Imagining the Future: Owen Yoshino

Owen Yoshino excitedly shows off his young son’s scribbles which he turns into amazing works of art every day. Of course, these are not just any works of art, they have been finessed by the creative director and principal concept designer at Walt Disney Imagineering.

Yoshino says, “I bought my son an easel for his first birthday.  Half a year later, he started drawing on it using crayons.  I've been embellishing his scribbles by drawing over them, interpreting his lines with my imagination.  We've been doing this collaborative art for almost two years now, creating more than 400 unique pieces which I've been posting (almost daily) on Instagram.  My ultimate hope is to have our roles reversed someday, whereas I'll do the scribbles and he'll complete the pieces by drawing over them.” Adopted in 2012, Yoshino’s son is from Fukuoka, Japan, and is becoming an artist by 'osmosis'.  “Although we're not genetically related, he is showing us his talents and signs of expressions through art.  I don't have any expectations for him to become an artist like his parents, but we just want him to understand, appreciate, and embrace the importance of art; on how it moves us and influences all of our lives daily.”

Walt Disney once said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” Yoshino, who grew up in Japan and Lahaina, Maui, has certainly lived by that motto. At Walt Disney Imagineering, he has designed for rides and attractions such as Space Mountain and the Disneyland 50th Anniversary Celebration, in addition to “Themed Entertainment Association” award-winning projects such as Mission: Space, Pirates of the Caribbean, Buccaneer Gold at Disney Quest, and Millennium Village at Epcot.

It was the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa that initially provided the path to Disney. Yoshino says it was “the support that UH Mānoa gave to the Disney Imaginations program that really gave me the opportunity to connect with the company.” He participated in this highly competitive program and came in second place in the nation with his ride concept “Dreamspell” created with students from the School of Architecture and the College of Engineering. It also landed Yoshino a six-month internship in the graphic design department of Walt Disney Imagineering.

Yoshino says that “one of the great things about UHM and the fine arts program is that there are two paths, one focused on style and visuals and the other focused on the conceptual. I took the conceptual path and I was so grateful to the instructors who pushed us to think about what we were trying to express.”

He fondly remembers instructors such as Karen Kosasa who encouraged him throughout his studies as he worked toward the completion of a Bachelor of Fine Arts majoring in Graphic Design.

Since his UH Mānoa days, Yoshino has also gone on to work at companies such as Sega Gameworks and Universal Creative, but it was Walt Disney Imagineering that he ultimately returned to. He says that he is “constantly challenged and inspired by his colleagues” and that it is “exciting to work with the people who are at the top of their game, focused on telling stories and working together toward the one goal of creating the ultimate in guest experiences.”

Yoshino’s most recent and celebrated triumph was the opening of “Stitch Encounter” an interactive exhibit at Tokyo Disneyland which allows audience members to talk to Stitch in real time. Just like Stitch, this UHM alumnus has found his ʻohana at Walt Disney Imagineering.

University of Hawai‘i Alumni