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CD reveals how Walt turned dysfunction at WED Enterprises into fun for the Disney theme parks

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CD reveals how Walt turned dysfunction at WED Enterprises into fun for the Disney theme parks

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I got an e-mail this past weekend from a longtime Disney fan who I won't name. Mostly because he had some very unkind things to say about Bamboo Forest Publishing's latest audio effort, "More Cute Stories, Volume 3 : Museum of the Weird ."

Copyright 2014 Bamboo Forest Publishing. All rights reserved

Here's a brief excerpt from that e-mail:

"This recording features all sorts of mean-spirited stories about Marc Davis, Roger Broggie and Dick Irvine. According to what Rolly Crump says on this CD, Marc, Roger and Dick were all supposedly extremely jealous of Rolly's close relationship with Walt. Which is why they then deliberately went out of their way to trip up Crump projects like Museum of the Weird.

I just think that it's extremely irresponsible of Jeff Heimbuch &  Leonard Kinsey to have released this recording. Especially since the men that Crump is criticizing on this CD are long dead and now can't defend themselves or refute what Rolly says."

(L to R) Jeff Heimbuch & Rolly Crump. Copyright
Bamboon Forest Publishing. All rights reserved

Well, I've listened to "More Cute Stories, Volume 3: Museum of the Weird" twice now. And while some of the stories that Rolly shares on this CD may be hard for some Disney diehards to hear, me personally, I don't really have a problem with Jeff & Kinsey putting this recording out there.

Why For? Because the tales that Crump shares on Volume 3 of the "More Cute Stories" CD series are true.

Look, here's the hard truth that most Disney Company histories step around and/or deliberately avoid talking about: Walt had his favorites. People like Rolly Crump & Marc Davis & Wally Boag that Disney doted on. Offering them the opportunities to work on extra-special personal projects like The Enchanted Tiki Room, Country Bear Jamboree and The Tower of the Four Winds at the 1964 New York World's Fair.

Rolly & Walt stand with the model of the Tower of the
Four Winds for the 1964 New York World's Fair.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

And when the other folks at WED saw plum assignments repeatedly being awarded to folks like Rolly, Marc & Wally ... Well, these early Imagineers were only human. And just like every other person on the planet does when they're faced with a workplace situation like this, these WED employees got jealous.

And when Disney passed away in December of 1966, the payback was terrible. Those people who had previously been Walt's favorites gradually found themselves being frozen out. In Wally Boag's case, this meant that he stopped getting calls from WED to come help write the scripts for their new theme park shows. For Marc Davis, this meant that all of the big projects that he did design work for after Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion (i.e. Western River Expedition, The Enchanted Snow Palace, a revamped Mine Trains Through Nature's Wonderland) never made it off the drawing board. And in Rolly's case.

Well, here. I'll let Crump -- in an excerpt from "More Cute Stories, Volume 3" -- explain:

Rolly with many of the models that Jack Fergus built of Crump's out-there designs
for Disneyland's never-built Museum of the Weird. Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

The next thing I know is that all of the other guys -- all of the other art directors get assigned to work on the Mansion. And they come up with their concepts. And it was interesting that I was not invited at all to continue with the Museum of the Weird. And that's because of good old Dick Irvine. I don't think that Dick wanted me around there at all. And that's really true, because the next thing I know he's decided to make me the supervising art director of Disneyland in maintenance and sent me to Disneyland. So he got me out of the building.

Now let me stress here that I have nothing but respect for Dick Irvine. This is a man who made the ultimate sacrifice for The Walt Disney Company. Dick pushed himself so hard during the construction phase of The Walt Disney World Resort that he basically burned himself out. Which is why -- just months prior to the October 1971 opening of Project Florida --  Irvine was pulled out of the field and then sent back to Southern California. All with the hope that the folks at Saint Joseph Hospital in Burbank might then be able to do something to restore Dick's health. Which -- sadly -- never happened. And after several years of attempting to return to work at WED only to then have his health fail yet again, Irvine passed away in March of 1976.

But that said, Irvine was of a different generation than Crump. And it's easy to see how -- back in the mid-1960s -- the 50+ year-old Dick might have bumped heads with 30+ year-old Rolly.

If you just compare Rolly's wardrobe to what (L to R) Claude
Coats, Bill Cottrell, Walt Disney, John Hench, Dick Irvine
and Don Edgren are wearing, you can already see the
makings of a generation gap / culture clash.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

And here's the other ugly truth that current Mouse House managers don't like getting out about the Company's founder: That Walt often encouraged this sort of behavior. During the early developmental phase of a new project, Disney would deliberately pair up people that he knew wouldn't get along. All with the hope that something magical might then come out of that conflict.

So if that's not the vision of Walt Disney that you want in your head -- that here was a man who could take the dysfunction that was rampant in 1960s-era WED Enterprises and then turn that into fun for his theme parks -- then maybe you shouldn't listen to "More Cute Stories, Volume 3: Museum of the Weird."

On the other hand, if you can handle a warts-and-all take on what really went on behind-the-scenes during the design & construction of The Haunted Mansion and Disneyland's 1967 version of New Tomorrowland, then I urge you to pick up a copy of this new Bamboo Forest Publishing audio release. Because Rolly is really in rare form on this recording. And I can guarantee you that  there are stories shared on this CD that you have never heard before.

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  • Thanks for the great review, Jim! Much appreciated!

    Also, if the person who wrote to you is reading this, I just want to apologize that you feel that way. Unfortunately, it's just the nature of the beast. Not everyone liked each other at WED, and the same holds true for every job, unfortunately. We're not setting out to disparage anyone's image with these stories that Rolly tells. But that's just it...these are Rolly's stories. This is how he experienced things, so he's going to tell it like he saw it. He had a lot of respect for these guys, even if they didn't always get along.

  • I bought the CD several weeks ago (having already purchased the other 2 volumes), and enjoyed listening to Rolly's stories.  Real stories, with conflict and merriment intertwined are more entertaining and ring far more true, than (brand-friendly) edited ones. For me, it gives the sense of what it was truly like during WED's heyday.  Should Rolly compose any other volumes, I'll buy and listen to those too.

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