A true “original,” even among Imagineers, Rolly drew forth genius in others. Concept designer John Horny observed, “Rolly has a knack for bringing out the best in others. Trusting their talent, he encourages artists to push their creativity to the limits. It’s a rare creative person who can let others run with the ball.”
Show writer Jim Steinmeyer added, “The idea is king with Rolly. It doesn’t have to be his vision, as long as it works.”
Born February 27, 1930, in Alhambra, California, Rolly took a pay cut as a “dipper” in a ceramic factory to join Walt Disney Studios in 1952, and to help pay bills, built sewer man holes on weekends. He served as an in-between artist and later, assistant animator, contributing to “Peter Pan” (1953), “Lady and the Tramp” (1955), “Sleeping Beauty” (1959), and others.
In 1959, he joined show design at WED (Walter Elias Disney), Enterprises, now known as Walt Disney Imagineering. There, he became one of Walt’s key designers for some of Disneyland’s groundbreaking new attractions and shops, including Haunted Mansion, Enchanted Tiki Room, and Adventureland Bazaar.
Rolly served as a key designer on the Disney attractions featured at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair, including It’s a Small World, for which he designed the Tower of the Four Winds marquee. When the attraction moved to Disneyland in 1966, Rolly designed the larger-than-life animated clock at the entrance, which sends puppet children on parade with each quarter-hour gong.
He returned in 1976 to contribute to EPCOT Center, serving as project designer for “The Land” and “Wonders of Life” pavilions. He also participated in master planning for an expansion of Disneyland until 1981, when he again departed to lead design on a proposed Cousteau Ocean Center in Norfolk, Virginia, and to launch his own firm, the Mariposa Design Group, developing an array of themed projects around the world, including an international celebration for the country of Oman.
In 1992, Rolly returned to Imagineering as executive designer, redesigning and refurbishing the “CommuniCore” pavilion-turned-“Innoventions” and “The Land” pavilion.
Rolly Crump “retired” from The Walt Disney Company in 1996, but don’t believe it. He’s still breathing life into original ideas at his home in Fallbrook, California.”
Rolly is my absolute favorite Imagineer. I simply love the way he describes Walt and Disneyland. His use of words and hand motions and the way he talks just suck you into his stories. Here is a short video of Rolly discussing the Tower of the Four Winds and Walt:
Rolly became a Disney Legend in 2004 and has a window on Main Street. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I have. And now a few questions with Rolly Crump:
How did you first hear of WED back in the day?
What was your first studio week like?
What was the best thing about working for WED back then?
What’s your hope for the future of Imagineering?
Do you trust this next generation with WDI?
Are you hopeful for new advances in technological availability or do you think we should get back to basics?
- How does someone become an Imagineer in your opinion? What degree, what type of school etc…
- What is the best advice you could give someone wanting to become an Imagineer?
Do you trust the current leadership of the Walt Disney Company?
- How often do you visit the parks?
- What changes, if any, would you like to see take place in the parks?
- What was it like to be around Walt and what was the biggest thing you’ve taken away from that experience?
- Besides all his accomplishments, what in your opinion was the number one thing that made Walt Disney so special to all of us today?
- Finally, what was your fondest memory of you and Walt?