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

The Small World Saga: Toys, Part 3

In the final story about the toys in Small World, Rolly Crump relates how lack of time forced him to make the toys from papier mache, and how when everything was done the Imagineers put Walt in a boat with wheels and pushed him through the ride.

We didn't have much time to create Walt's "little ride", and so I came up with the idea of making the Small World toys (over 200 of them!) out of papier mache, which was lightweight but could be made to resemble metal or wood.

To make the toys, I carved the characters in styrofoam, and then dipped Chem-Wipes (hand towels) in white glue and water, and draped them over the styrofoam figures. Then I'd brush some glue over the top to make sure everything stayed in place. Using this method, we were able to make a toy per day!

I'd never done anything like that before, and I was surprised at how well my unproven method worked.

A few of the original papier-mache toys are still in Small World, but over the years, they've been replaced with fiberglass figures. It's virtually impossible to tell them apart.

I made many of the toys, and even I can't tell the papier-mache from the fiberglass when I'm in Small World!

But the toys were only part of the project. We had the sets built by Grosh Studios, and delivered one section at a time to a sound stage on Disney property.

Once the sets were in place and the toys installed, we put Walt in a boat with wheels and pushed him through the ride so he'd be able to see exactly how it would appear to people at the World's Fair.

After he ridden in the boat a few times, I went with Walt on a walk-through of Small World. At one point, he stopped and pointed at a section of the set overhead.

"You know, Roland, that's a holiday up there."

I had no clue what he was talking about. "A holiday, Walt?"

"That's film talk," Walt explained. "When I say holiday I mean that there's a hole in the scene, and something has to be put there to fill the hole."

Given Walt's background in film, he'd often use lingo from the movie industry. I don't remember exactly what 'holiday' Walt pointed out to me in Small World, but I did learn some new terminology!

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.