College of Engineering and Computer Science Fall Newsletter
The Engineer Behind the Disneyland Resort Magic
Dec. 13, 2013
Deep in the heart of the Disney empire, creative teams work day and night to develop the most innovative experiences to delight guests. And when those ideas violate the laws of physics, it’s up to a collaborative team of engineers to make the magic happen.
“We are a group of engineers willfully trapped in an entertainment company,” says Darrell Jodoin '85 (B.S. engineering-mechanical), director of Design and Engineering, Disneyland Resort. “Even though guests may never know what we have done to make their experience memorable, we all take great pride, and have a great time, doing what we do best.”
Jodoin and his team never say “It can’t be done.” Instead, they use their intellect and creativity to solve problems ranging from the mundane to the extraordinary.
“We carefully care for legacy attractions like the Matterhorn Bobsleds, the world’s first tubular steel continuous track roller coaster, but we also make sure the most state-of-the-art flight simulators on Star Tours-The Adventures Continue are in proper working order,” he explains.
Whether developing and installing new track and switches while maintaining early 20th century steam engines or rebuilding the track of Space Mountain, it’s all in a day’s work for Jodoin, who has been with Walt Disney Parks and Resorts for more than 20 years. Hired in 1990 as part of the Disney Decade — an aggressive building and development plan for the new century — Jodoin began his career as a Disney imagineer developing ride systems.
“It was a great opportunity to use my education and experience in developing material handling equipment to join a world-renowned company,” he states.
An engineer by accident
While Jodoin always had a knack for understanding how things work, he started his engineering education after suffering an on-the-job injury in the grocery industry. After recuperating from his injuries, he chose Cal State Fullerton and the College of Engineering and Computer Science to continue his education.
“I have great affinity for CSUF engineering students because I was one of them,” says Jodoin. “My dad hadn’t gone to college and there wasn’t much money so I had to put myself through, and I commuted. That’s pretty much the same story for most CSUF students today.”
Challenged by the curriculum — “I had my head handed to me a few times by some professors in my first year,” he admits — Jodoin was inspired to give his studies his full attention.
“My professors drilled it into my head that I had the same textbooks and was learning the same material other engineering students across the country were. It was up to me to make the most of it,” he explains.
After graduation, Jodoin worked first for a small consulting office, then for a larger firm that gave him exposure to working with Fortune 500 companies. A collegial relationship at that company helped him, a few years later, to land the job at Walt Disney Imagineering.
Staying involved on campus
Jodoin makes time around his job responsibilities to stay involved with engineering students on campus. He regularly devotes time to the Professor for a Day program, serves on the College Leadership Council for ECS, helps recruit employees and interns from his alma mater, and makes every effort to encourage prospective engineers in their career dreams.
“We see Cal State Fullerton engineering students as a talent pool we absolutely need. There is no question that we want to continue developing our relationship with the school,” he says. “Disney encourages me to be involved with the community, and Cal State Fullerton is near and dear to my heart, so being involved as an alumnus is just second nature.”
Jodoin has a great track record mentoring future engineers: Both his sons are engineers – one a mechanical engineer and the other a computer science engineer. Both are also proud of their legacy status as Imagineers for Disney.
“I try to help engineering students by showing them why they should study so hard and devote themselves to a challenging curriculum,” he notes. “By telling them how fulfilled I am in my career, I feel I can help inspire them. And when it comes to encouraging more students to become engineers, there’s nothing better to invest in.”