Roland F. Crump is better known as Rolly Crump. He got the nickname “Rolly” from his former boss, Walt Disney. Rolly Crump, a former Imagineer, has a window dedicated to him on Main Street, U.S.A. at Disneyland and was named a Disney Legend.
I first learned of Rolly probably from his appearance on Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color TV show, in an episode celebrating Disneyland's 10th anniversary. I own a copy of the episode on DVD, released about ten years ago. In the episode Walt asks Rolly to show off some pieces he created for the yet-to-be-opened Haunted Mansion attraction. Walt mentioned Rolly’s creations would all appear in a section of the Mansion called the Museum of the Weird. But Walt died a year later, and the Museum of the Weird never materialized.
Excerpt from 10th Anniversary episode of Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color featuring Walt Disney, Disneyland ambassador Julie Reems, and Imagineers Marc Davis and Rolly Crump
Last week, Marvel Comics debuted a new comic book titled “Seekers of the Weird”. The idea for the series was recommended by current Imagineers who felt Rolly's creations, which by now had become legendary among Disney geeks by the very fact that they were introduced by Walt himself but never seen after that, would provide great material for the series. I soon learned that those Imagineers would be doing a signing of the first issue at a local comic shop not far from Disneyland. In addition, Rolly Crump would join them for the signing too.
I say all that to set up the enthusiasm I felt after reading that enjoyable first issue, followed by meeting Rolly himself at the signing. I searched the Internet to learn more about him and his Museum of the Weird and quickly discovered Rolly's 2012 autobiography "as told to" Jeff Heimbuch. After placing my Amazon order, I was surprised to learn it included a free Kindle version. As soon as I downloaded it, I started reading it.
I cannot remember the last time I read a book that felt like one long, friendly conversation, told in an easy-going style, and being enchanted by great stories and fascinating anecdotes both about the world of Disney from the 50’s to the 90’s and the remarkable life of this lucky guy. Nor can I remember finishing such a book as quickly. I finished this book in three days. For a guy who easily gets distracted for hours at a time on his iPhone or surfin’ the web, finishing a book in three days is one amazing feat!
I'm a designer by profession, so his stories as a young artist were ones I easily related too. He was hired as an animator for Walt Disney Animation in the early 1950s. Even though he had no training in animation, he took a $45 pay cut from his $75-a-week ceramic factory job to pursue the arts field. He worked as an in-between on films like “Peter Pan” and “Lady and the Tramp” before being transferred to WED Enterprises (later named Walt Disney Imagineering) to work on projects including the Enchanted Tiki Room, it’s a small world, and the Haunted Mansion. He eventually became Supervising Art Director at Disneyland and also ran his own independent business, working on projects for the Knott's Berry Farm family, Wet 'n' Wild, Steve Wynn, Jacques Cousteau and scores of other clients. He shares his memories about each of these projects, seasoned with details about these and many other people he encountered, the rich, the famous and the not-so-famous.
And they are all cute stories. Especially his stories about working with Walt, because, you know, this guy Rolly actually worked with him. The proof is on film!
If you're a Disney fan, interested in the creative mind, or just want a good, fun book to read, I highly recommend this book.
P.S. – So what do I do when my Amazon shipment finally arrives? Well, the book includes photos, so it’ll be great to see them all again in the printed copy of the book.
UPDATE (1/28/14): My book arrived yesterday. I'm glad I got to read the free Kindle version immediately after ordering the book, but after skimming through the pages of the book, I'm also really glad I own the print edition.
The Kindle version includes all the photos from the book, but the book, which measures 8 1/2" x 11", showcases them better, laid out next to the stories that concern them. I especially appreciated the full page photos and smaller photos grouped together in a page spread to compare them easily to each other. I couldn't do that in the static layout of the digital version which had images on their own separate pages. Ironically, I was able to see the details in the printed photos better than on my tablet (I don't own an iPad for those of you curious, discerning types; still getting by on my HP TouchPad). The pages are also designed with graphics familiar in the author's work that also effectively echo the whimsy of Crump's personality. But that design palette includes a pale yellow cast printed on all of the pages. At first I thought the dull look made me think it was printed on newsprint. I think I'm glad I read this on the high contrast screen of my tablet.
The book cover feels a little odd too. It feels to have a latex finish to it. It feels rubbery, something I've never encountered on other books. That caught me off guard and I wondered at first if I ought to wipe it down so it didn't feel weird.
I would love to get this autographed someday. Makes better sense than having my tablet autographed.
Written by by Marc Tyler Nobleman with illustrations by Ty Templeton, this book was published in 2012 and has received a lot of attention and praise. I'm a *huge* Batman fan, but the reason why I never rushed to read this until now was I was afraid I'd never finish reading a thick tome of a biography. But after joining a reading group a friend started to read 50 books this year, I finally ordered myself a copy, inspired to invest the time to read it through once I received it.
It arrived today, and I finished it in 20 minutes!
In all the time I'd read notices about this book, I'd never ever gotten the impression that it was written as a children's book. But now, I look at the Product Details section of the Amazon description of it for the first time, and there it is right at the start:
Age Range: 8 - 12 years
Before I started reading it, I wondered if this book should even qualify as a book for my reading group, or if it would be more fair to call it half a book. But having now finished it, it does tell, however briefly, a remarkable story full of interesting facts followed by an Author's Note several pages long detailing the research, revelations and end notes to Bill Finger's legacy.
