Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Audio Review: Walt Disney and the 1964 World's Fair

Walt Disney and the 1964 World's Fair 5-CD Box Set, 2009.

It's a Small World, The Carousel of Progress and Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln are household names to most Disney enthusiasts. Those names are inexorably tied to the 1964/1965 New York World's Fair and represent a watershed for W.E.D. Enterprises and the art of the theme park attraction. No less well-known (but not in any recent complete incarnation) is the Magic Skyway. The Magic Skyway pavilion was not sent back to Disneyland in its entirety; you can experience part of it in the Primeval World section of the Grand Canyon Diorama during the Disneyland Railroad. It's a Small World exists in each Magic Kingdom-style park. Born as Progressland, the Carousel of Progress now resides at the Magic Kingdom after a few years at Disneyland. Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln premiered at Disneyland after the first season of the Fair and re-appeared at the Opera House in December 2009.

Almost 45 years after the opening of the 1964 New York World's Fair, Walt Disney Records has released a 5-CD box set of the recordings from the four Disney-created attractions at the Fair.

So, why is this important?

Ever since the popularity of Disneyland consumed most of the surrounding area in Anaheim, Disney had been searching for another place to build a larger project and practice some of his burgeoning ideas on planning and urbanism. When Disney was approached by the Fair to create pavilions for General Electric, Ford, Illinois and Pepsi, he saw his opportunity to try out Disneyland-style attractions on the East Coast and have other people pay for the development of the new attractions.

The 5-CD box set is an aural history of the pavilions with original source audio and never-before-heard demo tracks, alternate takes and attraction music. During my first listen, I found myself at the computer looking for images and videos of the attractions from the Fair. I could only imagine how exciting the Disney attractions must have been to a population that had largely experienced true Disney magic only on television and in theaters. Needless to say, this CD set offers hours of enjoyment for the Disney enthusiast. With four attractions featured, you might be pondering the reasons for a fifth disc. The bonus disc contains the 27-minute Alternate Universe Version of the Carousel of Progress--it is a great look at what might have been. Some of my other favorites, include: the Sherman Brothers and Disney singing There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow; Royal Dano's recording session for Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln; the Disneyland Paris versions of It's a Small World; and Disney's narration for the Magic Skyway and his dialog recording session with Marty Sklar.

The 24-page full color booklet that accompanies the set is a beautiful introduction to Disney and the World's Fair. Filled with rare photographs, intriguing text and track descriptions; you will find yourself dreaming of a visit to the Fair to experience it firsthand. I am not implying that the booklet offers nothing for the enthusiast, Stacia Martin, the author, has included enough nerdy tidbits to make all of us happy.

The audio quality is superb and runs roughshod over the bootlegged versions that have been floating around. Randy Thornton and Jeff Sheridan have done an incredible job mastering and compiling the tracks.

A review of the set would not be complete without a mention of the late Bruce Gordon. What we hold in our hands is an evolution of a dream shared by Bruce and Tony Baxter from more than twenty years ago. Bruce worked tirelessly to keep the project moving and involved a very talented group of Disney castmembers. When I interviewed Randy Thornton and Stacia Martin about their thoughts on the project, they both expressed how the project would never have been without Bruce Gordon. Randy and Stacia were fervent in their statements that Bruce's vision continued to lead the project after his passing.

This is an amazing CD set that needs to be in your collection.

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Monday, December 27, 2010

Book Review: Walt Disney's Railroad by Michael Broggie

Lilly Belle...the train that started a Magic Kingdom
by George Taylor

Walt Disney's Railroad Story: The Small-Scale Fascination That Led to a Full-Scale Kingdom by Michael Broggie. 1998. 431 pp.

Less than a month before Disneyland's opening day in 1955, Walt journeyed to the under-construction theme park for the first live steamup of locomotive No. 2. This was the culmination of a lifelong dream for Walt as...
...he climbed into the cab, moved the Johnson bar forward, tugged twice on the steam whistle, and pulled open the throttle. With Harley Hgen in the fireman's seat and this book's author (as a wide-eyed 12 year old) sitting on the tender, Walt eased No. 2 from the roundhouse into the bright Californian sun and onto the main line. -p. 231.
Imagine that moment in Walt's life; after years of making films and building the Company, he finally finds himself as the Chief Engineer of a real engine. His engine.

Walt Disney's life had been surrounded by trains. Family members worked on passing railroads. Both Roy and Walt were news butchers during their teens. Many of the animators at Disney were rail fans: Ward Kimball traveled with Walt to the 1948 Railroad Fair and had his own backyard, full-sized railroad; Ollie Johnston also had a backyard railroad. Many of the Studio employees shared Walt's love of full-scale and miniature railroading. For the first half of the 20th century, railroads were the future of the country. They symbolized progress and growth.

Roger Broggie is considered to be Walt's first Imagineer. A very talented machinist, Roger supervised the building of the Lilly Belle, Walt's 1/8 scale engine that ran at his Holmby Hills home. He also helped create the first Audio-Animatronic character. Roger's sons, Roger Jr. and Michael (the book's author), spent many years "working" at the studios with their father and helping Walt on the Disneyland Railroad. Citing Michael's close association with the Disney family, the Disney Company and Walt's railroads, he is uniquely qualified to write a biography about Walt Disney that focuses on how railroading affected his life and drove many of his passions.

