And the Buzz Price Award For A Lifetime Of Distinguished Achievements goes to . . . Garner Holt!!!
Yesterday was a milestone achievement for animatronics wizard and MiceChat columnist Garner Holt. Theme park industry trade association, TEA (Themed Entertainment Association), bestowed their top honor upon Garner during their gala three day event at the Disneyland Resort. Garner joins such prestigious talent as Harrison “Buzz” Price, Marty Sklar, Don Iwerks, John Hench, Bob Gurr, Tony Baxter, Joe Rohde, Kim Irvine and other industry leaders.
You might say it all started on TV when a 9 year old Garner Holt saw Kurt Russell and the Osmond Brothers detailing the making of the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland on an episode of Disney’s Wonderful World of Color. He was enthralled with the latest Disney attractions such as Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion and especially the mechanized animatronics found throughout the park. Garner told his parents that he wanted to build the things he saw at the park. And it didn’t take him long to do just that.
Garner began building a child’s version of several Disneyland attractions in his backyard. Pirates of the Caribbean was a trough filled with water into which Garner placed an old row boat and built simple scenery. Later came a petting zoo, a skyway ride (quickly eliminated by his parents) and a haunted house.
One year, Garner wanted to advertise his haunted house in the local paper, but got something even better when a reporter wrote a long story on the 14-year-old’s creation. More than 100 people showed up to tour the haunted house on Halloween night.
Garner’s theme entertainment efforts became legitimate at the young age of 15, when an events promoter for a local mall heard about Garner’s haunted house and asked him to create one for the local mall the next year. He bought an old construction trailer and set to work building “Garner Holt’s Haunted House of Mystery.” It was a hit and was used in the mall for years. The success of the first mall attraction led to more haunted houses for Garner in other southern California malls.
In 1976, Garner created an animatronic Uncle Sam for America’s Bicentennial, based on his admiration for Disneyland’s Mr. Lincoln figure. He sent a film of the figure’s performance to WED Enterprises, where it caught the attention of Wathel Rogers, celebrated father of Disney Audio-Animatronics.
In July of 1977, Garner founded Garner Holt Productions, Inc. (GHP). He was just 16 years old at the time. For the first decade of its existence, Garner was GHP’s only full-time employee. Business was slow at first, a few more haunted houses, trade shows, projects for small parks and shopping venues.
In 1989, he premiered Wendell, the world’s first animatronic figure to ride a unicycle. The figure brought Garner and his company recognition that led directly to his being awarded the contract to build all the animatronics and special effects for Grand Canyon Rapids at the then under construction MGM Grand Adventures Park in Las Vegas.
GHP was soon awarded a continuing series of projects all over the world, in all sorts of venues, from small parks to museums, restaurants and malls. In 1998, GHP was awarded the contract to create an all-new Chuck E. Cheese animatronic show. To date, GHP has built nearly 500 individual shows for the global entertainment company.
In 2001, GHP created the Jack Skellington animatronic figure for Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion Holiday overlay, as well as dozens of other animatronic figures, props, special effects, and more. Since then, GHP has created more than 500 individual animatronic figures for Disney parks worldwide. The company has figures in every Disney resort.
GHP has created nearly 5,000 individual animatronic figures, show action equipment, special effects, and thousands of props, sets, and scenic elements for Disney, Universal, Cedar Fair, and hundreds of other leaders in entertainment, shopping, dining, education, defense, and more. Today, Garner Holt Productions is the world’s largest manufacturer of animatronic figures.
All of which is why, at just 53 years old, Garner Holt became the youngest recipient of TEA’s Lifetime Achievement award this weekend. An honor very well deserved.
Please join us in congratulating Garner Holt on this amazing honor.