Touring Imagineering with Joe Rohde checks one off the Disney bucket list, reveals hallowed theme park history

in Disney, Entertainment

Recently I was able to cross an item of my very large Disney bucket list. During a Disneyland vacation, I was able to secure a visit to the inner sanctum of Disney: the Walt Disney Imagineering headquarters located in Glendale, California.

But, before I jump into the entire experience of the trip, I should introduce myself. My name is Gavin Doyle and I run DisneyDose.com, a Disney website and podcast featuring interviews and info about the latest in Disneyland and the Walt Disney Company.

Driving down Flower Street in Glendale, you wouldn’t think anything of your surroundings–just office parks and small buildings. Located in this area of Glendale is the majority of the new divisions of the Walt Disney Company (consumer products, animation studios behind “Planes,” and Disney Store) and the legendary Imagineering headquarters.

walt disney imagineering glendale

The outside of 1401 Flower Street is quite unassuming. Just another one of those ugly offices.

But once you past the no photography sign, you have entered into the world of the Disney magic makers. Upon entering the building you are inside of a large lobby with photographs, models, and video screens highlighting the Disney theme parks around the world. Hanging above the security desk is the famous picture of Walt Disney in Disneyland park.

The reason for my visit was to interview Joe Rohde, the creative director of the Adventure’s Club, Animal Kingdom, and Aulani Resort.

This is my favorite photo from the trip coupled with the best quote from the interview.

The following 35 minute conversation was magical. I can see why Joe Rohde uses mostly writing and presentation to create his parks instead of just jumping into drawing. He has a way with words. Why take it from me, when you can hear it from Joe Rohde himself. Check out the entire conversation with Joe on the Disney Dose podcast by clicking play below:

After heading back into the building, we walked through the main lobby again, but this time proceded down a long stretch of hallways. In a regular office building, this would be no big deal, but at Imagineering, every bit of space has a story, just like the parks. The hallway was themed to the Disneyland Monorail Red. The hallway was designed like the interior of a monorail train. Where there would usually be windows, now there were large screens that change as the monorail “travels” to every Disney Destination in the world. When we were walking through, the monorail had just pulled up to the Aulani Resort in Hawaii. Beautiful graphics and perfect mood music made me want to linger in this area, but we had to press on.

Arriving at a hallway crossroads, I noticed on the wall some paintings. Wait a second! These aren’t just any paintings, they are original designs from Imagineers including Marc Davis, John Hench, and many more. My guide informed me that this section rotated featuring different artwork from the Imagineering Research Library.

Next we headed outside to the main courtyard area. In this beautifully manicured garden seating area, you will find a collection of tables and old vehicles from attractions. My favorite is the sky bucket that has now been made into a table. What a great place to dream up new attractions!

This area is just as well themed as the resorts the Imagineers helped to create. Each trash can in this area is from a different park around the world and on all of the light posts, there were large banners promoting the new Ratatouille attraction at the studios park in Disneyland Paris. Off on the side was a large stage, for what I assume must be an Imagineering concert series.

Off of this courtyard, you’ll find what many people believe to be the highlight of a visit to Imagineering, the swanky Imagineering store. Mickey’s of Glendale is filled with tons of Imagineering exclusive merchandise. The testament to that is the $300 receipt that I walked away with.

mickeys of glendale imagineering store

That wasn’t all spent on collectibles just for me. I had to stock up on some pins to giveaway to readers and listeners. In fact, right now I am giving away an exclusive Imagineering pin over on DisneyDose.com for those who leave us a comment about the interview with Joe Rohde. Take a listen and leave a comment to win.

I hope that you enjoyed this tour of Walt Disney Imagineering and our interview with Joe Rohde. Next week I will be back with stories from my time visiting the stage door at the Disney on Broadway shows: Aladdin and Newsies.

Do you have any questions about the experience? Have you ever wished to be an Imagineer? Comment below!

14 Comments

  1. Don

    Awesome! Imagineering is on my bucket list too. Back to day-dreaming =o)

    1. Perhaps someday! There is also an Adventure’s by Disney tour that allows the public to see inside of Imagineering.

  2. Randy

    If only WDI took me seriously 🙁 I’ve sen’t a few letters and no one has responded. Being an Imagineer is my life goal, but it sucks when no one care 🙁

    1. That isn’t true. Each Imagineer cares about the next generation more than anything. My advice: take a look at the TEA (the trade group for the theme park industry). They have junior memberships and allow for great networking.

      1. Randy

        Thanks for the reassurance Gavin! However, do you think WDI looks at non-typical potential employees like science majors? I’m majoring in either Marine Science or Zoology at UF (parallel to some art training) and want to be an zoological exhibit designer for WDI or any theme park. Am I doing the wrong thing?

  3. David Shankland

    Awesome! I am so jealous that you got to check out imagineering headquarters and interview Joe! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Glad that you enjoyed it!

  4. They’ve fixed the hallways up a lot since I left in 93. We used to hang storyboards of working projects on the walls back then.

    1. I do believe that they still have Mickey’s graffiti hallway. But, you are absolutely correct. Everything is bright and shiny.

      1. Almost too shiny and bright. There’s something really neat for creative folks to have a cluttered work area. A lot more free flowing.

  5. Good day! Would you mind if I share your blog with my facebook
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  6. Great interview!
    I’m happy that I could discover a great podcast at the same time. Looking forward to hear other episodes from you guys!

    1. Gavin

      So glad that you enjoyed it! You can find past episodes here: http://disneydose.com/ddpodcast/

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