By all accounts, Bill Finger is the uncredited co-creator of Batman who died in 1974 with barely any fanfare. And surely none was expected from fans who knew nothing about him and his connection to the Caped Crusader.
But he was the young man who helped finesse Bob Kane's initial sketches of this new character Kane designed called Bat-Man into his signature look; wrote the first Joker, Catwoman and Robin stories; later created the origin story for Batman; and continued to write Batman stories for some twenty-odd years after his debut in Detective Comics #27 in 1939 (one year after Superman's debut), all the while never getting creator credit and the financial compensation that goes with that. That solely went to Bob Kane because that's how the contract with the publisher was drawn up at Kane's direction. That made Kane a millionaire. But Finger simply wasn't a fighter, so he never fought for his fair share.
Every page of the story is fully illustrated, like children books are, with oversized panels to echo the comic book motif. The artwork is clean and drawn in a realistic but simplistic style, presenting both specific key scenes in Finger's life as well as a few spreads spotlighting his most important work on Batman.
The Author's Note at the end is what really helps elevate this children's book to one readers of all ages will find worthwhile. Beyond his interviews with family and comic book industry colleagues, Nobleman's search for biographical information on and photos of Finger was quite challenging. At the time of publishing, he was only able to locate a total 17 photos of Finger. He later found out from his second wife that "We weren't photo people." And in hoping to find an heir of Finger's that could receive his modest royalty checks from DC Comics, he reveals both a sad and a happy ending.
I was shocked when I opened my package to find an oversized children's book. But was relieved that this turned out to be a satisfying biography shining a spotlight on a man that I never knew about but am now so grateful to. He wrote the earliest adventures of my childhood hero which Kane didn't always draw (Kane hired ghost artists, among them Jerry Robinson, to help draw those early Batman stories). It makes me a little sad knowing what Kane never shared with his collaborator. But through this modest book, Bill Finger finally gets some long overdue recognition.
Wow, what a thoughtful, well-written and well-conceived Superman story. I wasn’t as enamored with Volume One. But this follow-up is thoroughly more satisfying.
DC Comics’ “Earth One” graphic novel series re-tells the origins of their superheroes as if they were conceived by writers today, as opposed to some 75 years ago, and if characters lived in today's world. Great liberties are allowed to be taken, with writers and artists picking and choosing what elements from what’s been written before to keep, what to be inspired by and what to completely revise. The hope is that the tone and material will be more accessible, relatable and appealing to new readers wanting something less fanciful or, essentially, less comic book-y, yet still present the same spirit of what made each hero so popular and lasting to begin with.
Three books have been published in the series so far, one for Batman (with a broad-shouldered, combat-hardened Alfred who walks with a cane as the reluctant assistant and mentor to Bruce) and now two for Superman, whose lead shares much more in spirit to the alien orphan played by Henry Cavill than the all-American charmer fighting for truth and justice presented by Christopher Reeve or George Reeves. Until now my favorite was Batman Earth One, but this second Superman book is also a surprise winner.
A direct sequel to Volume One, Volume Two explores some very common sense ideas about a super-powered boy concealing his abilities his entire childhood and how it affects the way he thinks as he grows into a young man now burdening himself with the responsibility to help those in need while still maintaining an alternate identity among mankind.
It also includes the best quote ever to come from Pa Kent to his teenage son: “All I’m saying, son, is – man of steel – woman of tissue paper.”
That tells you one topic that’s covered! There are a few PG-13 topics in this story, which chooses to skew the story more into a character study about Clark than an action-adventure tale about a caped hero. This story spends more time showing a Clark Kent awkwardly pursuing a hidden, normal life behind his horn-rimmed glasses than the destructive nature of his alter ego which is a big question mark to the world at large, particularly how concerned should they be about this person that governments cannot control. There’s also a really sweet flashback to Clark’s first pet, a cat named Fuzzball.
Lois Lane is here, as are Perry and Jimmy. But she’s not the one in a relationship with Clark shown in decades of Superman stories. Instead, a sexy red-haired neighbor goes after our naïve lead character and what develops is both funny and meaningful. Instead, Lois can’t get over Kent scooping the entire world by getting The First Interview with Superman. So being a naturally competitive reporter, she’s out to find dirt on this new guy from Smallville. It’s a plausible, adversarial reaction for someone like a Lois. And the villain, the Parasite, is introduced in a well-developed, fairly grounded storyline whose addictive search for physical strength also feeds organically to the subplot about the world’s and its government’s fears about Superman and how they wish they could control him.
So it’s less about titans fighting each other, skyscrapers demolished in their wake (which does happen here). Instead, it takes its time crafting real characters in plausible situations, especially Clark’s. And it slowly drew me in so by the end, I was genuinely surprised and satisfied by the conclusions reached in the handful of subplots told. I'm not a Superman fan either, I'm a Batman fan. But I really enjoyed this book.
All About Me
A fan of Star Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Batman, comic books, Blu-rays, Disney, soundtracks, taking pictures, theatre and...Barry Manilow!