CalArts Magazine 14

Page 28

Spring/Summer 2013

Joe Lanzisero


A small, framed handwritten note hangs on the wall of Joe Lanzisero’s memorabilia-filled office at the Glendale headquarters of Walt Disney Imagineering. Lanzisero wrote it years ago for the Imagineering Way handbook, and it reads: “Make it fun, my motto. If it ain’t fun—it ain’t done. Kids know the value of humor and playfulness. Good ideas flourish in an atmosphere of fun and silliness.” Making “kids of all ages” happy is a business model for Lanzisero, who oversees the creative side of Hong Kong Disneyland and Disney’s four cruise ships. Growing up in Burbank in the ’60s and ’70s, Lanzisero was an avid cartoonist and fan of Disney films. In 1975, he came to CalArts to study Character Animation, and joined Disney’s animation apprentice program upon graduation. After several years of work on numerous films, including The Fox and the Hound (1981), Lanzisero moved to Walt Disney Imagineering in 1987. The wdi complex includes spaces for concept, mock-up, element assembly, sound stages and other production activity.

Imagineering employs approximately 1,400 people in more than 140 disciplines— Lanzisero’s core group numbers 25—so when he designs a new attraction, he calls on multiple teams of professionals. Each project begins with drawings and a strong story, and Lanzisero still sketches out ideas himself on the drafting table in his office. Hong Kong Disneyland is Lanzisero’s crowning achievement. Two years after it opened in 2005, Lanzisero was handed the creative reigns. He quickly racked up thousands of frequent flyer miles traveling to China as he led the planning and development for three unique lands: Toy Story Land (2011), Grizzly Gulch (2012), and the latest, Mystic Point (2013), which features Mystic Manor, a counterpart to the Haunted Mansion found in other Disney parks—but without the ghosts. “Chinese people have different views of the afterlife than Westerners,” he says. “Happy, singing ghosts wouldn’t work.” Lanzisero’s solution was to design a fictitious explorer’s house, starring a mischievous monkey who opens an enchanted music box and releases magic dust to bring the explorer’s

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