“Almost since the day he joined the Disney Studio machine shop, Neil Gallagher was a leader,” Disney Legend and former Imagineering ambassador Marty Sklar once recalled.
Neil hired into the Disney Studio machine shop in April 1957. He worked in the general shop on projects for Disneyland, and in Studio back lot support. His interest began to lean toward the developing craft of mechanical animation and manufacturing, and for Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, Gallagher built flower boats with singing orchids, tiki drummers, and rotating birdcages.
“He worked tirelessly on any animation project given to him and always solicited ideas and solutions from co-workers, in his quest to build better animation,” said engineering, design, and production authority and Disney Legend Orlando Ferrante.
In 1963, Neil was assigned to the Mr. Lincoln research and development team to create the most sophisticated Audio-Animatronics® figure of its time. In 1964, he traveled to the New York World’s Fair to install and complete the show programming of the Lincoln figure for the Stare of Illinois pavilion.
For the next 18 months Neil led the show and animation maintenance of the four Disney shows at the Fair. This valuable experience allowed him to suggest improved methods of manufacturing and organization for MAPO, the Disney manufacturing entity. After the Fair, he returned to California to lead the show and animation team at MAPO in the development of new shows and attractions for Disneyland and Walt Disney World in Florida.
In 1971, Neil relocated to Florida to set up the show installation and maintenance teams in time for the October opening of the Magic Kingdom. In early 1972, he was promoted to director of maintenance for Walt Disney World.
As the Company prepared to build Epcot Center, Neil was moved to Buena Vista Construction Company to direct their involvement in this challenging project. Shortly after the opening of Epcot Center, he was sent to Tokyo Disneyland to reinforce executive leadership to successfully open Disney’s pioneering international park. “These two projects, constructed at the same time on opposite sides of the planet, stretched the resources of the entire company,” Ferrante later recalled. “Without men like Neil, we would never have made it.”
By late 1983 Gallagher was back in Florida, as vice president of Walt Disney World engineering and construction, a position he held through the 1989 completion of the Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park. His next assignment took him to France, and the land use planning of the Euro Disney Resort. He also assisted Walt Disney Imagineering with organizational planning for engineering and professional construction management to execute the project. Three more years passed before he was able to return to Florida, where he resumed his leadership role at Walt Disney World as vice president of engineering, construction and Central Shops.
“Every project leader wanted Neil on their team because he always solicited ideas and new solutions from his co-workers,” Marty Sklar once reflected. “Neil understood that leadership requires trusting and empowering your teammates.”
After more than 23 years in Florida, and a total of 37 years with The Walt Disney Company, Neil Gallagher retired in 1994. He passed away on September 11, 1995.