Joe Rohde, a 40-year veteran of Walt Disney Imagineering, will retire on January 4 after a career designing a range of popular attractions at the company’s parks and resorts.
Rohde confirmed the news in a lengthy Instagram post. (Read it below.) After turning 65 in September, Rohde said he decided “this strange quiet time seems like a great opportunity to slip away without too much disruption.”
Disney’s theme parks have had a tumultuous 2020 due to COVID-19. While all of them, with the notable exception of Disneyland in Anaheim, have managed to reopen, some have had to close again due to resurgences of the virus.
Rohde oversaw a trio of major projects in recent years, including Pandora — the World of Avatar at Animal Kingdom; the Guardians of the Galaxy-themed update of Tower of Terror at Disney California Adventure; and the Villages Nature Eco-Resort next to Disneyland Paris.
Early in his tenure he worked as a model designer for Epcot Center, which opened in Florida in 1982. He went on to supervise design work for Animal Kingdom, which opened in 1998 just outside of Orlando, FL. One signature, fan-favorite attraction at the latter park is Expedition Everest, which boasted a lifelike, animatronic yeti that Rohde had been pledging to refurbish in recent years.
“I will still be thinking about things, and doing things, and talking about things,” Rohde promised in his post, noting the “tremendous debt that I owe to our guests and our fans who have been so generous. Working as an Imagineer has made me a good designer, but it is all of you who have made me a better person.”
Here is the full Instagram post: