Interview: Animatronics Legend Garner Holt Discusses His Storied Career (Exclusive)

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We at The DisInsider were lucky enough to visit Garner Holt Productions. Known worldwide for its outstanding design and manufacture of animatronics, show action equipment, special effects and themed environments, Garner Holt Productions gave a special look at their facility, and company founder and president Garner Holt himself was gracious enough to sit down for an interview.

Garner Holt has had an amazing career, as he found his love for animatronics at a young age visiting Disneyland with his mother. The attraction that caught his attention was none other than the Haunted Mansion. His mother even took him to get the classic Haunted Mansion records at his local K-Mart, but more on the Haunted Mansion later. His fascination with animatronics grew when he saw the classic Abraham Lincoln animatronic at Disneyland. Holt would eventually create a standing, talking Uncle Sam animatronic that would eventually catch the eye of Walt Disney Imagineering (known as WED enterprises ), but Holt never was an imagineer, however he would eventually be mentored by some of the greatest Imagineers of all-time, who all had a direct connection to Walt Disney. The Walt Disney Company knew Garner Holt had a bright future, and that became apparent soon after.

Holt started his own company in 1977 and found some of his early work in Las Vegas. Though his company really took off in the 1990s building figures for Chuck E. Cheese restaurants and other theme parks.

In 2004 he would reconnect with Disney to work on a project near and dear to his heart. Yes, the Haunted Mansion. Holt and his team were tasked with creating animatronics for a new seasonal holiday overlay for the classic attraction by introducing characters from the Touchstone hit movie The Nightmare Before Christmas. The amazing Jack Skellington and Oogie Boogie animatronics are the most notable. Garner Holt Productions was the first company to put IP characters into an original Disneyland attraction.

Garner Holt Productions has created animatronic figures for Disney theme parks around the world, notably the 40-foot fire-breathing dragon in Disneyland’s Fantasmic! show and 12 characters for Disney California Adventure’s Cars Land.

Garner Holt Productions recently did some animatronics for a brand-new non-Disney attraction that just opened in Southern California. They are also currently working on new projects worldwide. We got a peek of one project they are working and we promise it will blow your minds, though we have been sworn to secrecy, and of course we respect Holt and his team, but we promise you won’t be disappointed.

Holt has received numerous awards for his entrepreneurial efforts as well as his company’s creative achievements. His company has been honored with nearly two dozen of the Themed Entertainment Association’s Thea Awards (including Holt’s 2014 Harrison “Buzz” Price Award Recognizing a Lifetime of Achievements). In 2016 Holt received the Disneyana Fan Club’s (DFC) Disney Legend Award.

In the interview we briefly discussed Garner Holt’s Education Through Imagination, which is a team of educators and industry professionals dedicated to producing world-class educational environments, programs, products and resources to provide students with a strong foundation in creativity, innovation, technology and entrepreneurship to keep pace with our nation’s need to create students who are college and career ready in the areas of science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. We believe students inspired through this educational approach are poised to change the world for good. During the coronavirus pandemic Education Through Imagination conducted virtual learning keeping kids interested and engaged with creativity, something Holt is a big proprietor of.

For more details on Garner Holt and his wonderful team visit http://www.GarnerHolt.com/ and https://www.garnerholteducationthroughimagination.com/

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