Tony Baxter is an Imagineer with a story. He began his Disney career at an early age, scooping ice cream at Disneyland, and rose through the company, ultimately redefining the Imagineering department in the 1980’s. When he announced in early 2013 that he would be stepping down from his role at Disney Imagineering, my heart sank. Tony has always been an idol of mine. Lucky for me, his retirement did not mean his disappearance from the Disney Enterprise, and I had the pleasure of meeting him at the D23 Expo this past August.
I attended a presentation he gave with fellow Imagineer Josh Shipley on the early days of Disneyland. Titled Undiscovered Disneyland, or Rediscovered Disneyland, the two Imagineers recounted the Disneyland that once was, and the Disney Parks that could have been. The presentation was light-hearted and quite fascinating, and was full of tidbits of information about the early days of the Disney Parks. As the presentation neared its end, Disney Parks & Resort Chairman Tom Skaggs took to the stage with a special announcement. Tony Baxter would be receiving his own Window on Main Street, U.S.A at Disneyland later in the year.
It was clear at that moment that Tony Baxter was floored. His reaction was priceless, and the entire audience was ecstatic. You see, a Window on Main Street is a big deal. It is an honor given to those that have had a significant impact on the Disney Parks, and few, if any, have been received so swiftly. They represent the heart of the company, and those that have put their everything into turning Walt’s dream into a reality.
Later in the conference I had the pleasure of speaking briefly with Tony Baxter. I was able to congratulate him on his window, and it was clear from his reaction that he was incredibly humbled by the presentation. We briefly chatted about his background in theatre and the path he had taken to Imagineering, and he encouraged me more than he could possibly know. It was a privilege and an honor to meet him, and a memory I will always cherish.
Congratulations Tony Baxter! You truly deserve this honor, and I can’t wait to see your window in person!
Collage Photos: © Disney Parks
Collage Composition and photos of Tony Baxter & Josh Shipley at D23: © Lindsey Leffel