I am currently reading the fantastic new book about Harriet Burns entitled Walt Disney’s First Lady of Imagineering, written by Harriet’s daughter Pam Burns-Clair and friend Don Peri. Don is a Disney historian and author.It is a collection of heartfelt and amazing tributes and anecdotes about Harriet from friends, co-workers and family. I found one entry particularly fascinating in that it paints a picture of how important Harriet was to the Disney Company and yet she was so grounded. Harriet’s goddaughter, Joanne Campbell, writes about a trip to Walt Disney World with Harriet in the early 1990s:
The following morning Harriet had made reservations at a park restaurant she knew served the famous Mickey Mouse pancakes. She insisted on paying the bill because she said that her Disney card would entitle her to a discount. Of course we thanked her, but we didn’t think too much of it. When she presented her card to the waiter, she said she hoped it was alright, because this card was actually from California. The waiter disappeared for some time, and suddenly the manager appeared. He was quite perplexed and said, “Mrs. Burns, was everything satisfactory? Michael [Eisner] usually alerts us when you’re on the property!” With that, OUR eyes popped open in amazement, and we began to realize that the term Imagineer (and her #7 on the credit card) was something extraordinary.
Because Harriet was retired at this point, she herself had not seen MGM, which had just opened in Orlando. We hopped on a double-decker English bus with the throngs, and hadn’t gone too far before Harriet said, “Look, boys, there is the old airplane that Bill and I rode to New York with Walt in for the World’s Fair!” My husband and I exchanged looks, and sure enough, the tour guide then said, “and THIS is the plane that Walt took to the World’s Fair.”–p. 42, Walt Disney’s First Lady of Imagineering, Harriet Burns.
The book is replete with stories that will touch your heart. It is so much more than a tribute book to Harriet, it is also a look at how special and amazing it was to be one of Walt’s Imagineers. A review is forthcoming, but I can already tell you that this book is perfect for anyone interested in Imagineering, Walt or the amazing people that were fortunate enough to meet Harriet. She was an inspiring woman!
You can learn more about the book at the official website Imagineer Harriet.