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Tony Baxter Leaving -- The Beginning of the End of Disney Imagineering?

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  • [Question] Tony Baxter Leaving -- The Beginning of the End of Disney Imagineering?

    Legendary Imagineer Tony Baxter, currently Senior Vice President Creative Development at WDI and Creative Executive for Disneyland, has announced today in "an open letter to fellow imagineers" that the time has come for him to evolve his role at Walt Disney Imagineering: "Beginning this February, I will be transitioning to a position as a part time advisor. While I will not be here on a regular basis, I will continue to be available to any and all of you as needs arise. Though my time will be limited, my passion for the magic WDI creates will be just as strong."

    Rumor has it that Corporate Disney has been studying Universal Creative's employment model. UC retains a small "house" staff and subcontracts most of its theme park creations to outside firms. With this latest news about Tony Baxter and time to "evolve his role", I wonder if this is the sign of the Imagineering-ocalypse. Will Disney kill off Imagineering as we know it?
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  • #2
    Re: Tony Baxter Leaving -- The Beginning of the End of Disney Imagineering?

    Most people will disagree... but I doubt it. They may reduce it a little, but not get rid of it completely.
    DisneyTwins
    Since May 2003

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    • #3
      Re: Tony Baxter Leaving -- The Beginning of the End of Disney Imagineering?

      It is an idea Disney has toyed with for years. The big test is Shanghai Disneyland which is being handled under a more Universal Creative model than is typical with Walt Disney Imagineering. They want to push out the second generation regardless of whether or not they completely make the switch.

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      • #4
        Re: Tony Baxter Leaving -- The Beginning of the End of Disney Imagineering?

        Maybe it would be better. Have you seen what Universal's been doing in Florida? It's better than the crappy princess crap their adding today.
        DisneyTwins
        Since May 2003

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        • #5
          Re: Tony Baxter Leaving -- The Beginning of the End of Disney Imagineering?

          I think saying Disney Imagineering will die forever is very far-fetched, but I must say, I absolutely can't wait for Potter to open in Hollywood.
          Princess of Agrabah and Queen of Never Land

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          • #6
            Re: Tony Baxter Leaving -- The Beginning of the End of Disney Imagineering?

            It could be they go the Universal route of 'independent' designers, yes, absolutely: that would not so much effect the quality of detail or method of installation, which Disney does have the money for stateside and puts a lot of effort into execution of newly built elements especially for Disneyland/DCA of late.

            However, the designers/Imagineering staff/concept people being independent doesn't guarantee quality of subject matter by any means. Tony Baxter got to do Indy, Splash, Journey Into Imagination, Big Thunder and the rest because management approved the concepts.

            Stateside these days they approve mostly only cartoon franchise based new attractions: doesn't matter who designs them, in-house or not. The source material is what it is. Quality will be there of execution largely but it's not a given it will be like Universal's model, or Disney Sea with the OLC: those companies choose to make attractions based on more variety of subjects or locations/genres (not animated films entirely) than Disneyland or WDW in modern day.

            A designer for Disney is only as creative in terms of story or original concept as park management allows them to be. The goalposts and general 'standards' of what new attractions or areas will be based on for Disneyland Resort and the Florida parks, I think it is fair to say, have changed considerably in mindset from the 60's through the 80's, then progressing into the 90's and 2000's even further. A talented and creative designer like Mr. Baxter can create and embellish, yes, with projects given, and push for subtle detail and quality of design: but coming up with something new from 'whole cloth' as he did with Big Thunder or Journey Into Imagination is not something I'd expect to happen again anytime soon at WDI or installed at Disneyland or the Florida parks.
            when the spooks have a midnight jamboree....

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            • #7
              Re: Tony Baxter Leaving -- The Beginning of the End of Disney Imagineering?

              There are many, many talented people at Walt Disney Imagineering. I think declaring the end of the company as we know it because of one guy is sort of a slap in the face to all of them. Tony Baxter gave Disney some of its most inspired projects, no doubt. But there are several other young bright minds waiting to take over and show the world what they have in store for us

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              • #8
                Re: Tony Baxter Leaving -- The Beginning of the End of Disney Imagineering?

                Originally posted by TylerDurden View Post
                There are many, many talented people at Walt Disney Imagineering. I think declaring the end of the company as we know it because of one guy is sort of a slap in the face to all of them. Tony Baxter gave Disney some of its most inspired projects, no doubt. But there are several other young bright minds waiting to take over and show the world what they have in store for us
                Problem is, will they be allowed to express that creativity in unique and original ways? There may be true potential inside the walls of WDI, but with Disney's current management and character-crazed, franchise-only, profit-pushing business approach, that creativity energy is stifled. The problem isn't lack of imagination in the world, it is this imagination being dimmed and dulled by people who don't understand the fundamental philosophies of Disneyland or Imagineering.

