A Few Questions With…Jim Korkis

by Keith Mahne

Today, we return to a VERY popular segment here on Disney Avenue called A Few Questions With… where I interview popular figures in the Disney stratosphere. Famous author, Disney historian and the “go to” guy on Walt and all things Disney for that matter, Mr. Jim Korkis joins us! I know you’ll thoroughly enjoy Jim’s responses and we want to extend a sincere thank you to Jim for his time. Without further ado, here now is A Few Questions With… Jim Korkis…

Jim Korkis with Dave Smith, founder and former chief archivist of the Walt Disney Archives
 DA: First, tell us a little about yourself prior to joining the Walt Disney Company.

JK:  That is a really long story, but let me hit a few highpoints.  I got my B.A. and M.A. from Occidental College(the same college President Obama attended).  I spent several years teaching Junior High English and Drama.  At the same time, I was pursuing an acting career both on stage and in television and movies.  People are most fascinated that I earned “scale” (minimum payment for an actor) by appearing on game shows like The Gong Show, The Dating Game, Family Feud and Camouflage.   In my spare time I operated a mail order company called Korkis and Cawley’s Cartoon and Comic Company selling animation art, animation videos, etc. with my friend John Cawley who at the time was the producer of the animated Garfieldshow.  We also wrote four books together about animation and individually wrote articles about animation.  For instance, I wrote a monthly column for Animation magazine called “Animation Anecdotes”.   The articles I wrote about Disney were mostly animation oriented at the time.
 
DA: What sparked your passion for Walt Disney and making sure his stories are preserved for future generations?
 

JK: Since I grew up in Glendale, California which is directly adjacent to Burbankwhere the Disney Studios are, I had the opportunity when I was a teenager to meet many of the Disney animators.  I even considered becoming an animator but I became a good enough artist to know how bad I really was.

About ten years ago, the realization hit me that not everyone had this same opportunity and some of these legends told me stories that didn’t appear anywhere else.  I felt the obligation to start sharing some of these tales for current fans and for future researchers. 

Even when I first interviewed them, I realized these people were really old.  Sometimes I was the last person they talked to before they passed away.  Royal Clark (the brother of Disney Legend Les Clark) had never been interviewed before and he died just two days after approving the final draft of the interview I and Didier Ghez had done with him.

I was the last opportunity for some of these people to share their perspective and memories of working for Disney.


DA: How did you get involved with the Walt Disney Company?

 JK: The big joke in Californiawas I was the most Disney person people knew but I wasn’t working for the company.  In 1995, both my parents developed serious health issues and I decided I could always find another job but not another set of parents.  I sold my house at a loss, quit my job and moved out to Florida with no job prospects. 
I got hired part time doing magic and balloon animals for drunk college students at Pleasure Island.  Disney moved me up to being a “friend” of Merlin doing the Sword in the Stone ceremony during the week and Prospector Pat, an old gold miner, on the weekends in Frontierland.  Then I moved to the role of salaried animation instructor as part of the opening team of the Disney Institute.

Jim Korkis being “friends” with Merlin

DA: Did you always know you wanted to work for the WDC in some way?


JK: Absolutely. My third grade teacher at Thomas Edison Elementary School in Glendalewas Mrs. Margaret Disney, the second wife of Walt’s older mailman brother Herbert. I grabbed a sheet of butcher paper and drew Jiminy Cricket in the hopes she would take it immediately to the Disney Studio so they would hire me and I wouldn’t have to learn my multiplication tables. Apparently, portfolio review was backed up for decades. I still have difficulty with numbers. Yes, it was a dream to work for Disney some day and amazingly, my dream came true.


DA: Do you remember what your first day was like?

JK: Well, my first day working doing balloons and magic was tough because I wasn’t clear on Disney jargon and procedure offstage.  On stage, there really were drunk college students who twice threw up on me while I was making a balloon or doing a simple magic trick.  The thing I remember most about my first day is that I really felt a part of the “Disney family”, as if I truly had the keys to the kingdom.

DA: What are some of the positions you have held?

JK: Balloon and magic specialty performer for Pleasure Island, Merlin and Prospector Pat for the Magic Kingdom, Animation instructor for the Disney Institute, Spokesperson for the WDW Travel Company product launch (where I spoke to groups of 200 or more travel agents in 30 different cities in a ten week block), Epcot Guest Relations Host, Coordinator of College and International Programs, Coordinator of Disney Learning Center, Off camera announcer for the syndicated television series Secrets of the Animal Kingdom, facilitator for the Disney Crew (a Disney anti-drug puppet show for local elementary schools), Coordinator with Disney Adult Discoveries (the behind the scenes tours for guests and convention groups) and lots more.


DA: What was the best thing about working for WDC?


JK: I tell people that you can love the Disney Brand while still having concerns about the Disney Business.  Feeling that I was a part of Walt’s organization and making a contribution.  Making people happy.  Having access to some of Walt’s “original cast”.  Learning so much more about WDW because I had grown up a “Disneyland Kid”. 

DA: Michael Eisner and Frank Wells really took the company, as well as the parks and resorts, to a whole new level while in charge. Did you have any experiences working with them directly?


JK: I never met Frank Wells and I am sorry I didn’t because he was well loved and respected.  I met Michael Eisner three times in person when I worked at the Disney Institute.  Each time he seemed distracted by other things and wanted me to get to the point quickly.  He had no time for friendly idle chatter.  I saw this same type of interaction with others.  Eisner did not grow up as a “Disney Kid” and didn’t seem to care about understanding the Disney culture.  However, I believe that in the beginning, he opened up a lot of different doors for the Disney company which helped make it the successful entertainment empire it is today.


DA: Out of all the popular figures that have worked for either Walt or the company, whom do you most admire?


JK: Walt, of course.  No one else even comes close.  Next would be his older brother Roy, who I think is sadly underrated for his many contributions to Disney.  Then, it would be a huge swirling mix of names like Kay Kamen, Dick Nunis, Dick Irvine, Joe Fowler, John Hench…  Gosh, Keith, I would have a list filled with animators and Imagineers, and more.  But Walt is always number one.  No matter how many people left the company over the years, Disney still maintained a standard of quality and integrity thanks to Walt.

