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Jim Korkis to discuss Walt's fascination with outer space at the Disney Family Museum

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Jim Korkis to discuss Walt's fascination with outer space at the Disney Family Museum

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Okay. I know. This week, the white hot center of the pop culture universe is down in San Diego. At the San Diego Convention Center to be exact. Where the 41st edition of Comic-Con International is now underway.

But if I may direct your attention 500 miles to the north, tomorrow at 3 p.m. there is something equally cool going on. And that's noted Disney author & historian Jim Korkis giving his first-ever talk at the Walt Disney Family Museum.

"And what's this presentation going to be about?," you ask. Well, I'll let Korkis himself explain:

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"Over six months ago, I was contacted about whether I'd like to talk about Walt's fascination with outer space and how it influenced the American space program.   I already had a presentation ready that I had prepared as part of the training program for cast members at Mission: Space at Epcot.  However, since January of this year, I have discovered so much new information, I won't be able to fit it all into my hour presentation.  Maybe I can squeeze some of it in during the question and answer portion."

"What sort of new information?," you query. Well, you've heard about what allegedly happened in Roswell back in July of 1947, right? When pieces of a downed UFO was supposedly found strewn about the New Mexico desert? Well, did you know that one of the reported witnesses of this infamous incident actually worked for Walt Disney Studios? As Korkis again explains:

"One of the primary consultants for those 'Man in Space,' 'Man and the Moon' and 'Mars and Beyond' episodes for the 'Disneyland' TV show was Dr. Werhner von Braun, who later became the first Director of NASA and was responsible for America's first orbital satellite, the space shuttle, the landing on the moon and so much more.  Disney Legend Ward Kimball worked closely with von Braun and they really bonded.  Ward had stacks of books and magazines about UFOs.  When I interviewed Ward many years ago, he told me that von Braun was working at White Sands in New Mexico launching V-2 rockets when the Roswell incident happened.  Von Braun and some of his staff were taken to the site by the American military.  I'll talk about what they discovered there in my presentation and what Ward was going to do with all that information on the fourth never-made Disney space program."

Dr. Werhner van Braun, the first Director of NASA

Mind you, von Braun didn't just consult on the TV shows that Walt Disney Studios. As Korkis recounts, this german rocket scientist also had a hand in the Happiest Place on Earth:

"The Rocket to the Moon attraction at Disneyland was being built the same time the first Disney space show, 'Man and the Moon' was being developed. Imagineer John Hench consulted with von Braun which is why the Moonliner looks like the V-2 rockets von Braun had designed.  There were some elements in the Disneyland attraction, like the trip to the dark side of the moon, that came from the television show."

Werhner von Braun - like Walt Disney - was a visionary. He could see decades ahead when it came to the possibilities of space flight. Beyond the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Skylab programs all the way to the Space Shuttle. Or so says Korkis:

Disney artist version of the four stage orbital rocket that Werhner van Braun proposed.
Please note the Space Shuttle prototype perched on the top of this rocket.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"During the 'Man in Space' TV show, Dr. von Braun described an entirely new concept, a four stage orbital rocket ship.  That fourth stage was a winged module carrying ten crew members and was equipped with landing gear and its own small rocket motor.  After orbiting, it was designed to return the crew safely to Earth like an airplane and be reusable for the next flight.  The Disney animation artists dramatized exactly what that would be like.  It would be almost another twenty-five years before von Braun could convince NASA to actually build that Space Shuttle. Which is why the timing of my talk at the Walt Disney Family Museum this weekend is somewhat ironic. Given that - with the landing of the Space Shuttle Atlantis yesterday morning - the program that von Braun first dreamed up back in 1955 has now come to a close."

You'll find that this happens a lot when you discuss "Walt's Fascination with Outer Space." That the past, the present and the future all tend to fold together as you follow the threads of this story. Which is why it's great to have someone like Jim on hand to walk you through this somewhat convoluted material. Point out all the highlights.

So don't be blue if you waited too long to order a badge to this year's Comic-Con International. Tomorrow afternoon, if you want a truly out-of-this-world experience, the place that you need to be is San Francisco, rather than San Diego. Where - starting at 3 p.m. - noted Disney author & historian Jim Korkis will be taking the stage to discuss "Walt's Fascination with Outer Space."

Walt Disney and Werhner von Braun pose with some of the
models that were created for the "Man in Space" episode
of the "Disneyland" weekly television series. Copyright
Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

For further information on this presentation and/or to order tickets to Jim's talk, please click on this link.

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  • Dr. Von Braun would have been an interesting person to meet. Some revisionists have recently criticized him for not speaking out against the treatment of jews when he was working at, where was it, Pinamunda? (Somebody correct me.) They don't know that he he did try to do something about it and was imprisoned by the Nazi's and tortured for his efforts. The only reason why they released him was because Himmler was told that without Von Braun, there is no German rocket program.

  • I was lucky enough to be in the audience for this. It was a great presentation. Jim Korkis is not only extremely knowledgeable, but he's a great speaker. I was also lucky enough to meet him afterwards, and he's a really friendly enthusiastic guy. Definitely a privelege to be there for his talk, and I'm looking forward to many more in the future hopefully!

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