Sunday, June 12, 2011

Meet Our Neighbor: Jeff Heimbuch

The Disney blog-o-sphere has grown tremendously over the past few years with the addition of quite a few talented bloggers, researchers and enthusiasts. It can be confusing to peruse all of the different sites and to try and place a person with a site. 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 Jeff Heimbuch to cope with our questions to see if he could make it through to the other side. You can find Jeff at quite a few places on the web, but he is most prolific on The Disney Dispatch. Jeff is a kindred soul and we often discuss the intricacies of Disney theme parks and the Imagineers.

Don't forget our other Meet Our Neighbor posts:
What is your earliest Disney memory?
Lucky enough for me (and maybe you, now!), my earliest memories of Disney were captured on film THROUGH THE MAGIC OF VHS!



I distinctly remember BOTH of these two memories, and it wasn't until a couple of years ago that I rediscovered the VHS tape with them on it.

Anyway, this first one is of my by the Tiki statues in Adventureland. Before they went on "Pimp My Tiki" to get their sweet new paint jobs and water spitting effects, they were just plain old Tikis, playing music. This is a short video of my discovering them.


This second memory is of meeting Dreamfinder and Figment...I LOVED the ride as a kid, and was absolutely delighted to see these two characters I was just introduced to on a ride as living, breathing things outside. I remember Dreamfinder taking the time to talk to everyone, giving them extra attention. You don't get that too much anymore in the parks nowadays!


But, yeah, these are my earliest, and quite possibly my favorite, Disney memories.



What is your single favorite attraction?

Of all time? Without a doubt, The Haunted Mansion. For as long as I can remember, I *always* make it the first AND the last ride I go on during my Walt Disney World vacation. I haven't been to Disneyland since I was 7, but Im going back the end of June, and I'm 100% certain this tradition will carry over to the original park as well.

But, park by park, currently it would be:
  • Magic Kingdom: Haunted Mansion, with Jungle Cruise as a close second
  • Epcot: Living with the Land circa
  • Hollywood Studios: Toy Story Midway Mania
  • Animal Kingdom: Expedition Everest
What is your favorite Disney and non-Disney movie?

Disney is The Three Caballeros and Lilo and Stitch. My love for Jose Carioca knows no bounds, and Stitch is just a fantastic movie. Go ahead and hate, haters! Pete's Dragon is up there too.

Non-Disney movie is a tie. Army of Darkness holds a place in my heart, because as silly as it is, that's the movie that made me want to get into filmmaking as a kid. It's cheesy, it's terrible, but I love it. My other favorite is Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

What is your least favorite park?

Hollywood Studios...it just falls short of what it is supposed to be. If anything, Hollywood Studios should be considered the half day park...sure, there are some great attractions, but as a park that celebrates the art of making movies, it just falls flat. I don't hate it by any means, but it's my least favorite of the 4 at WDW.

What is your favorite park?

Growing up, it was always Magic Kingdom, and part of me still says that. But my older, wiser self says it's now currently Epcot. I never fully appreciated it as a kid. Now that I'm older, I find myself enjoying it (specifically, World Showcase) much more.

Who is your favorite Disney character?

Jose Carioca! Come on, a cigar chompin Brazilian Parrot with a sweet hat and umbrella? How can you go wrong?! Seriously, I love him...he's a huge star in foreign countries, still, but he just doesn't get the same respect and love that he should over here. I'm going to start at Jose Carioca Appreciation Society. The JCAS...anyone want to join?


Coming in right behind him is Oswald. He obviously has a loooong history with the company, and Im glad he's finally coming back into the fold. Epic Mickey was a great way to re-introduce him to the fans, and I really hope the becomes a fairly regular character again.

What is your favorite Disney song?

From the movies, I don't think it will surprise anyone that I say "The Three Caballeros." It's catchy, it's got a great message, and it's just great.

From the parks, it's a tie between "Grim Grinning Ghosts"  and "There's A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow". Trying to choose between a song by Buddy Baker and X Atencio or The Sherman Bros is like asking my to pick my favorite child.

From the games, it's definitely Oswald's Theme from Epic Mickey, by Jim Dooley. He's one of my favorite composers, and it's just a great piece. It tells a complete story of Oswald, right in the music, and it's not even something he planned out. A friend of mine did a short little animation for it, too. It's fantastic, and very fitting for the piece! If give me a minute to plug her work, you can see it:



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

That's a tough question. I'm sure a lot of folks would say Walt, but I wouldn't want to BE Walt. I would, however, love to see him in action. So, I suppose it would be one of the Imagineers from the older days. Not to sure which one, exactly, as they all did wonderful and creative work...But just to see that whole atmosphere during that time would be a great experience.

If I REALLY had to pick someone, it would be Michael Eisner. He literally had the keys to the kingdom, and he mucked it up. I would love to have been him, and made some RIGHT decisions for the company. Of course, hindsight is 20/20, and I'm sure, at the time, he thought what he was doing WAS right. But if I could go back and be him with the knowledge of what his actions would do, I would most definitely do it.

What is your must eat food at WDW?

Dole Whip. Don't be ridiculous.

Jeff on the Disney Dream.
Favorite place to stay at WDW?

I'm going to get crap for this, but I love Pop Century. It's affordable, it's got great, tacky decor, and I like it. Sure, the buses are terrible, and the lines to get back are always crowded. But so what?! Coronado Springs is another favorite of mine, too.

I've never stayed, but I love the Poly. I've been exploring there numerous times, and I love the whole motif of it. I can't wait to stay there one day.

What is your favorite place to be at WDW?