DA: Is there anyone in particular that you give credit for taking you under their wing and helping you along your wonderful career?
 


JK: There were a lot of “angels on Earth” who helped me but one that I constantly bring up is Kaye Bundey who was the manager of Disney Adult Discoveries.  She was firm but fair and always encouraging.  I got the opportunity to design, train and facilitate so many programs under her mentorship.
 

 

DA: What was your favorite project?
 
 


JK: Writing the original script for UnDiscovered Future World for Epcot.   I was working at the Disney Institute and Epcot Guest Relations called me over to write one fifth of a walking tour for Future World.  I never cared for Epcot but as I started to research and interview people, I finally “got” what Epcot was supposed to be.  I turned in my section weeks early.  It turned out that none of the other four people in Guest Relations was interested in actually researching and writing so I was given another fifth, and then another and finally, I had written the whole thing.  Later I worked with Brad Anderson of Guest Relations to continue to update and expand it as it continued.  The success of that script got me invited to be part of Epcot Guest Relations and that led to roles with College and International Programs and the Disney Learning Center.
 
 



DA: What is your fondest memory while working for the company?


JK: Picking the fondest moment is like picking your favorite child.  You love them all for different reasons.  If you asked me on another day, I might pick something else but something that has been on my mind is meeting Walt’s oldest daughter at a Disneyana convention.  I was instructing some programs for the participants and I got taken back stage to meet Diane officially.  She had always been shy and wanted out of the spotlight so while I had met her briefly in California, it was no more than a “nice to meet you”.  Even at this Disneyana convention it had not been announced she would be attending.  She shared with me that she felt she would be boring to the audience or that they might swarm the stage and poke at her like a Disney collectible.  That meeting opened the door slightly so that I felt comfortable asking some questions.  It later evolved into a nice friendship.   She was always so supportive. 
 



DA: What is your hope for the future of the company?
 


JK: My hope for the company is that it once again becomes a leader in both animation and theme parks.  I believe this can happen by them going back to how Walt did things.  Yes, there is new technology, new competition, more aggressive stockholders today but I think going back to Walt’s concepts….that the park attractions should be accessible by families, that leadership needs to be done with common sense and cast member involvement, that things shouldn’t be “nickled and dimed”, etc…would once again establish the company as the leader. 
 


DA: Would you like to see more attractions developed from original storylines in the US parks?


JK: I would love to see attractions built that the entire family can enjoy together, regardless of weight or height or medical restrictions. Walt was not fond of thrill rides because they separated families.  I think people still love Disney characters.  Look at the wait to meet Anna and Elsa from Frozen.  Imagine how many guests would love to sail pass scenes from that film.  I would love to see an attraction themed around the Fab Five.  But, as Walt said, a good story is a good story so original storylines could work.  After all, Pirates and Haunted Mansion were original stories.  However, I think what makes a Disney theme park different is the Disney characters….not Muppets or Star Wars or Marvel.  People want to see those but I think their first priority is the Disney storylines.


DA: Which park is your favorite?

JK: Having grown up in the Los Angeles area, Disneyland was always my favorite, even when I moved to Florida.  However, I do have a real fondness for Disney Hollywood Studios because I love old movies, I love Disney and I love that the original design for the park was very much like Disneyland.  Both Disneyland and DHS are “intimate” experiences.  They are comforting and healing.  The other parks just seem too big and chaotic.  They are spectacular but they don’t inspire me and touch me like the smaller parks.  




DA: What changes, if any, would you like to see take place in the parks?

 


JK: I would love to see more frequent maintenance on the classic attractions, perhaps with some updating.  I feel the introduction of Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates does not ruin the original story experience but that for newer Disney fans, it truly enhances the experience.  I would love to see more benches and shaded seating areas for people to sit and enjoy the parks.  I would love to see more live entertainment in the parks.  My favorite park show will always be Hunchback of Notre Dame at DHS.  When I was younger, I loved seeing the Kids of the Kingdom perform with the Disney characters.  I would love to see the Golden Horseshoe Revue and Merlin return.  

I do not want to see more merchandise areas.  I think the biggest mistake ever made at WDW was the removal of Center Street at the Magic Kingdom to put an extension of the Emporium that sold the exact same things that were available all over WDW.    I feel the gutting of the cinema for another merchandise location is another mistake.  Walt knew that not every square inch had to be profit generating.  Sometimes the space could just make you feel good…so you then went and bought something because you are happy.  If WDW has to have more merchandise stores, I would love them to be exclusive and specific to the parks and with a wider variety (for instance, a book store that sold current books and vintage books).



DA: What changes, if any, would you like to see take place within the WDC?


JK: In my fifteen years as a cast member, I saw a shift that if you could manage an Old Navy store or a Burger King, then you could manage something on Disney property.  That was never true.  Everyone talks about the Disney Difference but today we see executives trying to run things the way Universal does or McDonalds does or whatever.  Instead of leadership adapting to the Disney Culture, they twisted the Disney business to operate just like any other business.  I would also like to see more emphasis on the guests rather than on things designed to take more of their money.  When did pins stop being a magical inexpensive physical memory of a Disney trip and become this overwhelming cold commodity where Disney is not satisfied that you buy a pin but that you have to buy multiple sets.  Even pin trading by cast members has shifted from being a fun interaction with a guest to a “push” to sell more pins.



DA: Can you tell us what happened towards the end of your tenure with Disney?


JK: I came to work early and was setting things up, making sure computers and printers worked in the Epcot Learning Center.  One of the executives came to the open door and asked if she could talk with me briefly.  That was not unusual.  They often came to me for a Walt quote or story to use in their weekly newsletter.  I went outside and she was down the hall.  I figured she didn’t want to talk in front of the door in case cast members started to come in.  She turned a corner and I was in a small room with a little man wearing glasses behind a desk saying, “We would like to thank you for all your contributions but your role has been eliminated.  Please turn in your I.D. and this security guard will walk you to your car.”   I had won the Partners in Excellence award that was given to about the top five percent of the cast who worked at WDW.  I had a folder bulging with letters of praise from guests, vice presidents and more.  At the time, I was doing close to two hundred and fifty different presentations to different Disney departments across property.  The week before I had finished a last minute “rush job” for Imagineering in my spare time on the history of the Golden Oak Ranch.  I had a zero absentee record and often filled in at the last moment for others in my department who phoned in sick.   That same week, WDW eliminated another three thousand cast members and never told anyone who was eliminated.  People who called the Learning Center were told for two weeks, “Jim isn’t working today” not that I had been let go.  Some people think I still work there when they see me on property.

Check out Jim’s new book: www.themeparkpress.com



DA: Are you working on anything presently?


JK: There is a brand new book coming out June 1st.  It is called Who’s the Leader of the Club?  Walt Disney’s Leadership Lessons.  One of my roles at WDW was being called in by the Professional Business programs to research, design and facilitate customized classes for clients like PricewaterhouseCoopers, Feld Entertainment, Toys “R” Us, Kodak and so many more to make connections between their companies and Disney and also how Walt ran the company.   In addition, when I was interviewing Walt’s original cast in California and Florida, I wasn’t just asking about animation, Imagineering, and such but about Walt himself and how he ran the business.  There is a Walt quote (sometimes several) and stories on every page so it will appeal to a Disney fan but there are also strong leadership lessons….including a chapter devoted to everything that Walt did wrong as a leader.  Last week, the Disneyland Resort COMPASS diversity group flew me out to Disneyland to give a presentation on Asian-Pacific heritage and Disney history.  Coming out this Fall will be Vault of Walt Volume 3.  I continue to write weekly columns for MousePlanet and articles and blogs for AllEars.  In addition, I write a weekly column for CartoonResearch on animation history in general. 
 
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DA: How do you go about your research which has made you the “go to” person on all things Disney?

JK: I have a massive collection of books, vintage magazines and newspapers.  I have many friends who are also Disney Historians (a term I coined in the 1980s to explain what I do).  I have a collection of interviews I have done with Disney cast members as well as access to friends who also have massive interview collections.  Unlike other Disney historians, I have a wide range of Disney interests from animation to comic books to the parks to Walt himself.  Most Disney historians tend to specialize like Disney during World War II or just Disneyland when Walt was alive or just Carl Barks and his version of Donald Duck.  I love them all.  

I always try to find three independent sources before I list something.  If the story is just too good not to share but I can find the verification, then I write “reportedly” or “supposedly”.   Just because I can’t locate the verification, if it is out there, maybe someone else can.   I try my best to be careful because there is a lot of false or misleading information out there.


DA: What is one thing you could tell us about Walt Disney that many people may not know?


JK: Walt Disney loved the sport of lawn bowling and was quite the champion of the sport at his Smoke Tree Ranch vacation home in Palm Springs.   He kept nuts and crackers in his pockets so he could have a quick snack.  In his apartment over the Disneyland firehouse, he slept on a pull out sofa bed under a framed photo of his mother.  He liked to make grilled cheese sandwiches in that apartment.


DA: Finally, what do you think is the number one thing that has made Walt Disney so special to all of us today?


JK: He loved us all regardless of race, creed, color, weight, education, experience or whatever.  Everything he did was not to make money but to make people happy.  There has never ever been anyone else like him.   Some have come close like Jim Henson but no one ever made it.


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There you have it, good stuff huh? Once again, we would like to extend a sincere thank you to Jim Korkis for answering our questions. If you want to learn more in depth history on Walt and his company be sure to check out Jim’s books below. Oh, and don’t forget to like us on Facebook.

 
  
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Diamonds in the Rough – Hidden Gems of Walt Disney World

by Lindsey Allmon

It’s no surprise that Rockin’ Roller Coaster, Space Mountain, Expedition Everest, and a slew of other attractions get pages and pages of press. The sentimental value of some and the thrill factor of others make big ticket attractions well known and well-traveled. But the Walt Disney World Parks have plenty of small time attractions that are unique and often a lot less crowded. Continue after the break for a new hit list for your next vacation…

The Magic Kingdom

If you are a history buff, your stop should be the Hall of Presidents in Liberty Square. This attraction was one of the personal loves of Walt Disney as his animatronic creations were perfected to bring Abraham Lincoln to life. The attraction features every US President including current president Barack Obama. It’s a rather long show by Disney standards, clocking in at 23 minutes, but it is air conditioned with plenty of seating and features authentic presidential artifacts prior to seating. Oh, and did I mention it’s narrated by Morgan Freeman?

This next one is silly, but if you have a Tangled obsessed princess or prince in your family it is a must stop. In the new Fantasyland there was a small section dedicated to Tangled. There really isn’t anything there except for some restrooms, yet that is exactly where you should stop when you pass by. Both the men’s and women’s restrooms are decked out a la Flynn Ryder and Rapunzel. From featuring gorgeous painted walls just like Rapunzel did to showcasing the handiest weapon ever, a frying pan, these pit stops bring the beloved movie to life.


Epcot

Do you like soda? Do you like carbonated beverages of any sort? Do you love trying different food and drink from around the world? Then you must make a quick stop at Club Cool. On the left hand side of the fountain pavilion past Spaceship Earth sits the Coca Cola sponsored mecca of international soda flavors. The spot features different flavors of soda from Germany, Italy, Japan, China, Mexico, Israel, Costa Rica, and Mozambique and the best part? It’s FREE! While you can’t take the soda with you it’s a great chance to quench your thirst. My personal recommendation? The watermelon soda from China!

If you are traveling with young kids, PAY ATTENTION! There is one spot that hails above all others for the mid afternoon nap and it’s located at the very back of the United Kingdom pavilion. Tucked away behind the shops and fish and chips stands is a mock-up of a row of houses like you would find in downtown London. While the courtyard occasionally features a cover band or two it is eerily quiet ninety percent of the time. I can vouch for it myself as my grandmother took me there for naps all the time when I was little.


