During his 40 years at Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI), former vice president of engineering, design, and production Orlando Ferrante helped create magical Disney lands around the world. From Walt Disney World to Disneyland Paris, Orlando’s keen administrative and planning skills, his “can do” attitude, and his humble and fun-loving heart served him well when orchestrating the combined efforts of inspirational artists, engineers, production, and installation teams creating Disney theme parks.
Former Imagineer Dave Schweninger recalled, “There was a saying around WDI that if you want to get something done, give Ferrante his football helmet, his football shoes… and get the hell out of the way.”
Born on September 24, 1932, in Los Angeles, California, Orlando won a full football scholarship to attend the University of Southern California (USC), where he received his bachelor’s degree in business administration. After serving two years in the United States Navy, he played professional football as an offensive guard for the Los Angeles and San Diego Chargers in 1960-61.
Having played football at USC with Dick Nunis, former chair of Walt Disney Attractions, and Ron Miller, former Disney company president, Orlando chose to join Walt Disney Imagineering (formerly known as WED Enterprises) in 1962.
Former vice chairman and principle creative executive at WDI Marty Sklar once said, “I think his years playing football gave Orlando a strong sense of teamwork. He didn’t mind getting dirty to get the job done. And as result, he was well loved and remains well loved by those who worked with him.”
Upon arriving at Disney, Orlando’s premier charge was to serve as an expeditor on the first Audio-Animatronics® attraction at Disneyland, the Enchanted Tiki Room, overseeing its installation. In 1966, Orlando helped coordinate the relocation and installation of the attractions developed by Disney for the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair, including it’s a small world, presented by Pepsi-Cola/UNICEF, General Electric’s Carousel of Progress, and the State of Illinois’ Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.
That same year, he established a new department called Project Installation Coordinating Office, which coordinated the creation and installation of Disneyland attractions, including the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean, as well as shows and attractions for Walt Disney World. He later recalled, “Creating Walt Disney World was a big effort. We needed a well-organized group coordinating the efforts for both Parks and for future Disney Parks, as well.”
In 1972, Orlando was named general manager of administration, followed by vice president of administration and production, overseeing all of Imagineering. He moved on to serve as vice president of manufacturing and production in 1979, followed by an appointment to vice president of engineering and production. “My main love,” he said, “has been the production and installation of the shows and rides. I love seeing the ideas and being able to help make them a reality.”
In 1990, he moved to France where he served as vice president of show and ride engineering, production, and installation at Disneyland Paris. Before retiring in 2002, Orlando moved to Venice, Italy, to help launch the second Disney Cruise Line ship; he also headed show and ride engineering, design, and production of Tokyo DisneySea, which opened in 2001.