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Virgin Galactic appoints former Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde

Virgin Galactic has appointed former Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde to help design the experience journey as the first ‘Experience Architect’.

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Joe Rohde will serve as a strategic advisor to help design and guide the experience journey for future astronauts and other guests of Virgin Galactic.

Rohde will become Virgin Galactic’s first Experience Architect. He has more than 40 years’ experience at Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI).

According to a press release, Rohde’s work will stimulate curiosity and guide the imagination while anchoring the customer experience of Virgin Galactic.

“I spent 40 years with Walt Disney Imagineering and that word, ‘Imagineering’, refers to the fusion of imagination and engineering,” said Rohde.

“This means I’ve come from a tradition where if you are imagining something, you are imagining that thing is going to be made real.

Customer experience at Virgin Galactic

“That’s also been going on here at Virgin Galactic, and I’m delighted to be joining at this incredible moment in time when it is about to blossom into public awareness.”

Rohde announced his retirement as a creative executive after 40 years with Walt Disney Imagineering in November 2020.

He started his career in 1980 as a model designer on EPCOT, and continued with projects at DisneylandWalt Disney World, and Disneyland Paris.

“This is one of the most profound things that can happen to you,” added Rohde. “To go beyond the reaches of the earth, to space, and look back down at it.

“What Virgin Galactic is doing, in democratizing space travel, has reached a moment where it is about to enter history. It’s happening right here in New Mexico, and it’s very rare to be a person who gets to be in the place, at the time, that history begins.”

WDI veteran will be ‘Experience Architect’

Rohde led the team that conceptualised, designed and constructed Disney’s Animal Kingdom. He also oversaw the Villages Nature Eco-Resort adjacent to Disneyland Paris.

In addition, he led the team behind Pandora: The World of Avatar at Animal Kingdom and Guardians of the Galaxy, Mission: Escape at Disney California Adventure.

Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic, said: “As soon as I joined Virgin Galactic, I knew there was one person we just had to work with to help shape the incredible experience we are developing – and that person was Joe Rohde.

“Joe has a methodology that is unique, inspired, and truly effective. His track record for keeping authenticity central to the design and creating deeply transformative experiences aligns perfectly with our mission.”

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Bea Mitchell

A journalist specialising in entertainment and attractions, Bea loves theme parks (mainly Disney) and is particularly interested in things of a gothic, horror or fantasy nature.

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