Animal Kingdom

The Animal Kingdom Park has the least to do of all of the parks, and most things that do exist are rather well known. Yet one character is notorious but can be completely missed by passerby’s as they sprint towards Expedition Everest to use their Fast Passes. This character is the lovely Ivy Woman that blends into the trees surrounding the walkways of the park. The blending is stunning and she really is a sight to see if you can spot her. The trick to finding her? Look out for cast members that are standing off to the side of the path but aren’t doing anything. Cast members are always busy, cleaning, taking pictures, helping or greeting people. This cast member won’t stray from their post as they are there for the Ivy Woman’s assistance.
Hollywood Studies (MGM)
 
 

If you love to draw the Art of Animation attraction is perfect for you. A short video shows the process of creating and drawing a character, followed by hands on activities such as voice overs, coloring, and even an art lesson. The section also has character meet and greets on occasion and showcases new movies coming out. There also is a great exhibit showing aspects of animation. As of July 2013 there was scenery in animation which showcased films such as The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Brave. Oh, and it also features an impressive display of some of the Academy Awards won over the years.

Well there you have it. Use this list to add extra fun to your next Disney Vacation and have a swell time exploring all the wonders of the Disney Parks.

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Disney Avenue Welcomes Lindsey Allmon

Disney Avenue is very excited to welcome our newest contributing writer Lindsey Allmon! She has several interesting articles lined up for you and we are thrilled to have Lindsey be apart of the Disney Avenue community. Please continue after the page break and allow Lindsey to introduce herself…

Hello Disney fanatics! My name is Lindsey Allmon and I’m one of your new contributing writers! I am a great lover of all things Disney and have been from the moment I was born. I’m eager to share my knowledge of Disney with all of you, but before I do that, let me introduce myself. I’m twenty one years old and hail from a suburb just southwest of Columbus, Ohio. Recently I graduated with my Bachelor of Arts in English from The Ohio State University (donning a Disney quote on my cap, no less) with hopes of becoming a screenwriter. My hobbies include reading, baking, singing obnoxiously loud in my car and shower, perfecting my Pinterest boards, and watching movies. In addition to that, I’m planning my Tangled and Paperman themed wedding to my wonderful fiancé, Colby.

As far as my Disney history goes, my first trip was before I was a year old and I have made a trip nearly every year since, both as a basic family vacation and as a performer during Magic Music Days and the Magic Kingdom parade prior to the fireworks spectacular Wishes. I’ve been through countless park changes and stayed at approximately 10 different Disney Hotels. I could go on and on about my time at Disney, but I thought it best just to give you some tidbits to give you an idea of what I love about Disney.

My favorite character of all time is Maleficent. As a general rule I tend to love villains the most as they have some of the best lines, and who can resist a diabolical laugh?

My favorite Disney movie is easily Mary Poppins. When I was little all I wanted to watch was Mary Poppins over and over again, and as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized the perfection that is Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke.

My favorite Disney Park is the World Showcase section of Epcot. I love traveling and the World Showcase is a great way to experience so many different cultures at once. Fun Fact: Every year my parents buy me an oyster at the Japan Pavilion. The pearls from these oysters have all been saved and will be strung into a necklace that I will wear on my wedding day.

My favorite ride is Splash Mountain. I measured myself every week for months leading up to our trip to make sure that I could ride. However I definitely have a least favorite in the now replaced Alien Encounter. I went once and refused to ever sit through it again.

Well, there you have it. I bit about me and my love for Disney. I hope that I can give everyone great advice about navigating Disney and some great insider info about the history of the company and the parks. Look forward to writing for you all soon. So long, folks!
 
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Lindsey’s first article will be available for your reading pleasure tomorrow; be sure to check back then. We are still looking for a couple more writers to join Disney Avenue. If you are also passionate about Disney and the theme parks and have an interest in sharing your thoughts then Disney Avenue would love to have you join our team. You can contact us at disneyavenue316@yahoo.com. Oh, and don’t forget to like us on Facebook. 

Love Is a Song: The Everlasting Power of Disney Songs

by Sam Vlas

I think I speak for many of you, dear readers, when I say that the songs of Disney are a great, big, beautiful part of the soundtrack of our childhood. Like smells, music is capable of letting memories resurface almost instantly. I often wondered what it is about the songs of Disney that captivates literally billions of people around the world. Continue after the page break and follow the leader in this musical mystery…

Music is an integral part of many people’s lives. It can make you feel happy or sad, scared or comfortable, or heroic and powerful. It conveys many emotions and we just simply can’t live without it. Disney has perfected the art of storytelling through music; from its very beginnings in “Steamboat Willie” all the way through the latest hit “Frozen”. But why? Why do we all love this music so much? What is that determining factor?

Over the years Disney has had some amazing songwriters, composers and dramatists who understood the art of music very well. The first real Disney songwriters were people like Frank Churchill, Oliver Wallace, Ned Washington and Paul Smith. Then came Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman in the 1950’s through the 1970’s, making up a significant part of the Disney Songbook. The 1980’s and 1990’s was the era of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, Randy Newman, Elton John and Tim Rice and Phil Collins, and lately we have seen the addition of the Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez to the Disney music legacy. And even in the Disney theme parks we have seen great composers like George Bruns, Buddy Baker and X. Atencio.

 
 
We all have our favorite songs and chances are very likely that they came from one of these people; songs that found their way into our own lives. Songs that we can sing, or whistle, or hum, at almost every moment of the day. For every emotion or every challenge there is, exists a Disney song. I even dare to say that most of your music devices have one or (way) more Disney songs on it.
“Let It Go” is a great example of a recent song that exploded on the internet. The message of the song (don’t hide yourself) resonates with a lot of people. People who feel they have to put on a show for their peers, or family, feeling that they won’t be accepted if they were themselves. I have dealt with this problem when I was in high school; I couldn’t tell anyone that I was a Disney fan, they would find me weird or strange and they wouldn’t want to hang out with me. As strange as it sounds, nowadays I don’t have to worry about that anymore. But in those days they were a few things that would cheer me up… and one of those things were Disney songs. They gave me hope, let me laugh and let all those negative emotions go for a second. It felt great and reassured me things were going to get better. I don’t know if this article is becoming too personal, but that’s my way of illustrating what these songs have meant to me and probably will mean for many people in the future.
I’d like to know what your favorite Disney song is? Elaborate in the comments!
 
