Disney History - Imagineer John Hench
In 1908, John Hench - Disney’s Renaissance artist - was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In his legendary 64 year career with the Walt Disney Company, John left his mark in films, theme parks, and hotels. Former head of Disney Imagineering Marty Sklar said "Other than Walt Disney himself, no one symbolizes the Walt Disney Company more than John Hench.”
After joining the Walt Disney Studio in 1939 John worked on both animated and live-action films as a set designer, artist and on special-effects. In 1954, John was one of the many studio employees asked to help with the design and construction of Disneyland. As an Imagineer, John’s first project involved the attractions in Tomorrowland. On the Rocket to the Moon attraction John worked with famed German rocket scientist Wernher von Braun on the design of the Moonliner. In his book, Designing Disney, John explains: “I wanted an elegant shape that suggested high speed even though it would be stationary…From any angle in Tomorrowland, the rocket appeared ready to blast off for the moon.”
John helped establish the philosophy behind Disney design from the ideas and concepts first shared by Walt himself. In a 1978 article in New West magazine titled “Disneyland is Good for You,” the author notes “Hench has become the Disney organization’s ranking theoretician on how movies and theme parks can be programmed to produce effects on the unconscious as well as conscious mind.”
The article provides an extraordinary foundation for the psychology behind Disney theme park design and features extensive comments from Hench. He explains that “…the order here at Disneyland works on people, the sense of harmony. They feel more content here, in a way they can’t explain.” Hench explains that the essential message of Disneyland is that “there is nothing to fear….What we are selling is not escapism but reassurance.”
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Growing up in Los Angeles in the 70s/80s we visited Disneyland on a regular basis and often after school, before "Annual Passes".