PHOTOS: Joe Rohde Marks Final Day as a Disney Imagineer; Donates Work Boots to Walt Disney Archives

Matthew Soberman


PHOTOS: Joe Rohde Marks Final Day as a Disney Imagineer; Donates Work Boots to Walt Disney Archives

After four decades of creating memorable Disney Parks experiences, Joe Rohde, one of the most prolific Imagineers is marking his last day at Disney. But on his way out, he left the company a gift.


Joe Rohde shared this picture on his Instagram account, sharing a toast with his family to commemorate the day. He also expressed his ambitions for his life after Disney in the post:

Well. This is it. I will be just Joe Rohde, creative guy, after today. I still plan to work some, but in new areas and new mediums, and I’d also like to just paint. I heard that the postponed Explorers Club expedition to Nunavut, way up north, is back on, so I can prepare for next August when that will happen. Since November when I announced my retirement from Imagineering, I’ve received lots of very nice congratulations and testimonials from people for whom my work has made a difference. That is gratifying and I’m very thankful to all. People have also warned me about feeling bored by retirement… but I truly have so many deferred projects that I know I cannot complete them all in any rational amount of time I may have. Books. Paintings. Sculptures. Plays. Chores. Expeditions, and time to spend with my wife Melody, whom I met when we were still in school and who has been with me through all of this huge adventure…and with my boys, now grown young men starting their own careers. As much as I have enjoyed my work, and the joy it has brought to so many…my family has always been my first and greatest love. Last night we all got together (only one lives off the Rohde campus right now) we raised our glasses and toasted. .. “Here’s to forty years.”


Meanwhile, Imagineer Zach Riddley shared the gift on his own Instagram account. To cap off his career, Rohde donated his pair of work boots, which he wore on every project he worked on, to The Walt Disney Archives. Riddley also mused on Rohde’s impact, sharing:

Joe Rohde is many things – painter, historian, conservationist, Imagineer, mentor and – most meaningfully – a friend. And that friendship goes to my first days at Imagineering. I met Joe like so many – in the midst of a project. He and his team were working on the design that would become Expedition Everest. My first meeting with Joe he pulled out a clay model he was sculpting to show the team how the rock work of the mountain would be positioned, leading and teaching while his hands moved the clay around the wireframe of the mountain, balancing craft and budget in each movement. In that moment it was clear to me what made Joe such a special Imagineer – leading a creative effort with both sides of his brain at once.

In the years since I have shared many meetings and personal conversations with Joe. He always made time to connect and discuss our work and our world – and I left every one of those conversations with a greater appreciation for what our work brings to the world. And greater respect for what it means to lead teams by example. 

Joe always followed his projects to the field. He led from concept to opening day, and fun fact that I learned just recently – Joe wore the same work boots for ALL of his projects, he’d just resole them when needed. That’s what you see in the pictures here – with names of each completed project scribbled on the side, capturing history in the making. 

Joe has donated these boots – that touched the ground during some of our most iconic endeavors – to the Walt Disney Archives. They will preserve these boots for future generations of Disney Imagineers, fans and historians. 

Thank you Joe for teaching us how to be better stewards of this world and how to create experiences that entertain, educate and inspire. No one can fill your boots, but we are ready to continue the legacy of curiosity and courage that defines your designs and teams. 

I can’t wait to see what you do next my friend.


Thanks to a close up, we can see some of the projects written on the boots, including EPCOT’s Norway Pavilion, Pleasure Island, Disney’s Animal Kingdom and related projects Asia, Chester & Hester’s Dino-Rama, Expedition Everest and Pandora: The World of Avatar, as well as Aulani, Disney’s resort in Hawaii.

We at WDWNT salute Rohde on forty years of creating projects that have captivated Disney fans around the world.

2 thoughts on “PHOTOS: Joe Rohde Marks Final Day as a Disney Imagineer; Donates Work Boots to Walt Disney Archives”

  1. Under Avatar it says DAK Expansion. What is this? This is a chronological list and as far as I know there’s been no construction at DAK since Avatar!

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