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 Remembers Walt's Personal Touch

For many years, Rolly Crump worked closely with Walt Disney, and got to know the man quite well. But Walt, in a sense, was not an easy person to know, and as Rolly explains it, no two people saw Walt Disney the same way.

Ask anyone who knew Walt Disney what he was like

You'll never get the same answer twice.

Walt connected with each person differently because he made the effort to see each person differently and not as just another employee or co-worker.

Walt was able to reach inside you and bring to the surface a part of you that even you didn't know existed. He brought out the best in the people around him.

He brought out the best in me.

Beyond doubt, Walt was a genius in every aspect of his life. Those who worked with him would always say that he had a crystal ball in his back pocket. In everything that mattered, he knew the future and made the correct decisions.

No matter the project, Walt saw clearly its common denominator, and he also recognized the essential skills and talents of the people he assigned to work on his projects. He always picked the right people. He never talked down to you. He always spoke your language, and he always kept your interests in mind. It amazed me how he could talk to anyone about anything, without skipping a beat, and with perfect sincerity.

Once he chose you for a project, and once he knew you understood that project, he backed you to the hilt, no matter what others said. Walt seemed to always take my side despite his executives sometimes not sharing my opinions.

I never felt self-conscious talking to Walt. No one did. He had a child-like side, a broad streak of kindness, that made you feel welcome in his presence, and that accounted in large part for his success.

He seemed to understand everyone, and so his ideas touched everyone.

I once heard a great story about Walt from Claude, the head janitor at the Studio back in the early days. We were painting the main hall in the animation building and Walt saw Claude in the hall, watching the work. He went over to Claude to ask HIS opinion about the color of the paint. Walt cared about Claude's opinion not only because he respected it but because he knew that Claude would probably pass through that hall many times each day and he wanted to make sure Claude liked the color.

He respected Claude's opinion - AND he respected Claude.

For me, that story sums up much about Walt, his common touch, and his genius.

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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