About the Column

The best way to learn Disney history is to get it from the people who helped make it. Rolly Crump made a lot of Disney history.

Rolly was hired by Walt Disney Studios in 1952 to work as an artist and animator on such classic movies as Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, Sleeping Beauty, and 101 Dalmations. In 1959, Rolly joined WED ('Walter Elias Disney'), the original name for Walt Disney Imagineering. At WED, Rolly became one of the chief designers for such classic attractions as Haunted Mansion, Enchanted Tiki Room, and It's a Small World.

Rolly worked closely with Walt Disney for many years. The friendship between the two men and Rolly's long tenure with the company puts him in an increasingly rare position: he can relate important episodes of early Disney history first-hand, and he can do so without notes or sources because he experienced it himself.

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FROM: The Truth of the Matter Is Published Mondays

Rolly Crump Learns How to Sculpt

Nowadays, you need a committee to create: everyone wants to put in their two cents. Those who can't create tell others how! But not so for Rolly Crump, who sculpted most of the Tiki gods and birds himself - and he didn't even know how to sculpt!

Last week, I told you how I 'discovered' Maui, the Tiki god of time, and how Walt wanted to see sketches. I drew some quick sketches, just simple black-and-white line drawings, and showed them to Walt, who took one look and said: "Build him."

I didn't think he meant for me to do the building, because then I wasn't a sculptor, and so I took the sketches to the head sculptor in our shop and told him what Walt wanted.

His reply was not what I wanted to hear: "I'm too busy, Rolly. I can't do it."

"So who else is around to sculpt them?", I asked.

His reply was definitely not what I wanted to hear: "You are."

Sculpt or Bust!

Normally, I was happy to do anything required of me, but in this case, the plain truth was that I'd never sculpted before in my life. Did that make a difference? No. I didn't have a choice. I agreed to sculpt the Tiki gods.

My crash course in sculpting began immediately.

I learned how to build armatures and apply an oil-based clay called plasticine, which got hard when cold, and of course, it was always cold in the barn where I was doing my sculpting. I had to move the clay in a wheelbarrow out to the parking lot, where the sun would warm it enough to make it pliable.

Next time you're watching the Enchanted Tiki Room pre-show at Disneyland, take a good look at those Tikis and remind yourself that they were all sculpted in a parking lot.

After I finished sculpting, the forms were built from fiberglass, and then I painted each Tiki God and took the whole pantheon to Disneyland, where I borrowed a wrench and installed them myself.

Today, such a project would involve dozens of people, reams of paperwork, and hours of planning. Back then, we just did things. If we didn't know how to do them, we figured them out, then did them. I think, doing it our way, we got much more done. It was marvelous!

Birds, and a Job Done Too Well

Now that I had become a seasoned sculptor, I moved on to the birds, and sculpted most of the ones you see in the Tiki Room.

For the bird mobile that descends from the ceiling, I used a Raymond Lift to raise me 15 feet into the air so I could work on it. The people in charge of the life only let me down to use the bathroom or grab a snack. I had no choice but to focus on those birds.

At some point during all this work we were doing, Walt decided that we were doing it too well, and that the people eating in the Tiki Room Restaurant (originally, the Tiki Room was planned as a restaurant, not an attraction) wouldn't want to leave.

So Walt decreed that the Tiki Room would be a show, period.

By that time, much of the furniture had already been purchased, and during the early years guests would watch the show sitting on restaurant chairs until finally they were replaced with the benches in there now.

If you'd like to hear a few stories directly from Rolly himself, buy 'A Walk in the Park with Rolly Crump', an hour-long audio tour available from Kenbow Communications in which Rolly takes you for a stroll down Disneyland's Main Street through the areas of the park that he had a hand in creating. It's the best $4.95 you'll ever spend.

You can also hear on iTunes Rolly's interview with DisneyDispatch columnist Jeff Heimbuch on iTunes for free (or download it if you don't have iTunes), and you can read an excerpt of it in a recent installment of Jeff's column, From the Mouth of the Mouse.


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