RUMOR: Multiple Imagineers Let Go in WDI Layoffs, Is Joe Rohde Among Them?

UPDATE: While no official word has been made as of yet, it does appear that Rohde and Fitzgerald may have not been among those let go in the massive layoffs. Once the dust actually settles on the WDI restructuring, we will provide you with more information.

Please keep in mind that WDWNT takes great strides to be among the first to bring you information as we hear it, so when a post says “RUMOR”, it should be taken as such. We are plugged into the fan community all-day, everyday to find the best information, and from time to time, a news tip from a reliable source may not end up being what is true. In the end, unless we confirm a story, or the Walt Disney Company has, we are trying our best to relay information to you and keep you “in the know”. I apologize to anyone who may have been offended by or takes exception to us running this story.

While normal following the completion of large projects from Walt Disney Imagineering, rumors suggest that over 200 Imagineers were let go in layoffs this week as part of a division-wide reorganization. With the completion of Shanghai Disneyland the design phase for upcoming large projects such as the Star Wars themed land, Disney Parks and Resorts would have no need for so many Imagineers to fill out a more limited list of projects. Apparently, some of the higher level layoffs were voluntary, but some of the bigger names in the WDI repertoire may be exiting when the dust has settled. Among the names rumored for exit are Tom Fitzgerald and Joe Rohde, two of the most prolific Imagineers of the last 30 years.


Rohde was instrumental in the creation of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Aulani, and the upcoming Pandora: The World of AVATAR at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Rohde was most recently put in charge of Marvel projects and is heading up Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout for Disney California Adventure. Joe’s resume most notably includes work on Captain EO, Epcot’s Mexico pavilion, Maelstrom, Disneyland’s New Fantasyland, the Adventurer’s Club, and Expedition Everest, just to name a few. His exit from the company will not be immediate as he will complete the AVATAR project before what should be an earlier-than-expected retirement.

As always with rumors, they are not official in any way until confirmed, and it is possible that Rohde and Fitzgerald are not involved in the layoffs.

33 thoughts on “RUMOR: Multiple Imagineers Let Go in WDI Layoffs, Is Joe Rohde Among Them?”

  1. This might be some of the most irresponsible reporting I’ve seen. You don’t “print” a story with the main premise being a “Rumor”. Yes, I understand that imagineers were let go, but to attach the most prominent name as Rumor is lazy. Find out and confirm — and then publish. Dumb sensationalism.

    • It was actually the first name I was told and comes from a very good source, thus why we are running it. If you don’t agree with our writing, don’t read it.

      • Tom, would you care to comment on how your “irresponsible reporting” might have inadvertently contributed to dramatic, fire-and-brimstone, life-threatening situations all around the World — like an alien running amok in Tomorrowland and a band of pirates taking over a boat ride in Adventureland?

      • I see nothing wrong with your article, Tom. You’ve done what you always do… Post on a blog what you’ve heard. As for the title and throwing in a recognizable name… It’s what EVERY news source does. Report away, Tom! I enjoy your posts!!! It’s easy for anonymous armchair critics to be so judgemental.

  2. Wow Tom! Your responses to the comments are pretty arrogant. I also agree this is poor reporting and what is completely wrong with “journalists” today.

    • Gimme a break.

      No one’s forcing them to read the article, which (as others have already astutely pointed out) states quite clearly that it’s a rumor from the get-go.

      Second, if you’re going to be so bold as to provoke the writer–and YES, it is most definitely provoking when you throw around things like “irresponsible reporting”, “dumb sensationalism”, “bad form”, “arrogant”, etc.–well, then don’t be so surprised when the writer tells you in so many words to GO FLY A KITE! It’s really the simple.

      Just because you personally don’t agree with it, doesn’t make you the authority on journalism, which, by the way, is hilarious since you’re the one calling HIM arrogant, HA! I LOL’d.

      Anyway, breaking information in general, whether it be confirmed or just part of the rumor mill, IS NEWS, and thus has every right to be reported, regardless of who may find it offensive/relevant or not.

