Recently, Kevin Rafferty (Creative Director / Show Writer) announced his plans to retire from Walt Disney Imagineering. You may not recognize his name, but we assure you that his work has left a lasting impression on you.

The news is not a shock to superfans, as he did make mention of his retirement directly following the opening of Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, making the new trackless adventure his final project with the company. In Kevin’s words, “I wanted to go out at the top of my game.” However, as you may recall, a week following the opening of the attraction, COVID-19 took the world by storm and his retirement would be put on hold… along with everything else under the sun.

Humble Beginnings

Kevin grew up in Southern California, only ten minutes from Disneyland. He showed signs of creativity throughout his entire childhood and often dreamed of being an animator.

His story follows in the same Disney-esque ‘rags to riches’ footsteps as Joe Rohde, Marty Sklar, Tony Baxter, and even Walt Disney himself. Starting out his thrilling career with The Walt Disney Company as… not an Imagineer… but rather, a dishwasher at the Plaza Inn in Disneyland.

In 1978, he applied for an entry-level position at Walt Disney Imagineering. If you know your Walt Disney history, you know that this period marks a substantial recruitment period due to the development of Epcot Center.

There he took care of all the typical ‘Imaginewbie’ tasks; dusting models, emptying trash cans, setting up conference rooms, sweeping floors, and mounting and matting the artwork from artists such as Herbie Ryman, Claude Coats, Ward Kimball, and John Hench.

Sighting Claude Coats and Randy Bright as his mentors, in just one decade, Kevin found his true creative calling as a writer and worked on a myriad of noteworthy projects throughout the years.

Kevin’s Noteworthy Imagineering Projects

  • Typhoon Lagoon
  • The Comedy Warehouse
  • Star Tours and the Tony Solaroni show in Pan Galactic Pizza Port
  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
  • Carousel of Progress – 1994 version
  • It’s Tough to Be a Bug!
  • The Enchanted Tiki Room (Under New Management)
  • Sonny Eclipse’s show at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe
  • Blizzard Beach
  • Test Track
  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith
  • Mickey’s PhilharMagic
  • Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage
  • Toy Story Midway Mania!
  • Cars Land
  • Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway

The One That Got Away

As with any Imagineer, Kevin worked on countless projects that never saw the light of day, including Roger Rabbit’s Hollywood, where he created the story of the Toontown Trolley.

A plethora of attractions were planned for Roger Rabbit’s Hollywood, including Toontown Transit, Roller Coaster Rabbit, Baby Herman’s Runaway Baby Buggy Ride, and Benny the Cab ride.

Disney and Amblin Entertainment had big plans for Roger Rabbit, including sequels that would have stoked the fire and continued to build interest.

Sadly, Disney and Amblin Entertainment got into a rather heated disagreement regarding the rights to the character of Roger Rabbit and as a result, no new films were produced. The lack of new material available to the general public decreased the need for Roger Rabbit attractions and/or land.

*Benny the Cab later evolved into Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin.

Required Rafferty Reading

In 2019, Kevin released an autobiography titled Magic Journey: My Fantastical Walt Disney Imagineering Career.

Family Fun Fact

It turns out, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree! Rafferty’s son, Kevin Rafferty Jr., joins his father’s creative legacy by writing for the official Disney Parks Blog.

In Disney’s Words

“After 42 years of creating magical guest experiences as an Imagineer, Executive Creative Director Kevin Rafferty shared his plan to retire on April 1, 2021. From his days as a dishwasher at Disneyland all the way through his work on the show writing and creative direction of Cars Land, Toy Story Mania!, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway and more, Kevin’s zany personality and humour have inspired generations of Disney Imagineers and guests from around the world. We can’t thank Kevin enough for all of his contributions at Imagineering and wish him all the best in his next adventure!”

In Kevin’s Words

“When I started, there were only two Disney parks in the world. It’s really been my honour, my pleasure, and my joy to be around and watch the expansion of the magic that Walt Disney Imagineering has made. I’ve been there for all that. It’s been an amazing ride.”