Quentin Rodrigues is one of the two new Disneyland Paris Ambassadors who worked in the Show Ride Engineering team, an exciting department that is little known to visitors, but which is nevertheless essential to the smooth running of the experience in the theme parks.
Photos courtesy of Disneyland Paris
He was interviewed about his time as a mechanical engineer at Disneyland Paris, from how it all came about to his new role as a Disney Ambassador.
With Disney, stories often begin with “Once upon a time….” What about yours?
Once upon a time, long ago, there was a boy, quite shy and unsure of himself. Once a year, this boy left it all aside to dream, become a great adventurer, an explorer of the future, a fairytale hero, or even a movie star. Once a year, he visited Disneyland Paris. And the fulfilment, the escape, the magic of this destination, he could never forget them. Neither could his curiosity, which grew stronger and stronger each year, asking, “But wait… how does magic work?”
After being gently pushed back by his parents a few times (“Just look it up on the internet, you’ll find out eventually!”), this boy found out about Imagineering and engineering. It was love at first sight and he knew that one day he would do everything in his power to become an engineer at a Disney park.
You guessed it; this boy was me! And today, allow me to share a little bit of my story and lift the veil on this fascinating world that was mine for almost four years: mechanical engineering at Disneyland Paris.
Before we move on, just a little bit of definition…what’s an engineer?
To keep it simple, an engineer is a solution finder; a Gyro Gearloose who has to adapt to any and every situation and overcome any obstacle. And my expertise was in mechanics, from designing robots to ride vehicles. Anything that is meant to move was part of my universe.
Okay, so we’re good on what a mechanical engineer is, but what does it imply when it comes to Disneyland Paris?
Let me present to you Show & Ride Engineering (S.R.E.). This team of about 20 engineers and industrial draftsmen is part of the maintenance division, and is the technical referent on all rides, parade floats, and stages. In other words, they’re in charge of improving the equipment of Disneyland Paris, and no modification can be made on it without their okay. Through all their projects, they have at heart to guarantee the best guest experience possible, and to facilitate the work of the cast members interacting with rides and shows.
And these projects come in all shapes and sizes. For example, when I joined the team, I worked on the addition of a small piece of foam to the Crush’s Coaster vehicle, before moving on to preparing and working on the overhaul of Dumbo the Flying Elephant – which was entirely disassembled to be renovated! And just before my selection as a Disney Ambassador, a personal dream of mine come true. I worked on the complete redesign of an Audio-Animatronic from Pirates of the Caribbean. And if you’re wondering which one, just know I won’t talk even if you try to put me in a well.
What is the general purpose of the projects you worked on?
It goes from improving reliability to technological modernization, or even improving the maintainability and show quality. Some of the team’s projects also help make our destination more inclusive for our guests, like the modification of the Big Thunder Mountain trains’ last wagons to facilitate the boarding or our guests with reduced mobility.
All these projects seem to represent quite the workload, and the sole S.R.E. team wouldn’t be able to do it alone. So, it’s time to take a step back and better comprehend the ecosystem the team evolves in.
First, they’re not the only engineers of the maintenance division. In the very same open space you can find the Sustaining Engineering team, in charge of ensuring ride reliability and handling unexpected events (when the pixie dust reservoirs get dry by excess of wonderful thoughts). And at the end of the corridor you’ll find engineers specialized in ride control, construction work, and even audio-video media. Experts from all the fields necessary to create magic.
A little further off, right behind our rides, you’ll find our operational Maintenance teams. On the field, they’re the ones taking care of the destination every day (refueling the pixie dust reservoirs and making sure the hyperdrives are correctly calibrated). They know our rides like the back of their hands, and have an expert eye when it comes to identifying opportunities for improvement and revision.
And in this task, they can count on the Central Shops and its numerous talents. If, like me, you enjoy craftsmanship and backstage secrets, then this place will be a true cave of wonders for you. There, you can find gold leaf painters, drapers, modelists working on our sets, boilermakers, carpenters, laminators – all incredible craftsmen working to make our destination sublime.
And among these teams, there are two in particular you worked closely with. Can you tell us more?
First, there is the Cycling team. Their mission? Perform the overhaul of our ride vehicles. And there’s no secret to it – every now and then they are entirely disassembled up to the smallest lug nut to be inspected, controlled, and refurbished. As one of the three referent engineers for the Cycling, I spent a lot of time with the teams to follow the overhaul operations and identify modifications to be made on our ride vehicles.
And of course, you can’t have disassembly and controls without Quality Control. There is no making do without these technicians who guarantee the conformity of all the destination’s equipment. With them, the engineers define the lists of controls to be performed, and the points of attention, so that nothing escapes their razor-sharp gaze.
And that’s not all of it. I could talk for hours about our artist boilermakers, our roboticists from the animation workshop, our Carrousel of Lancelot stable grooms, our poetic painters – there are so many talented cast members contributing to the maintenance ecosystem at Disneyland Paris. But they all work together, hand in hand, to make sure our guests can have the best experience possible at Disneyland Paris.
You recently left your engineering, draftsmen, and maintenance coworkers to start this wonderful adventure with the Ambassador program. Do you miss it?
I never forget where I come from. In all my projects, in everything I write, I always keep in mind what I learned during these almost four years at Show & Ride Engineering. I also remember the friends I’ve made there, who keep inspiring me every day. I don’t know if my future will bring me back to this team, but I just know that I could never have made it to where I am today without this step in my journey.
And I know that every time I have the chance, just like with you today, I will gladly spotlight all the talent of the cast members working backstage.