Walt Disney's Railroad Story is a fantastic journey from Walt's boyhood through the theme parks. We encounter every significant moment of his life in reference to trains and we come to understand his passion for the steel.This is also a treat to read about Walt from a company insider whose family worked and works for Disney.

The book is presented in a chronological format with pictures on every page. Michael adds side tracks as needed that go into further detail; whether it is on a railroading term or a person. There is a lot of focus on the Carolwood-Pacific line that was built at the Holmby Hills property. Walt spent a lot of time creating the layout (with Roger Broggie and Eddie Sargent) and entertaining guests. A majority of Walt's ideas about Disneyland were formulated while conducting the Lilly Belle. Michael covers every train built for a Disney theme park up to the Animal kingdom. Michael includes a glossary of rail terms, a detailed specifications of all the Disney engines and a bibliography. My only negative comment is that there was not a layout of the Carolwood-Pacific line. The author responded to my complaint--there is indeed a layout on page 113. This goes to show that Michael Broggie has indeed created and amazing and fact-filled tome about Walt Disney and his Railroads.

This book has quickly become one of my favorites. Along with The Nickel Tour and Since The World Began, it is one of the treasures in my collection. If you have any interests in Walt's personal life, railroads or the Disney engines that chug the tracks all over the globe, then you need to own this book.
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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Disney Holiday Book Update!!

Scott (@otisney on twitter) posted a few of his holiday surprises. Book wise, I am missing three of the titles he received but I did pick up a few more items. That is 358 books in my library!

Scott Otis' Christmas Stash!

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Friday, December 24, 2010

Geek-End Update, Saturday, December 25, 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Book Review: Wally Boag, Clown Prince of Disneyland

Wally Boag, Clown Prince of Disneyland by Wally Boag and Gene Sands. 2009, 176 pp.

More than a biography, this book is a work-ography of the career of the amazing Wally Boag.

Wally Boag performed at the Golden Horseshoe at Disneyland for a remarkable 27 years. He debuted at Disneyland on opening day, July 17, 1955. Prior to that, he had spent 15 years traveling the world performing for the King and Queen of England, on the Ed Sullivan show and at clubs on different continents. By his own right, Wally Boag was a star before he joined the Golden Horseshoe Review. He depicts a time in the world where performers spent most of their time on the road and rarely settled down. Thank goodness his two-week contract at Disneyland lasted for more than 27 years! You do get a good idea of how much work went into the life of a comedic artist that also incorporated dancing, singing and balloon animals.

Clown Prince chronicles Wally's life from his birth in 1920 to the publication of this book. Along the way, we meet family members, cherished performers, friends, Walt Disney and other important people in Wally's life. This book is more than a memoir; it is a scrapbook of a very talented artist. With an average of two photos per page, I would estimate that there are over 200 images. Family and performance photographs, clippings and letters attest to his astounding career.

Wally spent 27 years at Disneyland--with a few years at Walt Disney World and Tokyo Disneyland--and was there during the time when all Walt wanted was to make Disneyland the best it could be. Castmembers were given a freer reign and allowed to develop ideas for new shows and skits. In one more famous tale, Wally recounts the creation of the gunfights in Frontierland. He approached the Frontier Lawmen, Marshall Lucky, about staging gunfights:
I would call him out, throw a couple of insults at him, and we would pace off and draw. He, of course, would win. I'd do a dramatic fall and roll over. The people loved it! So did Walt. He saw us do it one day and said, "That's great! Do it whenever you feel like it." So, I enlarged our plot by getting up on the roof of the Horseshoe so he could shoot me off of it. We even did some shoot-outs on the railroad circling the Disneyland Park. It was fun doing it, but one day a young man with a clipboard came to see me at my dressing room and informed me that I was scheduled to do gunfights at 1:00, 3:00, and 5:00 pm. I told him that it was becoming too much for me to do in addition to my five shows a day at the Horseshoe. Instead, I thought it would be a good idea for them to hire some professional "bad guys." He took my advice and the gunfights became a regular part of the entertainment in Frontierland.
--Wally Boag, The Clown Prince of Disneyland, p. 88.
This book is marginally similar to Van Arsdale France's Window on Main Street. They are both fantastic works about working and playing at Disneyland. Van Arsdale presents a behind-the-scenes look while Wally talks about life on the stage. Given my druthers, I would recommend Wally's book for the humor, heart and soul that is Wally Boag. Wally paints a very intimate picture of working at the Golden Horsehoe and recounts stories that you won't hear anywhere else.

I have always known of Wally Boag, but it wasn't until I saw the ten-year anniversary special on the Walt Disney Treasures - Disneyland - Secrets, Stories & Magic DVD, that I realized how spectacular Wally was. Even though the gags and one-liners were over 40 years old, he still had us in stitches. Viewing the Golden Horseshoe Review made me long for a time machine to transport me to the Disneyland of the 1960's

Wally can still be heard today as the voice of Jose at the Enchanted Tiki Room and as the voice in the Toucan and Parrot Show (The Electronic Utility Show) on the Walt Disney and the 1964 World's Fair 5-CD set. He also helped create the dialog for both shows.

