The design theories of Joe Rohde are shaping Disney parks. Rohde led teams that built the new Pandora – The World of Avatar in Florida and Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout in Anaheim.
During his nearly 40 years with Walt Disney Imagineering, the company’s highly secretive arm devoted to theme park experiences, Rohde has emerged as something akin to Disney’s philosopher king, working from a deep belief that Disney parks are cultural institutions as much as they are places to ride alongside pirates or buy a churro and a lightsaber.
Many of Rohde’s ideas about theme park design can be traced back to the original Imagineer; Walt Disney too preached the importance of environmental storytelling (see New Orleans Square) and the belief that the common amusement park could be elevated to something far grander.
But Rohde is more likely to cite Michel Foucault than he is Uncle Walt.