Orange County Chapter

Program, December 2009

Behind the Scenes - A Software Manager's view of Disney

Monday, December 14, 7-9 pm

This month's presentation will be an overview of software development within the Scientific Systems Division of the Disney Company.

In 1965, the Walt Disney Company used the term 'animatronics' for a mechanically controlled figure with accompanying audio. From that point on, the Disney Company decided that computer control was the wave of the future and software made its way into the attractions at Disneyland and later Disney parks like Walt Disney World. Thus came about the Scientific Systems division of the Disney Company to handle all things software which were not business (you know, accounting, payroll, etc.) related - yeah, the fun stuff. This program is a history of such software as told from an inside view - that of the Vice President of Scientific Systems for The Disney Company during almost all of the division's existence. Covering theme park ride software to color matching for animators, Nick Mansur will discuss the development and use of software during the glory years at Disney.

From digital video tracking algorithm development to operating system design, from roller coaster control to distributed weapon fire control, Nick Mansur has been exposed to a wide variety of applications and technologies throughout his thirty-year career in the software industry. He's had the fortune to have worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory when Voyager launched to Jupiter and Viking landed on Mars, to have pioneered real-time distributed process control concepts at Honeywell, and to have been a member of a team that first applied computer technology to the process of creating animated feature films at Disney.

As Vice President, Scientific Systems at Walt Disney Imagineering, Nick was responsible for a division of over 100 engineers and support personnel tasked to design and sustain the software that controls and monitors Disney Theme Park attractions. During his 25-year tenure with Disney, Nick was involved at some level with almost every computer controlled ride, show, and guest-interactive system currently installed in a Disney Park. The next time you have the opportunity to ride down the icy slopes of the majestic Matterhorn, think of Nick: that's his software running the ride.

As an experienced leader in producing software systems for electro-mechanical applications, Nick is accomplished in directing, influencing, and motivating teams to deliver high-quality products and engineering services. Nick attributes his success to having built strong customer relationships, having developed high-quality engineering teams, and remaining focused on the "big picture".

Nick is currently employed at Boeing as Director, Avionics/Flight Controls/Support Equipment. He leads a group of 300+ systems, hardware, and software engineers in upgrading/enhancing the avionics and flight controls systems on the C-17 Globemaster III (the Air Force's newest airlift aircraft). An avid skier and accomplished musician, Nick holds a BS in Physics, a BS in Mathematics, and an MA in Applied Mathematics.

Back to the UUASC Orange County overview