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                • #9
                  Re: Tony Baxter Leaving -- The Beginning of the End of Disney Imagineering?

                  Originally posted by gatheringrosebuds View Post
                  Problem is, will they be allowed to express that creativity in unique and original ways? There may be true potential inside the walls of WDI, but with Disney's current management and character-crazed, franchise-only, profit-pushing business approach, that creativity energy is stifled. The problem isn't lack of imagination in the world, it is this imagination being dimmed and dulled by people who don't understand the fundamental philosophies of Disneyland or Imagineering.
                  In that case, the retirement of Tony Baxter is irrelevant.

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                  • #10
                    Re: Tony Baxter Leaving -- The Beginning of the End of Disney Imagineering?

                    Originally posted by Disneytwins View Post
                    Maybe it would be better. Have you seen what Universal's been doing in Florida? It's better than the crappy princess crap their adding today.
                    Universal's successes in Florida are due to their management accepting the fact that investing the money to get something done RIGHT, is financially beneficial in the long run. Also they were willing to allow Rawlings total creative control over the Harry Potter project, something that Disney wasn't willing to do.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Tony Baxter Leaving -- The Beginning of the End of Disney Imagineering?

                      Originally posted by TylerDurden View Post
                      There are many, many talented people at Walt Disney Imagineering. I think declaring the end of the company as we know it because of one guy is sort of a slap in the face to all of them. Tony Baxter gave Disney some of its most inspired projects, no doubt. But there are several other young bright minds waiting to take over and show the world what they have in store for us
                      Unfortunately, even accepting that they are planning on tapping the new talent, if they just aren't interested in in-depth quality projects at the creative level of Indy, Haunted Mansion, Pirates or other such attractions, that talent will also be wasted.

                      There have been some visionary concepts developed by Baxter (and other Imagineers at WDI) that have just been shelved. Some due to financial decisions, others due to personal or political conflicts.

                      It will be interesting when (if?) Baxter comes out with a book of his career. Unfortunately, since he is still remaining attached to Imagineering via his new consulting status, it may still be many years before we get that.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Tony Baxter Leaving -- The Beginning of the End of Disney Imagineering?

                        Originally posted by TylerDurden View Post
                        There are many, many talented people at Walt Disney Imagineering. I think declaring the end of the company as we know it because of one guy is sort of a slap in the face to all of them. Tony Baxter gave Disney some of its most inspired projects, no doubt. But there are several other young bright minds waiting to take over and show the world what they have in store for us
                        You assume Disney is still interested in hiring and molding talent. There is nothing like that under the Universal Creative model. According to the Spirit, unless he can save Avatarland or find something else to work on, Joe Rohde will be next.

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                        • #13
                          Re: Tony Baxter Leaving -- The Beginning of the End of Disney Imagineering?

                          They will always have a creative side at Disney. It's the technical side that fluxuates. Tony Baxter leaving means nothing other than a new generation taking over.

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                          • #14
                            Re: Tony Baxter Leaving -- The Beginning of the End of Disney Imagineering?

                            Originally posted by StevenW View Post
                            They will always have a creative side at Disney. It's the technical side that fluxuates. Tony Baxter leaving means nothing other than a new generation taking over.
                            Unless Disney goes through with the long considered switch to the Universal Creative model. It's being tested more than ever with Shanghai Disneyland.

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                            • #15
                              Re: Tony Baxter Leaving -- The Beginning of the End of Disney Imagineering?

                              Originally posted by gatheringrosebuds View Post
                              Problem is, will they be allowed to express that creativity in unique and original ways? There may be true potential inside the walls of WDI, but with Disney's current management and character-crazed, franchise-only, profit-pushing business approach, that creativity energy is stifled. The problem isn't lack of imagination in the world, it is this imagination being dimmed and dulled by people who don't understand the fundamental philosophies of Disneyland or Imagineering.
                              I hate to say it, but what you said is so true. If Disney would let the Imagineers do their job instead of just cloning rides from theme park to theme park, the talented people at WDI would actually be able to create fantastic rides. Corporate Disney is just standing in their way...
                              All right, listen! I didn't want to have to do this, but you leave me no choice. Here comes the smolder.


                              DLR Annual Passholder, Disney nerd
                              Trip Reports:
                              From California to Walt Disney World: The Road to Orlando (Coming soon)

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