You know, last month's ceremony at the Disneyland Opera House got me thinking, folks. Who else -- out of the hundreds of thousands of people who have worked for the Walt Disney Company over the past 75+ years -- is deserving of the title "Disney Legend"? Are there perhaps a few truly deserving candidates that the company (to date) has overlooked?

For those of you who don't understand the significance of this award, let me explain: The Disney Legends was established in 1987 to acknowledge and honor the many individuals whose hard work, imagination and talents helped create the Disney magic.

The first recipient was actor Fred MacMurray who appeared in seven memorable Disney live action films like "The Shaggy Dog" and "The Absent Minded Professor." Beginning in 1989, the next time the awards were given, there were multiple recipients. That is a tradition that continues today with the recent ceremony where several folks instrumental to the disney theme parks were inducted.

While I have no complaints about the people who have been honored, it is fun to think of the people who should be honored in the future. There are many choices but one of my favorite "forgotten" Disney heroes is Tommy Walker.


Tommy Walker (left) with his father, Vesey.
Disneyland file photo

Tommy Walker was the son of longtime Disneyland Band conductor, Vesey Walker, who was just honored this year as a "Disney Legend." Tommy began his entertainment career in the late Forties as mascot "Tommy Trojan" for the University of Southern California marching band.

Since Tommy also lettered in football in 1947, he sometimes found himself in the position where he would have to change out of his band uniform and come down from the stands to kick extra points for the football team. He graduated in 1948 and was immediately hired as the band's director. He was responsible for writing the trumpet "Charge" often heard at athletic contests.

He later was the first entertainment director at Disneyland. He organized the pagentry of opening day at Disneyland on July 17, 1955 including the parade. (Tommy even strutted at the front of a band in the 1959 parade heralding the opening of the Matterhorn, monorail and the Submarine Voyage.)

One of Walker's early ideas was to release hundreds of homing pigeons during the cermonies. In training the pigeons, Walt became so fascinated with the idea that he would later film an entire "Disneyland" television program dedicated to the hobby of raising and training homing pigeons. Pigeon releases became a standard "plus" at Disneyland ceremonies.

On the advice of Walt himself, Tommy hired his dad, Vesey Walker, on a two week contract to lead the Disneyland band. That two week contract extended to fifteen years and this year Vesey was honored as a Disney Legend.

It was Tommy who came up with the idea of nighttime fireworks, "Fantasy in the Sky," in order to keep guests in the park after dark.

The Osmond Brothers came to Hollywood to audition for Lawrence Welk who was too busy to see them at the time. So deciding to make a vacation of the visit, the brothers went to Disneyland and sang for Disneyland's barbershop quartet, the Dapper Dans, who were so impressed that they took the young boys to Tommy Walker.

Tommy put them in a couple of Disneyland shows which is where Jay Williams (Andy's dad) saw them and got them to audition for Andy Williams for whom they performed for the next seven years.

Tommy eventually went into business as one of the world's leading creators of show business spectacles (including Super Bowl halftimes and Olympic opening and closing ceremonies). He died in 1986.

I think the time is long overdue for Tommy to get some recognition for his many contributions to the entertainment at Disneyland. In 1957, he was officially credited as "Manager, Customer Relations Division, Disneyland Inc." and that doesn't even begin to indicate his importance.

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I am sure that JHM readers probably have their own list of candidates that they'd wish to nominate for a Disney Legend award. Certainly there is no shortage of candidates from the category of Disney animation. And yet how many people might consider nominating Volus Jones?

What's that you say? You're unfamilar with Mr. Jones' work at the Walt Disney Company? That's really not surprising, given that Volus tended to be somewhat over-shadowed by the other truly talented folks that he worked with in Disney's shorts unit, Jack Hannah and Bill Justice. But even so, Jones made valuable contributions to classic Disney cartoons like "Pluto's Christmas Tree." His wife, Susan, also got in on the act. Mrs. Jones worked at the Disney Studios in the Xerox processes department from 1966-1977.

From 1934 until his retirement in 1982, like so many journeyman animators, Volus worked for a variety of studios including Harman-Ising, Disney, Alexander, Columbia, Format, Kinney, TV Spots, Warners, UPA, Bakshi, Fred Calvert, Krantz and Hanna-Barbera. For Hanna-Barbera in the 1970s, Jones animated on "The Perils of Penelope Pitstop,""Where's Huddles?," "The Harlem Globetrotters," "The New Tom and Jerry Show" and "Scooby and Scrappy-Doo."

What recently got me thinking about the late Mr. Jones (Sadly, Volus passed away on May 3, 2004 at the age of ninety) was this month's release of "Cinderella" on DVD. You see, for one of the very first theatrical re-releases of this animated feature, Disney Studios apparently sent this veteran animator out on a tour of U.S. cities to help promote the picture.

What follows is an excerpt of a press release that Walt Disney Productions issued to help promote Mr. Jones' "Cinderella" tour:

Few artists in Hollywood know more about the fine art of cartoon and caricature than slender, athletic Volus Jones, one of Walt Disney's top cartoonists since 1934.

Jones worked on many of the characters in Walt Disney's cartoon feature, "Cinderella" - among other films - which is one reason he was selected for a personal appearance tour of U.S. cities to delight audiences with his lightening-quick drawings and caricatures of the "Cinderella" characters.
Another reason is that Jones is one of the most personable young men on Disney's staff, and can spin a good story while he's deftly applying the finishing touches to a caricature of, say, Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck.

Volus was born in Fort Worth, Texas, the son of Mr. and Mrs. William and Mayme Jones. The young cartoonist-to-be left with his parents for sunny Southern California when he was seven years old, and the family has remained in the Los Angeles area since.

He attended Compton Junior College in Los Angeles, and at one time contemplated a football career. He played baseball and football at Compton JC, and probably could have gone on to gridiron success in a major college.

Instead, Volus met an attractive young woman named Susan Daniel, and married her. Jones gave up football, but took up archery as a recreation. His wife shared this interest, and now Jones is among Hollywood's finest archers.

In 1934, Volus went to work at the Disney studio as an animator, and quickly displayed his prowess with crayon and pencil. His pet project for Walt for many years now has been Donald Duck. Volus can draw a cartoon of Donald almost as quickly as one can announce the famous duck's name.
Following his work on "Song of the South," Volus reverted to further Donald Duck cartoon assignments before tackling his tasks for "Cinderella." More recently he has been busy on Disney's nature films for the Disneyland television show.

Volus and Susan own a two-bedroom frame home in Burbank, not far from the studio, and are the proud parents of a daughter, Susan Anne, who was born in 1942. Volus jokingly relates that the Jones' don't have a swimming pool, preferring to use the pools in their neighbors' yards.

The artist got a big thrill when his old alma mater, Compton JC, won the 1955 Junior Rose Bowl, outscoring Jones of Mississippi 22-13. Volus is a friend of the Compton Tartars' coach, Tay Brown, and often wonders wistfully if he could still make the team.

Jones still plays baseball, however, functioning as an outfielder for the Disney studio ball team in an "A" major non-professional league. He also is an avid flier, and owns a Cessna 170 which is maintained between flights at Lockheed air terminal.

Volus sounds like quite the colorful character, don't you think? Well, here's hoping that -- in the years ahead -- Mr. Jones as well as Tommy Walker are given serious consideration when the Walt Disney Company starts looking for additional employees to nominate for its "Disney Legends" honor.