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 Pleases the Tiki Gods

Walt Disney loved authenticity. A good example is the Tiki Gods in the Enchanted Tiki Room. Those aren't false gods: Rolly Crump based them on the gods and goddesses from Polynesian mythology, with some help from a little bamboo tube.

Back when the Enchanted Tiki Room was still supposed to be the Enchanted Tiki Room Restaurant, Walt came up to me and said:

"Rolly, we can't have people waiting outside the Tiki Room with nothing to see, and so I want you to design a pre-show. Let's have the show feature Tiki Gods."

"Okay, fine," I said.

Rolly's New Religion

Of course, I knew nothing about Tiki Gods and very little about Polynesia. I knew I'd have to do something about that, because Walt put a high value on authenticity.

I went to the Los Angeles Public Library and took out every book they had about Polynesian gods and goddesses. I learned that Rongo, for example, was the god of cultivated food and that Pele was the god of fire, lightning, and dance. Now all I needed was to make them part of the pre-show.

Using the library books as a reference, I began to sketch. I'm always looking for a humorous approach, something no one has ever done before, and as I was sketching Tikis based on these Polynesian gods, I remembered a little device used by Chinese farmers to keep rabbits and other animals out of their gardens.

Rolly's Bamboo Tube

The device is a small tube of hollow bamboo placed under dripping water. As the bamboo fills with water, it gently dumps the water and then returns to its original position with a 'clack' against another piece of wood. The clack would scare away the animals.

I made a few changes to the original design.

My little bamboo tube that was held by the Tiki God would fill with water, dump itself, and then return to where it started. In doing so, it would hit the figure between the God's legs on the head.

Rolly's Maui Moment

Soon, the time came for me (and John Hench, a 'triple threat' artist, animator, and Imagineer) to share our sketches to Walt. He looked at them quietly, then asked me whether they were authentic.

I assured him the sketches were very authentic.

Of course, Walt pointed to my bamboo contraption and asked: "What is he the God of".

John answered, "It's the God of Tampa Cloth Beating," but Walt mistook the word 'cloth' for 'clock', so John said "It's the God that tells the time".

Walt thought about that. I thought about it, too. Walt must have assumed that the Polynesians told time by the intervals between each dump of water from the bamboo tube.

"Okay, then," he said.

It was a narrow escape, and I knew that Walt would eventually ask for the name of the Polynesian god of time. I wasted no time getting back to my books and looking it up.


We still had a long ways to go. Walt had to 'buy off' on the sketches, and then I knew he'd want sculptures, including one of the god Maui. Problem was, I didn't know how to sculpt...

Next Week:
Rolly Learns How to Sculpt!

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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