The Disney theme-park designer Joe Rohde announced in an Instagram post on Monday that he's retiring after 40 years with the company.
The beloved creative said he thought it was a "great opportunity to slip away without too much disruption" while Disney World faced a "quiet time" during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While many fans thanked him for his impact on the theme parks over the years, others questioned whether the broken yeti animatronic in Animal Kingdom — the theme park he was in charge of — would ever be fixed.
Rohde has said numerous times that he's been working to fix the animatronic for more than a decade.
Disney World fans have come to accept that the animatronic yeti inside the Animal Kingdom ride Expedition Everest does not work the way it's supposed to.
But now, some fans worry that won't ever change after the beloved Disney theme-park designer Joe Rohde announced plans to retire after 40 years with the company.
In an Instagram post on Monday, Rohde said he had decided to leave while the Florida theme park was facing a "quiet time" so he could do so without causing "too much disruption."
Rohde first began working for Disney at the age of 25. According to his latest Instagram post, he didn't know "anything about theme parks, Disney, or what it meant to work for a big company" at the time.
"Every day of my life since then has been a learning experience," he wrote. "I'm very glad to have had that opportunity, and proud of the work that has been done, not just by me, but by all my fellow Imagineers" — the name Disney gives to its theme-park designers — "and especially those who worked by my side over the decades."
Still, he noted that 40 years at a job "is a long time," and he said he felt the present time — as Disney World copes with travel disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic — was a "great opportunity to slip away without too much disruption."
"If I wait, I will once again be in the middle of another huge project and by the time that is done, I would be truly old," Rohde wrote. "I'm not that old yet and there are things I want to do that cannot be done here."
He went on to describe his time at Disney as a coming-of-age story.
"I started at Disney as a child, and I learned almost all my life lessons there, developed my confidence, recognized my skills and weaknesses, and went on to work with both... and do what could be done," he wrote. "I could stay forever, but that is like remaining in another kind of womb. I want to see what a grown man might be able to do on his own. This site here is not really for Disney. It's for us."
"I imagine that there are many of you who I will be sad that I will no longer be a daily part of the Disney company, and there will be some of you who will drift away and no longer follow my ruminations because they feel they aren't relevant," Rohde said. "But I will still be here. And I will still be thinking about things, and doing things, and talking about things… Because that's kind of what I do."
He concluded: "I mentioned in my departure note and I will mention here again the tremendous debt that I owe to our guests and our fans who have been so generous. Working as an Imagineer has made me a good designer, but it is all of you who have made me a better person."
Disney fans are now worried the broken yeti animatronic at Animal Kingdom will never be fixed once Rohde retires
The Expedition Everest roller coaster opened at Disney World's Animal Kingdom in 2006. Rohde was in charge of the attraction, in which parkgoers encounter the yeti who protects the Forbidden Mountain alongside Mount Everest.
At one point during the ride, a 25-foot-tall animatronic yeti is meant to reach its arm down above riders. Unfortunately for fans, the creature stopped working properly shortly after its debut. The animatronic now stands still with strobe lights flashing behind it — earning it the nickname "Disco Yeti" as a result.
During a panel appearance at the 2013 D23 convention, Rohde promised to fix the yeti eventually, saying: "You have to understand, it's a giant, complicated machine sitting on top of like, a 46-foot-tall tower in the middle of a finished building."
"So, it's really hard to fix, but we are working on it, and we continue to work on it," Rohde continued. "We have tried several things — none of them quite get to the key turning of the 40-foot tower inside of a finished building — but we are working on it. I personally kind of bulldog this one in a way that doesn't always make me popular, but, I will fix the yeti someday, I swear."
Now, some Disney fans are making memes and worrying about the unforgotten promise.
—Minnie on Main (@main_minnie) November 23, 2020
—bumblebee 🐝 mando spoilers (@sleepyfetts) November 23, 2020
—Mateo (@_justmateo_) November 23, 2020
—rachel zegler (@rachelzegler) November 23, 2020
—Amanda (@amandapj98) November 23, 2020
Others thanked Rohde for his work at Disney parks over the years
Many Twitter users reflected on some of the attractions Rohde had worked on, including Expedition Everest, the Aulani resort in Hawaii, and the Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout! ride at Disneyland.
Among them was James Gunn, who directed "Guardians of the Galaxy."
—sincerely, ivy marie. ⛄️❄️ (@sincerelyivy_) November 23, 2020
—James Gunn (@JamesGunn) November 23, 2020
—Gabe's Imagination (@Disneyman2021) November 23, 2020
—The Disney Dude (@DisneyTalk101) November 23, 2020
Representatives for Disney World did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.
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