The easiest answer to this question is "everywhere." I'm at Disney, my favorite place in the world, how could I not love every minute of it?

However, I doubt that is acceptable. So, I'll go with in the Magic Kingdom, at night. It just takes on a whole other look and feel. Very photogenic. I love it. That, and World Showcase at any time.


What is your favorite restaurant?

The Yak and Yeti. Delicious food, and even better drinks!

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

Go on the Haunted Mansion, duh!

Seriously, though, since the next trip is my first time back to Disneyland in 20 years, the first thing I want to do is step through the main gates, and just take it all in.

What is your favorite fireworks show?

You can't go wrong with Wishes. I can't even remember how many times I've seen it, but I love it.

Where did you develop your love of Disney?

My mother and my grandmother. If it wasn't for them instilling a love of all things Disney in me at an early age, I doubt I would be doing this interview right now. So, thanks Mom and Nana!

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

The filmmaker side of me says "Movies, ya dummy!" but the other part says parks. That's a tough choice, but ultimately, I'd probably end up on the parks side. Sorry, movies. I still love you.

Which character do you associate with the most?

Out of the Fab Five, I'd say Goofy. Because I have long ears and constantly wear a hat like his.

OK, I made that up. But I'd still pick Goofy.

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

You know, a guy makes ONE MISTAKE in a time traveling DeLorean, and he's never forgiven for it. Geez...

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

From a "we need something to do here" standpoint, I'd update the hell out of Hollywood Studios. A few more attractions, with stronger ties to making films, tv, and entertainment wouldn't hurt. Also, you know, remove that frickin' hat!

What is the most significant architectural feature of WDW?

Sorcerer Mickey's Ha...BWAHAHAHAHA.

Yeah, right. There is no way I could have gotten through that one without laughing.

I think the design of Animal Kingdom is amazing, from an architectural standpoint. They nailed the looks and features of all of these countries quite well. I know Epcot did it years before with World Showcase, but I think some of the areas of Animal Kingdom outdo it. Asia, for example, amazes me every time. The entire area around Everest is just incredible. You feel like you're in a Nepalese country. It's because of that area that I want to go to Nepal one day.

From a cultural standpoint, Cinderella's castle is the most significant architectural feature. It's almost instantly recognizable to anyone in the world. It's iconic.

What is the weakest Epcot country?

Denmark.

I keed, I keed. But the Outpost is pretty weak, since it's practically a permanent placeholder and not a real country. Italy is close behind it. Beautiful to look at, but really nothing to it.

What is your favorite Disney guilty pleasure?

Despite my hatred of it, I would ALWAYS go see Enchanted Tiki Room: Under New Management. There were bits and pieces of the old show that still remained that shone through every so often. Also, I was a sucker for Uh-oa. She was a great character stuck in a terrible show. I would sit through the entire show just for that part. So sue me.

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

Imaginerding, of course! Just one of the many, MANY sites I visit on a daily basis. Obviously DisneyDispatch.com is constantly on my screen, too. But I also spend a lot of time at imagineeringdisney.com, longforgottenhauntedmansion.blogspot.com, Progress City, Main Street Gazette, Mouseplanet, and tons more. My Disney bookmarked links list is ridiculous, really.

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

Cut everything and start from scratch!

In all honestly, that's an incredibly difficult question. Each one has its own perks, and is profitable for the company. They're all money makers, and I enjoy something from each category, no matter how far removed some of them may be from the core of the company. If I absolutely HAD to choose, Id say music. And now I will go hide before Miley Cyrus comes after me.

Do you have any money we can borrow or have?

At a 5% interest rate, I do offer incredible deals.

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

So many things have lead to the success of the company, so its really hard to pick just one moment. Walt losing Oswald, leading to the creation of Mickey is definitely a top one. Walt picking up and moving to California to pursue his dreams is another.


A defining moment certainly doesn't have to be a good thing, either. Clearly the untimely death of Frank Wells turned the company around in a lot of ways, but not for the better.

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

Ridiculous. They make such a huge deal out of keeping the movie away from the public, but then go and base a ride on it? Come on now, you can't tell me that isn't just crazy. The film, for what it is, is good. Are there some slightly racist undertones in the film? Absolutely. But is it a milestone film, not only for the company, but for entertainment in general? Yes, I believe so. Their refusal to even let people acknowledge its presence is ridiculous. I think they're making it MORE into a huge deal by not releasing it than anything else. We all know the story. But the main aspect about the story isnt about racism, its about acceptance. They keep forgetting that part.

That, and the digital removal of some things in their older cartoons bother me. Taking out smoking and drinking sharpens their family friendly image, sure, but it ruins the old classics. Walt didn't have an issue with it. We shouldn't either. Kids can see much worse just by turning on the news.

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

The Haunted Mansion, and practically everything. For a movie based on the attraction I love the most, I was surely let down by it. It's a massive misfire on their part, and I anxiously await del Toro's version (amongst his 50 other upcoming projects).

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

The Poly. I would live on the beach if they let me!

What is your favorite Disney book?
South of the Border with Disney: (Walt Disney and the Good Neighbor Program, 1941-1948) by J.B. Kaufman...I love the whole "Good Neighbor" portion of the Disney company, and their trips to South America. Not only are their stories fantastic, but I love the films that came out of it. Plus, again, Jose Carioca. Without that time period, he would have never existed.

The book goes into some really fantastic and in depth details about their many trips. For a huge Disney nerd like me, especially about that time period, it was like a holy grail. Fantastic book, and great insights into how that dark time during the Company (during the strike) was made better by these trips!

Thanks, Jeff! Make sure to tell Rolly that we said, "Hi!"
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