure that he asked questions and shared them in a way that got to the heart and soul of why the employees do what they do.
DE: Will there be another edition of the One Day at Disney project?
WL: We shot what we needed to, but in the few meetings after we shared the finished product, people are already asking when we’re doing the next edition.
“One Day at Disney” will be available as a coffee table book with accompanying documentary on Disney+ on December 3. Pre-order for the book is available HERE.
Our special thanks to Wendy Lefkon and Disney Publishing for an advance copy of the book for this story!