I had an opportunity to ask Daniel Joseph some questions about the new Hatbox Ghost figure, which he designed.
Long-Forgotten: I understand you are quite an admirer of Yale Gracey and know quite a lot about him. Is this something that developed while you were with Disney, or was it already a special interest before you became an Imagineer? If so, was it something that motivated you to apply to Disney in the first place? How did you become so fascinated with this particular Imagineer?
Daniel Joseph: I grew up on the east coast in Delaware, not really close to any Disney park. It was a very special occasion to take a trip down to Orlando (or Anaheim when I was a teenager) to see Disney Theme Parks. Ever since I was very young I would tinker and take things apart as well as create new things. At about age 11 I got into making haunted houses in our basement and building homemade fog machines, mirror effects, basically anything that went into the haunted house was homemade. This was my absolute joy, since I grew up with some learning disabilities, my haunted houses gave me a creative outlet that I could "one up" my friends in school that could read better than I or do arithmetic faster than I. They became bigger and more elaborate every year. It was soon after I started my haunted houses that we went on a family vacation to Orlando. I had a life changing experience on two attractions specifically. The first was of course, the Haunted Mansion. I had been on it before as a younger child but this time something happened to me. I was utterly fascinated and hooked. How could these illusions happen right in front of me, it couldn't just be "movie magic" because this was live, real life! The second attraction was Horizons in Epcot which blew me away in its scale, and feel. The theme song "if you can dream it then you can do it" literally spoke to me. I would go back to the hotel room with my family and build things I had seen in Horizons out of pens I would take apart and pieces of various things I found in our luggage.
(Many thanks to Frank Reifsnyder at WDI for arranging the interview.)