Tony Baxter

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, and served as the executive producer of Disneyland Paris.[1][2]

Tony Baxter
Tony Baxter, 2010.jpg
Baxter in 2009
Born (1947-02-01) February 1, 1947 (age 74)
EducationSanta Ana High School, California State University, Long Beach
OccupationSenior Vice President, Creative Development, Walt Disney Imagineering, formerly known as WED Enterprises
Years active1965–2016, 2020 (Princess and the Frog Ride)
Board member ofWalt Disney Imagineering
AwardsTHEA Award, Lifetime Achievement
Disney Legend, 2013

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 ImagineeringEdit

A partial list of the attractions Baxter has been responsible for:

Big Thunder Mountain RailroadEdit

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 at Disneyland in 1983 with Baxter's oversight. It included the redesign of all the architecture from a Renaissance theme to appear like a Bavarian village. It also featured the addition of a walk-through located inside Sleeping Beauty 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 MountainEdit

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 (1946), 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. In 2020, Disney announced that the Disneyland and Magic Kingdom versions of the attraction would be re-themed to the 2009 animated feature The Princess and the Frog, and that Baxter would contribute to this new version as a creative advisor.[8]

Indiana Jones AdventureEdit

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 VoyageEdit

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]

Selected Disney worksEdit

Tony Baxter and Jack Janzen in 2009 at a National Fantasy Fan Club (NFFC) event
List of Tony Baxter projects for WED Enterprises/Walt Disney Imagineering
Attraction Park Year opened Year closed
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Disneyland
Magic Kingdom
Tokyo Disneyland
Euro Disneyland Park
Journey Into Imagination EPCOT Center 1983 1999
New Fantasyland Disneyland 1983
The Disney Gallery Disneyland 1987 2007 (original location)
Star Tours Disneyland
Tokyo Disneyland
Disney-MGM Studios
Euro Disneyland Park
Splash Mountain Disneyland
Tokyo Disneyland
Magic Kingdom
Indiana Jones Adventure Disneyland
Tokyo DisneySea
New Tomorrowland Disneyland 1998
Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage Disneyland 2007
Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough (updated version) Disneyland 2008
Star Tours – The Adventures Continue Disney's Hollywood Studios
Tokyo Disneyland
Disneyland Park (Paris)

Awards & HonorsEdit

Baxter has been awarded the Themed Entertainment Association's THEA award for lifetime achievement.[9] In 2004, Baxter was the recipient of the DFC Disney Legend award from the Disneyana Fan Club.[10] In August 2013, in a ceremony at the D23 Expo in Anaheim, CA, Baxter was inducted as a Disney Legend.[11] A few months later, in November 2013, Baxter received the honor of having his name appear on Main Street, U.S.A. windows at Disneyland.[12] The window, which can be found above the Main Street Magic Shop reads:Main Street Marvels – Tony Baxter, Inventor, Imagination is at the heart of our Creations [13]


  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.
  8. ^ MacDonald, Brady. "Disneyland and Disney World to remake Splash Mountain with 'Princess and the Frog' theme". The Orange County Register. The Orange County Register. Retrieved 5 July 2020.
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