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Building, shaping, creating

From creating realistic mountains and molds for carousel horse heads to making the Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride more accessible for people with disabilities, Jay McDonald’s creativity was put to good use during his 32 year career at Disneyland in California.

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A little over a year ago, McDonald decided to retire and bring his artistic talents to Alexandria where he has his own business building waterfalls and rock features.

“We all have different talents,” he said. “My talent is building, creating, designing, and trying to, you know, bring it all to life.”


McDonald has had a lifelong passion for building and creating.

He started working for Disneyland in 1981, where he worked in an artistic shop building park features.

“I learned from the old-timers that built Disneyland before it even opened,” he noted.

He did a little of everything there. Some of his projects included the rock on the mountains, tile work, making molds, sculpting and building prototypes for ride vehicles.

He often worked on character statues and made decorative facades for buildings.

He said engineers gave him and his team a design and they would build it. He also sometimes helped create the designs.

Near the end of his time at Disneyland, he said one of his major projects was to make some of the ride vehicles more accessible to people with disabilities. He worked with engineers to add doors that allowed the entire side of the vehicles to open.

McDonald said he is proud of all the work he did at Disneyland.

“No one will know who I am, but they’ll enjoy the things I did,” he reflected. “After 32 years, I built a lot of that place!”


Even after 32 years of building and creating at Disneyland, McDonald’s passion for his art is still going strong.

“I always tell people my brains are in my hands,” he laughed. “Because this is where I can create.”

He now uses the skills and techniques he learned during his time at Disneyland for his own business, Jay’s Waterfall and Rock Creations, which he said he has run on the side for about 25 years.

He makes waterfalls and imitation rock creations. He also does some molding of animals and other features.

“The way I learned how to do it there is how I do it here,” McDonald said.

He starts his waterfall and rock projects with an idea or a drawing. He uses rebar (reinforced steel bar) and a steel mesh called diamond mesh lath to form the shape of his design.

After that, he uses two layers of stucco and shapes it using mold-making and plastering tools to get the rock formations, cracks and textures needed. Finally, he paints it and seals it so it doesn’t crack or fade over time.

He can also use similar techniques to make walls that look like they are made of stone or brick.

“I build it in any design, any shape; one big waterfall or 15. It’s whatever people want,” he said.

While McDonald said he misses the time he spent working at Disneyland, he will enjoy being able to continue creating throughout his retirement.