Remembering Disney Legend Carl Bongirno

Disney Legend Carl Bongirno passed away on March 5, 2024, at age 86.

As a financial leader throughout Disney Parks history, Bongirno was at the forefront of a truly unprecedented decade of The Walt Disney Company’s growth, from EPCOT to Tokyo Disneyland and Disneyland Paris. “We have more than 40 projects in various stages of design and construction,” Bongirno told Disney News in 1987. “In all, it’s approximately $2 billion worth of work.”

Born in Pueblo, Colorado, in 1937, Bongirno held multiple degrees in business and accounting, and joined The Walt Disney Company as a chief accountant and controller for what was then the Disney-owned Celebrity Sports Center in Denver in 1963. Later, his first step into the worlds of Disney Parks was a four-year stint as a treasurer for WED Enterprises.

While serving as director of the Finance Division, Bongirno was part of the highly secretive “Project X,” which would become the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. “We bought 30,000 acres without anyone knowing,” Bongirno told his hometown newspaper, The Pueblo Chieftain. “Our people went there under assumed names and would take indirect flights.”

Of course, Walt Disney World would open to the public in 1971—and just a year later, Bongirno became vice president of finance and treasurer of the resort. He was not only responsible for all financial matters, but he also had overall responsibility for all service activities, including wardrobe, warehousing, transportation, laundry, and even the Disney telephone company.

During his time with The Walt Disney Company, Bongirno served as the President of WED/MAPO during the design and construction of both EPCOT and Tokyo Disneyland—the former being a park with brand-new content, and the latter being Disney’s very first international theme park. Impressively, both opened within six months of each other.

Due to health reasons, Bongirno stepped back from business activities in September 1987, instead serving as a special adviser to Walt Disney Imagineering—assisting with the development of special projects until his retirement in late June 1989. Bongirno and his family then returned to Pueblo, though he still frequented the Disney Parks, citing Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park as one of his new favorites. As result of his decades of important service to The Walt Disney Company, Bongirno was named a Disney Legend in 2007.

No matter if he was in Florida or Colorado, it seemed his mind was always connected to the Disney magic. As he explained in 1987, “EPCOT and all of Disney’s attractions will always be in a ‘state of becoming’… Our Imagineers will always be discovering new frontiers. It’s a process that I believe makes Imagineering the most unique design organization in the world.”

Bongirno was preceded in death by his wife, Carolyn; parents, Ann and Sam Bongirno; brothers, John and Sam. He is survived by his children, Cara (Bret) Griebenow and Chris (Tiffany) Bongirno; and grandchildren, Ryan, Anthony, and Jordan. A service will be held at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, March 12, at Roselawn Chapel in Pueblo, Colorado, with a reception to follow.