Tony Baxter

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Tony Baxter
Tony Baxter, 2010.jpg
Baxter in 2009
Born Tony Baxter
(1947-02-01) February 1, 1947 (age 71)
Los Angeles, U.S.
Residence Anaheim, California
Nationality American
Education Santa Ana High School, California State University, Long Beach
Occupation Senior Vice President, Creative Development, Walt Disney Imagineering, formerly known as WED Enterprises
Years active 1965–2016
Home town Los Angeles, California
Board member of Walt Disney Imagineering

Tony Wayne Baxter (born February 1, 1947) is the former senior vice president of creative development in Walt Disney Imagineering and was responsible for creating designs and carrying out the construction of attractions all over the world. He announced his departure from his full-time position to become a part-time adviser on February 1, 2013, which was also his 66th birthday.[1] During his 47-year tenure with the company, he oversaw the construction of multiple contemporary Disney theme park attractions, including Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Star Tours, Splash Mountain, The Indiana Jones Adventure, and Journey Into Imagination.[1][2]

Baxter was first hired at Disneyland Park in 1965 as an ice cream scooper on Main Street, U.S.A. at the age of 17.[3] During his employment at the park, he held many different positions. He later caught the attention of WED Enterprises (now known as Walt Disney Imagineering). During his first 24 years he built up his rank within the company until he was given the position as senior vice president of creative development in Walt Disney Imagineering.[4] His projects include Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disneyland, Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris, and remodeling Fantasyland and Tomorrowland in Disneyland.[5]


Tony Baxter was interested in Disneyland since the day it opened, when he was 8 years old.[6] He first toured Imagineering before being hired at the parks. This was around the same time Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln came to Disneyland Park. Baxter watched the show and was instantly captivated with Disney engineering.[6] He applied for a position at the parks selling popcorn and scooping ice cream, and moved on to attractions to gain Disney experience. At the time, Baxter was going to school at Cal Poly Pomona. For his senior project, he created a design for a Mary Poppins ride which was then shown to WED Enterprises through a connected friend. Impressed by Baxter's work, WED Enterprises invited him to a second tour of the company where they showed him the aspects of the position as well as concepts they were currently working on. Baxter left the tour that day with a new career in mind and as a result, switched his career path and transferred schools.[6]


After graduating from Santa Ana High School in 1965, he attended Cal Poly Pomona as a landscape architecture major, but soon after transferred to California State University in Long Beach to study Theater Design. During this time, Baxter created a portfolio which included concepts of attractions for Disneyland as part of his senior project, which he had spent his entire last year of college constructing.[6] Baxter graduated from Cal State Long Beach in 1969.

WED Enterprises/Walt Disney Imagineering[edit]

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad[edit]

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad opened in Disneyland park September 2, 1979 and was recreated a year later in Walt Disney World. It was designed by both Tony Baxter and his mentor Claude Coats and was the first ride built in Disneyland without any input from Walt Disney.[6] The land that Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was built upon had previously been Walt's original ride, Nature's Wonderland, which had lost popularity among guests.[6] Tokyo Disneyland and Disneyland Paris got their versions in 1987 and 1992.


The remodeled Fantasyland opened in 1983 with the oversight of Baxter. It included the redesign of all the buildings to change from Renaissance to a Bavarian village. It also featured the addition of a walk-through located inside Sleeping Beauty's Castle that included dioramas of scenes from the animated film. Under Baxter's supervision, the new Fantasyland featured rich details and was the most technically advanced land in the park for the era.[7]

Splash Mountain[edit]

Splash Mountain debuted in 1989. The idea for Splash Mountain came to Baxter while he was stuck in traffic on his way to work. Around the same time, America Sings, another attraction at Disneyland, was slated to be taken out due to the poor attendance. Baxter incorporated the Audio-Animatronics figures from America Sings with his idea for Splash Mountain (which was originally going to be titled Zip-a-Dee River Run). Baxter had remembered from a previous Walt Disney film: the Song of the South, had contained a song titled "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah," which he synced with the animatronics transferred from America Sings. He then pieced together the sound, mechanics, and log flume track creating what is now Splash Mountain.

Indiana Jones Adventure[edit]

Indiana Jones Adventure was revealed on March 4, 1995, and was worked on by over 400 Imagineers. Baxter was one of the main supervisors of the project and led his own team of 100. They were responsible for designing the half-mile-long track that was built over the previous Eeyore parking lot as well as the different concepts for each room in the ride.

Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage[edit]

Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage was opened on June 11, 2007. The track for Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage had previously existed as the new ride simply replaced its predecessor, the Submarine Voyage. Baxter and his team were in charge of collaborating with Pixar to create the story-line and animation for the ride. Difficulty came however when Baxter was faced with the challenge of syncing the sound with the ride. Due to the fact that there were 20 windows on each side of the submarine, all featuring different aspects of the ride at the same time, the sound had to keep in time with what was being portrayed, no matter where a guest would sit within the underwater vessel.[6]

List of Projects Worked On[edit]

Tony Baxter and Jack Janzen in 2009 at a National Fantasy Fan Club (NFFC) event

2013 Awards[edit]

Every other year, D23, the official Disney fan club, holds a convention called the D23 Expo. The 2013 convention ran from August 9-11th at the Anaheim Convention Center. A few months prior, it was announced that Tony Baxter would be receiving the Disney Legend award at the Expo on August 10. A Disney Legend award is the highest award in the company, for those who have significantly left a mark in the Walt Disney Company. At every D23 Expo in Anaheim, the Disney Legends Ceremony includes many well known TV and film personalities, as well as some from the theme park business.

The day before August 10, (August 10 was the Legends Ceremony), Baxter and Josh Shipley hosted a presentation in Stage 23 called "Undiscovered Disneyland". This included an hour of footage from Disneyland Park in its early years. Before Baxter and Josh were about to sign off, Josh invited Chairman of the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Tom Staggs onto the stage. Staggs spoke about Baxter and his beginnings at Disneyland. Then, a sixty-second video was shown, honoring Baxter's career with Disney. After, Staggs announced that in the fall of 2013, Baxter would be receiving a window on Main Street U.S.A. in Disneyland park. A series of lights then randomly spotted on different seats. Those who were in the seats would later get to attend the window ceremony.

A few months later on November 1, the window ceremony was held and the window was put up in Main Street, U.S.A. forever leaving a mark.


  1. ^ a b Tully, Sarah (2013). "Top Disneyland ride creator steps down". Orange County: Orange County Register.
  2. ^ Martens, Todd (9 August 2013). "D23: Imagineer Tony Baxter on his decades shaping Disneyland design". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
  3. ^ Andy (2012). "Meet Imagineer Tony Baxter".
  4. ^ Cedino, Kevin (2007). "Tony Baxter Interview".
  5. ^ Smith, Dave (2006). Disney A to Z: The Official Disney Encyclopedia. Disney Editions. p. 354. ISBN 0-7868-4919-3.p 49
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Levine, Arthur (2008). "Going along for the Ride with Disney Imagineer Tony Baxter".
  7. ^ Niles, Robert (2013). "Thank you, Tony Baxter". Theme Park Insider.

External links[edit]