Joe Rohde to Retire from Walt Disney Imagineering

November 23, 2020, 2:57 PM · The professor is leaving his classroom.

Imagineer Joe Rohde on Instagram today announced his retirement next year from Walt Disney Imagineering, closing a 40-year run in which he oversaw hit projects including Disney's Animal Kingdom, Pandora: The World of Avatar, Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout, and the Aulani resort in Hawaii.

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A post shared by Joe Rohde (@joerohde)

WDI President Bob Weis honored Joe in a post of his own.

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A post shared by Bob Weis (@bobweis)

While Joe's designs have engaged and thrilled millions of fans from around the world, he perhaps has left an even greater legacy within the industry for his thoughtful advocacy of theme parks as an art form. Check out what he had to say during Bob Rogers' Legends panel at the 2017 IAAPA Expo.

Or read through his amazing history lesson on theme park design. Joe's Instagram page has been a must-read for those who study or practice any creative art, but especially those work in the theme park business. Many designers have lauded Joe as the "professor" of this industry, connecting it with the enduring practices of storytelling in art, architecture and theater.

Listening to Joe describe his attractions allows you to fully appreciate the thought and the work that goes into creating an experience that might be over in just a few moments, but that can remain impressed upon a guest's memory for a lifetime.

Joe's retirement should clear the way for him to be named an official Disney Legend, if not at the D23 Expo in 2022 then certainly by 2024. And an induction into the IAAPA Hall of Fame should follow at some point, as well.

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Replies (18)

November 23, 2020 at 3:06 PM

As disappointing as it is to see a rock-star of an imagineer leave, he's right and now is a good time for him to hang it up as it is unlikely that we will see any large scale projects at Disney parks until the end of this decade

November 23, 2020 at 3:06 PM

He will be very much missed. The man certainly knows his stuff!

November 23, 2020 at 3:17 PM

2020 strikes again.

November 23, 2020 at 4:29 PM

Joe Rohde as a free agent is an intriguing concept.

November 23, 2020 at 4:38 PM


November 23, 2020 at 6:12 PM

Wow. Was not expecting this. What a legend!

November 23, 2020 at 6:27 PM

His vision will definitely be missed, but Rohde can take comfort knowing that he's trusting the keys to the kingdom in capable hands with the likes of Scott Trowbridge and others who work in Imagineering today.

November 23, 2020 at 6:44 PM

Met him twice ... The last time was at like 6 AM in the lobby of the Animal Kingdom Lodge while I was hanging out with another theme park enthusiast named Bob.

November 23, 2020 at 9:14 PM

His Instagram is so enlightening, and not just about theme parks. There was a master class about autocracy that he reposted earlier this year. Such a deep thinker who is able to share knowledge in an easy to understand way without dumbing it down. Happy to have met him at the D23 Expo a few years ago, right before Pandora opened. He was at the Imagineering booth, and I recall that James Cameron was in some backroom area, yet I was more star struck by Joe, and may have walked into an area where media interviews were occurring to say hi. He couldn't have been nicer.

November 23, 2020 at 11:14 PM

The Adventurers Club is my favorite attraction at WDW and DLR. I will never give up hope that it returns to WDW. Although Joe had many great accomplishments at Disney, in my mind nothing will ever compare to the AC.

November 23, 2020 at 11:36 PM

Was expecting jokes on the “Yeti never being fixed” here but glad that it’s mostly wishing the man well on his next journey.

One of the best imagineers, I wish him well on his next adventure.

November 24, 2020 at 8:16 PM

Thank god we'll never have to see that disgusting stretched out earlobe again. Hopefully he'll use this time off to get that thing snipped.

November 24, 2020 at 5:42 AM

There is one major project that I’m curious about. One that Joe is truly the master.

What is the fate of Lighthouse Point?

November 24, 2020 at 1:58 PM

He was obviously good doing his job however 'the colonel' speaks the truth.

November 24, 2020 at 2:27 PM

Great point, Robert Parker.

For those who missed it, Lighthouse Point was to be the new private port of call in the Bahamas for the Disney Cruise Line. At the last D23 Expo, Joe introduced the work that had been done on the project and previewed what it would become. Disney executives have said that they plan to go forward with existing orders for new ships for the DCL, but it's been crickets on Lighthouse Point. And with Joe leaving, one has to wonder when, or if, that project will proceed.

November 24, 2020 at 3:31 PM

I'm sorry folks but I can't resist it.........."Joe Rohde - King of ImaginEARRING!"

His legacies will be enjoyed by tens of millions for many years to come. A creative genius!

November 24, 2020 at 6:00 PM

Oh good thecolonel is now attacking people on their personal appearance. Fun.

November 24, 2020 at 7:10 PM

His vision for the Animal Kingdom is remarkable. I met the guy when I was a Cast Member years ago during its opening.

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