In One Little Spark, the second memoir from the late and legendary Disney Imagineer, Marty Sklar, he defines the meaning behind the phrase “visual wienie” as some sort of visual target that would help move guests into and through a presentation. Well, at Thursday evening’s “Animal Kingdom, Pandora, and the Great Masters” held at the Orlando Museum of Art, the wienie was undeniably the two presentations by Disney Imagineer, Joe Rohde. During the events, Rohde gave his wall-to-wall guests a magnified look inside the magic of Pandora and Animal Kingdom, while incorporating its fascinating art history.
“When you make something [like Animal Kingdom] — once its done — you start looking at it as a finished thing and regarding it as just what it is and forgetting the legacy behind it that led it to be what it is,” Rohde admitted. And though the majority of his audiences that evening could have lived out the rest of their Disney-obsessed lives without pinpointing the specifics and still happily maxed out credit card after credit card for Mouse memorabilia and park tickets, we were hanging onto his every word as he explained how, for example, pop artist Robert Rauschenberg had inspired the rusted nail-ridden walls at Animal Kingdom and beyond. He noted, “These designs are not accidents, they are deliberate. In order to be deliberate, they have to be crafted. And they have to be crafted according to the rules of the craft. And the rules of the craft are set by the artists of long, long ago. So, it’s Africa… through the lens of Robert Rauschenberg.”
Rohde went on to juxtapose the guests’ experience at Disney Parks to that of the way in which viewers (audiences, essentially) took in the work of panoramic landscape artist, Frederic Edwin Church. “They’d open the curtain and there would be this grand, vast landscape in which you mentally wandered for an hour. Because no matter how big that painting was — if you looked into the tiniest, tiniest sections of that painting — there was another painting. And another painting. And another and another… down to the size of a nickel,” he described with a thrill that matched a child just discovering how many functions came on his new Buzz Lightyear doll. He continued, “That sounds familiar to me; a ticket, a theater, a presentation, a vast world that presents itself with grandeur that allows one to wander down to the tiniest detail… That sounds like us!”
It does, though. When you think about the reason why you’re still overwhelmed each and every time you step foot onto Main Street or, in this case, the thought of how someone could make mountains levitate, creating a sense of motion and grandeur, it is because of that magic “it factor” Disney maintains. This is because they are keeping the legacy of Walt Disney, who had brought indigenous people from all walks of life together — people that are the culmination of 40,000 years of lessons — in order to optimize the human race and our experiences.
“Slow down and look,” Rohde concluded. “There are many beautiful things to see in the world, if you stop and look at them.” So, the next time you are lucky enough to enter through the gates of a Disney park, take heed of Rohde’s advice and keep moving into the landscape. Soon enough, you will be rewarded.