Friday, April 7, 2017

Legendary Imagineer George McGinnis, Creator of Beloved Epcot Attraction "Horizons", Dies at 87

Today is a very sad day as legendary Imagineer George McGinnis passed away at 87. George was the kindest man you can imagined, and very humble too. George McGinnis who was the last Imagineer personally hired by Walt Disney in 1966, found himself right away in design meetings with Walt and for the next three decades, George contributed to such high-profile projects as the new monorails, Epcot's Horizons - the most beloved of all extinct attractions - and two Space Mountains.

On the picture above, Glenn Durflinger (left), who led the team of architects producing construction drawings, and George McGinnis, Space Mountain concept designer, review the final Space Port concept model. 

Working alongside Disney luminaries like Marty Sklar, Bob Gurr, and John Hench, George brought his unique background as an industrial designer to the creation of the Mark V and Mark VI monorails, and much of Disneyland and Walt Disney World's Space Mountains. His concept art, often begun on the back of napkins, influenced the final look of many theme park attractions.

This Space Mountain sketch by George McGinnis was apparently a design effort when it was still believed there could be exposed track on the exterior.

But George's heart and soul went into one of the most beloved attraction unfortunately no longer in existence: Epcot Horizons. As the manager of Disney's Industrial Design Department, responsible not just for Horizons but for other Epcot attractions, Horizons has always been for George one of his favorite creations and Disney fans consider it as Epcot's golden age. Here is a great video of Horizons full ride with a restored footage.

Horizons POV Ride Through Restored Video - EPCOT Center - 1990 from RetroWDW on Vimeo.

Here is more about George career at WDI: Industrial designer, George McGinnis began his career at Walt Disney Imagineering in 1966. His senior project at the Art Center College of Design, a working model of a futuristic high-speed train, attracted the attention of Walt Disney. George was invited to Imagineering by Walt, who showed him the WEDway PeopleMover system in development. Walt proceeded to introduce George to Dick Irvine, President of Imagineering, who invited George to become an Imagineer.

George’s first assignment was to design miniature transportation models for the Progress City display for the Carousel of Progress attraction that opened at Disneyland in July 1967. He was also responsible for concept design of both the Mighty Microscope for the Disneyland attraction Adventure Through Inner Space and the Saturn-style “winged rocket with boosters” for Disneyland’s Tomorrowland Rocket Jets (1967).

 George McGinnis' sketch based on a rendering of the first concept for the Space Port shows a delta-wing shuttle preparing to launch. The concept changed due to track revisions.

Upside-down astronauts work on the Interplanetary Explorer ship in the Space Port of Walt Disney World's Space Mountain. Note the Krylon-cap shaped nozzles on the ship's ion engines. Sketch by George McGinnis.

From 1967 to 1971, George designed WEDway PeopleMover trains and parking lot shuttle vehicles for Walt Disney World. In 1971, he became a show designer, involved with such major projects as Space Mountain for both Walt Disney World (1975) and Disneyland (1977). A year later, in 1978, he worked on the concept designs for the robots in Disney’s The Black Hole motion picture.

Above: An Horizons elevation sketch by George McGinnis' showing the design for placing scenes from Mesa Verde and Sea Castle back-to-back within the Horizons building.

In 1979, George became manager of Industrial Design for Epcot and later project show designer for the Horizons Pavilion. In addition, he also designed SMRT-1 and the Astuter Computer Revue for the Communicore Pavilion. From 1983 to 1987, George designed the Mark V monorail train for Disneyland, which debuted in 1987. Following that, George contributed design ideas for the Magic Kingdom attraction Delta Dreamflight/Take Flight, designed the Walt Disney World Mark VI monorail, and designed tram vehicles for the Disney-MGM Studios Backlot Tour.

Above: Another elevation drawing by George McGinnis. The final concept package delivered to Architecture in October 1975 included this Space Mountain Space Port elevation. Note the Control Room near the entrance and the projection room and projection surface on the right.

Between 1990 and 1995, George brought his skills as a show designer to several projects for Disney theme parks around the world: boat vehicles for Splash Mountain at Tokyo Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom, Indiana Jones Adventure ride vehicles for Disneyland, the Space Mountain ride vehicle concept for Disneyland Paris, river boats, safari vehicles, and a “steam” locomotive and cars for Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World. Since retiring from Imagineering in 1995, George has continued to work for Disney as a consultant on the Rocket Rod concept vehicle for Tomorrowland, river rafts for Animal Kingdom, and California Adventure.

In addition to his post-retirement work for Disney, George designed trolley cars for real estate developer Rick Caruso. Both trolleys are popular attractions at The Grove and the Americana, two of Caruso’s upscale residential/shopping communities in California.

Last year, George McGinnis memories was released by Theme Park Press. Titled "From Horizons to Space Mountain: The Life of a Disney Imagineer", it is George McGinnis autobiography, and i strongly recommend it to you, this book will be a joy to everyone who values authentic design. George shares tales and details—all in the most thorough manner—through his revealing text and illustrations. And to those who wish to pursue Imagineering, in fact, any significant creative career, this will be your guiding treasure.

The book is published by Theme Park Press and you can find it on Amazon in printed edition for $19.95 or in Kindle ebook format for $6.94 only!

In this book George writes in detail of his Imagineering work, his interactions with Walt and many of the company's Imagineers, engineers, and artists, and his career after Disney, which included the design of trolleys for billionaire real estate developer Rick Caruso's upscale California communities. Disney Legend Bob Gurr also did the Preface of the book that you can read below:

"George McGinnis. Let me tell you about George. I never met a designer that exasperated me as much as George. What I did not realize until decades later was that what set my hair on fire at the time was the very characteristic George had that made him probably Walt Disney Imagineering’s finest industrial designer of all time.

No person I ever worked with stuck to his guns over getting every last detail completely correct, staying true to the design requests given to him. He’d show me every single detail and explain why it was so important. As the manufacturing design guy for his projects, I was ready to roll forward while he was continuing to refine his designs. His main boss, Dick Irvine, would exclaim,”George, you’re glossing the goose!”

An example. The WDW 20,000 Leagues submarine was patterned after the dramatic and fantastical Jules Verne-style submarine. George was going to make sure “his” submarine would truly reflect the Verne concept. It’s just a ride vehicle to me, but not to George! He added a most elegant brass helm and fancy wheel, totally unneeded on a ride. Irvine said no, and I grabbed the parts and confiscated them to my home. I still have them today … my personal monument to George’s unyielding honor to “just do it right”.

And doing it right is what George unfailingly pursued during his entire career with Disney, his work on Rick Caruso’s trolleys and beyond. When I visit Glendale’s Americana today, I still stop to admire George’s fantastical, beautiful (and correct) trolley, another wonderful monument to his superb design integrity."

In tribute to George McGinnis I will post this week-end a great article about Epcot Horizons,  and in the meantime do not miss too George McGinnis articles about DL and WDW Space Mountain posted on Mouse Planet in 2005 HERE, and HERE and from where some of the sketches posted above are coming.

Pictures: copyright George McGinnis, Disney

Text: copyright Theme Park Press

1 comment:

Jim Rhodes said...

It was nice to read this post and see all these picture.