February 1, 1947 – Imagineer, Former Senior Vice President of Creative Development, and Disney Legend Tony Baxter is Born
“The names on those windows gave the world a very magical kingdom, but more importantly, created a yardstick by which everything that’s followed Disneyland has been measured…to be included with them here at Disneyland is, to me, the ultimate honor.”
On February 1, 1947, Tony Wayne Baxter was born in Los Angeles, California. Baxter was interested in Disney from a young age, fortuitously growing up at the time and place where Disneyland opened and flourished. At age 17, he began working at the park as an ice cream scooper at Carnation Plaza Gardens. After peeking behind the scenes of the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, he ran into Imagineer Claude Coats, who offered to give Baxter a tour of the then-unfinished ride. His love for Disney attractions continued through college, where he created a design for a Mary Poppins-themed ride for a course project. This project was brought to the attention of WED (now known as WDI – Walt Disney Imagineering), and they offered him an in-depth look at Imagineering. After college, Baxter was given a job in WED, and his first project was the Walt Disney World version of the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attraction, where he served as the field art director. After this, Baxter helped develop some of the most loved attractions in the parks, the first being Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, opening in Disneyland in 1979 and designed by both Baxter and mentor Claude Coats.
In 1983, Baxter oversaw one of the biggest projects at the Disneyland – the remodeling of Fantasyland. A walk-through was added inside Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, and all the buildings were redesigned from a Renaissance theme to a Bavarian Village theme. In 1989, the attraction Splash Mountain debuted, with the initial idea for the attraction belonging to Baxter. He was also tapped to create attractions for the George Lucas partnership, which included Star Tours and Indiana Jones Adventure. Baxter is also credited for the Imagination pavilion in Walt Disney World’s Epcot park, the redesign of Disneyland’s Tomorrowland, restoration of the Disney submarines for Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, renovation of Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, revamp of Star Tours – The Adventure Continues, and the creation of Disneyland’s Fantasy Faire. 2013 became an important year for Baxter, as he not only announced that he would be stepping down from his role as Senior Vice President of Creative Development into a role of creative advisor and mentor, but he was awarded a window on Main Street, and honored as a Disney Legend.