Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Who's Who Wednesday - Joe Rohde

Animal Kingdom Lodge


Chances are that there is something at Disney that you love that Joe Rohde, Executive Designer and Vice President, Creative (better known as an Imagineer with WDI), has had a hand in creating.  Joe has brought his creative and artistic background to the Disney Company since 1980 where he started on EPCOT.  Since then, he’s helped design, create or lead projects like Captain EO, the Mexico and Norway pavilions at EPCOT, Animal Kingdom, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Aulani, New Fantasyland and many, many others.  My favorite project of his, the Adventurer’s Club, has a special place in his heart.  

The Adventurer’s Club was one of his first major projects that he got to add his own special touches to.  I was lucky enough to run into him one night at the club.  He was just sitting at the bar, taking it all in and enjoying the place; you could just see it in his eyes.  He was on property after just returning from Nepal and visiting Mt. Everest for his latest project, Expedition Everest: The Forbidden Mountain.  I was able to sit and discuss the background of the project, his travels involved in it, and the search for the elusive yeti while visiting the tallest mountain in the world.  

Disney doesn’t just build rides, they create experiences.  I think Everest has nailed it, from the time you enter the village Serka Zong, to the actual ascent up the Forbidden Mountain.  Joe brought many items from his multiple trips to the mountains back to have in the Yeti Museum (part of the queue) and throughout the ride.  He even has something from his trip with him at all times.  

Joe is probably most known by his look – the earrings.  Each one has a very special meaning to him.  I just had to ask about them.  He loves telling the stories behind them because of how much they mean to him.  His latest at the time, one he had just been given on his most recent trip to Nepal, has blue and red jewels on it.  Joe has passion; I could hear it in his voice and see it in his eyes.  Disney has a great man on their team!  

He loves his job, and everything that he has been able to do with it.  He kept looking around at all the artifacts in the Adventurer’s Club.  He would point out certain items and tell me about them.  Most of the items were his personal items, many coming from his college dorm.  Flags from his travels, a suit of armor, masks on the walll…each item with a story to go with it.  My wife and I spent so much time enjoying the Adventurer’s Club.  After that visit with him I enjoyed it so much more knowing a bit more of what was behind the façade of it.  

Knowing he was at WDW for Everest, he told me he was going to be at Animal Kingdom the next day to do some more work on the ride and some promotional videos for Disney and television companies around the world.  He told me to head over and see it there.  I couldn’t turn that down.  So there I was, headed to AK the next day, and sure enough there was Joe.  He was pointing out items in the queue that he brought back with him, showing items from the local Serka Zong newspaper, every little detail.  Hearing him talk about the yeti was what fascinated me the most.  He had so much passion with how this engineering feat was going to be something that no one had ever seen before.  Boy was he right!  Previewing the ride before it ever opened, seeing it in all its glory, is something I’ll never forget.  

On behalf of all Disney fans out there, I say "Thank You".  And from me personally, Kungaloosh sir!

A2M writer Scott and Joe Rhode

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