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's Jewish Small World Doll

Years ago, a Jewish woman wrote to Marty Sklar complaining that no Jewish doll was in It's a Small World. Marty, who's Jewish, told Rolly to fix it. Rolly did. Walt, meanwhile, wanted to know about Rolly's art background...

After we had flown back to Disneyland from the 1964 World's Fair, Walt came up to me in the hallway and said he wanted to know more about my professional background.

"What do you mean?" I asked him.

"Your training, Roland."

"Well, I took art in high school..."

"No, no," Walt interrupted. "Your formal training. Where did you go to art school."

"Well, when I was 16, I attended classes at a local studio for six consecutive Saturdays."

"That's it?"

"That's it."

Walt couldn't quite believe it. "So where did you learn to do all that you've been doing?"

"I learned it from you."

Now Walt was really puzzled.

"You have an open door policy at the Studio. Anyone can go into any department and learn how the other animators and artists do their work. I did that while working in Animation.

"I learned how to paint backgrounds from the background department. I watched how the squid sequence in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was set-up and shot on film. I heard about Picasso for the first time when I was working with some of your artists. I learned a little from everyone."

Walt wasn't sure what to make of all that.

It was one of his goals to cross-pollinate knowledge among the artists, animators, and other creative people working for him, but I don't think he ever realized just how well that goal had been achieved, especially in my case.

"You know, Walt, my mother told me not long ago that since I began working here my vocabulary has grown larger. I didn't even realize it. But it's true. And it all came from you, and this place."

"I won't argue with your mother, Roland. Keep up the good work!"

Two Short Small World Tales

After It's a Small World opened to the pubic, some people inevitably wrote in to complain.

For instance, in one of the scenes there are koala bears climbing palm trees. We got a letter from an expert in koala bears who told us that the koalas would die if they ate palm leaves. So I had to create some fake eucaplyptus leaves and attach them to the koala bear's hand.

Another woman wrote in to protest the lack of a Jewish doll. She sent the letter to Marty Sklar, who's Jewish, and he told me to take care of it. In the Asian section of the ride, I put some white robes around one of the dolls and gave it a Jewish flute. That satisifed Marty, but not the lady. She wrote again to complain. I'm not sure what she wanted - maybe a rabbi - but we never did anything more about it.

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.