BREAKING: Legendary Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde is Retiring

Tom Corless

Updated on:

BREAKING: Legendary Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde is Retiring

Tom Corless

Updated on:

BREAKING: Legendary Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde is Retiring

Joe Rohde, the legendary Imagineer who brought to life Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Pandora: The World of AVATAR, Aulani in Hawaii, and so much more, has announced his retirement from Disney after 40 years in the industry. His last day with the company will be January 4th, 2021.

Joe Rohde

Shared by Walt Disney Imagineering President Bob Weis on Instagram:

Joe Rohde is a real life adventurer—in life, in art, and in work. Whether trekking across the mountains of Mongolia on an expedition to raise awareness for snow leopard conservation, or leading project teams from Animal Kingdom to Aulani to Pandora, Joe fully embodies the true spirit of adventure and exploration. He approaches these experiences, not as a tourist, but with curiosity, respect, and purpose. ⁣⁣
Joe has committed forty years to bringing dynamic, inventive, and diverse projects to Disney parks. While he is widely renowned for his unmatched expertise across numerous creative disciplines, he’s also an expert in every facet of leading and managing our projects, from setting the vision to feasibility, design and execution. His unyielding commitment to excellence across all aspects of projects, and his demand for authenticity and including diverse, indigenous cultures in design and production, are hallmarks of his projects and what differentiate them from all others.⁣⁣
Today, Joe announced his plans to retire from the company, and while I respect and accept his decision, I know he will remain part of our Imagineering family, a mentor to our current and future generation, and certainly the best example to our worldwide audience of what it is to be an Imagineer.

Joe has since taken to his personal Instagram account to share the following:

I’m sure by now many of you have come across the news that I am retiring from Walt Disney Imagineering. It has been 40 years since I stepped foot in the door at age 25, not knowing anything about theme parks, Disney, or what it meant to work for a big company. Every day of my life since then has been a learning experience. I’m very glad to have had that opportunity, and proud of the work that has been done, not just by me, but by all my fellow Imagineers, and especially those who worked by my side over the decades. But 40 years is a long time, and this strange quiet time seems like a great opportunity to slip away without too much disruption. If I wait, I will once again be in the middle of another huge project and by the time that is done, I would be truly old. I’m not that old yet and there are things I want to do that cannot be done here. We encourage a culture of storytellers, not just amongst ourselves but among our guests and our fans, and because of this, there is a strong temptation to take this moment and turn it into a story. But what story? I think it’s a coming of age story. I started at Disney as a child, and I learned almost all my life lessons there, developed my confidence, recognized my skills and weaknesses, and went on to work with both… and do what could be done. I could stay forever, but that is like remaining in another kind of womb. I want to see what a grown man might be able to do on his own. This site here is not really for Disney. It’s for us. I imagine that there are many of you who I will be sad that I will no longer be a daily part of the Disney company, and there will be some of you who will drift away and no longer follow my ruminations because they feel they aren’t relevant. But I will still be here. And I will still be thinking about things, and doing things, and talking about things… Because that’s kind of what I do. I mentioned in my departure note and I will mention here again the tremendous debt that I owe to our guests and our fans who have been so generous. Working as an Imagineer has made me a good designer, but it is all of you who have made me a better person.

Joe’s long list of projects that he worked on includes (to name just a few):

  • Mexico in World Showcase at EPCOT
  • Disneyland’s New Fantasyland 1983
  • Captain EO
  • The Adventurer’s Club on Pleasure Island
  • Festival Disney at Disneyland Paris
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom
  • Expedition Everest: Legend of the Forbidden Mountain
  • Aulani
  • Villages Nature at Disneyland Paris
  • Pandora: The World of AVATAR at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
  • Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission Breakout at Disney California Adventure

We here at would like to thank Joe for all the creativity he gave us over his incredible career. Our lives would be very different without his tremendous contributions to the Disney parks and resorts around the world.

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12 thoughts on “BREAKING: Legendary Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde is Retiring”

  1. wonder if Joe resigned in protest , when Bob Chapek approached him with the idea of converting Dinoland USA to wakanda

  2. Really sad news for Disney parks fans everywhere, but he is leaving one hell of a legacy. But now he’s going, who will fix the Yeti? 😂

    • The Yeti only broke down because of his love for Joe Rohde.
      he loved his company, they were probably best friends.
      The Yeti will miss him the most… :(

  3. Speechless. I honestly hope he becomes a voice of rebellion against the penny pinching, pointless greed, Orwellian branding, and cult of personality that has hamstrung and largely ruined what was once one of the most creative collectives in all of industry.

  4. A well deserved retirement, though I am now afraid this means there is nobody with any creativity left in Imagineering to stand up to Chapek. heck, with all the layoff’s is there anyone left in Imagineering, besides people who came from Consumer Products?

  5. My7 fist day at Imagineering was filled with unannounced projects. One of the most investing was the idea to transform a section of the Lake Buena Vista Shopping Center into a night club district. The most fascinating idea was something odd and exciting with the working title of “Adventurers Club.” time & Steve Kirk showed their idea for the totally immersive “SafarI ADVENTURE.” Then a delightful verbs, young man told us the tale of the “Death or Chi-Chi.” It was Joe Rohde and I liked hime at “Hello.” We became friends in a small mutual admiration society that melded our complimentary talents. We went on to collaborate, mind-meld, road trip and create together. Cruising the aisles of the monthly Rose Bowl Flea Market, scouting artifacts, furnishings, and props for our beloved Adventurers Club was just ONE of so many joyous “Behind the Dreams” times during my years at Imagineering. Joe’s contribution to theme park design and Disney parks specifically will live of for decades. Though he may no loanger directly design new Disney Experiences, His inspiration and mentoring of current Imagineers will produce experiences we will all love. Imagineering moved forward after WALT died, after Claude Cotes, Marty Sklar, and Tony Baxter RETIRED.They we create grand new “things” in their “Post-Rohde” era. No Disney top execs can slow Imagineerings indefatigable energy and enthusiasm. I am CERTAIN there have already been brainstorming session at WDI in which some has said, “What would Joe do?”

  6. Seems like only yesterday Joe was in my chemistry classroom at Chaminade! And yes he was a bit of a legend there too.

  7. Rumor has it he was one of the 28,000 layoffs and they are trying to spin it as him resigning/retiring to keep up a good image. Not surprising when there were rumors of him being let go in 2016.

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