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"Clown Prince of Disneyland" is a must-own ... If you can find a copy to purchase, that is

Jim Hill

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"Clown Prince of Disneyland" is a must-own ... If you can find a copy to purchase, that is

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For the better part of five years now, I have been waiting on “Wally Boag: Clown Prince of Disneyland” (August 2009, Disney Editions). Ever since I first learned that this project was in the works, I have been dying to get my hands on Gene Sands & Wally’s book.

So imagine my surprise last week when – as I was chatting with a fellow Disney history buff – I off-handedly mentioned how disappointed I was that “Clown Prince” hadn’t been published yet.

“The Boag book? It’s out,” my pal interrupted. “I got my copy three months ago.”

Wally Boag: Clown Prince of Disneyland
Copyright 2009 Disney Editions. All Rights Reserved

“It’s available for purchase?!,” I sputtered. “No. That can’t be. I was out at Disneyland in September and Walt Disney World in October and I didn’t see ‘Clown Prince’ for sale anywhere at either resort. I even check Amazon.com weekly for this Disney Editions title. And the Boag bio isn’t available for pre-order there either.”

“Well, I don’t know what to tell you,” my friend continued. “But I pre-ordered my copy last year. ‘Clown Prince’ got shipped to me back in August and it’s a really great read.”

Indeed it is. As soon as I finished talking with this Disney history buff, I arranged to get my very own copy of “Wally Boag: Clown Prince of Disneyland.” And this 176-page hardcover was everything that he said it was and more.

Walt Disney watches Wally Boag at the Golden Horseshoe stage in Disneyland
The cast of the Golden Horseshoe performs for Walt (in box on upper left)
and Lillian Disney in honor of their 30th wedding anniversary

Copyright 2009 Disney Editions. All Rights Reserved

Profusely illustrated with photos from Wally’s personal collection, “Clown Prince of Disneyland” is just a joy to page through. Loaded with great stories about what it was like to work with Walt as the Happiest Place on Earth was just getting off the ground, Boag’s bio is really a must-have for any serious Disneyana collector.

The only problem is – as of this moment – there are only two places on this planet where you can purchase a copy of this great new Disney Editions book. One is the official Wally Boag website and the other is the gift shop at the Walt Disney Family Museum.

Beyond that … bupkis. You can't buy “Wally Boag: Clown Prince of Disneyland” at any of the Disney theme parks. Nor can this handsome volume currently available for order through Amazon.com.

Wally Boag with Buster Keaton and a pie
Wally takes pie-throwing tips from silent screen legend Buster Keaton
Copyright 2009 Disney Editions. All Rights Reserved

“And why is this exactly?,” you ask. To get an answer to this question, I turned to Wally’s son Laurence. Who then told me about how this eagerly awaited memoir wound up being an orphan.

“Gene and my father must have spent 10 years working on this thing,” Laurence recalled. “It started out as just this series of video recordings. So that Dad would then have something to show the grand-kids whenever they asked about his career in show business. But as Gene & my Dad actually began watching these recordings and hearing all these great stories again, they realized that they had the makings of a book.”

But given all of the posters, playbills and show biz memorabilia that Wally had collected over the years … Well, Boag and Sands wanted to include this material as part of his memoir. Which is why they had to get someone involved with “Clown Prince of Disneyland” who was familiar with layout. Which is why they then turned to Bruce Gordon.

Wally Boag wears a mask to pretend he's Fred MacMurray
Wearing a specially made Fred Macmurray mask, Wally
performs stunts for "The Absent Minded Professor"

Copyright 2009 Disney Editions. All Rights Reserved

“Gordon seemed like the perfect guy for this project,” Laurence continued. “Bruce had already co-written several Disney history books. More to the point, he was a whiz at layout. Which is why we were thrilled when Gordon agreed to collaborate with us .”

But then – just a few months after he started working on “Clown Prince” -- Bruce suddenly died. And since that this veteran Imagineer hadn’t actually finished laying out Wally’s memoirs when he passed away in November of 2007 … Well, that really set this project back.

“And then stuff like that kept on happening,” Laurence explained. “Marty Sklar – who’d been a real champion of this book -- retired from Imagineering in June of this year. And then Disney Publishing went through a reorg and ‘Clown Prince’ somehow got lost in the shuffle.”

Wallt Boag and a very large dragon on tour for the movie Pete's Dragon
Fulton Burley (left), Wally & Elliot the dragon entertain the crowds
while out on a 1977 press tour for "Pete's Dragon"

Copyright 2009 Disney Editions. All Rights Reserved

But the real kicker came when Boag’s kid called the buyer for Disney Parks & Resorts (You know? The individual who orders all of the merchandise that’s sold in the shops at Disneyland & Walt Disney World?). And as Laurence explained that “Wally Boag: Clown Prince of Disneyland” was finally available to order, this buyer reportedly said “Wally who?”

As Laurence tells this story, the phone call pretty much went downhill from there. As he tried to explain the important role that his Father played in Disney Company history, this buyer basically cut him off. Saying – in essence – “We’re not so much interested in Disneyland’s past anymore. We’d prefer to talk about Disneyland’s future.”

To be fair, about 10 minutes after that phone call ended, Laurence received a second call for this same Disney Parks & Resorts buyer. In the interim, they’d evidently been talking with other people at their office about Wally Boag. Which is why this individual was now aware of the 27 years that he’d spent performing at the Golden Horseshoe. Not to mention the script writing & voice work that Wally had done for “The Enchanted Tiki Room.” As well as the stunts that Boag had performed in “The Absent-Minded Professor” and “Son of Flubber.”

