Rafferty most recently helped oversee the development of Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway at Disney's Hollywood Studios, which won our most recent Theme Park Insider Award as the Best New Attraction of the year. I spoke with him in 2019 about the ride - the first dark ride themed to the first couple of Disney.
Before Runaway Railway, Rafferty worked on many now-classic Disney attractions, including two of the top 10 attractions in our annual reader poll: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios and Cars Land at Disney California Adventure.
"Cars Land will obviously always, always have a special place in my heart. It is so epic," he told D23. "There are more than 280,000 square feet of hand-sculpted and hand-painted rockwork, and I see all of the blood, sweat, and tears and love that went into that land and how it evolved and how it really happened."
Rafferty started his Disney career not far away from Cars Land, working as a dishwasher in Disneyland's Plaza Inn. After seeing a recruitment poster for WED Enterprises (now known as Walt Disney Imagineering) at the Disneyland costume window, he sought an interview, which then launched him into a four-decade career working on Disney attractions around the world.
If you'd like to learn more about Rafferty's career, he recently wrote a memoir, "Magic Journey: My Fantastical Walt Disney Imagineering Career." Rafferty's departure follows that of fellow Imagineer Joe Rohde, who left the company this month. As the pandemic closes parks and delays projects around the industry, a generational change is underway at WDI.
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As soon as I read the headline, one of my first thoughts was "another one gone!" my hope is that these legends are retiring because they have been devoted to this for a lifetime and are retiring because they want to not because they feel forced out.
You do say:
"a generational change is underway at WDI"
Is that because these lifetime legends have left? or is there something else happening behind the scenes?
I think a lot of the long-time imagineers are leaving because there are no large projects planned right now. It's likely these 60+ year-old legends would not be with the company long enough to see a new project completed when expansion projects begin again and it is just the right time to call it a career.
That... and the big buyouts that are rumored to have been offered to encourage many long-time Disney employees to leave now. As in any company, each big salary that comes off the books means fewer smaller salaries must be cut to save the same money. That allows a few more of the younger employees to stick around, shifting the generational balance within an organization.
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Very well earned and thank you for so many great rides.