Caught Off Guard: Imagineering

Caught Off Guard: Imagineering

By Michael Boo


Suzy Lorenzo’s decade of guard experience started because she was bored. The Florida clarinetist started dancing to pass the time during a fall 2003 carwash fundraiser for her school band when a Miami Springs Sr. HS guard instructor spotted her and proclaimed, “You’re going to be in winter guard,” prompting the new freshman to ask, “What’s that?”

Though Suzy had a dance background, she had no idea about the activity that has shaped her life ever since. Now a 26-year-old member of UCF Pegasus Winterguard, she’s balanced entire seasons of marching with the responsibilities of her dream job, working 40 hours a week as an engineering intern with Disney.

In August of 2013, she returned to the University of Florida to finish her last semester of studies for a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering, with a minor in dance. Newly graduated, she headed back to Disney for another internship, this one with Design and Engineering, Ride Mechanical Department.

While an intern is in the transition between an entry position and full-time job; everyone who works at Disney is called a Cast Member. Suzy’s first internship was more on the corporate side; she worked in the Quality Engineering Department as a part of WSA, Worldwide Standards and Auditing. Her job was to be sure all rides were safe for guests and cast members. The department does a lot of documentation for the maintenance of all attractions at Walt Disney World, and some work with the other parks worldwide. Suzy’s position had her working solely on the Orlando attractions.

A typical day involved her receiving a request—sent from Engineering Services to cast members—for updates of documentation regarding safety procedures and safety-related parts, (such as seat belts, restraints, and items as minor as the Magic Kingdom Jungle Cruise dock cleat around which the rope to the boat is tied).

For the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train attraction, she needed to make sure everything was safe and all safety-related components were maintained properly before the attraction could open. Essentially, her job was to be sure no one would get hurt on the attraction.

New attractions require creating extensive documentation detailing how maintenance procedures will maintain the different items…for example, how to physically inspect, take on and off, lubricate, and do whatever is needed to each part of the Bogie (wheel carrier) mechanism that keeps a vehicle attached to the track. The documentation is thorough and details the most minute of parts. In effect, nothing is minute…such as how much torque must be applied to fasteners.

When engineers change a single drawing, they send it to the crew to look at, compare to past drawings, and determine if any details have changed that would require an update. Suzy hopes to some day have a full-time position with Disney as a mechanical engineer. She would love to eventually work her way up to the Ride and Show Design and Engineering Department, which is staffed by people who create solutions for any engineering issue.

She mentions, “Even if it’s a small detail like replacing a small piece of concrete, you have to consult with other departments to be sure the concrete is the correct color and proper consistency. The safety department needs to know to put up a barrier, the financial department needs to procure funding to make the repair, a company has to be contracted to come put in the concrete, and WDI Walt Disney Imagineering—in charge of making sure Disney quality is always upheld—has to be kept up-to-date.”

Suzy states that winter guard, in taking up all her weekends, taught her time management; she had to make sure she still had time to study and practice. She sees the guard activity as a teamwork builder, helping her learn to deal with all kinds of people and all kinds of situations. This directly applies to the teamwork she encounters at Disney, where everyone on a team helps each other when someone’s out for some time or has too much on their plate.

She recalls, “I had perhaps ten projects running at all times, and needed the time management skills I learned in guard to establish priorities. Guard taught me professionalism, making sure I always present the best image possible for the team. Even while off duty, all Disney Cast Members must project a professional image while out in the parks.

“Winter guard allows me to escape the real world and express my artistic side. Even though there’s a lot of creativity floating around Disney, on a daily basis, I’m still working with logistics behind the scenes. Guard helps me keep my creativity alive.”