George McGinnis, Last Imagineer Hired by Walt Disney, Dies at 87

McGinnis was the show designer on a variety of projects while at Walt Disney Imagineering including Space Mountain at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

McGinnis’ senior project while attending the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles was for a high-speed train that caught the eye of Disney.

Upon graduating in 1966, he was invited to work at WED Enterprises (the name then of Walt Disney Imagineering, the company that designs Disney theme parks and rides).

His first assignment was to design the miniature transportation models for the Progress City display that was part of the Carousel of Progress attraction.

Other designs at Disneyland included the “Mighty Microscope” inside Disneyland’s “Adventure Through Inner Space” ride.

“George was a disciplined “pro” – a designer who truly paid attention to every detail,” said Marty Sklar, the former vice chairman of Walt Disney Imagineering in a statement.

For a while, he was assigned to work on designs for Walt Disney World including the still operating WEDway Peoplemover in its Tomorrowland.

He also helped out with the designs for upgrades to both the Disneyland and Walt Disney World monorails.

For Epcot Center, McGinnis was the lead show designer for the Horizons Pavilion, which opened in 1983.

Sklar said in a statement: “I was just writing something about the Horizons pavilion in Epcot at Walt Disney World, and found this quote from George: ‘We’re convinced that even though environments will change, people won’t. Teenagers in our show will still monopolize the phone; kids and dogs still exasperate mom and dad. We believe one of the main differences high technology will make is that it will give us more choices.’”

Before retiring from Disney he designed a variety of vehicles for its theme parks around the world, including the “jeeps” for the Indiana Jones Adventure at Disneyland.

After his retirement, McGinnis continued to take on occasional design projects including the trolley for The Grove in Los Angeles.

He also wrote a book about his experiences that was published in 2016, “From Horizons to Space Mountain: The Life of a Disney Imagineer.”

McGinnis is survived by his wife and family.

By Mark Eades from the Orange County Register

Imagineers Joe Rohde and Bob Weis Expand their Roles with Walt Disney Imagineering

Cameron, Rohde, Staggs - DAK

Two of Disney most well known and highest ranking Imagineers are expanding their roles ahead of a period of expected growth.

Joe Rohde, currently the creative lead at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, will expand his role at Imagineering to take on global creative leadership of the Marvel property.

Rohde is currently working on the the development of AVATAR Land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and also oversees the creative work at the Aulani Resort.

Bob Weis, who is currently heavily involved in the creation of Shanghai Disney Resort, will also take on the position of creative lead of Hong Kong Disneyland.

Weis is best known to the American park fans as the creative force behind the development of Disney MGM Studios, and for the massive make-over of Disney California Adventure.

Together with the recent appointment of Scott Trowbridge as the lead on the Star Wars projects, the expansion of roles for Rohde and Weis would seem to send a clear message of where the future of Imagineering will be focussed – Star Wars, Marvel and Asia.

Disney Legend Blaine Gibson Dies at 97

blaine-gibson-disney

Disney Imagineer Blaine Gibson, who sculpted everything from pirates to presidents, has died, according to the Walt Disney Family Museum, he was 97.

Gibson started his career with Disney as an in-betweener and assistant animator working on such classics as “Fantasia,” “Bambi” and “Peter Pan.” While working at the Disney Studios, he took evening classes in sculpture at Pasadena City College.

The story goes that one day Walt Disney saw some of his sculptures and assigned him to the Disneyland project. Eventually he became the head of then WED Enterprises (now Walt Disney Imagineering) Sculpture Department, where he sculpted figures like Abraham Lincoln for the 1964 New York World’s Fair, and dozens of pirates for Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland.

Other Disneyland attractions he worked on included the Haunted Mansion and the Enchanted Tiki Room.

“Blaine Gibson was one of the most important storytellers among all the great talents on Walt Disney’s team of Imagineers,” said Marty Sklar, former vice-chairman of Walt Disney Imagineering. “He showed all of us how to make our Disney park show characters so realistic you never had to guess the role of any three-dimensional figure in our attractions.”

After his retirement in 1983, he continued to consult and sculpt for Disney, including continuing his tradition of sculpting U.S. presidents – of which he sculpted every one for Walt Disney World’s Hall of Presidents up to and including George W. Bush in 2001.

Gibson was also commissioned to sculpt the “Partners” statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse in the Central Hub of Disneyland.

Other famous personages he sculpted included Benjamin Franklin, Mark Twain and Will Rogers for the American Adventure Pavilion at EPCOT.

From the Orange County Register

WDI Recruits Advanced Robotics Expert to Work on Future Animatronic Figures

Martin Buehler

From WDWMAGIC

Walt Disney Imagineering has recruited Martin Buehler, a well known expert in the field of advanced robotics.

Buehler is most well known for his work on the Boston Dynamics ‘BigDog’ project

Buehler joins WDI at a critical time for Audio-Animatronics, as Disney looks to separate itself from the wider adoption of animated figures at other parks around the world.

The upcoming AVATAR project at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is expected to debut some next generation Audio-Animatronic figures to bring the AVATAR story to life.

Martin will lead WDI R&D’s Advanced Robotics and will take on the role of executive R&D Imagineer.

 

BigDog runs at 4 mph, climbs slopes up to 35 degrees, walks across rubble, climbs muddy hiking trails, walks in snow and water, and carries 340 lb load.

Martin was also director of research at iRobot and a VP at Vecna Technologies