Joe Rohde announces his retirement from Walt Disney Imagineering

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

Posted: Monday November 23, 2020 1:03pm ET by WDWMAGIC Staff

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.

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Smiley/OCDFeb 24, 2021

Uh, I had to do it

larryzFeb 24, 2021

Uh, you just put them in one...

JoeCamelFeb 24, 2021

Have been in a 'mind your own business" HOA for 20 years, newcomers want to run things so I'm out. Anyone want to buy a house in the country? 1 hour to the world on I-4

Smiley/OCDFeb 24, 2021

That's why homeowners association and me are 3 words that will NEVER be in the same sentence...

yensidtlaw1969Feb 23, 2021

That’s the problem - Stitch’s thing was a beautiful castle covered in Toilet Paper. It’s *about* to become a severely sunburnt castle covered in gold toilet paper, with another awkward medallion placed over the architectural center of the building. Not to mention the TP only lasted one day (one day too many, for sure).

tirianFeb 23, 2021

Whatever happens, some of the online forums will breathlessly defend it, especially Al Lutz’s old place that somehow stumbles on.

DVCakaCarlFFeb 23, 2021

That in itself is a disaster. DVC

tirianFeb 23, 2021

Worse than Stitch’s Toilet Paper castle? Well...given how the entire thing is uglified right now...yeah.

SirwalterraleighFeb 23, 2021

Blood letting is always good for Wall Street (since it no longer is about actual production and product sales)

HarperRoseFeb 23, 2021

The timing of the 50th is coincidental. It's more about hoarding money due to the pandemic.

SirwalterraleighFeb 23, 2021

Of course there is, silly

SirwalterraleighFeb 23, 2021

Well I’m gonna have to respectfully disagree here. The late Eisner cheap parks are a well documented disaster. But DAK caused those as much as it was a “victim” That park was horribly overbudget and opened with next to nothing. Not nearly the park it needed to be. And WDI didn’t “bail it out” - make lemons out of lemonade - as much as they dug a hole and asked for a rope from the top. That actually leads us back to the topic. So its a mixed bag on that one. Disney was actually very financially stable at the time. Ray Watson was the de facto mover and shaker... But they were “stale”...they needed new leadership...and it flew into town on a rocket. Ron Miller’s (who isn’t fairly judged) main qualification didn’t have anything to do with skills or acumen.

KBLovesDisneyFeb 23, 2021

Well, that is just wrong. "Oh, we are having our big party next year! Oh but you long timers are not invited. In fact, just leave."

LilofanFeb 23, 2021

Correct. Having to meet with the "committee" regarding violations is like being called to the principal's office in high school.