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Saturday, February 2, 2013

Tony Baxter Rides Off Into The Sunset

Tony Baxter
Senior Vice President
Walt Disney Imagineering
Retired - Feb.1, 2013 

Walt Disney passed away in December 1966. Since that time, arguably the two men who have been most responsible for keeping the memories, ideas, and legacy of Walt alive within Disney parks have been Mary Sklar and Tony Baxter. Marty, who worked along side Walt for many years and often gave Walt his most endearing words as a Disney publicist and writer before moving on to Walt Disney Imagineering, retired in 2009. His window of honor sits right above Disneyland's City Hall where he once had an office.

Yesterday, Tony retired. Though youthful in appearance, Tony Baxter did turn 65 and is at an age where retirement often seems like a good option. Of course, he did take on the obligatory role of part-time Disney consultant. I believe Marty, who seems to still turn up at every major Disneyland event, has the same role. These are high profile men that fans of Disney parks adore for their unwavering commitment to keeping Walt's dreams alive. 

Tony's career at Disney spans some four decades of service. He was there as the Haunted Mansion opened, conceived and built Thunder Mountain Railroad, and oversaw the last renovation of Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. He could often be seen walking around Disneyland, a solitary man with a smile without the usual hangers-on of high profiled executives. Some have speculated (and it is speculation) that Tony, like Marty, may have been nudged a bit into retirement either because he couldn't handle the continuing efforts of Disney to put profits ahead of creativity and imagination or people above him just wanted people of his commitment to do the right thing instead of the most profitable thing out of the way. 

Tony is very much old school Disneyland and you have to wonder about the future of the place now that the old guard is leaving. I sent out a tweet this morning from my @ShrunkenNed Twitter account in response to his retirement announcement: "Abraham Lincoln now weeps knowing there is a storage crate with his name on it." Sadly, I fear it just may be true.

Marty Sklar
Walt Disney Imagineering
Retired July 17,2009

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