Moonshine Express and Splash Mountain

The Walt’s People series by Didier Ghez is one of the hidden gems of Disney-related literature. Didier has collected hundreds of interviews with animators, actors, employees and Imagineers. He has complied them into a series of books that offer an amazing insight into what it was like to work for Walt Disney. The following quote is from Volume 9 (pp. 380-381).

Didier Ghez: What was the first project you tackled at WDI and what were your main contributions to that project?
Julie Svendsen: My first project at WED as a new show designer was called the Moonshine Express, a ride, which much later morphed into Splash Mountain. My Art Director was Rolly Crump and I contributed story sketches showing various scenes with animal characters that you might encounter along the course of the ride.

Didier Ghez: Can you describe the Moonshine Express and how it was different from the final Splash Mountain? 
Julie Svendsen: I worked on the Moonshine Express for only a short time and my only recollection of it is sketching different forest animals and making them appear to be singing and as cute as possible.

A bit later in the book, Julie discusses working with Rolly Crump (p. 385):
My first encounter with him was when he reviewed my portfolio after I graduated from Art Center and he hired me to work at WED as a show designer in the Model Shop. That’s when I started working with him on a ride, which was then called Moonshine Express. My work on Moonshine didn’t last long because it was determined that I was needed more to work on New Fantasyland and, eventually, to paint colorboards for the pavilions in World Showcase at Epcot.

The daughter of Julius and Carol Svendsen, Julie was born on November 13, 1950, and joined WED in 1970. She spent about 25 years at Imagineering and worked with such legends as Collin Campbell, Marc Davis, Herb Ryman, Wathel Rogers, Yale Gracey, Harriet Burns, Rolly Crump, Jack Ferges, Fred Joerger, John Hench, and her friend Walt Peregoy. A tremendously talented Imagineer, she discusses her career, her parents’ life at Disney, and her friendships with many of the Disney legends she knew.

If you search for Moonshine Express (don’t forget to add Disney to the search terms), you find some interesting information from Jim Hill. Jim recounts:

“And what — pray tell — was the ‘Moonshine Express’ supposed to be like?,” you asked. Well — in this proposed version of a flume ride for Disneyland — there are the good bears that live in Bear Country (I.E. The bruins who live in town and perform at the Country Bear Playhouse) and the bad bears. You know, those bruins who live ‘way out in the woods and brew moonshine.  

Well, the local sheriff (Who — if I’m remembering correctly — was supposed to be a brother of Henry’s? You know, the MC of the “Country Bear Jamboree”?) is asking for our help. Which is why we all eventually wound up in hollowed out logs, floating through the swamps out behind Bear Country, trying to find us some moonshiners.

Jim goes into greater detail on his site. Make sure to read the rest of the article.


 

 

Celebrating Walt Disney World: Walt Peregroy and Early Epcot

October 2011 marks the 40th anniversary of the opening of the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. The Vacation Kingdom has seen a lot of changes over the past four decades and the editorial staff at Imaginerding wants to celebrate the unique and rich history of the resort with a series of posts. A very special thanks to Celeste Cronrath for designing the series of logos for our posts. Make sure to follow her on Twitter.


Howdy Partners. For your safety, remain seated with your hands, arms, feet, and legs inside the article and be sure to watch your kids. If any of you folks are wearing hats or glasses, best remove em’ cause this here is the wildest ride in the wilderness! 

Julie Svendson interviewed Walt Peregroy in December 2007. The amazing (and long) interview was published in Volume 9 of the Walt’s People: Talking Disney with the Artists who Knew Him series by Didier Ghez.

Scanned from Walt Disney World: 20 Magical Years.

Do you know what I did in the Kodak pavilion—Images and Imagination was the name of the ride? I also designed the banister on the stairway and colors and designed the outside of the elevator. It’s probably all gone now. I designed the entranceway into the Images and Imagination ride and I did the four-seasons mural in The Land pavilion and the Symphony of the Seed. I did the 27-foot tall, 360-degree sky in the Land pavilion. And I designed the three solid balloons in The Land pavilion that would go up and down with different foods. I designed the fountain below the balloons, but I didn’t get my way on the fountain. Jim Sarno sculpted it. Beautiful. He told me he left because the fountain wasn’t finished with the top the way I designed it. I intended that it all be different foods not only sculpted but painted.

Scanned from Walt Disney’s EPCOT Center.

Every celebrity in the world has gone through Disneyland, I’m sure, and I’ve done things there but there’s nothing obvious. But the two pavilions at Epcot are very apparent. You can’t go there without seeing them. And I have this delusion—they could take any piece out of the Symphony of the Seed, very carefully lift it out and put it outdoors or indoors and, with colored lights, it could be a fantastic, contemporary piece of sculpture. But museum curators, art critics, they insult Disney and all of us who work for them saying it’s Mickey Mouse and it’s not true. That’s what they think.


Walt Peregroy worked for the Disney Studios from 1951-1964 and 1974-1983. At the Studios, he worked on Lady and the Tramp, 101 Dalmatians, Sleeping Beauty and others. His last six years with the Company were spent working at WED on designs for EPCOT Center.

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Book Review: Walt’s People Volume 10 by Didier Ghez

Most tenth anniversaries are celebrated with a gift of tin or aluminum. What do you get a noted Disney historian when he publishes the tenth volume of a critically acclaimed series? Should we get him a Tin Toy? What about something from the Kaiser Hall of Aluminum?

All Giants Among Mortal Men!

Regardless, the release of Volume Ten of Walt’s People should be greeted with hallelujahs and much fanfare. Not only is the series an indispensable tool for researchers, but Didier has compiled an astounding collection of interviews with people that have worked with Walt Disney or on Disney-related projects.

The Tenth volume is special because Didier was able to collect all of the interviews that Bob Thomas did for his seminal biography: Walt Disney, An American Original. The majority of the interviews took place in 1973 when people were still reeling from Walt’s passing in 1966. Artists, family and WED employees are interviewed and provide a fascinating look at working with and for Walt. It is obvious that most of the interviewees had a fondness, if not love, for their boss. The anecdotes provided are priceless and provide an insight into Thomas’ writings and the direction of the biography. I would hope that this volume of Walt’s People will inspire other authors and researchers to share their interviews with Didier.

Interviewees and essays:

Foreword: Diane Disney Miller
Jim Korkis: A history of the Walt Disney biography by Bob Thomas
Didier Ghez: Bob Thomas
Paul F. Anderson: Bob Thomas
Walt Disney
Walt Pfeiffer
Lillian Disney
Edna Disney
Ub Iwerks
Wilfred Jackson
Bill Cottrell
Herb Ryman
Jim Korkis: Walt’s secretaries
Dolores Voght Scott
Ham Luske
Woolie Reitherman
John Lounsbery
Ward Kimball
Frank Thomas
Milt Kahl
Hazel George
Marc Davis
Dick Huemer
Ollie Johnston
Ken Anderson
George Bruns
Larry Clemmons
Bill Anderson
Robert Stevenson
Bill Walsh
Roy E. Disney
Winston Hibler
James Algar
John Hench
Harper Goff
Dick Irvine
Card Walker
Donn Tatum
Wathel Rogers
Roger Broggie
Marvin Davis
Joe Potter
Robert Foster
Joe Fowler

Pretty impressive, no?

The majority of the Walt’s People volumes focus on interviews with artists that worked on the animated films. Occasionally, you find interviews with people that worked on Disneyland. Take a look at the bottom part of the list of interviewees. Most of them were directly involved with creating Walt Disney World after Walt’s passing. As noted earleir, the interviews took place around 1973 and many of the interviews focus on the plans for Walt Disney World and the expansion of the Florida Project.

I will iterate: Didier’s Walt’s People Series is a very important addition to the collected research about Walt Disney. Walt’s People will be used for many years to come by researchers and publishers.

Walt and Libraries

Walt’s People, Volume 10 is about to be released by Didier Ghez. This collection of interviews focuses solely on the research that Bob Thomas did when writing his astounding Walt Disney: An American Original. Page 18 features this wonderful quote about Walt Disney and libraries.

He told me that when he got into a problem and couldn’t figure it out, he would go to the library to find out what the answers were. He continued to do that all of his life. He would either go to the library or call people who would be able to tell him what he needed to know. And in the reverse he was available for people who wanted to question him about their projects. It was a very interesting aspect of his life.

The Walt’s People Series is a must-have for Disney enthusiasts of every interest.

 


 

 

Margaret Kerry Dishes on Why Tinkerbell is at Disneyland!

The Walt’s People series by Didier Ghez (nine volumes released so far) is a fascinating collection of interviews from people that worked with Walt or were heavily involved in the Disney Company. The fact that Didier has been able to compile so many interviews that would otherwise sit in the private collections of researchers is astounding and a boon to Disney enthusiasts, historians and researchers. Most of the interviews focus on animation and the art from the Disney Company; occasionally, you find an amazing nugget that relates directly to the theme parks.

Margaret Kerry, live-action model for Tinkerbell, was interviewed by Jim Korkis. From page 185 of Volume Nine:

Image via WikipediaTinker Bell was just going to be a fun secondary character that Disney was going to have in one movie. Then all the things changed when Disneyland started. 

I’m told that so many of the people at the Studio thought Disneyland was going to lose money or even go bankrupt. So they went to Roy and said, “Roy, would you tell him that we’re asking him not to use our big characters that we can license and make money off of, so when Disneyland flops, we can get the money back?”

Roy evidently talked to Walt in a much nicer manner than I just did, and Walt understood and got back to Roy and said, “Tell ‘em I’m going to use Jiminy Cricket and Tinker Bell.” That’s why when Disneyland opened you saw Jiminy Cricket and Tinker Bell everyplace. But you didn’t see a lot of the big licensed characters. He also made Tinker Bell the one who came in to everybody’s household once a week and took children on a magical trip to someplace on the Disneyland television program. Kids got to know her, and before you know it, there were all these books and merchandise.

Fascinating to think that Tinkerbell and Jiminy Cricket were minor players, once, and that Disneyland was a complete unknown.


 

 

Sounding Fantasia

On page 515 of Volume 9 of the Walt’s People series, we find the following quote from Tom Sito concerning the differences in the recordings for the scores of Fantasia and Fantasia 2000:

Then the other issue people had was when you work in the original footage, because our film was going to be done in the modern screen format of 1:85. And it’s also six-track Dolby digital stereo and the original  Fantasia, even restored, still was in the 1:33 original aspect ratio, the old cinema aspect ratio, plus they had all kinds of problems with the stereo.

In 1949 they transferred the original tracks from the original recordings on the nitrate strip. And they went to magnetic tape. The new invention in the 1940s was magnetic recording tape, so they wanted to go to mag-track on it, and the best labs in the world at the time were at NBC TV. So they wanted to transfer the Fantasia tracks to magnetic tape, but in so doing they transferred them along telephone lines and by doing that they lost a lot of the high and low registries, some of the high notes and some of the low notes. And it has always been part of the problem when they digitally re-mastered the sound: It always loses a little something, because some of the parts of the performance were lost in the recording. The preservationists go crazy trying to figure out: They had scientists working on it full-time, like John Carnaughan and Alex Rannie. It was interesting, because every couple of weeks they would have us into the Studio and they would say, “I think we licked it. Okay, let’s play the modern stuff and then let’s play the old stuff,” and then they would say, “Can you hear the difference?” We would say, “Yeah, you can hear a difference.” [Laughs] They still sounded different. To their credit, they were not going to make the mistake of getting rid of Stokowski’s soundtrack.

 

 

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Don’t Say Anything to Roy…

Jack Cutter started at the Disney Studio as an assistant animator in 1929 and eventually worked his way up to Head of the Foreign Department where he retired in 1975. His role was to ensure that Disney films could be released to the overseas markets with proper dubbing by appropriate voice actors. In the following excerpt from Walt’s People – Volume 9, Jack is interviewed by Christopher Finch and Linda Rosenkrantz:

That’s how it was. Walt was never one to deal in half measures when he was interested in something. For example, I learned to fly some years ago and when Walt found out I had bought a plane, he talked to me about flying and said he would like to take it up. So I asked him to go flying with me. He did and was enthusiastic about it. When we came down, he said, “Don’t say anything to Roy because he will have a fit if he finds out I am interested in flying.” Walt never learned to fly, but some years later when he decided to have a Company plane, even though Roy was concerned about his flying, he started with a Cessna Queen Air and then a Turbo King Air, and finally a Gulfstream. Before he died he had ordered a Jet Gulfstream and was talking about going around the world in it. Walt was never one to think small. He always did things in big scope but never did anything foolish or extravagant.

Mickey One parked backstage as part of the Backlot Tour at Disney’s Hollywood Studio.


 

Book Review: Walt’s People Volume 1

Walt’s People Volume 1: Talking Disney With The Artists Who Knew Him by Didier Ghez. (2005, 272 pages.)

Didier Ghez runs two very important sites in the Disney online community: Disney History and the Ultimate Disney Books Network. Didier has been researching Disney animation since his teens and co-authored Disneyland Paris: From Sketch to Realitywith Alain Littaye.

The Walt’s People seriesis five volumes with a sixth one on the way. Didier is the editor of the series and has put together some amazing interviews with Disney artists. In some cases, the interviewer is as well-known as the interviewee!

The compilation of interviews that Didier has collected makes this volume so very important to anyone researching Disney. The interviews are not just with animators, but artists that worked with Walt on Disneyland and went on to work on the Walt Disney World project. The stories, recollections and anecdotes are priceless and proffer a view of Walt that you can only get from talking to the people that worked directly with him.

The interviewees include:

  • Rudolf Ising
  • David Hand
  • Bill Tytla
  • Ken Anderson
  • Jack Hannah
  • John Hench (two interviews)
  • Marc Davis (two interviews)
  • Milt Kahl
  • Harper Goff
  • Joyce Carlson

The interviewers are equally impressive: J.B. Kaufman, Michael Barrier, George Sherman, Paul F. Andersen, Jim Korkis, Alain Littay, Didier Ghez, John Province, Michael Lyons and Robin Allan.

In the forward, Didier puts forth some important thoughts about the interviews.

…it is important to always keep in mind that no statement from any interview should ever be considered as the absolute truth, as the interviewee might have misremembered the facts, may have seen only part of the project described, or may have his own personal reasons for representing reality in a certain way. Hence the further importance of the various perspectives provided throughout this series.

Didier’s work is going to play an important role in the future of research into the Disney Company. Many of the artists were involved in classic Disney animation at a time when credit wasn’t clearly given or assigned. It is a chance for the artists to speak for themselves and offer an insight into the Disney Company that we will not likely find elsewhere. You might pass up a book like this if you are a theme park junkie, but reading the stories from artists like Hench, Davis, Carlson and Anderson–that worked on Disneyland and Walt Disney World projects–are wonderful.

Bottom Line: It is hard to place a work like Walt’s People in the overall Disney literature–it doesn’t focus solely on animation or the theme parks. The interviews collected are amazing and offer insight into Disney, the Studios and the theme parks. The volumes are not for everyone, but the Disney historian, enthusiast and geek will take a lot away from Dider’s work. It is a great place to get your Geek on and delve into what it was like to know and work with Walt Disney, Roy Disney and the talented people in the organization.

I can’t wait to start the next volume in the series!

 

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