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We are still looking for a couple more writers to join Disney Avenue. If you are also passionate about Disney and the theme parks and have an interest in sharing your thoughts then Disney Avenue would love to have you join our team. You can contact us at disneyavenue316@yahoo.com. Don’t forget to like us on Facebook.
 
 


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Restored Home Movie of the Magic Kingdom from 1972

by Keith Mahne

If you’re like me you enjoy peaking into Disney World’s past by looking at vintage pictures. Being able to see history and compare it to what is now can be an enjoyable way to learn how the parks and resorts have grown over the years. To find a restored home video from 1972 in high resolution is another thing entirely. Continue after the page break and have a look for yourself…

As you can see in the before and after photos above, Todd McCartney, of the fantastic RetroDisneyWorld.com site, really knows what he is doing when it comes to restoring video into high resolution. Todd has a wonderful story about where the videos your about to see came from and how they were restored.

Todd, “In 1972 my grandparents took a road trip from New Jersey to Florida…armed with AAA highlighted maps of the I-95 east coast corridor they stopped at South of the Border, Marineland, Busch Gardens, Walt Disney World and a host of other attractions. To this day I still have the 3-ring binder that contains the handwritten account of their entire itinerary; mileage logs, fuel stops, and notes. For many years I’ve had in my possession 700 feet of Super8 film taken by my grandparents that documented their entire trip. Recently, I had the footage converted and began to apply my film restoration techniques to the transfer. It’s wonderful to see my late grandparents again and all the places they visited. What you see below is in the order that they filmed it; its as it happened.

The two reels together have a runtime of just over 40 minutes, but hidden in the middle of two reels is what I want to share with you – a bit over 9 minutes of rare early WDW home movie footage. What you are about to see is probably some of the earliest and most pristine looking film from Walt Disney World that you have ever seen. You’ll be taken back to a time when Tomorrowland was incomplete, the old Frontierland Station still welcomed trains, the long lost West Street is adorned with flowers and you could see the Nautilus patrol the lagoon from the Skyway.

From their logbook, we are able to determine the exact date that this film was taken, July 23, 1972. WDW was just under 10 months old! Here are two scans of their log:

I have put in a lot of time refining my scripts and tuning the filters to ensure that the end result is nothing but the best. I was lucky that the film was in near perfect condition after 42 years of storage, making the conversion process a bit easier. For those interested, the conversion and restoration process started with the original Super8 film being scanned in at a 1920×1080 resolution by Pixcel.com. I then applied a number of filters to remove grain, stabilize, sharpen and improve the color. From their I up converted the film from its original 18 frames per second to 30 frames per second, this reduces flicker and jerky motion.”

Here now is the first video taken by Todd’s grandparents in 1972. The film is unique as it shows how young the park was, this was taken only 9 months after opening with Tomorrowland being sparse. Many attractions that are now lost or changed have been captured on the film which is chock full of items that only existed for a short period of time when WDW opened. I think you’ll find the quality of the film transfer and the restoration effort that Todd put into it is nothing but superb. Hope you enjoy it as much as I have:

//player.vimeo.com/video/95237467

Up next is the Main Street Parade. I’ll let Todd fill you in, “This is #2 in our series of restored home movies. From 1972 comes the Magic Kingdom Main Street Parade…if you can call it that. Flanked on one end by the marching band and a fife and drum on the other, this parade really should be called a Character Cavalcade. It is not much more than the characters marching down the street or riding on the Main Street Vehicles. Scrooge McDuck is featured swerving around…Also interesting to note how the characters’ costumes were much simpler. Hats off to Mickey for leading the parade, love that.” Here is the parade video:

//player.vimeo.com/video/95419867

If you have old footage of the parks that you want to have Todd restore and really bring up to today’s standards, make sure you head on over to RetroDisneyWorld.com, get in touch with Todd and enjoy your high resolution videos for years to come. (function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i[‘GoogleAnalyticsObject’]=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,’script’,’//www.google-analytics.com/analytics.js’,’ga’); ga(‘create’, ‘UA-52889002-1’, ‘auto’); ga(‘send’, ‘pageview’);

What It’s Really Like Playing Jack Sparrow at Disneyland

By Keith Mahne

Ever wonder what it’s like playing Jack Sparrow in one of Disney’s parks? Well now you’ll get a REALLY good idea what it’s all about in today’s article. Continue after the page break for the scoop…

Brandon Pinto aka Jack Sparrow



Actor Brandon Pinto, who use to play Jack Sparrow at Disneyland, recently spilled the beans on what it’s really like being a character actor for Disney. He wrote an in depth article featured in Los Angeles Magazine about his experience. Here is the article that I added pictures to reference his commentary, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did and please be aware that there are a few graphic words:

Like everyone, I grew up going to Disneyland. Even as an adult I loved it there and went at least once a month. I was an annual pass holder, though not like the freaky ones you may have heard of. I’d see the park’s characters and think, “It’d be so cool to work here.” But there was never a character I really wanted to play. I had a role on the television show Veronica Mars and was working at Coco’s when a friend told me Disneyland was casting a Jack Sparrow character. I had already played Jack as a hobby at San Diego’s Comic-Con and the Renaissance Faire.

Thirty-seven actors showed up that day, four of us in costume. Only eight were chosen for the next round. We were told we would be auditioning the next day at Disneyland. When I showed up, there were now 23 guys—15 that had been pulled from in-house auditions. There was this assistant who would come in and pull people one by one—“Steve, can you come with me?” Then you’d never see Steve again. Finally I was sitting all alone in the room. After 15 minutes they pulled me into another room where two other guys were sitting. They told us we were going to be Disneyland’s first Jack Sparrows.
 

Disney warned us we were going to have a lot of horny women coming on to us. They were also worried about girls. I heard Disneyland had an Esmeralda from The Hunchback of Notre Dame. She was very flirtatious, and they finally pulled her because men found her too sexually arousing and were acting out.

