An Interview with Tony Baxter
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Tony Baxter poses with some Autopia merchandise
Tony Baxter is the Senior Vice President of Creative Development at Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI). He was hired by WDI and 1970 and lead or was involved in the development of many Disney favorites including Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Journey Into Imagination at Epcot, Star Tours, Splash Mountain, Indiana Jones Adventure and the New Tomorrowland among many others. We had the opportunity to speak briefly with Baxter at an Autopia event on June 25th.
LaughingPlace.com: FastPass recently opened on Indiana Jones. How do you feel about that?
Tony Baxter: Well, when it works and apparently it's working quite well, it's good for our guests. It's all the things that we're trying to work out, working the bugs out that are the difference between it being successful. I guess Indy has worked extremely well but what we have to watch out for are attractions that have a lower capacity and the guests use up all the FastPasses really early in the day and then you've got no choice but to wait in stand-by, so it's a balance.
LP: Does that mean we'll never see FastPass at Rocket Rods?
TB: You'll never see FastPass at Dumbo.
LP: That's one of the popular ones people ask for
TB: I know it, I know, but see it would be sold out at noon.
LP: Does Peter Pan have the same problem?
TB: Well they did Peter Pan in Europe but that's where they found out that problem. It works extremely well over there, nice big area so there's a lot of room, but by 1 or 2 in the afternoon they're already up to 10 o'clock at night on FastPass?
Baxter watches guests on the new Autopia
LP: Let's move on to the reason we're here today, the new Autopia. Are you pleased with the result?
TB: Yeah, I am. We would've never gotten an opportunity like this unless Chevron didn't open the door. When they developed their little cars several years ago that they've been using in their ads it showed, I think, a key to us driving today is more about cars extending your personality than it is getting out on the freeway. When Walt opened Disneyland people talked about Anaheim as that distant suburb of LA and yet Walt, I think, was smart enough to realize that freeways were going to change the whole complexion of the way people live and the whole suburb idea became the way of the future. So he envisioned, I think, the first Autopia as a chance for young kids to experience the thrills of driving on the highway with all its cloverleaves and everything. Well today nobody cares about that. It's common, that's what we do everyday - to here or to work or whatever. So we saw what Chevron did, re-exciting you about how cars can extend your personality, we sat down and we thought "what are some basic personality types that we can exaggerate for these cars?" So the sports car, the cute car and the rugged off-road car became kind of human personalities and that was kind of the key that unlocked the whole idea.
Sparky the Sports Car
Suzy the Cute Car
Dusty the Off-Road Vehicle