Wally Boag and Julie Andrews repeat their original stage act from London, in Disneyland
Julie Andrews & Wally Boag reunite on the stage of
Disneyland's Golden Horseshoe in 1963

Copyright 2009 Disney Editions
All Rights Reserved

Albeit reluctantly, this buyer tried to make amends. Back pedaling from their earlier "Wally who?" comment, this individual now insisted that they were aware of Boag’s window on Main Street. This buyer then told Laurence that “I think I may have seen your Dad perform once back when I first started with the Company.” But even then this buyer still refused to order any copies of “Wally Boag” Clown Prince of Disneyland.” Saying something to the effect that “ … we’ve stocked books like this in the past. And they don’t really sell all that well. Which is why I still think that we’re going to have to take a pass.”

Now where this story gets weird is that – over the past few weeks – Boag’s son has repeatedly been contacted by members of the Golden Ears. Which is Disneyland’s Alumni Association. And since many of these folks actually worked with Wally and/or have very fond memories of Laurence’s Dad, they’ve been looking forward to reading “Clown Prince of Disneyland.” Which is why all their e-mails to Laurence typically start out just as today’s JHM article did. With an opening line that reads something like this:

“I have been looking for Wally’s bio in the Park for months now. But because I never saw it on store shelves , I just assumed that ‘Clown Prince of Disneyland’ hadn’t been published yet. So imagine my surprise today when I stumbled upon your website …”

Wally Boag poses with the Muppets Miss Piggy
Wally cozies up with Miss Piggy on "The Muppet Show"
Copyright 2009 Disney Editions. All Rights Reserved

So here we have a book that people are actively looking for at Disneyland, that former Cast Members actually expect to find whenever they shop in stores at that theme park … And yet the buyer for Disney Parks & Resorts still took a pass on “Wally Boag: Clown Prince of Disneyland” (Which – I’ll remind you – is a Disney Editions title. Meaning that this book was produced by The Walt Disney Company’s own publishing arm) because – as Laurence Boag was reportedly told – “ … We’re not so much interested in Disneyland’s Past anymore. We’d prefer to talk about Disneyland’s future.”

You wanna know the really ironic part of this story? When I visited the Disneyland Resort earlier this year, I remember seeing tons of merchandise available for purchase that was tied to Pixar’s 2008 release.  

Yeah, that Wall-E Disneyland has room for. But not Wally Boag. The Disney Legend that Walt personally selected to perform at Slue Foot Sue’s Golden Horseshoe.

Wally Boag's Window on Mainstreet at Disneyland
Wally's window on Main Street at Disneyland
Copyright 2009 Disney Editions
All Rights Reserved

If you want to learn about what it was like to audition for Walt Disney, you should definitely pick up a copy of “Wally Boag: Clown Prince of Disneyland.” Which – as I said earlier – is only available for purchase in two places right now. In the gift shop at the Walt Disney Family Museum as well as at the official Wally Boag website.

But who knows? Maybe today’s story might convince a few folks to free up some retail space at Disneyland. So that a Disney Editions book that Guests actually expect to find when they next shop at the Happiest Place on Earth might then be available for purchase there.

Your thoughts?

Wally Boag and a Pongo the Dalmation puppet
Wally entertains Granny Vincent with a Pongo puppet
Copyright 2009 Disney Editions. All Rights Reserved

And if you still feel like doing a bit more shopping after you pick up that copy of “Wally Boag: Clown Prince of Disneyland” … Well, if you click on the Amazon banner below, JHM then gets a teeny tiny chunk of whatever you spend.

Think of it as a way of showing your appreciation for all the great stories that you've read at this site over the years.

Happy Holidays!

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  • WHAT? This is unbelievable.  I can understand the thought that a book like this wouldn't really sell well at the parks. But they would sell a few hundred copies to all us die hard fans over at the Disney Gallery or Disneyana shop.  But to not know who Wally Boag is or his massive importance to Disney is unforgivable. And the statement 'We're not interested in Disneyland's past..." I hope this ass-kissing idiot got handed his walking papers.   And the book is even a Disney Edition!  Hopefully this situation will be corrected. And hopefully Amazon will start carrying it as well.  "Wally who?" Unbelievable.

  • Not too surprising given the morons at corporate maingate.  These are the same yokels who wouldn't order any Phineas and Ferb merchandise even though they were the most requested characters for the last year.  They're a pack of idiots who stare at spreadsheets all day for their answers and have no concept of Disney history.  If it isn't a strong franchise they won't risk it.

  • And hey wasn't Jim one of the internet reporters talking about how Wall-E wouldn't sell much in merchandise?  He's lasted longer in the parks then most characters Jim!

  • Hmmm, "Wally Who?" Any management person at Disneyland who doesn't know who Wally Boag is needs to be fired. Wally was there for all those years, has a window on Main Street U.S.A,L; is mentioned at lenghth in the Steve Martin film playing in the Opera House and this management guy doesn't know who he is!?

    This guy needs to work elsewhere.

  • About par for the course nowadays, I'm sorry to say - if it can't tell truckloads of units at Disneyland and Walt Disney World (and it has to sell at both), Parks and Resorts merchandise isn't interested.    

    And Disney wonders why the hardcore fans don't buy as much as the casual guests. Sheesh.

  • This post was mentioned on Twitter by t_animation: Animation #Animation: "Clown Prince of Disneyland" is a must-own ... If you can find a copy to purchase, that is... http://bit.ly/31Nmn5

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