 The male character they had pulled was Tarzan. He moved around the tree house dressed in just a butt flap. Disney had hired these good-looking, muscular guys—even airbrushing abs on—and apparently there was excessive pinching of Tarzan’s ass by the park’s female visitors. Knowing all this, and also knowing what women were like around Jack at the Renaissance Faire, I told the other guys, “Don’t complain if girls flirt with you too much. If you do, they’ll pull the character from the park.”
 

Disney wanted us to tone Jack down, so they put us through an acting class to discover reasons why Jack walks and talks the way he does. Obviously he is based on Keith Richards, who’s always messed up, which is why they came up with the class. “Don’t be flirtatious,” they told us. “See women as trouble.” And they said as far as alcohol goes, don’t even mention drinking. But the Pirates of the Caribbean song is all about drinking, and they’re drinking all along the ride. So I eventually broke that rule, because it would have taken me out of character. When parents took pictures, I’d say, “Everyone say ‘rum,’ ” and the parents loved it. The kids would just ask, “What’s rum?”

When training started, I found out the park allowed mustaches but had a no-facial-hair policy for all employees. I had the Jack goatee, and I threw a small fit. No facial hair for this character? Why would you want to glue on a mustache in summer? You can see the glue! I took a day to consider whether I wanted the job. I walked the park, and suddenly I saw the most amazing Belle I’d ever seen. Beautiful. She was coming out of the characters’ entrance near Star Tours and bantering with Push the Talking Trash Can. An entire crowd was being entertained, and that just sold me. I thought, “I want to work here.”
 

I had a MySpace page as Jack Sparrow, and I asked if I could keep that. They said no. Two days later an assistant found a blog I’d written about auditioning. They said, “You need to take that blog down in two hours or you’ve lost your job.” They said, “You cannot give out information about auditioning for Jack Sparrow.” I also had to sign documents that stated if I was in the park and out of costume, I could not tell people that I played Jack Sparrow. I was told that the thing for employees to say was, “I am friends with Jack Sparrow.” I was worried I couldn’t do the character at Renaissance Faires anymore. But as long as I didn’t make money, I was told, I could put on my own costume outside the park. 

It took over an hour to get Disney’s suit on. In the dressing room there is one long makeup table and a wall with a long mirror. I think over 100 character actors were there. You had face characters like Jack, Aladdin, the Mad Hatter, and you had fuzzies, the characters in costumes. The face characters and the fuzzies dressed apart. There was a ranking system in the dressing room: If you were a princess, you pretty much got that long mirror wall. For some reason the Jacks always ended up in the back corner.
  

As Jack, I had four hour-long sets a day. We worked in New Orleans Square. I would find a place I liked, and the hosts would set up my line. A host is someone who helps run the line of people that forms to meet you. They’re basically your security. When we started, Disney thought they wouldn’t give us a host. They thought we’d mingle. I laughed at that. I said, “I don’t mean to be the guy that knows it all, but from Renaissance Faires I can guarantee you this character will have the park’s longest line.” Disney had invented a Jack Sparrow autograph the three of us learned, and immediately the line for autographs was gigantic. The Jacks ultimately got two hosts. 

 We were the Johnny Depps and the Jack Sparrows of Disneyland. People called you either “Johnny” or “Jack.” They wanted to talk with you or ask for your autograph. It took me a while to get my rhythm down. I could figure out five or six different things to say to kids, so that by the time the sixth kid was gone, the next group in line hadn’t heard what I’d said to the first kid.

 You never knew when the casting department was going to come into the park and watch you—they came out of nowhere—or something might end up on YouTube. If a character does something a parent believes is wrong, that’s the video that ends up on YouTube. I was on YouTube after I sat in a lady’s stroller. It’s something I often did, and parents would laugh and take pictures. But management came to me and said, “It looks like you’re sitting down on the job, and we can’t have that.”

There is a big thing in the park about not being visually linked to another character. You’re told to stay in your area. But Pluto was a friend of mine, and one day he came over to see me. We posed for photos, and the next day he told me it was on YouTube. Eventually he got fired. 

I’ll be honest: I didn’t follow all the Disney rules. I played Jack like he was real, and if a woman flirted, I would flirt back. Women loved it. But there were also women who would have too many beers at California Adventure or smuggle in alcohol you could smell on their breath, women who were clearly sloshed.
 

Here’s a napkin someone wrote on for me: “I will give you a b*** j** on your break, so sexy! Kim—714-XXX-XXXX.” I would also get offers from women in my ear: “Anything you want, just find me.” I had a girl who had turned 18 the day before. She was with a high school group, and she wrote down her room number at the Downtown Disney hotel. I had a lady hump my leg one day in the park.

Annual pass holders—eventually you would become the favorite of certain ones. Most characters were weirded out by the pass holders. Weird was a mother having her kids ditch school so she could come see me. Or coming to every set I did and walking the line over and over again just to talk to me. But I didn’t mind them. I built up about eight solid regulars that came for me. My biggest fans were a mother-daughter team that would talk a little, walk to the end of the line, and then come around again. I could see them twice a week, every week, every set.

We were told Disney prefers that the characters don’t date, and the characters even have a slogan: “Don’t Date Disney,” or DDD. Dating at Disneyland is difficult. But I already had a thing for the Ariels when I arrived. They have red hair, and I love red hair. After I met my girlfriend, an Ariel, and we started dating, we would need to talk to each other backstage under our coats because employees would try to snap photos with their phones—Ariel and Jack together.

 One problem about playing a character at Disneyland is that you are the Hollywood of the park. For the most part, ride operators and the people making the food love the characters, and they treat them like royalty. But the leads—the park’s assistant managers—every character had problems with them. The smallest rule broken, they call upper management and complain.

 For the most part, if you’re not in trouble, you don’t see management. It wasn’t until the end that I started seeing them a lot. I had a lady who wrote on a comment card that her son had seen me and said, “Look, it’s Jack Sparrow!,” and Jack Sparrow had turned around and said, “No shit.” My manager said, “I don’t think you would say this, but where’d they get the idea?” I said if they’re in a stroller I say, “Nice ship.” She told me to say “Nice boat” from now on. 

