Disney or bust!

Editor Sarah Jackson / Photo by Tracy Walsh
Editor Sarah Jackson / Photo by Tracy Walsh

Well, it’s not every month we get to feature a Minnesota icon, standing in an ice-block bar, on the front cover of our magazine.

Should it even be surprising that Minnesota’s Steve Schussler, the father of the Rainforest Cafe chain, and the man known internationally as the Walt Disney of themed restaurants has built an ice bar at his Schussler Creative idea lab in Golden Valley? [I’m showing you the photo of me in the bar (taken during the photographer’s lighting test) so you can try to imagine just how cold it really is.]

We’re talking about the guy who converted his St. Louis Park home into a prototype rainforest — to convince investors to back his revolutionary family-dining concept, which went on to include live birds, indoor rain storms and animatronic animals of all sorts.

This month, our annual Creativity Issue, seemed like the perfect time to check in with the legendary Schussler to see what he’s up to at what he calls “61 years young.”

Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to tour his elaborate headquarters, which most recently has given birth to an entirely new kind of theme restaurant — The Boathouse, which he triumphantly opened at Shanghai Disney Resort in China earlier this year, after the first location wowed visitors at Disney World in Orlando in 2015.

Unlike his whimsical Rainforest, T-Rex and Yak & Yeti themes, Schussler’s latest creation is decidedly Minnesotan, inspired by the wooden boats of Lake Minnetonka.

Up next is an Asian-themed restaurant that he hopes will showcase his rare collection of intricately carved Asian sculptures, restored from the brink of destruction.

You can read all about it in this issue. And you can read even more in his fascinating book — It’s a Jungle In There — chronicling his career in a tome that’s part memoir, part entrepreneurial guidebook.

You should also know that the quirky, creative genius, who grew up near Rockaway Beach, N.Y., is honored to represent our state with his whimsical, one-of-a-kind creations.

“I’m most proud of the millions of families and three generations of children and parents and grandparents — that come to visit our restaurants and our attractions and our retail stores — and having created that here in Golden Valley, Minnesota. Just like Prince — right here in Minnesota,” he said. “We have so much going on here in this state.”