Faculty/Staff Directory

Joseph Garlington

Faculty, School of Theater


Phone: 661.253.7853

Room: E123-O

As creative lead for interactive projects at WDI, Joe Garlington was responsible
for the development of interactive attractions for Disney theme parks. Joe
also led long-term visioning for Disney’s Epcot theme park and partnered with WDI
R&D in the development of new concepts for theme park entertainment.

Not long before Joe retired from WDI, in 2014 his teams:

  • Refurbished Test Track at Epcot, converting it to an interactive experience
  • Developed interactive Kid’s Clubs and digital interactive dinner theater shows for the cruise ships Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy
  • Installed Turtle Talk with Crush, a digital, character/audience participation show at Tokyo DisneySea
  • Built The Sum of All Thrills, design, then ride your own rollercoaster using an industrial robot as simulator (a loop in your coaster? you will go upside down) 
  • Developed an interactive story-based character meet-and-greet for Belle
  • Gave Mickey Mouse a voice as he walks through the parks

Joe originally joined Walt Disney Imagineering in1980 working on Epcot, including Spaceship Earth and an un-built “arcade of the future,” a research project that explored how interactivity might be used in the parks.

He left a to start Art & Technology, Inc., designing interactive attractions for museums, zoos and theme parks.  Clients included:  The Los Angeles Zoo, San Diego Zoo, San Diego Wild Animal Park, Philadelphia Zoo, Central Park Zoo, Cleveland Zoo, Kansas City Zoo, Camden Aquarium, The National (Baltimore) Aquarium, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History, Cincinnati Museum of Natural History, Chicago Science Center, Daton-Hudson (Target) Stores, 1928 Jewelry Company, and many other institutions.

Joe returned to WDI in 1990.  From then, he oversaw the creation and development of such attractions as DisneyQuest, an indoor interactive theme park; WDI’s “Living Character” initiative to develop fully interactive, digital characters for park experiences including Turtle Talk with Crush, Stitch Encounter, Monsters Inc Laugh Floor; the interactive elements for Toy Story Midway Mania, Disney’s largest interactive ride; worked up park-wide games, queue line entertainment, post shows for numerous attractions and “edu-tainment” experiences that are part of sponsored shows. He has worked on projects for virtually all Disney theme parks and many resorts and other businesses.

Currently Joe consults and teaches theme park design part time at USC, where he also
worked with the Interactive Media and Games Department to build a theme park design minor.

Joe received a BFA from the University of Utah, and an MFA from California Institute of the Arts.  Before Disney, he worked in the film industry on such movies as “Star Trek—The Motion Picture,” “Caddyshack,” “Firefox,” and “The Natural”.


As VP / Creative Director / Executive Producer

  • EPCOT theme park master planningLead design team looking at the long-term (present to 30 years out) plan for Disney’s largest “non-castle” park.
  • Test Track at Disney’s EPCOT theme park - refurbishment

Re-did the entire show inserting guest participation (design your own car) as a major
component in the ride and all 6 interactive games in the attraction.

  • The Sum of All Thrills – EPCOT – Innoventions Pavilion

Design the roller coaster of your dreams then get in a simulator and ride it.

  • Toy Story Midway Mania – Disney Hollywood Studio and Disney’s California Adventure theme parks.

Executive producer for all game play development for the ride, and both exec producer and
line producer for Mr. Potatohead queue line interactive show.

  • Turtle Talk with Crush – Tokyo Disney Sea theme park 

Conversation-based, audience participation show.  (Show is also at Disney’s California Adventure park and as dinner theater on the Disney Cruise Ships, Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy

  • Magic Words with Mickey – Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom theme

Conversation-based character meet-and-greet with magical character dialog.

  • Interactive games and shows for the Disney Cruise ships, Disney Dream
    and Disney Fantasy.

More than a dozen digital interactive games for the Kid’s Clubs on the ships and a
70 minute interactive dinner theater version of Turtle Talk with Crush.

  • The Great Piggy Bank Adventure – EPCOT – Innoventions

Guests (children) move a physical piggy bank into and out of a series of digital
games, learning about how and why to save.

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