Today’s Wheel of Years has stopped at 2014, so here we go. The DESIGN: Those Were The Times story No. 25 published in MiceChat January 8, 2014 told of the transition of Disney’s themed manufacturing operation to Garner Holt Productions:
“It wasn’t long before a combination of retiring Disney technicians, layoffs after major projects, and the financial impediment to continuing Disney internal manufacturing eventually resulted in the closing of all but a tiny special animation shop by 2012. In that year the majority of all the MAPO, Airway, and Tujunga tooling, molds, and historically developed unique Disney Audio Animatronics were transferred to Garner Holt Productions in San Bernardino California, 50 miles east of Glendale. By that time, Garner Holt had earned an outstanding reputation for high quality and affordable Disney attraction engineering and manufacturing. Their work has been performing beautifully in every Disney Theme Park in the world for over two decades.“
At the April 5, 2014 Themed Entertainment Association’s Awards Gala, Garner Holt of Garner Holt Productions will receive the Buzz Price Thea Award for a Lifetime of Distinguished Achievements. Garner Holt Productions celebrates 35 years of design and production for themed spectaculars the world over.
Garner Holt is the founder and president of Garner Holt Productions, Inc. (GHP) Located in San Bernardino, CA, GHP is the world’s largest designer and fabricator of animatronics, show action systems, special effects, and other creations for theme parks, museums, retail and dining experiences, and other attractions. Inspired by a childhood trip to Disneyland and a lifelong love of Disney theme parks, Garner founded his company when he was only 16 years old. Since 1977, GHP has created nearly 3,000 individual animatronics and hundreds of other items for clients like the Disney Theme Parks, Universal Studios, Chuck E. Cheese Restaurants, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, NASA, Lockheed-Martin, and hundreds of other clients. Find out more about Garner and GHP at www.garnerholt.com
In 1987 Garner was invited to Sequoia Creative in Sun Valley California, a company that had I founded with two former Disney Imagineers in 1984, to discuss the use of his animated parrot for a Las Vegas show. I did not meet him at that time, but he did call me later in May 1995 when I was then the design consultant, GurrDesign, Inc. Garner had developed an expertise in animated humans and medium sized animals, but had just accepted a very large job, a 40′ high Korean Flower Fountain, which needed some serious structural engineering. Meeting Garner at his tiny Fontana California shop, we joked that if it fell off a table, the animation needed no engineering. But if it fell forty feet, that really needed an engineer.
While I have no engineering education or license, We felt it was a doable project, so I configured enough of the big stuff so Garner and his guys could build it, even doing the foundation civil engineering myself to certify that the towering thing would not fall down in a 100 mph wind. Garner now was able to do the really big jobs – not just cute little animations. Garner soon called again, this time in January 1996 to help him with the giant 45′ tall animated horse for the FAO Schwarz toy store at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.
By 1997 Garner Holt Productions was being invited to be one of the bidders that the Disneyland Purchasing Department called in for their periodic new project bidder’s conferences. We thought it quite funny when each bidder was to reveal their sub-contractor list and Garner would inform them it would be GurrDesign, Inc. Garner always got the winning bid. I was confidentially told later that “by hiring Garner they’d get Gurr back” – I had been fired from WED Enterprises back in 1981.
Garner called again in January 2000 to have me look at a really gigantic animated machine for Tokyo Disney Seas, the Little Mermaid Show’s Ursula. Funny thing, Imagineering had done the production engineering documents based on my July 1998 conceptual engineering that I had performed thru Imagineering’s consultant, Entertainment Engineering, Inc. Garner Holt had won the manufacturing contract and the machine had a “few detail problems” yet to solve. See, this stuff just goes round and round! I did a MiceChat Podcast where I speak with Ursula herself, Pat Carroll, about that very machine (Under the Sea with Ursula the Sea Witch and Bob Gurr).
Garner and I had an agreement; since I really did not want to actually “work”, I’d promise to look at any crazy new project if he’d buy me a bowl of soup at Mimi’s Cafe. Thus I’d be spared getting dragged into any activity that would look like work. Garner Holt Productions continued to design and manufacture ever bigger and more spectacular projects after 2000 such that eventually Disney transferred all of their themed manufacturing operation to Garner Holt Productions in 2012. So, we are now back to the start of this interesting tale.
I’d like to share a video of a Student Enrichment visit to Garner Holt Productions. Garner had graciously hosted a wonderful tour of his operations for a group of Riverside high school students thru the Riverside Educational Enrichment Foundation, of which I am the Honorary Chair. Enjoy: