Sunday, September 12, 2010

Meet Our Neighbor: Michael Crawford!

The Disney blog-o-sphere has grown tremendously over the past few years with the addition of quite a few talented bloggers. It can be confusing to peruse all of the different sites and to try and place a person with a site. Therefore, Andrew and I decided that we wanted to highlight our good blogging buddies and ask them to answer a series of precise and predetermined questions. Andrew and I spent years in a Disney think-tank perfecting the questions presented below. For this Meet Our Neighbor segment, we asked Michael Crawford from Progress City, USA and the Progress City Radio Hour to muddle through our questions. Michael is an early EPCOT Center curmudgeon (meant in a nice way) and he is never one to mince words. Michael has an amazing sense of humor and finds the most amazing tidbits about Disney history to share at Progress City and on Twitter. Michael is also one of the founding members and officers of the Chummery.

Don't forget our other Meet Our Neighbor posts:

What is your earliest Disney memory?

My first memories that can be dated are vague impressions from going to the movies to see Cinderella, which Wikipedia tells me was re-released in 1981 (I would have been four years old). I definitely remember seeing Fantasia, which was re-released in 1982. I think my Uncle Bob took me. My first park-related memory is also from 1982, in October, when we went to WDW for the first time. We stayed off-property, but the night we got there we drove to WDW to see what we could see. I remember we drove around the ramp onto Epcot Center Blvd. and you could see a lot of Future World all lit up. I remember thinking that the building that was actually The Land had to be Universe of Energy - I had seen the renderings of the dinosaur scenes in the preview book so I figured the giant glass building was shaped like a volcano. I was five, ok??

What is your single favorite attraction?

All time? Horizons.

Existing? Probably the WEDway Peoplemover.

Break it down by park? Glad you asked.

MK: Peoplemover followed by Mansion.
EPCOT: Spaceship Earth followed by Living with the Land or American Adventure.
Studios: Great Movie Ride followed by One Man's Dream.
DAK: Kilimanjaro Safaris followed by catching the bus to EPCOT.
Disneyland: The Enchanted Tiki Room followed very closely by Pirates.

What is your favorite Disney and non-Disney movie?

Non-Disney: Probably Lawrence of Arabiaat the moment.

Disney: Hmm. Hard to say. It's so dependent on mood. Since Rocketman is probably too obvious, I'm going to have to say... All-time faves are Fantasia (animated) and The Parent Trap (live-action). There might be others that are "better", but that is just infinitely rewatchable. Of course, taking Pixar into account I might have to say Ratatouille. So many choices.

What is your least favorite park?

In Florida, it has to be Studios. There's actually more to do there than at DAK, but it just falls so incredibly short of what it should be - and even of what it once was. Once you get past Hollywood and Sunset, that park is a disaster. And don't get me started on the dreaded Hat...

But overall, and I haven't even been there, it's the Walt Disney Studios in Paris. That park is a humiliating disaster for anyone even remotely associated with Disney. Six Flags would be ashamed to put their name on that park. It's the ugliest, most poorly-thought-out, blight of a theme park in Disney history.

What is your favorite park?

EPCOT Center, pre-1994. But today it's probably Magic Kingdom. I typically still default to EPCOT, but when I'm in the park I realize that I pretty much skip over Future World entirely anymore.

Who is your favorite Disney character?

Scrooge McDuck ftw.

What is your favorite Disney song?

I'm tempted to just say Digging in Dinoland and see what people say, but lately I've been rocking On The Front Porch pretty hard. My favorite overall piece of music has to be the original EPCOT Center Main Entrance Medley.

If you could switch places with any historical or living Disney employee, who would it be and why?

It's certainly tempting to pick someone who worked closely with Walt, but I'd have to say Eisner. He had, for a time, the power to do whatever the heck he wanted to do in any division of the company. Sadly, he wound up using his powers for evil instead of good. But think of what could have been done and almost was done... in his shoes, one could have made ANYTHING happen. Westcot. Port Disney. Disney's America. Continuing the original plans for EPCOT. No Pop Century. To have had that power and used it wisely would have changed the entire face of the company. As long as it wasn't like the One Ring and just automatically turned everyone evil in the end...

Roy E. Disney would be another good choice, because he got to work with Walt and be influential later. Nunis, too. Still, no one had the power Eisner had. Then again, you could just take Card Walker's place and there would never have been a need for Eisner. He had plenty of leeway to do big things, he just tended not to. Maybe if you took Walker's place and did things right on the Studio side, there would have been no need for Eisner. And you could built WRE. [Ed. Note: Western River Expedition.]

What is you're must eat food at WDW?

SCHOOLBREAD

Favorite place to stay at WDW?

The Polynesian, although I never get to stay there.

What is your favorite place to be at WDW?


I hope you realize this is impossible to answer, but I'm going to say strolling around World Showcase - after park closing - during the holidays.

Also: Rocking chairs on Main Street; sitting at Main St. station watching the park empty; relaxing on the WEDway or WDW Railroad; having a tasty beverage in the Tambu Lounge back when they had live entertainment; kicking back on the back seat of a water launch on Bay Lake; sitting at the Fort Wilderness campfire, preferably watching The Apple Dumpling Gang. The old-timey lounge at Boardwalk is pretty sweet too.

What is your favorite restaurant?

Yeesh. Probably Ohana. I mean, obviously, Victoria & Albert's, but c'mon...

What is the first thing you want to do on your next trip?

Win the powerball and meet Christina Hendricks. [Ed. Note: Yowza!]

What is your favorite fireworks show?

Illuminations: Reflections of Earth with the Holiday tag at the end. Wow. Never stops being awesome.

Where did you develop your love of Disney?

It was always there. It's like asking where I developed my fondness for oxygen. I would probably say, though, that ground zero for my addiction was EPCOT in the early days.

If you had to choose parks or movies, which would it be?

Hrm. Parks, I guess. But I wouldn't be happy about it.

Which character do you associate with the most?

If I knew the names of any of the other Disney pixies I'd pretend I was trying to choose one of them. But I think we all have to identify with Mr. D. Duck now and again. I find him the most relatable. It would be funny if my answer was Chernabog.

Does any forensic evidence exist linking you to the Kennedy assassination?

None that exists, silly. Do you think I'd make that mistake again?

Would you make any major changes to the current design of any of the parks?

Oh, lord. Um, yes? I'm not kidding when I say I'd literally clear-cut at least half of Studios. As in, bulldozed completely to the ground. That park needs a massive conceptual and physical overhaul. And yes Disney, I am available for consultation. DAK doesn't really need any changes, it just needs additions badly. It has plenty of room for expansion if they'd use it wisely. EPCOT needs expansion, of course, and Future World needs a more-than-extreme makeover. The whole area needs to be re-thought from the ground up. Magic Kingdom needs a lot of repair work as well; the removal of the Magic Carpets and restoration of Adventureland is crucial, as is the return of the real Tiki Room. Tomorrowland also needs most of its attractions replaced and a complete renovation. And the Fantasyland expansion needs to be more extensive than we've been led to believe it will be. AND the Rivers of America need a massive rehab and upgrade as well.

What is the most significant architectural feature of WDW?

The castle is probably what most people would think of, but the image of the monorail passing throught the Contemporary was so crucial early on to selling the concept of the resort as more than just a park. It also underscored themes so important to early WDW - innovation and new systems and techniques for transportation and building. The Contemporary appeared in promotional material just as much as the castle in those days. And it's still impressive today!

What is the weakest Epcot country?

Pizza or no, it's still Italy. How a country with such history, landscape, architecture, art and literature could have such a shabby little pavilion is beyond me. The UK isn't great, either.

What is your favorite Disney guilty pleasure?

Probably some of the goofy live action movies from the late 60s and 70s. Things like The Ugly Dachshund.

Where do you spend most of your time online when in the Disney-sphere?

I used to constantly read so many blogs but much of my time these days is sucked up trying to write stuff myself. I usually do a daily check on the WDWMagic forums, but most of my Disney mingling is on Twitter these days because I can do it on the go. [Ed. Note: Michael told me he was too embarrassed to mention Imaginerding directly.]

You are the CEO and you have to cut one division: film, animation, parks, music, ABC, or ESPN. Where do you start cutting?

That's tough, because I can see how an argument could be made for any of these things. ESPN is probably the farthest from being a "core" Disney element, but it's also insanely successful. ABC is a distraction and a drain, but if they actually used it right it could be a great outlet for Disney material. If I had to cut, that's where I'd start, but I'd rather just make them work as they should be working.

A lot of the most absurd things - the sports teams, all the magazines and weird cable channels, have already been sold off.

Do you have any money we can borrow or have?

That would require me having money in the first place, so no.

What do you consider the most historically significant or defining moment in Disney history?

Beside Walt's birth? I hate to be obvious, but probably getting Oswald stolen and the subsequent creation of Mickey. Not only did it finally give him the money that really started things rolling, but it also defined the way he ran his businesses for the rest of his life. He would be in control, and he would have final say. I think that was probably THE defining moment.

The other would probably be the events of 1994, which started the collapse of everything.

How do you feel about Disney's stance to remove Song of the South and other period specific pieces from its association?

It's absurd. First, the film is inoffensive. Second, it's a symptom of Disney refusing to realize that they actually do have fans over the age of 12. If they don't think it's "appropriate" for kids then they don't have to release and market it as a kids' movie. Just release it and let those who want to buy it, buy it. Make it a mail-order exclusive. Whatever. Just let us give them our money, that's all we're asking. There are many, many "classic" films far more offensive in their outlook or stereotypes than SotS could ever claim to be, and no one pickets them. Disney has allowed this to become a huge deal, and if Disney hadn't stigmatized it by acting so secretive and ashamed about it, no one would care. If people were actually allowed to see the film they'd realize there's nothing shocking or forbidden about it.

If you could change one thing about a Disney Movie, what movie would it be and what would you change?

I think some of the late-era cult classics like Black Hole and TRON, if given snappier scripts and a little more polish, could be real classics. TRON is much better than Black Hole overall, but could still have used a little more zip.

Which Disney Hotel could you live in for the rest of your life?

The Poly.

What is your favorite Disney book?
It's gotta be the big EPCOT book by Richard Beard. [Ed. Note:Walt Disney's Epcot: The New World of Tomorrow.] That was my bible as a kid. I can't imagine how long I spent poring over it.




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