I wonder if he was more or less forced out.
Forced probably isn't the right word here. Unlike some people, his reputation at WDI is pretty solid and the company gains nothing by forcing him out. I think the most likely scenario, is the one he wrote himself: he's just at a point where he is between projects, and it makes sense not to commit to another project that could take seven plus years to complete.
Rhode is a nice man. Hoping his retirement is fulfilling.
To be honest, I’m not sad about his retirement. He’s more of a WDW imagineer. I was sad about Baxter though.
That's kind of an interesting thought, because while Rohde is famous for his work on Animal Kingdom, he is very much a Californian, being born in California and later returning for his education. It's interesting how much of his left coast/Californian perspectives have infiltrated his projects, and so interesting to see how easily Californians can proclaim AK as the best part at WDW.
So yeah, he never had an opportunity to really design much for California, but his designs still feel very Californian to me.