Tony Baxter & Being Mentored

Tony Baxter working on his beloved, but never realized Discovery Bay idea. Note the Hyperion at the bottom from Islands at the Top of the World just below the Nautilus. Also notice that at the top is Dumbo Circusland, which has since become very much realized in Storybook Circus. Note that this photo comes from Disney's Annual Report, which Tony expresses his love for. Copyright Disney.

Tony Baxter working on his beloved, but never realized Discovery Bay idea. Note the Hyperion at the bottom from Islands at the Top of the World just below the Nautilus. Also notice that at the top is Dumbo Circusland, which has since become very much realized in Storybook Circus. Note that this photo comes from Disney’s Annual Report, which Tony expresses his love for. Copyright Disney.

I listen to a lot of great Disney podcasts out there while I’m working out (yes…I work out…believe it or not). But my absolute favorite is The Season Pass. There is seldom a program–particularly on Disney–where I don’t walk away with something new. This week’s podcast features newly named Disney Legend Tony Baxter. It is so awesome, and it’s only part I of the interview. You’ll hear how he started his career with Disney Imagineering while working at Disneyland as a host in Adventure Through Inner Space. He talks about helping build Snow White’s Adventures (they weren’t called scary back then) as well as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, then speaks about how Big Thunder Mountain came to be. It’s wonderful. I’m on my third listen (okay, maybe I work out too much).

But what was fascinating, especially in the arena I focus on in this blog was how he was mentored by Claude Coats. After Walt’s death, the work of designing and developing attractions for Disneyland and into the opening of Walt Disney World remained with the original generation of Imagineers. The problem is that this group was retiring and their wasn’t any effort being made to bring in the next generation. Due to persistence and luck, Tony had the unique opportunity to become not only part of that next generation, but to be tutored under Claude Coats. Because of that opportunity, Tony received huge opportunities as an Imagineer in the years to come.

Claude on the right directing the work on Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland with Fred Joerger on the left. In the podcast, Tony discovers this picture as an Imagineer and makes an important connection to his relationship with Claude. Copyright Disney.

Claude on the right directing the work on Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland with Fred Joerger on the left. In the podcast, Tony discovers this picture as an Imagineer and makes an important connection to his relationship with Claude. Copyright Disney.

He also talks about the age gap between mentor and mentee. It worked really well for Tony given that he was young and Claude was near retiring. He reflects on the importance of their being an age gap in mentors and mentees so that their isn’t a feel of envy or jealousy by the mentor. This occurred with Rolly Crump and Walt Disney himself, which made older Imagineers somewhat jeaous at the time. Mentoring worked really well between Tony and Claude. And Tony talks about mentoring a new generation of Imagineers and would-be Imagineers today.

Who has mentored you? Who are you mentoring? Mentoring is so important in carrying the success of an organization from one generation to another. Tony will say that he owes much of his career to Claude. I would say that Claude’s greatest legacy was not a ride or attraction, but the time he spent with Tony.

Again, please catch this all on The Season Pass! You will absolutely love this interview!

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