Joerger ‘provided foundations’ of Disneyland

Fred Joerger, one of Disneyland’s original model makers who crafted miniature versions of the park’s Sleeping Beauty Castle and other attractions, has died. He was 91.

Joerger died of natural causes on August 26 at the Motion Picture and Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, according to his niece, Gloria Penrose, The Los Angeles Times reported on Monday.

”He provided the foundations of the park,” Jim Hill, a Disney historian, told the newspaper. ”All of the things that help give it that weird sense of reality are Fred’s doing.”

Walt Disney hired Joerger in 1953 as one of his first three model makers. They invented the profession that became known as ”imagineering” — Disney’s term for the imagination and engineering behind theme-park rides.

Joerger made models of the steamboat Mark Twain, Main Street, the Jungle Cruise, the Matterhorn and much of the rest of the original Disneyland, his niece said.

He also became a field art director, ensuring that such rides as Pirates of the Caribbean and Submarine Voyage achieved the looks envisioned by Disney’s imagineers.

”He could put together a pile of cement and steel beams, knowing you would look at it at a certain angle and you would think it was twice as big as it really was,” Hill said.

Joerger also applied his talents to his own house. Built in the style of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, the home features flagstone floors, multiple fireplaces, waterfalls and ponds and, in the entrance hall, fireflies like those in the Pirates ride.

Joerger would enthrall party guests by punching a button that parted drapes to reveal an outdoor pool framed by 40 cypress trees with a Neptune statue he created standing over it.

”Everyone ached to go to his dinner parties,” said Harriet Burns, another original imagineer who worked with Joerger for 31 years. ”His style was spectacular.”

Joerger retired in 1979 but returned a few years later to supervise the look of Disney’s Epcot Centre in Florida and the rock work for Tokyo Disneyland.

In addition to his niece, Joerger is survived by a grandniece and grandnephew. — Sapa-AP

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