© 2018 by Benjamin K. Wallace

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BIO

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I grew up exploring museums, primarily the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles. Looking at the exhibits, I would spend hours seeing animals that seemed ready to spring from their dioramas and prowl the room. The other fascination that evolved for me was human history. Scenes and displays transported me to other places and times; I became mesmerized by, the clay vessels, the gold torcs, figurines, and relics from civilizations long since faded and imagined what it would be like to have actually been living in those times. 

This allure of being in other places and times led to a new-found passion with world building, and the technologies that made the impossible a reality. Watching shows about special effects in the movies, I would take my carefully gleaned knowledge of to our family visits to Disneyland. I became intrigued with how the pirates in Pirates of the Caribbean moved and how the faces in the Haunted Mansion would follow “just me” down the hallway.  How things worked fascinated me; magic was real, through applied art and technology.

Ever curious, I wanted to find out how things worked. I would buy items from garage sales and take them apart to find out how they worked. I discovered things could be made to move with circuits, levers, gears, hydraulics, and motors...Pirates, your secrets would soon be revealed!  But what transforms a pile of inanimate parts into a memory worth keeping? Servos, flashing lights and bolts of cloth became swashbuckling pirates because the story brought it all together. This knowledge led me to the study of engineering at California Polytechnic University Pomona, largely based on the school’s hands-on approach to engineering. I did not want to learn solely from books, I wanted to physically work with the materials and machines of manufacture. In addition to engineering, I minored in political science and was two classes shy of an additional minor in anthropology. Each term I would take my engineering classes; but would add a class on art, culture, or even wine tasting. During the summers I would volunteer at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles.

Inspired by the technology, art and history I was exposed to, my imagination was constantly churring out new ideas for stories. After school, I would practice telling these stories, with friends around a table. With pencil, paper, miniatures and 35mm sets sculpted and painted to represent the people and places of a given adventure, I wove tales through worlds of my own devising. Though successes and failures, I learned how to create stories that would captivate a mixed audience and transport them into new worlds and exciting adventures.

I started my professional career as a Manufacturing Engineer of aerospace components, including components for the Curiosity Mars Rover. I was able to gain valuable skills in engineering design, project management, facility design, staff supervision of diverse cultures, training, and vendor negotiations. However, just a solely engineering career was leaving half of my passion and skills shelved.  I wanted to tell stories that people could enjoy, in spaces they could walk through and touch. To make the transition into the Theme Park industry would require additional skills and knowledge.

One of my realizations was that people would not be willing to wait a week for me to build a 35mm scale model of an attraction/restaurant when someone else could make a concept sketch to show the idea that same day, I needed to be able visually convey ideas faster. I needed to know both pen/pencil and paper as well as digital sketching and rendering. After a short time of taking night courses and learning to draw, I discovered that Bruce Vaughn, Chief Creative Executive of Walt Disney Imagineering at the time, was teaching a class at UCLA titled “The Art and Science of Themed Entertainment.”  I took a shot and sent him a message over LinkedIn. Much to my surprise, a few days later a response arrived!  He said I could audit his course. I looked forward to that class each week and would drive to UCLA straight from work to make it in time. I scored high enough on tests to also be allowed to take the second course of his series where we were split into teams in a design competition and present before a panel of Imagineers.  My team came in first place with our design.  Those two classes taught and inspired me a great deal. I became a full-time student at Art Center at Night, Brainstorm School, and Concept Design Academy. I fully immersed myself in drawing and design, I used my engineering senses to critique my designs but had to learn to not let them limit the designs. 

To help learn how to combine the technical and the artistic I began to do freelance producing of film shorts and music videos.  Figuring out what equipment was needed, how to fit the sets within the spaces provided and when to outsource tasks was all familiar, now added was learning to work with the artists involved, knowing their timelines and what support they needed to produce their best work.  I learned to weave all the disciplines and work with teams to create complex and emotional stories, it was not about what I could do, it was about what we could do.

Currently I continue to take classes at Art Center at Night and I am studying for the Mechanical Engineering PE exam.

I am looking for an entry level position in the Themed Entertainment Industry. I feel that I would be an asset to a team as an assistant producer or assistant creative producer. I am open to other positions as well.

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Benjamin K Wallace