5 Questions with Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde

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(previous interviews in this series can be found here.)

Welcome to another installment of 5 Questions with a 5-Year-Old. Today, Zoey chats with Joe Rohde, Senior Vice President of Walt Disney Imagineering.

Disney imagineers are like LEGO master builders. Almost everyone has heard the term but relatively few know what it really means. Who are they? They’re the designers behind Disney theme parks, attractions, shows, resorts, and cruise ships, and they’re self-described “dreamers and doers.”

What do they do? Surprisingly, Walt Disney Imagineering is composed of more than 140 unique disciplines. They’re not all artists and designers. Imagineers come from a wide variety of backgrounds and include architects, illustrators, graphic designers, writers, engineers, interior designers, multimedia gurus, project managers….even corporate and administrative support positions are considered imagineers.

Joe Rohde is currently one of the top guys at Walt Disney Imagineering. But he’s been around for a long time and has had a hand in a whole slew of Disney Parks projects dating all the way back to the development of Epcot in the early 1980s.

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Most notably, he was chief designer for Disney’s Animal Kingdom (the fourth theme park to open at Walt Disney World in Florida), the primary creative force behind that park’s Expedition Everest attraction, and lead designer of Disney’s Aulani Resort in Hawaii.

Both personally and professionally, Rohde is an artist. He’s also a seasoned world traveler who is passionate about wildlife, environmental, and cultural conservation. It’s not an accident that Rohde has been so closely attached to projects such as Animal Kingdom and Aulani. They very much reflect who he is and what he believes.

(Joe has traveled extensively throughout Asia, including Mongolia, Nepal, and Tibet—places I have also been and adore. We were able to chat for a little while, especially about his upcoming documentary The Leopard in the Land about snow leopards in Mongolia, but I could’ve spent hours sharing stories with him.)

Though he’s usually based out of Glendale, CA, we were fortunate enough to catch Joe while he was in Florida for a few days…conveniently at the same time as we were! We met up at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, just steps away from grazing zebras and giraffes.

If you’ve watched any of Zoey’s previous interviews, you might have noticed that we have a very loose definition of “5 questions.” If she has more questions, she’ll ask them.

Her interview with Joe Rohde is by far her longest to date. She asked a whopping 10 questions, and the interview cracks the 11-minute mark. Incidentally, I also happen to think it’s of the most fascinating interviews we’ve done to date.

As always, all questions are Zoey’s. I simply prompt her with “clue words” so she can remember. (Make sure you turn on subtitles if you can’t make out Zoey’s questions.)

Thanks so much to Joe Rohde for taking the time to chat with Zoey and to Diego Parras with Walt Disney Imagineering for helping to arrange the interview!

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