Bob Weis, former President of Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI), and current Global Imagineering Ambassador, officially announced his retirement on Thursday, October 20, after 42 years of service.
“I will always be proud to have led Imagineering from 2016-2021 and to be your Global Ambassador in 2022,” he wrote in an email he shared today with his fellow Imagineers. “I am proud to have been an Imagineer, a collaborator, and someone who loves to do impossible things with impossibly talented people.”
Whether Guests and fans knew it or not, Weis has had the privilege of contributing to scores of beloved and historic projects, from the creation of Disney’s Hollywood Studios (at the time, Disney-MGM Studios) and Tokyo DisneySea, the reimagining of Disney California Adventure, and the development of Shanghai Disney Resort.
Joining what was then called WED Enterprises in 1980, Weis found himself assigned to Tokyo Disneyland–Disney’s first international Theme Park. Relocating to Japan, it was his team that worked side-by-side with the Oriental Land Company to establish Disney Magic on another continent. Tokyo Disneyland was Park #3. Two scores later, that number has quadrupled.
“Well, that’s quite a timespan,” he expressed to D23. “I began on Tokyo Disneyland, so I’d say the biggest shift for me is we went from two theme parks in the United States to 12 around the world.”
Over the years, as Parks grew and changed, Weis remained aware of the delicate “balance” Imagineers needed to maintain between keeping what has been and adding–or replacing with–what is new.
“[Across the years,] we’ve all seen that—we’ve seen things that we’ve created have that kind of lasting power across generations,” he said. “To me, that is the magic of Disneyland—that people take their kids and want them to have the same experiences [that they had as children]. But also, as Marty [Sklar] said, our theme parks are not museums. We have to keep them fresh. We have to keep moving forward. So, there’s this balance: How do you keep the classic things that people remember but at the same time be constantly upping your game, making things better? And that’s one of the great joys of being an Imagineer.”
In 2021, Bob Weis stepped down from his role as President of WDI and was succeeded by Barbara Bouza. He has spent the past year serving in the role of Global Imagineer Ambassador, a position that was once held by one of his mentors–and the first to hold the title–, the late Disney Legend and former WDI president Marty Sklar. He will officially step down from his role on January 2, 2023. And though he is announcing an official retirement, Weis makes it clear he is nowhere near done with his relationship with Disney.
“When I retire, I am relishing the opportunity to write a book for the Marty Sklar Archives, and I’m in the process of developing a screenplay for Walt Disney Studios,” he said. “I may even find some time to just go down and walk around Disneyland once in a while.”
All of us here at Disney Fanatic extend our deepest gratitude to Bob Weis for the years he spent maintaining and “plussing” the Disney Magic that we have experienced in the Parks and was started by Walt over 60 years ago.
We will continue to update our readers on Disney Parks news and stories as more developments come to light.