ROCKVILLE – Remi Jeffrey-Coker, a Gaithersburg native and student at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), placed first in the Walt Disney Imagineering’s 28th Imaginations Design Competition alongside her team.
Out of 280 submissions, the team from SCAD, along with six other finalists, were awarded trips to Walt Disney Imagineering in California, where they presented their project to Imagineering executives. Jeffrey-Coker and her teammates, Carolyn Tevez, Ezekiel Waters and Nicholas Hammond, also received $1,000, and a $1,000 grant was awarded to SCAD.
Imagineering is the research and development wing behind Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. It is a creative force that “dreams up, designs and builds all Disney theme parks, resorts, attractions, cruise ships, real estate developments and regional entertainment venues worldwide,” according to Imaginations’ website.
The theme that Disney chose this year was natural or ancient wonders, challenging teams to “(focus) on places that are difficult to enjoy because they are remote, inhospitable or no longer exist.”
Jeffrey-Coker and her team created a project titled “The Rose of Babylon,” a reimagination of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The design includes a botanical “inquisitorium” and a modern imagining of the Hanging Gardens where, according to Disney, “guests can bask in the glory of agriculture from around the world and actively contribute to the spread of resources and the growth of new life.”
“From the initial stages where we conceptualized early ideas, all the way to the final presentation, I problem-solved and drew the most compelling imagery I could to bring the story of The Rose of Babylon to life,” said Jeffrey-Coker.
Jeffrey-Coker had one of the largest roles in the project as main illustrator. Her imagery brought the story together as she directed the project visually from start to finish.
“My images tell the background story of Izdehar and her family, the educational and guest experiences throughout the attraction and the impact the Rose of Babylon has on the country of Iraq,” Jeffrey-Coker said.
According to her teammate Waters, the team initially chose the Hanging Gardens because of its beauty, but they soon became more interested in its history and culture, giving the project a deeper purpose.
“At first, we chose the Hanging Gardens of Babylon because of beautiful imagery associated with the ancient wonder; but as we did more research into the Gardens and its presumed location of Iraq, we became enthralled with the rich history of the nation and the diverse backgrounds of the people who live there,” said Waters. “We wanted to create an immersive experience that was entertaining and educational. We designed an experience that would lift the nation of Iraq and its people.”
Jeffrey-Coker echoed his sentiments, noting that in their research of Iraq, they discovered a diverse culture and ancient history, opting to highlight this part of its history as opposed to its current turmoil.
“This project gave us the opportunity to explore and share its rich history and to provide a new notable experience for the people of Iraq to proudly share with the rest of the world,” said Jeffrey-Coker.
The competition can be a gateway to future opportunities with Disney, with many winners becoming interns and working alongside Imagineers, professionals who help build the company’s various entertainment venues, according to Disney. Some competition winners become Imagineers themselves.
“Growing alongside my SCAD teammates to enhance our collaborative skills was one of the main successes of the project as collaboration is a huge part of the themed entertainment industry,” said Teves. “This experience is something that I will always cherish throughout the rest of my career, as it proved to me that all of our hard work and passion for the industry can truly pay off in the greatest ways.”