Disney Imagineering offers rare glimpse of new inventions

WalletPop was given rare access to Walt Disney Imagineering, the Los Angeles-area think tank where creative and technical geniuses invent new gizmos for the Disney theme park and cruise ship empire. Almost no non-Disney people are admitted. There's a strict no-camera policy, and all guests are badged and escorted through the drafting offices and black-curtained testing rooms, lest any trade secrets seep out and wreck that famous Disney "magic."

So why as I invited? In January, Disney Cruise Line will launch its first new ship in more than a decade, the Disney Dream. Building a fresh 4,000-passenger ship from beam to beam has opened the door to new entertainment inventions. It also means the Mouse needs to fill a lot more cabins than it has in the past, and a simple way to do that is to drum up excitement for the one-of-a-kind amusements in store for this new family vacation destination.

Although any of these inventions -- all of which are included in the price of a cruise -- could be adapted and retro-fitted into the two existing Disney ships, the Magic and the Wonder, don't count on it happening soon. The modern cruise industry is all about the promotion of the newest and the coolest, and by having these inventions exclusively, the Dream will guarantee it fills its staterooms, and makes its money back, first.

Disney has already announced a 765-foot deck-top water slide, Aquaduck, but the line isn't nearly done rolling out the hype. At the Imagineering campus in Glendale, and at a second anonymous-looking warehouse facility near Burbank airport, the Imagineers unveiled their latest works-in-progress. Here's what those entertainment wizards are concocting for the Dream: