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Jack Lindquist's "In Service to the Mouse" is an unvarnished view of Disneyland history

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Jack Lindquist's "In Service to the Mouse" is an unvarnished view of Disneyland history

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There are two types of behind-the-scenes books that you typically see coming out of The Walt Disney Company. The first type is the highly scrubbed history (EX: Bob Thomas' "Disney's Art of Animation: From Mickey Mouse to Beauty and the Beast" [Disney Editions, October 1992]) which deliberately steps around some of the more embarrassing moments that are associated with a particular production.

The second kind of behind-the-scenes book usually comes years after the fact (EX: Charles Solomon's "Tale as Old as Time: The Art and Making of Beauty and the Beast" [Disney Editions, August 2010]). Which - because they don't tend to gloss over a lot of the hiccups that can happen along the way - tend to be far more interesting reading.

 Which is why - if you're a theme park history buff and really want to know how the Happiest Place on Earth made it through that shaky first year & then went on become one of the world's most popular tourist destination - you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy of Jack Lindquist's memoir, "In Service To The Mouse: My Unexpected Journey to Becoming Disneyland's First President" (Neverland Media LLC. December 2010).

Copyright Neverland Media LLC. All rights reserved

Why For? Because this 248-page hardcover (which Lindquist wrote with Melinda J. Combs) gives you Disneyland's real history. Told by a guy who first visited the park in April in 1955, back when this theme park was still a construction site. Hired in September of that same year by Disneyland's first director of public relations. Ed Ettinger, Jack had then a front row seat to a lot of Mouse House history. Which he now shares with "In Service to the Mouse."

"What sort of history?," you ask. Well, how about the real reason that Club 33 got built at Disneyland? Which - according to Lindquist - can actually be traced back to the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair.

As the fair ended, GE expressed a desire to move the (Carousel of Progress) to Disneyland. Discussions began with WED, and everything was moving along splendidly until an unexpected hitch occurred. GE insisted that a VIP lounge, like the one they'd had at the New York's World Fair - with a bar - be part of their pavilion in Disneyland. GE was told that alcohol was not allowed in Disneyland, but they insisted. We refused. A critical impasse had been reached. For awhile, it looked like the whole project would crumble. Neither party would budge. Then a compromise was proposed. Disney would construct a private club in New Orleans Square, a new area within the park just under construction at that time.

Image courtesy of Roger Colton

Entrance to the park club would be limited to park sponsors and their guests, complimentary memberships approved by Walt Disney's office. These included all sorts of VIPS, like the presidents of the United States; governors of California; U.S. senators from California; Otis Chandler and William Randolph Hearst Jr. (both newspaper / publishing magnates); Leonard Goldsenson, who was head of ABC; the city of Anaheim and Orange County VIPs; plus a select group of Walt's friends.

This private facility would serve liquor but only with meals. No separate bar. GE and all the other participants accepted the compromise. Thus, the Carousel of Progress was built exactly as debuted at the New York World's Fair. It became an instant classic at Disneyland.

Club 33 immediately became a big hit, giving Disneyland lessees a place to entertain their customers, sales staffs, PR executives and for employee recognition events, etc. Club 33 also became a place where Disneyland executives could entertain business associates, visiting dignitaries, and other groups. The name, Club 33, came about because Walt seemed to like the number 3 and also because Disneyland's physical address is 1313 Harbor Boulevard.

Image courtesy of Roger Colton

That's half the fun of "In Service to the Mouse." Jack gives you the unvarnished version of Disneyland history. He writes not as the loyal employee (Lindquist worked for The Walt Disney Company for 38 years). But - rather - as the longtime president of Disneyland. Who was often frustrated in his attempts to keep this theme park fresh & relevant.

Take - for example - "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln." To Lindquist's way of thinking, anyway ...

...  is not a repeat ride. Guests see it once and that's it. It (is) a show that played for 15 to 20 years to approximately 5 to 8 percent of its capacity. We had a theater with a capacity of around 500, with only 35 people in it. But every time we talked about closing that show, we had backlash; we would receive 2,000 to 3,000 letters saying, "You can't take it out. It's what Disneyland is all about. It's our favorite attraction."

Copyright Walt Disney Productions. All rights reserved

Jack is a person with very strong opinions, especially when it came to the Disney theme parks. And he wasn't afraid of experiencing those opinions.

Take - for example - when he got into it with Michael Eisner, the then-CEO of The Walt Disney Company about which characters should appear in what parks.

I was very opposed to any Disney characters in Epcot because the characters belonged at the Magic Kingdom. Everything should be in its place. If we wanted characters for Epcot, then Epcot characters needed to be developed. Putting Mickey in Japanese robes for the Japanese Pavilion or Lederhosen for the German Pavilion is wrong. Michael and I argued about that for about two years.

Mickey and Minnie in their Italian garb at last year's grand opening of World
Showcase's new Via Napoli restaurant. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

"We're going to have Disney characters in Epcot," he insisted.

"Fine, you're the man," I told him. "But you're wrong."

People don't go to Epcot without going to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, so having Mickey at Epcot isn't going to bring people there. If they want Mickey Mouse, they can go where he is.

Copyright Walt Disney Productions. All rights reserved

I think some characters lost their uniqueness through merchandising and overexposure. We were unsophisticated merchandisers ... People still buy the merchandise but there's just too much, store after store after store. Maybe the merchandise is done differently in various places, but the overkill still exists.

So again, when we try to apply K-Mart or Wal-Mart merchandising standards to Disneyland, I can say it's overkill, but when we look at the bottom line, people are buying. That gets back to the image, and to two questions: Does it mean as much today to have something with the Mouse on it as when it was harder to find?


Copyright Walt Disney Productions. All rights reserved

And should the Mouse be everywhere, like in the German Pavilion near the beer garden?

Hell no.

As Mickey's chaperone for a half-century, I would never let my charge be frivolously exploited.

Jack Lindquist proudly wears a set of Mickey Mouse ears at Disneyland's 50th
anniversary celebration. Photo by Adrienne Helitzer. Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Never thought you'd ever hear a member of senior management of The Walt Disney Company talk like that? Well, that's why you really owe to yourself to purchase a copy of "In Service to the Mouse: My Unexpected Journey to Becoming Disneyland's First President." So that you can then read all of Jack Lindquist's terrific tales.

Like the time when - while attempting to recruit sponsors for Epcot's World Showcase - Lindquist was actually threatened with beheading.  How did that happen? Well ...

... We went to Morocco for help with their pavilion at Epcot but didn't have any success initially. We brought a model on our first visit and left it there. However, a year-and-a-half later, we established ties with a new minister of Tourism. When we returned and started negotiating again, WED Enterprises wanted the old model back because they didn't want to have to start from scratch.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

After we told them that we needed to get the model back to the United States, somebody let us know that the model was at the palace in the prince's quarters. We were told that we had to speak to the king, who then told us to retrieve it from the prince's room.

When we walked into the prince's room, we found our model with an electric train running through it. The 10-year-old prince had turned it into a toy. When we started to take out the model, the prince threw a royal hissy-fit.

He said to all of us, "I'll have you all beheaded."

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

More people came in to help us and stop the fit. They finally scooted the prince out of the room, and we took our model.

Trust me, folks. The stories that I've excerpted above are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to "In Service to the Mouse." So if you want to read a radically different but still genuinely entertaining take on Disneyland history, get ahold of Jack Lindquist & Melinda J. Combs' book ASAP.

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  • I can only find it in Kindle version. :-(

  • Pam --

    Click on the Neverland Media LLC link in today's article. That will then give you access to a dedicated website from which you can order a physical copy of "In Service to the Mouse."

  • I was so pleased to find that it was available on Kindle.  In the old days I would have added this book to my list to look for on my next bookstore trip...today I had the eBook bought and downloaded to my Kindle before I had completely finished Jim's article :-)

  • Jim, where is your follow up article to Tron Legacy???

  • Jedited --

    Check in next Tuesday. Based on what people at the Studio have been telling me, the Martin Luther King three-day weekend will probably be the very last time that "TRON: Legacy" racks up decent box office numbers. At least on the domestic front. At that point ... I think that it will be pretty safe to talk about where this Joseph Kosinski film stands. At least in Hollywood's eyes.

  • I purchased  "In Service to the Mouse" a few weeks ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. The stories were unique, authentic, and often hilarious and told of a world that in some ways has sadly left us. Jack Lindquist's journey has been amazing and I would highly recommend this book to anyone. When I ordered my copy I also received a Jack Lindquist autographed Disney Dollar so it's well worth the price.

  • Got the book as a gift from Jack's daughter in law, Karen Lindquist. LOVE IT

  • Ha, an old man with Mickey's ears looks so cute and funny. I want too that golden Mickey's hat ;(

  • Sounds like a great read. Looking forward to sitting down with it.

  • Someone please give an Jack Lindquist's address to I going to him and take his hat. It's awesome, and even gold. WANT IT!!!!!!!!!

  • I couldn't agree with Jack Lindquist more - characters (other than Figment & Dreamfinder) don't belong in EPCOT.  I was appalled to hear that Tinkerbell and friends will be moving there thanks to the revised Fantasyland plans...

  • Brian,

    Tinkerbell and the Disney Fairies are going to DHS, not EPCOT.  At least, that's what I've been reading.

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