Encounter at the Theme Building,

Encounter at the Theme Building
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by Marc Borrelli
August 6, 2001
In commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the Theme Building, LaughingPlace.com presents and interview with Eddie Sotto, the head of the team at Walt Disney Imagineering that created its unique restaurant, Encounter, "The kinda place George Jetson, James Bond and Barbarella could drink together". Marc Borrelli's interview also features numerous rare historical photos and documents, as well as many shots of Encounter's one of a kind interior.

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Encounter at the Theme Building

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The Theme Building as represented on the mural at the entrance to
Disney's California Adventure

The Theme Building celebrates its 40th birthday this month. You may not know its name, but you've seen this flying saucer like restaurant nestled inside of its 135 foot high parabolic arches many times. Even if it hasn't been first hand, you've certainly seen in one of the hundreds of movies and television shows in which its appeared. When a director needs a shot that says "L.A.", odds are that shot will be of this cathedral of the architectural art form known as googie.

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The Theme Building at an early stage of construction

A $2.2 million part of the $50 million "Los Angeles Jet Age Terminal" project, construction began on the Theme Building in April of 1960 and was completed in August of 1961. Its design was the result of the high-powered combination of two prominent architectural firms - Pereira & Luckman Associates and Welton Becket & Associates. A small contribution was also provided by Paul R. Williams, an architect under contract with Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) at the time.

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The Theme Room's Logo

From 1961 until 1996, the Theme Room, a restaurant which took its lead from the countries of the world, operated within the distinctive building. It offered a menu of "international" cuisine such as "Fondue Suisse A L' Alpine" to represent Switzerland and Austria's Schweinschnitzel. Waiters and waitresses costumed in the traditional attire of various countries added to the theme. But its interior, although beloved by veteran airport employees, was much more California cold war than international showcase. After after 35 years of operation, the Theme Room served its last meal.

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After six months of renovation, its replacement opened on January 31, 1997 and it was a change... to say the least!

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In the mid-nineties, LAX was in the process of upgrading the restaurant facilities throughout the airport. As part of that upgrade, CA-One Services Inc. received the contract to renovate and manage a new restaurant within the Theme Building, taking the responsibility from the Marriott Corporation. It's here that the rest of the story can best be told by Eddie Sotto, the man who headed the team from Walt Disney Imagineering that was responsible for the locations award winning transformation.

For a bio on Eddie Sotto click here.