 What people typically get suspended or fired for is a hugely flawed point system. If you’re part-time and you build up 24 points, you can be fired. Points come from things like clocking in late—even only a minute late. That’s one-and-a-half points on your record. You call in sick the day of work? Three points.

 I was driving from L.A. and traffic in the morning was awful, so I started coming in at six because I was so worried about being late. I’d arrive early, get breakfast, and then forget to clock in on time. I never heard anything about it until seven months later, on a day when I actually was late and they told me I had 23 points. At that time I was working five days a week. Now every day I had to worry about hitting that clock because I was up for being fired if I missed it.

We were also not allowed to post pictures of ourselves in costume on MySpace. But I had a picture of Ariel and me kissing backstage, a photo I kept on my private page. I was warned by friends to take it down, and I did, but not before someone made a copy of it and turned it in to Disney. Management pulled me in and talked to me about it. 

Then I got a good amount of money back on my tax return, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation was holding a fund-raiser where, for $1,500, you could see the premiere of the third Pirates film at the park. My girlfriend and I bought tickets. People who had worked earlier premieres said attendees came in costume. I had my own pirate costume, and I thought, “Let’s go in costume.” I was playing with danger, but my contract said I could dress up if I wasn’t being paid. They closed the park early that night and showed the movie over the river by the ride on a huge screen. It was amazing.

 A week goes by. I think nothing of it. Then I see another Sparrow is scheduled the same day I’m on. I didn’t know what was happening until a manager came and said, “We got to take you down and talk to you.” At the premiere some foreign press outfit had done an interview with me. They asked my name. I didn’t give my real name, Pinto; I gave my stage name, Hillock. But someone behind the camera also filmed the interview, and they put it on YouTube. Management said, “We saw the video. You went to the premiere, you gave your real name, and we’re letting you go on that.” I said I wasn’t working that night, but they told me that I still represented the company. 

They had a manager walk me off the property. She told me she felt bad. She took me past security and then asked for my Disney ID. I asked when I could come back. She said in five years I could reapply.

You’d hear that it sucks to work for Disney. They’re Nazis in Mickey hats. But I’d thought, “How bad could it be?” By the time I got fired, half of me was relieved. I was getting sick of constantly being barked at about what to do. It was a month before I went back to the park. I missed it. At first I thought it would be a Walk of Shame, but everyone was very nice.

Not long after that I went back to stand in my girlfriend’s Ariel line on Valentine’s Day and give her flowers. I was wearing a beanie and a sweatshirt, but the parents in line were asking me, “Are you Jack Sparrow? You’re him, aren’t you?” I looked to the line’s host, who was a friend of mine. He said, “You don’t work here anymore—do what you want.” But I did what I was trained to do. I said, “Jack Sparrow and I are just friends.” 

Here is a short video of Brandon in action:

 

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Keith Michael Mahne is the owner and editor of Disney Avenue and the host of the Disney Avenue Podcast. He has made countless trips to the Walt Disney World resort since his first trip in 1989 at the age of four.

Keith has a strong passion and respect for Walt Disney, the parks and resorts, and the men and women who help create them. He started Disney Avenue as a way to inform and entertain readers and to repay all those who make dreams come true every day.
You can find all of Keith’s articles here.

 

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Petition Picked Up by the Orlando Sentinel

by Keith Mahne


I wanted to share a recent interview I did with the Orlando Sentinel newspaper. Although the interview I did was pretty lengthy, only a small part appears in the article. However, our petition to save the Polynesian waterfall area is really gaining momentum and hopefully Disney will listen to our pleas. Our petition is nearing 2,000 signatures! Thank you for your help and support! Continue after the page break for the link…

Vintage Walt Disney World Pictures

by Keith Mahne

Once in awhile, I like to take a peak into Disney World’s past by looking at vintage pictures. Being able to see that history and compare it to what is now can be an enjoyable way to learn how the parks and resorts have grown over the years. Today’s article features several vintage pictures I have collected over the years that I think you may enjoy. Continue after the page break and let me know what you think…

 
 

 
 
We are still looking for a couple more writers to join Disney Avenue. If you are also passionate about Disney and the theme parks and have an interest in sharing your thoughts then Disney Avenue would love to have you join our team. You can contact us at disneyavenue316@yahoo.com. Don’t forget to check out and like our new Facebook page and never miss an article again.

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Ken Anderson – The Tenth Old Man

by Sam Vlas

One of my favorite Disney artists is Ken Anderson. While he doesn’t enjoy wide-spread acclaim like, for instance, Marc Davis, he contributed a lot to the films and theme park rides we know today as classics. Continue after the page break to find out more about Walt’s “Jack-Of-All-Trades”…

Ken Anderson began is Disney career in 1934 as an animator. He worked on the Silly Symphonies-shorts “The Goddess of Spring” and “Three Orphan Kitties”. But his first major job was with the first animated feature film “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, where he was art director. He built models of the Dwarfs’ cottage to help the animators set the stage in the movie. Dopey’s wiggling ears were inspired by Ken’s own ability to do so. He would also serve as an art director on “Pinocchio”, “Fantasia”, “The Reluctant Dragon” and even “The Sword in the Stone”. He contributed technical innovations related to the film’s combination of live-action footage and animation while working on “Song of the South”, which he would later perfect for “Pete’s Dragon”.

His animation creations are, among others, Shere Kahn from “Jungle Book” and Elliot from “Pete’s Dragon”. In almost every film released in the 1950’s through the 1970’s, there is an element of Ken Anderson, whether it was story development, production design, set design, screenwriting or character animation. Walt Disney referred to Ken as his “jack-of-all-trades”.

Around that time, Ken was asked to join WED Enterprises as an Imagineer. His expertise in many different fields made him one of the key players in the early development of Disneyland and its attractions. Mainly in Fantasyland, where he made designs and sketches for such classics as “Peter Pan’s Flight”, “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” and “Storybookland Canal Boats”.

