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

What's Built in Vegas Stays in Vegas

Walt made it clear to WED that he didn't want Disneyland to look like Las Vegas. As Rolly Crump built the facade for It's a Small World, he kept that in mind though it made him no less nervous the day Walt stopped by...

Walt, of course, had very definite ideas about how he wanted everything in Disneyland built, and he made sure that we understood and carried out his vision.

One of the great things about Walt was that he believed in the creative people he hired. Once he knew that we understood what he wanted us to do, that was it: he let us do it.

I knew exactly what Walt wanted when he asked me to build the facade for It's a Small World. As always, Walt wanted to see models, not drawings, and he'd sometimes drop by to look at work in progress.

Those meetings were informal.

At the end of a project, however, Walt had to give his 'buy-off' so we could continue to the next stage. Often, a entourage of executives would come with Walt for the buy-off, but every so often management would send him out on his own if they weren't sure that Walt was going to like what he saw.

That was the case when Walt came over to look at the final facade I had created for It's a Small World. He came alone. The executives, apparently, were worried that Walt wouldn't approve my facade, and they didn't want to be part of it.

So they sent Walt out by himself.

As I was building the facade, Walt made it clear that he didn't like the 'over-scaled' architecture of Las Vegas.

"Rolly", he told me, "the one thing I don't want you to do is over-scale this model so it reminds me of Las Vegas".

I was very, very conscious of Walt's feelings about Las Vegas and made sure the scale of my model was nothing that would remind Walt or anyone about Las Vegas.

I stood with Walt in front of the model for what seemed a long time but which in reality was probably no longer than five minutes.

All I could think of was Las Vegas! Finally, Walt turned to me and asked:

"Well, Rolly, do you have any excuses today?"

Oh, boy, I thought - here it comes. But I said "No, sir, I don't."

"Well, then, build the damn thing."

And with that, Walt left, and I got to work building It's a Small World.

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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