If you have an interest in Disneyland history, vaudeville or learning more about working at Disneyland during its infancy, then this book is for you. I really enjoyed every page of the Clown Prince and I know it will make a valuable addition to your library.

You can purchase copies of the book at

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

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:
Margaret Kerry, the model for Disney's Tinker ...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.

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Monday, December 20, 2010

More Disney Books, DVD and a Game

We've had a few more books show up at Imaginerding HQ. The Kevin Yee title looks very interesting. He is a former castmember and writes in many different places online (check him out on Facebook). Knowing Kevin, it should be a lot of fun. The Marvel book was a surprise find at a library booksale. Since Disney owns Marvel, I had to add this one. Of course, being a completist was reason enough to buy the Disney wedding book. Um, yeah, that's why...

So, any book by Dave Smith is a winner and this addition might complete my Dave Smith collection. The Vintage Mickey DVD contains some of the cartoons on the Mickey Mouse Walt Disney Treasures which have become prohibitively expensive in some cases.  The Tron game for the Wii looks good, but we want to see the movie first and I need to finish Epic Mickey!

And yes, Scott, this puts me at 354 Disney-related books!

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

New Book: Picturing the Walt Disney Family Museum

Just released is a gorgeous book celebrating the Walt Disney Family Museum. What has me most excited is the opportunity to finally see images from inside the WDFM, since cameras are not allowed!

It all started with a visit to San Francisco. When photographer Jim Smith—whose body of work includes contributions to more than 100 books—discovered The Walt Disney Family Museum, he was immediately captivated by Walt’s life story and the rich visuals that bring it to life. Jim proposed a photo book to Museum executive director Richard Benefield that would provide a great souvenir of our state-of-the-art galleries and exhibits, not to mention our stunning location near the Golden Gate Bridge. Given a green light by the Museum, Jim returned with two talented colleagues, Stephen Titra and Mike Vasiliauskas, who committed to seven days with an unusual shooting schedule: very early mornings before the Museum opened to visitors, and very late nights after the Museum had closed.

Working with every department from Collections to Facilities, Jim trained his professional eye on art, objects, artifacts, trains, cameras, and interactives – transforming them all with precise lighting set-ups and some post-production magic. The book, designed by Frank Kofsuske, Georgina Lee, and Yolanda de Montijo at EmDash, not only takes you inside an imaginative Museum but also reveals Walt Disney’s extraordinary journey. Text is by Richard Benefield with an introduction by Diane Disney Miller. 

The book retails for $34.95 and can be purchased in the Museum Store, or online at

What: Picturing: The Walt Disney Family Museum. New Photo Book exclusively for The Walt Disney Family Museum. Photos by Jim Smith. Text by Richard Benefield, with a foreword from Diane Disney Miller.

Price: $34.95 each


Main Phone: 415-345-6800

Press contact: Marsha Robertson / Andrea Wang
The Walt Disney Family Museum
415-345-6822 / 415-345-6816 /

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Geek-End Update, Saturday, December 18, 2010

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Epic Mickey Review at 2 Lonely Deeks

I finally posted my review of Epic Mickey over at 2 Lonely Deeks. There is also a giveaway going on for a free copy of the collector's edition--but the contest ends at 12:00pm on Friday!

The Deeks Geeky Guide to Disney Epic Mickey
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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The More Things change, The More They Stay the Same

Charles Solomon, author and animation historian, has written an amazing tome about the history of animation. His 1994 book, Enchanted Drawings, is a must read for anyone interested in animation. In addition to covering Disney-related works, Solomon covers all of the familiar Warner Brothers, MGM and UPA cartoons. It is also one of the best resources for learning about the earliest inklings of animation (pun intended).

During World War II, as part of the overall war effort, many studios were recruited by the War Activities Committee of the Treasury Department. With many foreign markets frozen and many artists sent to war (or working for military animation units), the Hollywood and New York Studios found themselves strapped for cash, salable product and artists. In most cases, many of the studios would have  folded (and some did) during the war.

The following quote about the different studios during the Second World War was rather intriguing, especially since it sounds so similar to what we see today. Solomon discusses how the government of the time responded to the production costs of The New Spirit, a film about the patriotic duty to pay income taxes. Seems like nothing ever changes, does it?
However, the Treasury Department had to requests a special allocation from Congress  to pay the $80,000 bill for the film ($40,000 in production costs, and an equal amount for 1,000 Technicolor prints). The request arrived as Republicans were looking for examples of Democratic overspending. Congressmen denounced the $80,000 expenditure as an outrageous boondoggle, and the subsequent debate unleashed a storm of unfavorable publicity. Disney received letters accusing him of profiteering.

These charges were completely unfounded. Disney had donated his services, and the $40,000 figure was about $7,000 below his annual production costs. In addition, the studio lost at least $40,000 more in film rentals when theater owners showed "The New Spirit" (which they got free) instead of a Disney cartoon they would have paid for.

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