Joe Rohde, a veteran of the Disney Imagineering program whose official title is Executive Designer and Vice President, Creative, has informed that company that he will retire in January, according to a post from the official Disney Imagineering Instagram account. Rohde has worked on a number of notable projects during his time with the company, although he is likely best known as the brains behind Disney's Animal Kingdom, a zoological theme park at the Walt Disney World Resort. Disney's Animal Kingdom, which opened in 1998, is one of the most ambitious projects the Disney parks have undertaken in America since the construction of Walt Disney World in the '60s.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, Rohde has been with Disney since he began as a model builder during the development of Epcot, which was constructed in 1982. He was key to developing Pandora: The World of Avatar at Animal Kingdom following the success of James Cameron's record-shattering blockbuster.
"After an illustrious 40-year Imagineering career, Joe Rohde just shared his plan to retire on Jan. 4, 2021," said the post. "We can't thank Joe enough for his infectious passion, being an incredible teacher and mentor, and for inspiring generations of Disney Imagineers and guests from around the world."
You can see the post below.
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Rohde sounds like he may be retiring from Disney, but not disappearing entirely from the public eye. In comments to the local press, he admitted to there being more he wanted to create, and suggesting that he wanted to retire at a time that he was young enough to do it.
"I know this is going to sound weird for a 65-year-old person, but it's kind of like a coming-of-age moment. I have things to do that are different than this," Rohde told the Sentinel. "There are things I want to create, there are things I want to do. There’s only so much time in a lifetime to do these things."0comments
Rohde said that another factor in his decision is that he has a number of projects in the early stages of development right now, but that if they get moving, it can be five to seven years before some major Imagineering projects come to fruition and give him another window where his retirement would not hinder the parks.
"[Rohde's] 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," wrote Bob Weis, head of Disney Imagineering on his personal Instagram, adding, "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."