USC Upstate Grad Helped Create Magic at Shanghai Disneyland

June 16, 2016 at 8:55 am
Jonathan Wiley is greeted by his boss Mickey Mouse.

Jonathan Wiley is greeted by his boss Mickey Mouse.

As Disney opened Shanghai Disneyland Thursday, June 16, Jonathan Wiley was watching from Orlando, Fla. Knowing that he was part of creating the magic for this monumental day is exciting, he said.

Wiley, who graduated in May 2015, began working at Walt Disney World in Orlando just after graduation, but six months later he was on a plane to China to work at Shanghai Disneyland. The $5.5 billion resort, which took more than a year to construct, is Disney’s first on the Chinese mainland.

“It was a lot of hard work, but it was such a tremendous learning experience,” he said. “It’s a childhood dreamed that has turned into to the adventure of a lifetime.”

Wiley was assisting as a lighting designer and special project specialist for Walt Disney Imagineering Show Lighting.

“Often times I will ask myself why a designer makes certain decisions, but to actually be standing next to those designers and to ask them why was my favorite part,” Wiley said. “To be working alongside the people who designed the things that sparked my imagination as a kid was super rewarding.”

Shanghai Disney’s castle is the largest, and the tallest (197 feet), that Disney has ever built.

At the end of the job, Wiley said it was a great feeling to have Bob Iger, Disney’s chief executive, shake his hand and tell him “job well done.”

Prior to traveling to Shanghai, Wiley said they only time he had ventured out of the United States was a to visit Puerto Rico. Returning to Orlando just a few weeks ago, Wiley said he will never forget the experience.

“The Walt Disney Company has really invested in my professional development, so I could not be more grateful to them,” Wiley said. “It’s such a huge organization (motion pictures, animation studios, ABC Television, ESPN, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts) that it’s easy to fall in the cracks and be thought of as just a little fish in a big pond.”

Wiley is currently working as a creative entertainment lighting designer at The Walt Disney Company.