Imagineer Joe Rohde Reflects on 40-Year Career
Joe Rohde will retire next week after a 40-year long career as a Disney Imagineer.
Rohde worked his way through Walt Disney Imagineering from an uncertain model builder to a confident concept illustrator and eventually the head of design teams for some of Disney’s most amazing attractions.
His wildly creative design philosophy is rooted in natural exploration and adventure – and a little rebelliousness. He never just wanted to entertain Disney guests, he wanted to tell an authentic story with his work. Design teams traveled the world for inspiration with Rohde at the helm. (Animal Kingdom has tens of thousands of relics brought back from far corners of the world.)
“I would spend sometimes down to every penny of my savings.”
Rohde’s passionate description of his projects elevated Disney storytelling from fantasy to a broader, worldwide narrative. That deep passion – and his signature drooping ear full of treasures – made him the inadvertent “face of engineering” over the last decade.
Reflections of an Imagineer
The recognizable engineer sat down with press recently to offer an introspective look back on some of his career achievements.
Rohde recounts mountain biking around the Animal Kingdom Savanna, how he became interested in art as a child, and why the world’s most expensive roller coaster really shouldn’t work. His introspective interview can be found at The Orange County Register.
A brief overview of Joe Rohde’s biggest Disney contributions:
Animal Kingdom – Rohde and his team spent 8 years developing and shepherding a world that most didn’t see as creatively or financially viable.
Expedition Everest – Six year and $100 million to realize. A physics marvel, even to Joe Rohde.
Aulani: A Disney Resort and Spa – Layers of cultural significance were woven into the resort’s design, many stemming from Rohde’s childhood on the islands.
Pandora – The World of Avatar – A world of mythical creatures rooted in modern technology floating amid the Hallelujah Mountains. A fantastical goal of Rohde’s, finally realized.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout – Rohde’s last major Imagineering project converted an iconic ride into a mainstream fan favorite on an unrealistic timeframe.
Rohde recognizes how powerful his creativity and somewhat renegade outspokenness have been to his career.
“If you want to do this work — if you want somebody to hand you truckloads of money and power — you need to be that person who is capable of being entrusted with that…with dignity, integrity, self respect and reliability. And still be creative. I’d rather be remembered for those lessons than as a tiger in a boardroom… ” – Joe Rohde.
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