Outposter Creativityishard/KK takes a break from being a massive Marvel geek and instead becomes a massive Disney geek to share some news about a man whose work we have maybe enjoyed without realizing it. An Imagineer of myth and legend. Perhaps the greatest Imagineer?

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You Know My Name

Do you know the name Joe Rohde? Do you know how to pronounce that name? No? That’s weird because if you’ve been to a Disney park in the last forty years you know him.

Joseph Rohde first started at the Disney organization in 1980 as a model designer and scenic painter in Epcot. He then worked as a designer for the 1980s refurbishment of Disneyland’s Fantasyland in Anaheim, California leading to his work for the Captain EO attraction with Michael Jackson.

To see some of the creative weirdness on display as part of Captain EO, check this out:

The story of the conception of the Captain EO attraction is as strange as some of the content itself. The always excellent Defunctland has the story here:

Joe Rohde’s reputation grew. After working on several key attractions at Epcot, Rohde was appointed as the lead designer of Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida. He was the creative force behind Expedition Everest in the Animal Kingdom Park. He went on to help recreate Pandora from the Avatar movies.

I do not like Avatar, the movie, and I think it feels like such a waste of creative energy and funds. Even now the character design feels flawed and the computer imagery doesn’t allow for a complete seamless exploration of the relationship in that movie for it to make sense. It’s Fern Gully in space without the genius of Robin Williams.

But the theme park experience Joe Rohde helped create? Wow! He made a sci-fi alien planet come to life. It’s right there in Florida, and it’s totally convincing. No small feat!

Rohde also helped lead the creative design of Disney’s timeshare resort Aulani, bringing Lilo And Stitch to life and into the Hawaiian property.

The feel of that movie, it’s design and it’s music just resonates completely throughout the resort.

Joe’s formal title at this time was Executive Designer and Vice President, Creative.

In 2017 Joe helped re-theme Disney’s California Tower of Terror to be Guardians of the Galaxy-Mission: Breakout! This area of the Disney’s California Adventure park used to be my home away from home. So when they changed the old Hollywood vibe of the area I was disappointed. However that area of the park is now being completely re-modelled as the Avengers Campus. Basically Marvel-Town!

And who is running the creative show over there? This time with the title of Global Creative Leader Of The Marvel Property? You guessed it. Joe Rohde.

Dance off! Sweet moves! Did Star Lord have a moustache?

In November of 2020 Joe announced he was going to retire. He was 65 years old. He had earned that. His retirement was effective 1/4/2021. A sad loss to the world of Disney Creative though. An Imagineer for the ages.

That isn’t the end of his creative story though. Clearly being retired did not suit a mind as free flowing as Rohde’s. That retirement was entirely short lived. Joe Rohde is teaming up with Virgin Galactic to take us to space!

Joe took on the role as experience architect for when Virgin makes the jump into space travel! The legendary Imagineer jumped from Anacrime, I mean Anaheim, to the final frontier! So all those awesome experiences he helped create in the Disney parks, he’s going to use the same creative energy to design your space voyage.

Virgin recently launched into the cruising industry right before the pandemic shuttered the industry. Their boats were kid free, had innovative styles, and a champagne button that you could press to get endless bubbles anywhere on the boat whenever you wanted. Virgin has two boats currently.

So the idea for them to get into the space hospitality industry? Crazy but cool! Virgin Galactic test flights are ongoing ahead of a full service launch.

Does going into space with Virgin and Joe Rohde shape your experience sound like something you’d be into?