Imagineer Joe Rohde to Headline Disney and Urbanism Conference in Los Angeles

Imagineer Joe Rohde to Headline Disney and Urbanism Conference in Los Angeles

“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.

Joseph Rohde BFA Occidental College 1977

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.

Craig Svonkin is an Associate Professor of English at Metropolitan State University of Denver. He has also contributed A Southern California Boyhood in the Simu-Southland Shadows of Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room for the anthology Disneyland and Culture: Essays on the Parks and Their Influence and From Disneyland to Modesto: George Lucas and Walt Disney for Myth, Media, and Culture in Star Wars.
Meredith Drake Reitan is currently a lecturer at USC’s Sol Price School of Public Policy teaching classes on planning and urban design as well as a graduate seminar on the Theory and Practice of Public Space. This fall she will be teaching the planning program’s gateway urban design course: Shaping the Built Environment.
Eric Avila is an urban cultural historian, studying the intersections of racial identity, urban space, and cultural representation in twentieth century America. Since 1997, he has taught Chicano Studies and History at UCLA. and holds an affiliation with the Department of Urban Planning. His latest book, The Folklore of the Freeway: Race and Revolt in the Modernist City, was published by the University of Minnesota Press in 2014.
Sam Gennawey holds a unique point of view, built on his professional training as an urban planner and his deep knowledge of theme parks. He is the author The Disneyland Storyand Universal versus Disney: The Unofficial Guide to American Theme Parks’ Greatest Rivalry. He has garnered speaking invitations from Walt Disney Imagineering, the Walt Disney Family Museum,  the American Planning Association, the California Preservation Foundation, and scores of organizations big and small. He is a senior associate at the planning firm of Katherine Padilla and Associates. Gennawey is also the author of Walt and the Promise of Progress City.
The program is free, but ticketing is required through Eventbrite.
Tickets are limited at this point in time.


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