Nancy Seruto, executive producer at Walt Disney Imagineering, is this year’s Buzz Price Thea Award recipient. This prestigious award is presented each year to an outstanding individual whose accomplishments represent the highest standard of excellence in the themed entertainment industry. She will be featured on Thursday, August 6 @ 8am Pacific in the first of a seven-part series of interactive digital sessions (series tickets) celebrating the 26th Thea Award Recipients as presented by the Themed Entertainment Association. The conversation with Nancy Seruto will be moderated by Phil Hettema, The Hettema Group. Live Design invites you to meet Seruto in this informative Q&A.
Live Design: What was your career path (in a nutshell) to being a creative producer for Disney Imagineering?
Nancy Seruto: I have had four phases in my career: First in theater, then managing a large design and fabrication firm, then running my own company, and ultimately my time at Imagineering. I am particularly grateful to have gotten my start in theater. Those who come from theater develop a broad range of creative and technical skills, and understand teamwork from the close collaboration that is core to the practice of theater. The unique pressure of live performance drives a certain excellence, which I feel has stuck with me throughout my career.
LD: What appeals to you most about the theme park industry and the creative process for park attractions?
NS: First and foremost, I love that what we do creates happiness for millions of people. There is no better feeling than watching a guest step off an attraction you helped bring to life and seeing or hearing their reaction. I also enjoy bringing together both the business and creative sides of what we do. A successful project needs to keep firmly rooted in the business needs, while understanding and reaching for the nuance of creative excellence, and what makes something great art. At Imagineering, we are able to bring together dozens of different disciplines to do just that.
LD: What does the Buzz Price Award represent for you?
NS: I feel honored to have received this award, as being recognized by my peers is one of the greatest rewards. It also represents the work of the many people who have taught me, inspired me and challenged me to be the best I can be – and I am thankful to the many talented and wonderful people I’ve worked with over my career. And of course, without the support of my husband and my family I could not have achieved so many things in my career.
LD: Do you think virtual events can replace the live experience, or a hybrid solution? what does the future hold in terms of VR, XR, AR, AI etc... in terms of Disney and new theme park experiences?
NS: There is a place for both. At Disney, we believe that technology should not be used for technology’s sake. Rather, it should be used to advance a story or better convey what you want audiences to feel—what you want them to take away from an experience. When it comes to immersing guests, it’s tough to compete with the full-scale physical worlds we create and for which we are known. That said, we continue to tell new stories and work to further immerse our guests in these stories. A curiosity about what can be achieved with new technologies runs deep in Imagineering DNA, and so we will continue to consider a variety of technologies to elevate the experiences we create.
LD: What is the most challenging project you have worked on for Disney and why?
NS: Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure at Shanghai Disney Resort was the most rewarding and most challenging project I have worked on at Disney. At a professional level, the project fundamentally challenged assumptions around process. It is a shared roadmap you all agree on and follow, that builds confidence phase by phase. But when one works globally, one can’t assume process is shared. Professionals in other regions of the world will have had their own histories and methods. So right there, you are thrown off kilter and forced to rethink. And in doing that, you learn to be flexible, to think on your feet, adapt and find a new way forward and new ways of collaborating and executing.