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Q: Why didn't Disney trademark "Imagineer" or "Animatronic"? (Or did he?) ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   3 Comments )
Subject: Why didn't Disney trademark "Imagineer" or "Animatronic"? (Or did he?)
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: doctorow-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 26 Aug 2002 21:33 PDT
Expires: 25 Sep 2002 21:33 PDT
Question ID: 58918
The title just about says it all -- Walt was a pretty thoroughgoing
intellectual property maximalist, but it seems that he didn't
trademark "Imagineer" or "Animatronic." Were these terms original to
Walt? Did he take out a trademark on them?
Subject: Re: Why didn't Disney trademark "Imagineer" or "Animatronic"? (Or did he?)
Answered By: alexander-ga on 27 Aug 2002 08:19 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
As pinkfreud points out, "Audio-Animatronics" is a registered
trademark. (filed 1964 in the US, first use 1961 according to ) According to the Oxford English Dictionary,
this was the original term Walt coined:

"1963 New Yorker 7 Sept. 108/2 Pretty soon, Walt's going to add onto
the Tahitian thing a place called the ‘Enchanted Tiki Room’..which
will be full of tikis and of what he calls ‘audioanimatronic’ talking
birds and flowers."

"1965 Pop. Electronics July 81/1 ‘Audioanimatronics’. This is the
jaw-breaking name given to Walt Disney's fantastic creatures that the fair."

For Imagineer, again the actual term attributed to Disney is slightly
different -- in this case, it's "Imagineering". This term was
trademarked (filed 1967, first use 1962) by "WED Enterprises". "WED"
stands for "Walter Elias Disney", and WED Enterprises (which built the
Disneyland attractions and sold them to Disney at cost) changed its
name to "Walt Disney Imagineering" in 1986. ( )

Request for Answer Clarification by doctorow-ga on 27 Aug 2002 19:05 PDT
Lemme know if this qualifies as a followup question:

My understanding is that WED was founded when Walt had a falling out
with his brother, Roy, about whether Disneyland should be built;
Disney Inc didn't bankroll the Park's production, Walt did, with
private investment.

Is the reason that the trademark filings in these cases (Imagineering
but not Imagineer, Audio-animatronics but not animatronic or
animatronics) that Walt was essentially on his own and not able to get
the kind of IP counsel that he would have gotten with the home

The legend goes that Walt was the creative guy and Roy was the biz guy
-- is Roy the one who took care of comprehensive trademarking?

Clarification of Answer by alexander-ga on 27 Aug 2002 23:32 PDT
I'm sorry, I couldn't find any information on why these trademarks
might have been taken out, or who may have been the driving force
behind doing so. (Other than the home company's legal department, of
course, and Gunther Lessing in particular. ( ) After the
parks were developed, I don't think the two companies were anti-social
to each other.) For more detailed information, you might want to try
posting a separate question, or consulting someone well-versed in
Disney history.
doctorow-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars

Subject: Re: Why didn't Disney trademark "Imagineer" or "Animatronic"? (Or did he?)
From: pinkfreud-ga on 26 Aug 2002 22:02 PDT
According to the International Trademark Association,
"Audio-Animatronics" is registered as a trademark:
Subject: Re: Why didn't Disney trademark "Imagineer" or "Animatronic"? (Or did he?)
From: bu_princess-ga on 15 Jul 2004 19:14 PDT
Walt was not on his own during any point during the development of disneyland.

While Roy Disney wasn't supportive of Disneyland from the beginning he
organized funding of the park and, along with Dick Irvine, traveled to
New York City in late 1953 to secure funding of the park from ABC. He
negiatiated a $500,000 initial investment and a series of guaranteed

In addition the term audio animatronic didn't emerge until 1961 with
the addition of the Enchanted Tiki Room to Disneyland.

WED was founded as a seperate company, fully owned by Walt Disney
himself, and not the Disney Company. It was founded 3 years before
Disneyland opened as a planning and development organization for
Disneyland. During those years before Disneyland opened Walt moved a
lot of his best artists and story men from the animation department
over to WED to help in the building of Disneyland. To Walts way of
thinking the "stories" he was telling at Disneyland were the same
types of "stories" his best guys from the animation department were
working on, only much bigger and in three dimensions.

Originally Walt wanted to name the company Walt Disney Incorporated,
but Roy Disney was concerned that the shareholders in Walt Disney
Productions (later The Walt Disney Company) would perceive a conflict
of interest between the two organizations and persuaded Walt to change
the name. (Building a Company - Roy Disney and the Creation of an
Entertainment Empire (c)1998 Bob Thomas p. 181)

From Disney A-Z (The Updated Official Encyclopedia) (1996):

"[WED Enterprises was the] design and development organization founded
by Walt Disney in December 1952, to help him create Disneyland. Walt
sold his interest in WED Enterprises to Walt Disney Productions in
February 1965. Originally at the Disney Studio in Burbank, WED moved
to facilities in Glendale in 1961. It later became known as Walt
Disney Imagineering (1986)."
Subject: Re: Why didn't Disney trademark "Imagineer" or "Animatronic"? (Or did he?)
From: shilodance-ga on 22 Feb 2005 09:26 PST
The term "Imagineering" was coined by Richard F. Sailer in an article
entitled "BRAINSTORMING IS IMAGINation enginEERING."  The article was
reprinted from the National Carbon Company Management Magazine and
copyrighted by the Union Carbine Company in 1957.  (I have a copy of
the original article in my possession.)  The term most likely migrated
to Disney through the association of Richard A. Conway, an official of
Union Carbine, and Gilbert F. Decker, who was a later v.p. of Walt
Disney Imagineering; Conway and Decker worked together on industrial
and government projects involving engineering design and chemical
warfare.  The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office lists the trademark
application for the term from WED Enterprises as July 11, 1967; the
first use of the term was claimed as April 1, 1962 (April Fool's Day,
no less), and the first use in commerce was claimed as July 1, 1962. 
The trademark is expired.

Sharon Andrews

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