Profile of an Imagineer: Bill Martin

Can you imagine getting a phone call asking you to help out with Walt Disney's newest venture, building a new theme park? That is exactly what happened to Bill Martin.

Disney Legend Bill MartinDisney Legend Bill Martin
Martin was born in Marshalltown, Iowa on June 15, 1917. After studying at Los Angeles Junior College and the Chouinard Art Institute and Art Cent Center School of Design, he landed a job as a set designer for 20th Century Fox. Following his service in World War II he worked for Panoramic Productions and then returned to Fox Studios as an assistant art director.

He was working for 20th Century Fox when he got that unexpected phone call that would change the course of his career. Eager to expand his talent as an art director and set designer, Martin joined WED Enterprises.

So how exactly did you go about building a theme park?
Walt had one directive for his team of Imagineers on the Disneyland project,

All I want you to think about is that when people walk through or ride through or have access to anything that you design, I want them, when they leave, to have a smile on their face. Just remember that; that's all I ask of you as a designer.

Martin and other Imagineers toured amusement parks across the country, like Coney Island and Knottsberry Farms, looking for ideas as well as investigating things that are essential to the planning process, such as traffic flow. They would later combine those ideas with Disney studio's animated movies to create the attractions at Disneyland.

Apparently Martin's group of Imagineers had a tendency to brainstorm some pretty wacky ideas and Walt never knew what they would come up with next. One of their ideas was for a corset shop on Main Street called "The Wizard of Bras." I can only imagine Walt's reaction to that idea.

But Walt respected Martin's creative genius enough to name him art director of Fantasyland. He contributed to the designs of many attractions including, Sleeping Beauty's Castle, Snow White's Adventure, and Peter Pan's Flight.

Later in his career Martin was named the vice president of design at WED Enterprises and oversaw the master layout of Magic Kingdom. His projects included Main Street USA, Cinderella's Castle, and the utilidors beneath the Magic Kingdom.

Martin retired from Disney in 1977 but returned to consult on the construction and design of EPCOT and Tokyo Disneyland.

Tyler.V wrote on Wed, 02/29/2012 - 17:00:

If people can leave anywhere with a smile on their face then the company has succeeded. Walt Disney prided his entire company on this idea and since then his "imagineers" have given us some awesome things.

 

Walt Disney World has a lot to offer in the way of excitement when you compare it to Kilimanjaro and smiles and that is just the way that Walt Disney himself wanted it.

Kristen K. wrote on Wed, 02/29/2012 - 18:27:

Kristen K.'s picture

I agree with you so much Tyler. I have Imagineers to thank for some of the best moments of my life.

Amanda Adams wrote on Tue, 05/21/2019 - 14:23:

Amanda Adams's picture

Bill is my great uncle, on my dad's side. When I was a little kid, he would meet our family at the gates of Disneyland and walk us into the park, then he would say "have fun you guys" and drive off. So growing up I thought that's just how you got into Disneyland. He was very nice, and super cool. :)

Kristen K. wrote on Wed, 05/22/2019 - 12:51:

Kristen K.'s picture

What a great story, thank you so much for sharing it with us Amanda.

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