But perhaps his most famous, most praised contribution to the Disney theme parks is probably “The Haunted Mansion”. He proposed four (!) different attraction treatments before it would eventually become what it is today. The legends of Captain Gore, the Bloodmere family, a ghostly wedding or The Headless Horseman… all were Ken’s proposed versions for the ride. He made ride layouts and scripts, but also did many, many sketches. By the time the 1964/1965 New York World’s Fair rolled out, he left the Haunted Mansion-project to pursue other projects in the company. Many of his unused sketches for the Mansion were later realized in Hong Kong Disneyland, as part of their “Main Street Haunted Hotel”. For more information on the early incarnations of “The Haunted Mansion”, visit http://www.doombuggies.com/

Ken Anderson retired in 1978, but remained active as a consulting Imagineer. His last project was the Equatorial Africa-pavilion for EPCOT Center’s World Showcase. Unfortunately, it was never realized. However, you can read a great article on the pavilion and what it had to offer on Disney And More (http://disneyandmore.blogspot.nl/2014/02/epcot-equatorial-africa-pavilion-world_18.html).

Ken Anderson died of a stroke on January 13, 1993 at the age of 84.

I dare you to take a look at Ken Anderson’s Disney credits and not be impressed by the sheer scope of things and projects he did. The man truly was a jack-of-all-trades and an invaluable part of the golden days of Disney animation and Imagineering. He is one of my many heroes whose example I want to follow. He is the symbol of an ideal artist: expert at many things and with many creative innovations and ideas. I call him the Tenth Old Man; I think he deserves to be mentioned in the same sentence with such titans as Ward Kimball and Marc Davis. Ken was right on that golden spot between Animation and Imagineering, a spot that I hope to fill in the future. Until then, Ken will always be the Tenth Old Man.

 
 
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We are still looking for a couple more writers to join Disney Avenue. If you are also passionate about Disney and the theme parks and have an interest in sharing your thoughts then Disney Avenue would love to have you join our team. You can contact us at disneyavenue316@yahoo.com. Don’t forget to check out and like our new Facebook page and never miss an article again.
 

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The Disney Afternoon Story (Part 2)

by Sam Vlas

It’s time to dive into the second half of the Disney Afternoon and indulge ourselves in the nostalgia. Last time we looked at the beginnings and some great series, and now we’re going to look at the other ones that saw the light during this time. Let’s continue after the page break…

 

First up is “Chip and Dale: Rescue Rangers”, the only series that I owned on VHS. Yes… VHS, anyone remember that? The series focused around Chip and Dale, but that wasn’t originally the case. The original concept featured an original fedora-sporting character by the name of Kit Colby, modeled after Indiana Jones. At suggestion of Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg, the main character was replaced by the well-known rodent duo Chip and Dale. The Rescue Rangers further consist of Gadget, a tomboy mechanic, Monterey Jack, the cheese loving big guy, and Zipper, the housefly. Together they go on the wildest adventures and are constantly tricked by the evil Fat Cat. The series first premiered in 1989.

 

 

I have fond memories of the following series. “Goof Troop” centered around Goofy and his suburban life with his son Max and his neighbors, Pete’s family. I remember watching the Christmas special almost constantly, even when it wasn’t Christmas at all. I liked the humor of the series; Goofy is one of my all-time favorite characters, so this series wasn’t a disappointment. I also liked the way they portrayed Pete, not as a true villain, but more as the everyday bully. Of course, the voice-acting of Jim Cummings really helps establishing the character. “Goof Troop” premiered in 1992.
“Gargoyles”… I can be really short on this one. I have absolutely no idea what this series is all about. I’m not sure if it even aired in the Netherlands! Anyone can fill me up on the details of this series? It clearly looks edgier and darker than the other series on this list.
One thing I enjoyed about the following series is how they expanded on existing lore. These series, based on classic animated features, were my favorites. I’m talking about “Aladdin”, “The Little Mermaid”, “Winnie the Pooh” and “Timon and Pumbaa”.
 

 
 
As a young kid, I always wanted to be like “Aladdin”. Go on magical journeys, flying a carpet, alongside a beautiful princess and have the most exciting time. Who doesn’t want that! The mystique of the Arabian world was always enchanting, as was the opening song to this series. Arabian Nights is still one of my favorite Disney songs.
But then there is “The Little Mermaid”. Ariel… one of my childhoods crushes. O, how I wanted to explore the great depths and secrets of the ocean with her. I suppose every kid goes through that phase. She would always end up in trouble, and all I could do was sit, watch and pray that she would be alright. The Disney magic, I guess…
I was a fan of “Winnie the Pooh” (and, not ashamed, still am), because I really felt connected to this world and its characters. As a 6-year-old I wished that Pooh and friends were my toys. Mainly the movie, but also this series, taught me some valuable life lessons about growing up and saying goodbye, but also to always stay in touch with yourself and your memories. Those are lessons that some people sadly forget when they grow up. For that, I salute you Winnie!
And finally, to round up the Disney Afternoon Story, here are “Timon and Pumbaa”. I grew up with the Lion King II. Yes, II, as in the sequel. I watched that way before I finally saw the original film. Boy did that make things clear! The comic relief in these films, in the form of Timon and Pumbaa, was always my favorite moment. This series, however, took these characters out of their sub-Saharan African environment and put them in some more suburban areas. A very odd choice, but it made for some interesting plots and some very good jokes. I don’t have a strong emotional connection to this series, I think because there wasn’t that much adventure going on. I was all into adventure and I still am, so I tend to like series as “Ducktales” better.
So, we’ve arrived at the end of the Disney Afternoon. Hours and hours and hours of my childhood were invested in these series and I enjoyed every minute of it. As an added bonus, here is the opening of “Disney Festival”, the Dutch version of the Disney Afternoon. Notice how it’s extended by almost 30 seconds!

 

See you next time here on Disney Avenue!

 
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We are still looking for a couple more writers to join Disney Avenue. If you are also passionate about Disney and the theme parks and have an interest in sharing your thoughts then Disney Avenue would love to have you join our team. You can contact us at disneyavenue316@yahoo.com. Don’t forget to check out and like our new Facebook page and never miss an article again.

 

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