Walt Disney Imagineers to Reunite in Orlando for the 35th Anniversary of the Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)

Walt Disney Imagineers to Reunite in Orlando for the 35th Anniversary of the  Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)

“The Public is Invited May 3 – 5 to Listen to and Meet the Minds Behind the Magic of the Hollywood-Themed Park and its Classic Disney Attractions”
The Public is Invited May 3 – 5 to Listen to and Meet the Minds Behind the Magic of the Hollywood-Themed Park and its Classic Disney Attractions

Orlando, FL – Lights! Camera! Action! When the curtain rose on the Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park at Orlando’s Walt Disney World Resort in 1989, it was the first Disney theme park ever to be developed without the contribution of Walt Disney.

The glamourous new park, complete with its “Earful Tower” icon, represented the family entertainment conglomerate’s third at the world’s #1 destination entertainment resort and an opportunity for the second generation of Imagineers to spread their wings and invent a whole new Disney theme park experience after cutting their teeth on EPCOT Center and Tokyo Disneyland.

What originated as Disney CEO Michael Eisner’s concept for a new EPCOT pavilion about filmmaking evolved into a half-day standalone theme park experience. Its instant and overwhelming success resulted in multiple expansions over the decades, ultimately establishing the park as a home to some of the company’s most beloved attractions and an enduring vacation spot for families around the globe.

From opening day adventures like the groundbreaking The Great Movie Ride, The Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, Star Tours, and The Backlot Tour (featuring Catastrophe Canyon) to later additions like Rock’n’Roller Coaster, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Fantasmic, Lights, Motors, Action!, Toy Story Land, and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park (renamed Disney’s Hollywood Studios in 2007 following the expiration of the MGM license), now sees nearly 11-million guests annually. All thanks to a group of talented, innovative, and young Imagineers who were given the chance to prove themselves over three decades ago.

From May 3 – 5, 2024, those Imagineers, many of whom haven’t seen each other in years, will reunite for the first time in decades in Celebration, Florida to reminisce, share untold tales from the trenches, and celebrate the 35th anniversary of their epic achievement.

WDWNT.com is hosting Stage 89, an unofficial event that promises to be the biggest-ever in-person gathering of former and current Disney Imagineers responsible for Walt Disney World’s movie theme park ever staged! 

Taking place a stone’s throw from the park in Celebration, Florida, the weekend portion of the event will include captivating in-person presentations, lively panel discussions, a meet & greet with some of Disney’s most celebrated and accomplished Imagineers, and a rare autograph session with the authors and auteurs of the classic rides, shows and attractions that continue to excite and delight movie lovers of all ages. 

Former Walt Disney Imagineering president and the park’s chief designer, Bob Weis, along with former Imagineer and the park’s project director, Randy Printz, will open the event with an hour-long keynote presentation documenting the park’s evolution from EPCOT pavilion to what it is today. This eye-opening in-person talk will set the stage for two days of deep dives into the creation of the park’s iconic rides and shows from 1989 to present.

“It’s so great for Randy and me to appear together again, and with so many members of our team reuniting!” said Bob Weis. “And with the added plus that WDWNT is using this event to benefit Give Kids the World Village, which is such a worthy foundation!” added Randy Printz.

Additional presentations and discussions recounting the proverbial blood, sweat, and tears Imagineers poured into conceiving, designing, producing, and building such timeless experiences include:

  • The Great Movie Ride

  • Superstar Television & The Monster Sound Show

  • The Backlot Tour (Tram Tour, Catastrophe Canyon, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Playground)

  • The Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular

  • MuppetVision 3D

  • Star Tours & Star Tours: The Adventures Continue

  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

  • “Streetmosphere” & Live Performances

  • Creating Films for a Film Park

  • Designing Parkwide Interiors

  • Immersive Dining: The Restaurants of the Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park

  • Unbuilt Attractions: Hotel Mel, The Great Muppet Movie Ride, Mickey’s Movieland, Roger Rabbit’s Hollywood, and more!

Current and former Disney Imagineers planning to participate include:

  • Bob Weis, Vice President, Chief Designer

  • Randy Printz, Vice President, Project Director

  • Phil Bloom, Show Set Designer

  • Chris Brown, Technical Director

  • Ron Carman, Project Manager, The Great Movie Ride, Superstar Television, Monster Sound Show & The Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular

  • Cindy Cote, Executive Assistant & Orlando-based team mom

  • Barb Dietzel, Interior Designer

  • Ryan Harmon, “The Youngest Imagineer,” parkwide design assistant, publicity writer

  • Eric Jacobson, Show Producer, The Great Movie Ride & The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

  • Valerie Johnson, Media Producer

  • Paul Osterhaut, Production Designer/Art Director, The Great Movie Ride (“Alien”), Superstar Television, The Monster Sound Show; Show Producer, Star Tours, MuppetVision 3D & Rock’n’Roller Coaster

  • Eric Robison, Designer/Illustrator, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

  • Kathy Rogers, Project Coordinator, The Great Movie Ride

  • Mark Silverman, voice of Rod Serling in The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

  • Brock Thoman, Concept architect, Chinese Theater; set design lead, The Great Movie Ride & Star Tours Ewok Village

  • Philip Vaughan, Show Producer, The Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular & The Soundstage Restaurant

  • Richard Vaughn, Show Producer, Catastrophe Canyon

  • Frank Weigand, Mechanical Engineer

  • Mike West, Show Producer & Writer, The Monster Sound Show & Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular

  • C. McNair Wilson, Live Entertainment Director

Famed Disney artist Eric Robison has been commissioned to paint an original piece for the event that celebrates the park’s icons, yesterday and today. Frameable lithographs of the new rendering will be available to attendees for the meet & greet and autograph session, along with lithographs of Eric’s earliest concept art for The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.

Tickets to attend this once-in-a-lifetime event in-person are on sale now at stage89.com. Tickets to stream the event online are also available on the same website.

Members of the WDWNT Inner Globe Society (patreon.com/WDWNT) are eligible for a discount on in-person registration, as well as exclusive admission to a special sit-down interview with Bob Weis regarding his incredible 40+ year career.

Guests can find the updated list of participants, event schedule, and more at stage89.com

About Stage 89 & Give Kids The World Village

Named after the year the Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park opened, Stage 89 is a non-profit established to educate and inspire the world’s most passionate Disney theme park fans. All proceeds from the May 2024 event benefit Give Kids The World Village, an 89-acre, nonprofit resort in Central Florida that provides critically ill children and their families from around the world with magical week-long wish vacations at no cost. 

For more information about Give Kids The World Village, visit gktw.org.

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