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's Happy Accident

One day, when Rolly Crump and Fred Joerger were working on the facade for It's A Small World, Walt came over to inspect the work and what he liked best was something that Rolly had never intended to do.

One of my biggest projects for Walt Disney was It's a Small World.

And one of the things that Walt liked best about my facade for It's a Small World was a 'feature' I hadn't even planned...

The Happy Accident

Fred Joerger and I built the original model for the facade of It's a Small World in black-and-white cardboard. Using Mary Blair's beautiful stylings, we developed the look of the facade, and we finished the model in seven working days, which was incredibly fast for us.

It would have been easier to stick with drawings, but Walt liked to see models, and we knew he'd be coming over soon to look at what we were doing.

One day, we were working on the landscape in front of the facade. We had our little trees on a board off to the side, but there were so many trees that we got tired of having to walk over to the board everytime we needed one. So we put the board on the roof of the building, where it would be easy for us to simply reach up and grab a tree.

That's the only reason we put the trees up there.

No sooner did we move the trees, then Walt walked in. He look at the model, taking his time to examine each part, and told us he loved it. But what he really loved was the trees on top of the building.

Fred and I told Walt that we loved it, too. But then we started laughing, and we told Walt that we never intended to put the trees up there - we only did it to make our work easier.

Walt didn't care. That's where he wanted the trees, and that's where they stayed.

I call that my happy accident.

Jack's Big Fingers

Now that Walt had approved the model, my next job was to convert it from black-and-white cardboard to a wooden half-inch scale model.

Jack Burgess worked side-by-side with me on this model. Jack was a huge man, six-feet seven-inches tall, but his talent was delicate model work.

Walt would often stop by to chat. One day, as we were talking to him, he asked Jack (whose fingers were the size of bananas) how he was able to do such delicate work with those big hands.

Jack didn't know what to say, so I answered for him: "Walt, don't you know that Jack unscrews those big hands when no one's looking? He's really got the smallest fingers you've ever seen."

Whenever I made a joke, Walt would give me a look, not a sharp look, and a little smile, and he'd say in a drawn-out way: "Ro-land...".

I knew I'd made him smile whenever I heard "Ro-land...".

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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