“I don’t believe there is a challenge anywhere in the world that’s more important to people everywhere than finding solutions to the problems of our cities.” – Walt Disney.
A natural outcropping of Walt Disney’s interest in his guests’ interactions with the built environments of Disneyland was a curiosity about Urban Planning and how the quality of everyday modern life could similarly be affected.
The early planning and execution of the Walt Disney World Resort, and the scoping of the planned Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT) was undertaken with what might be call Epcot Principals (advanced drainage technology, pneumatic trash disposal, and an advanced sewage treatment process using water hyacinths to clean wastewater by absorbing the effluent).
Disney Theme Parks globally now include sizable upscale shopping villages that compete favorably with some of the world’s most productive retail centers, bringing a more urban atmosphere closer to the turnstiles.
Are the Parks and Resorts a laboratory for the public’s interaction with the built environment? Does the strong commercial culture eclipse the ethos of urbanism or create it’s own Market Urbanism?
On Saturday, November 4, questions of this type may be asked and answered when Occidental College of Los Angeles presents the Disney and Urbanism Conference under the auspices of its Institute for the Study of Los Angeles. Occidental has empanelled an experienced and diverse panel including discussion leader:
Joe Rohde the Executive Designer and Vice President, Creative at Walt Disney Imagineering. He is also an Occidental College graduate with a degree in Fine Arts. He is the lead designer of Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and Aulani on Oʻahu, in Hawaii. Recent projects include Pandora – The World of Avatar, a themed area inspired by James Cameron’s Avatar, located within the Animal Kingdom park.
Rohde joined Imagineering in 1980 during the development of Epcot as a model designer and scenic painter. He later worked as a designer at Disneyland on The New Fantasyland, the Captain EO 3-D film attraction starring singer Michael Jackson, the Norway Pavilion at Epcot and the Adventurers Club within the Pleasure Island entertainment district at the Walt Disney World Resort.
Most recently, Rohde led the team that transformed the former Tower of Terror at Disney California Adventure into Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout. This new project is part of the expansion of his role to global creative leader of the Marvel properties integration into the Disney Parks and Resorts.
Other panelists include:
Todd James Pierce is the author of Three Years In Wonderland, a detailed creation story of Disneyland. He is also the host and current producer of the DHI podcast which consistently presents a deep view of the history of Disneyland and other historical events within the Walt Disney Company.
He is also the author of the novel, The Australia Stories and the story collection, Newsworld, which won the Drue Heinz Literature Prize and was a finalist for the John Gardner Book Award and the Paterson Prize. He is a widely published magazine contributor and co-directs the Creative Writing program at Cal Poly University.
Pierce has interviewed over 100 men and women who worked in animation and outdoor amusements during the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s.
Jeremiah B.C. Axelrod has taught courses in urban history, restaurant culture, and Disneyland and Urbanism. He is the author of the book, Inventing Autopia: Dreams and Visions of the Modern Metropolis in Jazz Age Los Angeles. Claiming his Ph.D. in American History from the University of California, Irvine, he is also the founding partner in two Internet-based technology start-ups focusing on the distribution of independent popular music to consumers.
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