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Guest Lecturer Zsolt Hormay Walt Disney Imagineer

Published February 17, 2016
Written by Kathryn-kay Johnson

Zsolt Hormay (middle); Carolyn Henne, CFA Associate Dean and Department of Art Chair (left); Peter Weishar, CFA Dean (right)

On February 11th, 2016, Zsolt Hormay, Vice President of Creative at Walt Disney Imagineering, visited the Florida State University College of Fine Arts as a guest lecturer. Hormay captivated a full hall, epitomized by post-presentation questions of which took almost an hour past presentation time, with not one member of the audience retiring for pressing business.

Tokyo, Paris, Shanghai, Hawaii, Los Angeles, Orlando – a small selection of the places that your dream job takes you for work; Zsolt Hormay lives this dream every day.

“What is your story? How did you get where you are,” asked one of the audience members. Hormay gave a quick smile that seemed humble, reminiscent, proud, and actually unsure before responding that it happened almost as if by “a series of accidents”. He emigrated from Hungary in his youth and took a job working on a small construction project before landing a position at Walt Disney Imagineering. Hard work and passion fueled his way through positions at Imagineering before achieving his current title of Vice President of Creative.

Hormay is currently working alongside Jason Strom and Carolyn Henne as a consultant in the “Imagineering Production Techniques” courses. In these classes, students gain first-hand guidance to learn techniques used every day by Walt Disney Imagineers. Each student develops a final project with the goal of developing a piece as realistic and as story-minded as those the Imagineers create on a larger scale.

Rockwork from Big Thunder Mountain, Disneyland Paris. Photo courtesy of

Rockwork from Big Thunder Mountain, Disneyland Paris. Photo courtesy of

Hormay specializes in environmental and figurative sculpting, rockwork and character facade construction, installation of artificial and natural materials, and the development of realistic yet highly durable material. As Creative Executive, Hormay oversees the creative advancement of rockwork: working from the beginning of a project to develop the visual design of the environment, playing the role of conductor in-field, guiding individual artists and maintaining constant communication with construction to make sure the whole project coheres to perfection.

What the Creatives of Imagineering do is commonly called “placemaking” or a collaborative process that works toward creating an exciting, believable, immersive environment. Within Imagineering, there are over 120 different disciplines that come together to make almost anything possible. Hormay describes the goal of the Imagineers as creating a place “that once you enter into the story, the narrative, you feel like you’re really there.” Although the goal is to create an environment that brings fantasy to reality, everything has to comply with building codes and regulations; Hormay describes this as “a blend between artistry and construction”.

Storybook Land. Photo courtesy of

Storybook Land. Photo courtesy of

The process of bringing a project to fruition is a cooperative effort between many different individuals and teams. This requires Imagineering to: invent the story that they would like to tell, refine it and come up with an aesthetic feel for the environment, travel to locations across the world to take notes, get inspiration, and gather “reference material”, create two-dimensional renderings as well as three-dimensional models while working with engineers and advanced computer technology to figure out the structural integrity of the design, begin construction, then begin in-field artist work (teams of artists hand-sculpt the unique rockwork, then teams of artists hand-paint the rockwork, work on the audio, lighting, and finishing details). The whole effort requires a well-organized team with individuals who have a willingness to work with others and to be open-minded; “we all work together as a family, as friends” and together “the spectrum [of what we can create] is really wide” said Hormay.

Hormay concluded the presentation by discussing a significant opportunity for FSU art students who are interested in pursuing a career with Walt Disney Imagineering: WDI is reaching out to Florida State University, offering a two-semester-long advanced art course called “Imagineering Production Techniques” which will be offered in Fall 2016!

Zsolt Hormay was well received by the College of Fine Arts and for many young artists in the audience, he stood as one representation of the many diverse, practical ways to apply artistic ability after graduation.