by Richard Bernato
Back in the day there was a television game show called “To Tell the Truth.” Three individuals would claim to be a person who had accomplished something. Two were impostors who could lie and twist the truth to try to convince a panel that either of them was the actual person. The actual person was obligated to “tell the truth”. In the end the panelists would use the three individuals’ answers to vote on their choice for the real person. The emcee would then have the “Real Mr. X, please stand up.”
I wonder, what questions they might ask of Mr. Tony Baxter, well known and acclaimed Disney Imagineer?
PANELIST: “Mr. Baxter, did you lead the design project about Big Thunder Mountain Railroad?”
PANELIST: “Mr. Baxter, did you lead the design project about the original Journey Into Imagination?”
PANELIST: “Mr. Baxter, did you lead the design project about Splash Mountain?”
PANELIST: “ The Indiana Jones Adventure project?”
BAXTER: Yes. PANELIST: “Disneyland Paris?”
PANELIST: The “Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage project?”
PANELIST: “Have you been a major spokesperson for documentaries about Disneyland and Walt Disney World?”
Yes, and yes, and yes. Tony Baxter has certainly been in the forefront of many of the major creative undertakings not only at Walt Disney World, but also of Disneyland and of Disneyland Paris. And the questions our make-believe panelists “asked” could easily have explored so many other contributions he has made to the Walt Disney Company and by extension to all of us who have enjoyed them.
One point that struck me in my research about Tony Baxter was how fortunate he is. A man immersed in a vision, driven by a vision, and talented enough to fulfill his vision is one lucky guy. The intersection of these vision dimensions certainly makes for a wonderful force. Then you throw in that he clearly has the people skills to both engage others and to catalyze them to contribute to the vision and it gets even better.
I will leave to others the laundry list of what Mr. Baxter’s contributions to the Walt Disney Company have come to mean in addition to those our would – be To Tell the Truth panelists might have elicited from him. I sort of think it’s more important to note an how he describes that the beginning his own career in Disney:
Mr. Baxter speaks about how other, older Imagineers would selflessly take the newer ones under their wing. He speaks especially appreciatively of Claude Coats who would not only make sure that young Baxter got plenty of experiences in design of Disney attractions and projects, but also had no problem praising his charge’s own accomplishments to the higher-ups in the Imagineering group.
The title of the Innoventions attraction, “The Sum of All Thrills,” suggests that the word sum, the total, you might say the synthesis, of all thrills, is found in this attraction. I would say that Baxter’s role in the success of the Walt Disney Company while notable of its own, is more valuable when you recognize that he and his Imagineer colleagues collectively recognize they are the sum of what we all admire in all of Walt Disney offerings.
All we can hope for that as he calls it, “A second-generation Imagineer” like himself has recognized his/her responsibility to create third-generation Imagineers as talented and productive as the ones who have gone before them. Like Tony Baxter..
Rich may be the only blogger who; had an ORIGINAL Davy Crockett coonskin cap (and wishes he still had it); watched Disney’s Wonderful World of Color in black and white; watched the Disneyland opening ceremonies on that same black and white; AND rode the original It’s a Small World in the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. In addition he is a college professor, his own Disney blogger (http://disdoc.wordpress.com/) and a grandfather of six whom he is thoroughly dis-doctrinating as often as possible.