George McGinnis is a name you’ve heard around the Main Street Gazette on more than one occasion. In fact, my continual pitch to make him a Disney Legend, and the fact that not a single Imagineer was included in the slate of 2017 Legends released this morning, had given me inspiration to start another article asking for Disney to consider him in their next class. This, sadly, is not that article. It was reported by The Orange County Register earlier this evening that George McGinnis has passed away.
He was the last Imagineer hired by Walt Disney, and he had a remarkable and storied career, both within the walls of Disney and in his work elsewhere. Known best for his work in EPCOT Center, specifically Horizons, he would also work on feature film, The Black Hole, the jeeps and time rovers of the Indiana Jones Adventure and Dinosaur, respectively, and even on the trams for Walt Disney World.
George was one of a handful of heroes I’ve had in my lifetime. It was his work on the Nautilus submarines of the Magic Kingdom’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attraction that would first put me in his path when I was writing for Celebrations Magazine. I was so nervous about speaking with him, afraid that I would trip over my own words and forget my questions, that our first exchanges were only through email. I shouldn’t have ever been worried, he was nothing but gracious. During our discussions he would share such wonderful stories and was incredibly generous with his time and resources. I could listen to any and every story he wanted to share and never lose the sense of wonder I had for the man and his work.
As I said before, George McGinnis had been on my mind a lot lately, and I hope he knew what he meant to all of us. Our encounters were only brief and I didn’t get to know him nearly as well as I would have liked, but to those closest to him, they know that he was a giant among men. Thank you, George, for everything you given us, for sharing your imagination, wit, and wisdom. We will never forget you.