Joe Rohde announces his retirement from Walt Disney Imagineering

Nov 23, 2020 in "Disney's Animal Kingdom"

Legendary Imagineer Joe Rohde has announced his retirement from the Walt Disney Company.

Joe has made the following post on Instagram:

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.

Most recognized as the creator of Disney's Animal Kingdom, Joe will retire from the company after a 40 year career and creator of some of Imagineering's finest work - most recently as the lead on Pandora - The World of AVATAR. According to a post from fellow Imagineer Zach Riddley and current WDI lead for Walt Disney World, Joe will leave his position on January 4 2021.

Joe has most recently been serving as a Portfolio Creative Executive, reporting to Bob Weis, President Walt Disney Imagineering. In an Instagram post, Bob said:

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.

Discuss on the Forums
Article Posted: Nov 23, 2020 / 1:03pm ET
View all comments →

DCBaker17 days ago

OceanBlueDec 02, 2020

Oh thanks! I actually really like Adam Driver’s character in the last of the new films. I did laugh at how bad the casino scenes were in one of the new three though.

PrinceCharming617Dec 02, 2020

Gross ears, but he's a supergenius that has created many masterpieces.

po1998Dec 02, 2020

This exchange would have been funnier if you both had the same friends. 😂

The Empress LillyDec 02, 2020

Yes, that's another reason for the IP-ification. WDI is no longer a lifetime profession of Disney people. Designers switch back and forth between contractors. All parks and similar experiences use the same talent pool and design companies. And knowledge. All knowledge is out there, no longer hidden in the halls and archives and minds of WDI. Money is not a competitive advantage either. Disney's competition has got deep pockets too. Disney can't outspend them. So how can Disney compete if all else is equal? By having the best IP library. The new Disney difference. That, and having the IP in-house. UNI first pays to use Potter, while their parks then add value to an outside property. TWDC by contrast owns SW, their parks add value to the SW IP, while D+ adds value to the parks. All else being equal, TWDC makes more money from a IP driven experience than the competition, but not from a non-IP. (If one assumes this does not strengthen the Disney brand...)

MovieloverDec 02, 2020


the.dreamfinderDec 02, 2020

Or now work as independent contractors for them and others like Chimelong.

ParkerLoLsDec 01, 2020

Disney signed off and remained in charge after she was hired and showed exactly who she was. Who pays the bills? But let's blame it on the woman, as per usual. In any event, the movies absolutely sucked and the land they inspired is cold and antiseptic. Brilliant ride, however. that could just as easily have been done around the OT.

tirianDec 01, 2020

Yes, and that makes Tom Morris’ recent tweet even more sobering. Everyone is taking shortcuts, and there are very few who understand the holistic approach to Imagineering. I hope Super Nintendo World is a return to the Architecture of Reassurance, fully realized attractions, and kinetic life. I don’t care what company builds the land. People in that industry bounce around too much for me to be a devoted fanboy. ;)

WondersOfLifeDec 01, 2020

Have you ever ridden Fast & Furious or King Kong? They have their fair share of blunders, too.

networkproNov 30, 2020

There we go ;)

ParkerLoLsNov 30, 2020

Original trilogy, i.e. the good old days before Disney foisted this mess upon us.

OceanBlueNov 30, 2020

What is OT? Thx

ParkerLoLsNov 30, 2020