Today marks the birthday of someone near and dear to the hearts of all Disney fans, even if you might not know his name. George McGinnis is perhaps best known as Show Designer for the legendary EPCOT attraction Horizons, but his resume features an astounding list of accomplishments from three decades of work with Imagineering.
An industrial designer by training, George came to WED Enterprises in 1966; when you consider that his first assignment was designing transportation systems for the Progress City model, you start to realize why he’s close to our hearts here. Some of his other early work included the famous Mighty Microscope from Disneyland’s Adventures Thru Inner Space, the Rocket Jets for 1967’s New Tomorrowland and 1971’s Magic Kingdom, the trains for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Walt Disney World’s WEDway PeopleMover cars, and the submarines for the Magic Kingdom’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
If that’s not enough, he also developed the design of Space Mountain and created the robots for 1979’s The Black Hole; his design of that film’s villainous Maximillian was one of the most successful elements of that film and remains a cult favorite.
In 1979, George was named the Industrial Design Manager for the EPCOT project. Before becoming Show Designer for Horizons, which opened in 1983, he contributed to design concepts for Spaceship Earth, Universe of Energy, Communicore, World of Motion, and World Showcase. He designed the Astuter Computer Revue and yet another iconic robot – the interactive SMRT-1.
After his EPCOT work, George designed both the Mark V and Mark VI Disney monorails. He also helped with the design of Delta’s Dreamflight in the Magic Kingdom. What did he do then? Well, if you’re ever ridden in any of these ride vehicles, you have George to thank: the Splash Mountain logs, the backstage tour trams at the Disney-MGM Studios, the jeeps of Disneyland’s Indiana Jones Adventure as well as the Time Rovers in Florida’s Countdown to Extinction, and the rockets from Disneyland Paris’s Space Mountain. If you’ve been to Florida’s Animal Kingdom park, you can thank him if you enjoyed your ride on the Kilimanjaro Safari jeeps, the Wildlife Express steam trains, or the Kali River Rapids rafts.
Do you start to see how important George’s work has been?
George retired from WDI in 1995, but has continued to consult with the company on several projects since. He also has remained an active part of the online Disney community, always willing to engage with fans and to answer any question you might throw his way.
Here at Progress City, we have a healthy roster of people who leave comments fairly frequently; we also have many hundreds of people who visit every day but never chime in. I’d like to ask that everyone who comes across this article take a moment and, if you’ve ever appreciated the fruits of his labor, leave George a birthday message in the comments below. I’ll make sure he sees them!
In any case, a very happy birthday, George – I can never thank you enough for bringing to reality my absolute favorite attraction of all time. Many of us can dream it, but you did it!