      • It’s called credibility, and he’s lost an awful lot of it trying to be first rather than correct. Proper reporting happens at quality sites. This is reporting at it’s worse, and will reflect poorly on the site whenever they try to get any interviews or information.

          • If that was the case he would never be wrong.

            If you choose to be a type of site that writes every rumour possible, you need to learn how to take criticism when you are 100% wrong. Otherwise, do what reputable sites do and only post actual facts.

  3. Considering the article starts with RUMOR: , PPL getting their shorts in a wad. I appreciate the article, Disney is going off the rails. Maybe they just cut off all the handles on their imagineers instead of laying them off. Nice responses Tom, keep up the good work.

  4. The first word of this article is “RUMOR” in all caps. I think he could have framed it as, “According to a source close to the situation, Tom Fitzgerald and Joe Rohde are among the imagineers being offered early retirement packages” or something like that. Regardless, if you don’t subscribe to rumors, then don’t click the story. I see nothing wrong here.

    • In addition, if you search “Rumor” on this site, there’s a pretty decent percentage of “RUMOR” posts that end up being correct.

  5. As a former Imagineer who knows both gentlemen, I agree it is inappropriate to pass this kind of rumor on. It is best left to the conspiracy crowd on MiceChat.

  6. If you find Tom arrogant clearly this is your first visit to WDWNT. As for the Layoffs, I saw yesterday that were roughly 200 layoffs from WDI. This a news site not just your typically lifestyle blogger page for advice and touring the parks. If you want touring advice and pictures go elsewhere.

  7. Toms article is spot on. Great reporting! The idiots who think Disney isn’t firing and cutting back anything that makes a visit to Disney theme parks fun or safe is dilusionable. These talents cost money and they’ve already cut thousands of positions…its impacts are obvious to guests. Full capacity days with half try styles open. 1/10th cleaning staff. Areas closed so guests are hurled into fewer spaces. Illumination of seating areas and benches to pack in more. Disney used to create while still making a buck off visitors. No more. It’s a profit center only with little regard for the experiences anymore.

  8. I appreciate hearing rumors concerning Disney.
    But you’d expect someone with so much knowledge on the subject to be aware of how ridiculous & stupid this is.
    What was going on in your head when printing this?

    A full apology, not this “if you don’t like it, don’t read it” crap is what’s needed to restore credibility.


    • Not ridiculous at all Jeff. Very credible site. Good reporting if you ask some here, including me, this is all very well known to cast members behind the scene. YOU AIN’T SEEN NOTHING YET!! The cut-backs we’re hearing of will astound the most avid park fans. A few I am aware of as fact, expect an hour+ wait for trams and busses, they’re not repairing them as they break if expensive, and no plans to replace them. Premiere parking is a hit, expect parking to be north of $100/day in a few short years if you’re not staying on property. Parking at resorts will be all pay (whether dining or not) And some worried about imagineers going away as a cut back. Wait until you’re waiting 3 hours to get in the park, and price is tripled, and no fast pass times mysteriously available unless you spend $1000/week or are at long stays on deluxe property, and expensive attractions running on limited days and hours to cut staffing. It’s coming soon!!!! Most of the Disney crowd doesn’t care. They like you will defend it til the end.

        • Lame post Paul. Rhode might not be gone yet, but it’s well public that Disney has let many of their imagineers go, as well as many departments related to safety and quality of product.

  9. *IF* Disney has indeed let Joe Rohde go, I think it’s safe to assume the imagination has been dried up and dusted away over in Imagineering. I’ll be curious to see how this pans out as I have some Disney stock I’ve been considering moving over to Comcast.

  10. I was just watching a couple of masterpieces; Cinderella and Pinocchio.
    The gracefulness, and care that it took to make these movies feel downright healing. The faces are graceful. There are are no abnormal pop out eyeballs, or huge heads. No latex look to the skin.

    Which is a sad time indeed that the Disney company has yet again taken the bean counter view and may let go of the imagineers that have the most experience.
    I hope that they reconsider.

    If not, all we can look forward to is the same inferior product. They all have that same plastic-face-doll syndrome. Some are so exaggerated they look downright creepy. We will see if folks keep paying premium prices for inferior products.

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