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.
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.
This has been a hard blog to write. This is my fifth attempt to write something down about Man of Steel without it meandering into an overly long diatribe.
Three weeks after first seeing it, I still love Man of Steel! I’ve seen it twice now and wouldn’t mind seeing it one more time in theatres before owning it on Blu-ray. But not everyone has enjoyed the movie. I talked to some of my friends who were disappointed with the film. It was almost like we’d seen two different movies, when really we were seeing one movie two different ways. And even some of the online feedback from the comic book world thought the film went too far with one scene, arguing that it was a decision the world's greatest superhero would never choose to do.
Enjoying the movie as much as I did makes me want to defend the film. That’s not to say my opinion is better than anyone who didn’t enjoy the movie. But as much as I got out of listening to my friends tell me what they didn’t like about it, I hope folks who didn’t enjoy Man of Steel will be open to what I have to say about it. And if you are among those who have decided to wait until later to see the movie, this blog is spoiler free unless you click on some of the links below.
First, to be fair, I’ll list some of the reasons my friends gave me for why they didn’t enjoy Man of Steel, presented in about the order it was consistently given to me.
The Level of Destruction – It is overwhelming in this movie! It goes to a degree never before seen in a superhero movie. And it is clearly provocative in the way it’s depicted. That said, there’s a part of me that chose to view the film only within the context the story being told in this film and not bring to it outside notions, including the events of recent tragic, true-life events. And choosing to do that, I only saw what the film showed: a no-holds barred fight between two and more super-powered beings taking place on our world. It happened in a small town and then a large metropolis. And it was devastating! By contrast, it was nothing like the fight shown towards the end of 1981's Superman II, and in the context of this film, it couldn’t be. That doesn’t mean, however, that the visuals won’t disturb some sensitive viewers. The distinct visuals in the film were certainly a calculated risk on the part of the filmmakers. But in my eyes, it’s exactly what could result if such a fight between creatures took place here. So I accepted it.
The Lapses in Logic - Yeah, this movie is not perfect, and this is one point I can agree with whole-heartedly! And for me, they all involve Lois. Risk falling off a narrow ledge to follow a stranger into an ice cave? Decide to snap a picture of something that could easily be as malevolent as it is a curiosity? Shout out someone’s name and reveal someone’s identity within earshot of others? Fall so easily in love with an alien? And then, there’s the moment Lois is brought up to the spaceship, more as a plot device than anything else. And does she really need to be in the plane delivering the package? Also, can’t deny Jonathan Kent’s last scene being a WTF moment, at least the first time I saw it. So here I saw the same film my friends saw. But I still thought the many strengths of the film far outweighed its obvious weaknesses.
Superman Not Being Superman – So, where were all those super rescues we have all seen before, most notably in the Christopher Reeve films and Superman Returns? Those little scenes during heightened action and the world crumbling around the innocent people west of the San Andreas Fault and huge metal objects raining down in Metropoiis that remind and re-inforce the idea to the audience that this is why he is the world’s greatest superhero Superman? Well, my answer to this is two-fold. First, I go back to when I previously said that I chose not to bring in previous notions with me when I saw this film, and that includes the idea of the Richard Donner-directed Christopher Reeve films and Superman Returns. This isn’t those films, so I think it’s unfair to expect moments from any of the former films to naturally be in this one. It’s akin to saying “This movie sucks because it didn’t show kryptonite or Lex Luthor.” But I acknowledge that this film didn’t show more than three scenes of Superman doing that ol’ Superman thing of an actual rescue of or prevention of harm to innocent bystanders. Those moments were the soldier in Smallville, Lois in the skies over Metropolis, and the family at the end of the battle. That’s all I can recall. Was that enough? No, at least by many people’s accounts. Superman should be shown saving people and making rescues; that is the expectation when watching a Superman movie. But that leads to my second argument, that this Superman in Man of Steel really isn't Superman. Not the Superman the movie-going audience has always seen in every other such film. Not yet anyway. By the end of this movie, we’re not even sure that Superman is even called that by the world at large. All we know is that the military knows he’s good and has called him Superman, but we’re not yet shown what the world at large truly yet knows about this visitor from a stranger planet who was sought out these other stranger visitors who freaked everyone out by hacking into the world’s communication network to send a bizarre and troubling message around the world. To my mind, a more appropriate title for Man of Steel could be Superboy, a story about the hero who finally came out to reveal his true nature but has yet to earn the credit of being the world’s greatest superhero. Yeah, Man of Steel is a Superman movie, but if you think about it, he’s not really Superman, at least not yet. This first time out, he had a lot of things to process during his coming out party, and it’s easy to argue that he made a lot of tactical errors with everything he decided to take on on his first day at work. And seeing it this way makes it very plausible to me that this "rookie" Superman, while having heroic qualities, is yet to become the hero folks expected to see the first time at bat.
It Wasn’t Fun – This one took me longer to understand, but I can see it now. I didn’t spend a lot of time laughing when I watched Man of Steel. The only audibles I uttered during the movie were “Wow” and “WHOA!” and that happened frequently. Then I got the notion to re-watch Batman Begins. Batman Begins was written by David Goyer, who co-wrote the story and wrote the screenplay for Man of Steel, so I watched the film to compare it against his newest origin script. And I discovered, much to my surprise, that I laughed out loud a lot as I watched the supposedly darker, heavier film called Batman Begins. And those moments were always courtesy of Michael Caine’s Alfred and Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox. Their moments brought levity and genuine humor to the film, which was pretty nearly absent in Man of Steel. A friend pointed out that in The Avengers, there’s major destruction and carnage too, but it was somehow easier to accept and avoid any somber overtones because the heroes had funny moments during the action. Can’t argue with that. Trouble is there are no characters like Alfred and Lucius in Man of Steel to introduce that levity organically into the situations. So maybe on balance, Man of Steel could’ve earned more points by lightening it up here and there. But that’s not the story they chose to tell, and I can’t hold it against them, being someone who enjoyed and appreciated the risks they took to tell their story and felt they were successful with it. With the way this film ended tho’, it’s a sure bet that in the sequel, the offices of the Daily Planet will provide fodder for humor and levity as characters dance around secrets and lies.
So, are you with me so far? Well, that’s okay if you’re not. Man of Steel and Superman: The Movie are about as equal as Batman Begins is to Tim Burton’s Batman, meaning they’re not! But each has their devoted fans and followers, and that’s okay. And I think all four films are awesome films, for what they are.
One final thought. One thing I was surprised that was less of an issue with my friends and more an issue with diehard Superman fans was how Superman defeats General Zod in Man of Steel. I won’t spoil it, but here’s a link that summarizes the blog by Mark Waid, writer of a lauded recent update on the Man of Steel's origin Superman: Birthright (Yeah, there are origin reboots happening all the time in the comic books too!). His blog was the catalyst for great discussion on the Internet about the villain's dramatic resolution the week the film debuted. I was shocked at how it ended, but as contrived as that moment played out, the surprise turned again into acceptance. Despite what folks believe “their” Superman would do, in the context of this world and this Superman’s experiences and inexperience, it was plausible to me. And despite what folks say, I believe there was an appropriate response afterwards, if somewhat abbreviated by editing and moving on to the film's final scenes. It may just have been a response too short for folks to realize had happened and/or bought.
So that's my two cents. Thanks for actually making it through to the end here. If you have anything to share, please do below. I'm still interested in hearing what folks think about this film.
But I'm ready for the sequel! And if they go in the direction I’ve suggested, go ahead and titled it Superman.
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!