Disneyland Windows > Wathel Rogers
Location: New Century Jewelry, Main Street USA, Disneyland.
In 1937, Wathel Rogers' unique sculpting skills brought him to Los Angeles' Chouinard Art Institute. By 1939, Rogers began working at Walt Disney Studios as an animator. Walt soon discovered Wathel's talent as a sculptor, so Rogers also began sculpting props and miniatures for Disney Studios. In 1951, Wathel Rogers & Roger Broggie were assigned to Project Little Man. Rogers & Broggie led the team that created a 9 inch miniature mechanical vaudevillian performer - the first primitive Audio-Animatronic figure. The Little Man's movements were patterned after actor Buddy Ebsen, who performed song and dance routines in front of movie cameras - so his movements could be mimicked by the project team.
In 1954, Disney recruited Rogers to create models for the Disneyland project. Rogers, along with Fred Joerger and Harriet Burns, were known as the WED Model Shop - modeling and sculpting the designs for Imagineering and various Disney productions.
Disney Imagineers continued to develop Audio-Animatronics into 1960s. A robotic Abraham Lincoln was created for the 1964-65 New York World's Fair (and later Disneyland). To program Lincoln's life-like movements, Rogers donned a mechanical suit that read his own movement - converting the actions into programmable signals. The suit and programming style became the precursor to Motion Capture technology.
In 1987, Wathel Rogers retired from the Walt Disney Company. After 48 years with Disney, Rogers was named a Disney Legend in 1995. Imagineer Wathel Rogers died in his Arizona home on August 25, 2000 at the age of 80.