Every workday, John Hench drives to his office at Walt Disney Imagineering, where he helps design the attractions at Disney theme parks on three continents. Hench is 95.

He doesn't look it. With his clipped mustache, courtly manner and patrician appearance – an Ascot tied neatly at his neck – he resembles a character actor in a 1930s movie.

For generations, Hench has been a revered guru of Disney artists and engineers with his knowledge of what works and doesn't work to please and entertain millions of ticket buyers.

Now, after years of resisting it, Hench has finally produced a book about his life and work. “Designing Disney: Imagineering and the Art of the Show," written with Peggy Van Pelt, has just been published. It‘s a big-format volume replete with Hench's drawings and paintings.

Hench took time off to write the book, but that didn’t stop him from doing an occasional job for Imagineering, such as designing ferry landings for the forthcoming Disney park in Hong Kong.

Hench's history with Disney goes back to when the studio was basking in the huge success of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" and planning a heavy schedule of animated features. He created background paintings for “Dumbo" and “Fantasia” and won an Academy Award for special effects in 1955 for “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea."

When Walt Disney started planning for Disneyland, one of the first artists he enlisted was John Hench.

"Except for Walt (Disney), John is responsible for the design and ideas in the parks more than anyone else," says Martin Sklar, vice president and principal creative executive of Walt Disney lmagineering. "Even today, people come to him constantly about colors and sculpting. He has few peers in the world in the psychology of color."

Hench’s color sense is legendary. Against his arguments, a CEO of a big corporation insisted on white for the walls of a new EPCOT attraction. Finally, Hench said, “Well, I have 34 shades of white. Which one do you want?"

The other day Hench could be found in his office putting the finishing touches on his oil painting of Mickey Mouse on his 75th birthday. Among his other duties, Hench is the official portraitist for Mickey’s significant birthdays – 25th, 50th, etc. The painting will be converted into 5.000 lithographs for purchase by Disney collectors.

Hench’s designing goes back to his preteen days when he created a cardboard theater pasted actors on sticks and staged shows for neighbor kids on the front porch of his Pasadena home. He attended art schools and landed his first Hollywood job at Republic studio, working a new color process and special effects.

He was designing window displays for the Broadway department store at Hollywood and Vine in 1939 when he noticed a Disney office across the street where artists were being hired. Hench signed on, taking a cut in his $32.50 weekly salary at the Broadway.

At Disney’s first “ramshackle" studio on Hyperion Avenue, he immediately met Walt Disney. “He patrolled the place; you couldn't hide from him," Hench recalled.

“Walt had extraordinary power in imagining and visualizing something. Once in a meeting, Walt‘s eyes stared straight ahead. 'Is he sleeping?’ I asked. ‘No, he'll be back in five minutes,‘ I was told. He jumped up, started flapping his arms and gave us new dialogue for the stork in ‘Dumbo.’

"That was Walt. He could go to (an imaginary) place and describe it in detail. He could visit that park (Disneyland) long before it was built. He could meet (cartoon) characters and converse with them. Kids can do that.

Hench continued working in various departments at the studio through the war and postwar years. One day in the early 1950s, he was passing Walt in the hallway. Without stopping, Walt said, “I want you to work on Disneyland, and you’re going to like it.”

At WED Enterprises (Walt’s initials, the precursor to Imagineering), Hench and other planners faced a new, demanding challenge.

“None of us at the studio had any trouble dealing with two dimensions.” he commented. “It came as a shock when we were down at the park and we had to give much more information to someone experiencing three dimensions. You're dealing with real space, and that meant time. Time didn' t exist for us at the studio."

In Hench’s view, the parks are like movies in one regard: they play out in scenes. The visitor moves from one scene (Main Street) to another (Frontierland), and the designer must provide a transition between the two to make the change pleasurable. As he points out in “Designing Disney,” subtle, eye-pleasing changes of color can avoid making the change abrupt.

Disney died in 1966 during the early stages of planning for Walt Disney World. However, “In a sense, Walt guided us because we knew what he would like,” Hench said.

“After Walt died, Lilly (his widow) said that he had told her I had never let him down. Funny, he never said that to me."