These past two days, everybody’s been paying tribute to the great Tony Baxter, who officially announced yesterday that he would be stepping down from his full-time job at Walt Disney Imagineering and will serve as a part-time consultant.
I met Tony Baxter last summer at Disneyland and had an opportunity to talk to him and share with him my love of the parks. It was at a book signing of “Poster Art of the Disney Parks” at The Disney Gallery. Among other Imagineers at the book signing were the authors, Danny Handke and Vanessa Hunt, Larry Nikolai, Will Eyerman, and the legendary Rolly Crump.
I headed off to Disneyland early in the morning to purchase the book and hopefully get an early spot in the line. I knew that the authors and Rolly would be there, but I had no idea that Tony Baxter would be signing too. I first got to chat with the authors, Will Eyerman, and Larry Nikolai as they signed my copy. Then Rolly Crump was up next. It was very surreal talking to this Disney Legend who had worked with Walt Disney decades before I was even born. I was about ready to hop out of the line when I was escorted to the last table where I saw him…
Tony Baxter. Senior Vice President. Splash Mountain. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Journey Into Imagination. All these wonderful attractions I experienced and this was the head from which all these ideas came from. We talked about the parks, my experience so far, and upcoming projects. I told him that I would be heading off to Disney California Adventure to see the new Cars Land and he seemed pretty pleased by this.
Although our meeting was brief, I’m glad I had the chance to talk to him while he was still creatively involved with the company. His semi-retirement is bittersweet, but it is an opportunity for me to remember that experience and for Disney fans everywhere to remember just how much of an impact Tony Baxter had on Walt Disney Imagineering. The ice cream boy on Main Street who would eventually becoming one of the most influential creatives for the Walt Disney Company – it’s an underdog story we’re all too familiar with and we’re rooting for him till the end.
Thanks for everything, Tony!