Chapter 52 Summary

Know Where You Are

When Pausch arrives at Disney, he is greeted by Mk Haley, a twenty-seven-year-old Imagineer who has been given the task of supervising him during his sabbatical at Disney Imagineering. Haley is not impressed by academic credentials and asks Pausch what he has to offer the company.

For the first time, Pausch is in a place where his qualifications as a tenured professor mean nothing to anyone around him, and he feels as if he is traveling through a foreign country and has to find a way to earn some local currency. He has been trying to teach his students this lesson for years, and now he has to follow his own advice.

Though he has achieved his primary childhood dream of becoming a Disney Imagineer, he has gone from being the head of his own research lab, accountable to virtually no one, to a place where he has to produce or go home. He has to figure out how to make his quirky ways work for him in this intensely creative culture.

Pausch begins working on the Aladdin virtual reality attraction which was being tested at Epcot. He and other Imagineers survey guests about their experience with the ride, asking if they got dizzy, nauseated, or disoriented. Some of his colleagues accuse him of using academic techniques which are not applicable in this environment. To them he is too focused on data and too insistent on a scientific rather than an emotional approach. It is a classic clash of serious academia versus serious entertainment.

Once Pausch is able to show them scientifically how to save twenty seconds per guest by loading the ride differently, he gains some credibility with the Imagineers who originally doubted he could be useful to them. This is a lesson in how sensitive it often is to cross from one culture to another. Pausch teaches this lesson to students who are about to transition from school to their first jobs.

At the end of his sabbatical, Pausch is offered a full-time position with Disney Imagineering. It is a difficult decision for him, but he eventually turns down the job. The call of teaching is too strong; however, he has learned to breach the gap between education and entertainment and Disney manages to keep him involved. Pausch becomes a once-a-week consultant for Imagineering, something he happily does for ten years. Anyone who manages to find his footing between two worlds can often have the best of both cultures.