Ward Kimball was one of Walt’s Nine Old Men, the group of heralded young animators who worked on the studio’s earliest animated shorts and feature-length movies. Disney fans know the legend that Walt never directed compliments toward anyone, but Kimball is the only employee he ever publically called a genius. With that knowledge in hand, I was eagerly looking forward to this book.
Supported by annotations from Kimball’s own personal journals and hundreds of interviews of his and others who worked with him, this was a fascinating book about an ambitious, restless artist. With a slim amount of formal art education and youthful aspirations of working as a commercial artist for advertising agencies in New York City, Ward reluctantly accepted a job at The Walt Disney Company to learn animation, originally believing the trade to be a step down from advertising. He ended up proving to be an expedient animator, working faster than most, and worked on all of the original Disney classics, including designing Jiminy Cricket. He would later co-direct “Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom” which won an Oscar for Best Animated Short for Walt Disney. He later earned one with his own name on it for “It’s Tough to Be a Bird”.
He founded the Firehouse Five Plus Two Dixieland jazz band which performed at clubs around LA and Disneyland, produced three installments about space exploration for the Disneyland TV show that drew fascination and interest from the viewing public up to President Eisenhower, and even enjoyed a friendly relationship with the boss, unique among the Company staff, building up the Mousetro’s interest in model trains, before ultimately feeling boxed in by the studio’s family friendly art house style.
In some ways, he reminds me of Chuck Jones, who claims to have told Walt Disney that ultimately the only job he wanted at his studio was Walt’s. Ward wasn’t that discourteous of Walt’s position or the benefits of creative opportunities he received from his employer, but later in his career, the eccentric Kimball clearly wanted to create his own artistic identity apart from the name Disney. So the later years, close to Walt’s passing in 1966 and thereafter until his retirement in 1973 were frustrating for him. He also faced criticism and resentment from other animators, including some of his Nine Old Men peers.
I wouldn’t call this a warts-and-all biography, but it doesn’t shy away from the animator’s stubbornness and misjudgments when he fails to recognize how best to spread his creative wings and pursue his ambitions with strategic tact and even some humility while at the studio. I enjoyed this book a lot. The only disappointment I had about the book is that it includes no photos of Kimball at all beyond what’s on the cover.
Disney geeks know that July 17 is Disneyland's birthday. It's the day in 1955 that Walt Disney officially opened his theme park to park guests in attendance and those watching a live television broadcast.
For this year's 59th park birthday, I won passes from Disney Parks Blog to attend "...a sneak peek at some of what’s in store for the resort’s 60th anniversary celebration next year." While many Disney fan and news sites speculated about what would be announced, as it turned out the sneak peek was simply the introduction of a new diamond-themed logo and the announcement of a photo contest granting its winner and guests a trip to Disneyland. Those websites were disappointed, but I wasn't.
I would've gone to Disneyland on this day anyway, regardless of winning passes from the Blog. As a Premium annual passholder, I can go in anytime! But attending as guests of Disney Parks Blog definitely had its privileges, as my friend and I joined other Blog guests in receiving complimentary 1-day park hoppers; Blue section World of Color FASTPASSes; exclusive upfront viewing for the park's 59th birthday celebration; an exclusive reception with refreshments and photo ops with Disney characters; and a couple of amazing keepsake gifts!
We arrived early on July 17th to the park to check in at one of the ticket booths. After showing my ID, we had wristbands put on us and received the passes, voucher and schedule shown in the photo above. Getting park hoppers caught me off-guard. For some odd reason, I had assumed this event was exclusive to annual passholders. But I was wrong. It was open to all Disney Parks Blog readers, who aren't necessarily passholders or if they were, might've been blocked out today. Curse my snobby privileged AP mentality! (This is where a smiley face with a tongue sticking out would go. But this blog isn't a text, is it.)
At the park entrance, one turnstile at the far left was marked for "Special Guests". We entered through there and was asked to stand to one side to wait for a Cast Member to escort us into the park. We didn't wait at all as one arrived at that moment and walked us through the berm tunnel into the town center, where we could see park guests already crowding in the space in front of City Hall. The pathway onto the street was clear tho', because it was roped off. But as we approached with our escort, a Cast Member there unhooked the rope to allow us in. We were told we could stand in one of two taped off areas on the street and sidewalk.
To be honest, I was a little confused at this point. I didn't know what we were going to be seeing today and how it would be presented. So having the whole unexpected VIP treatment upon arrival and being escorted to a taped off area on Main Street was kind of surreal. But once we saw the new 59th birthday display set up on the top steps of Main Street Station (that's the photo at the top of this blog), the pieces started to come together in my head. The entire street along the front of Main Street Station was roped off and regular park guests were filling up in street areas around us and behind the flag pole, saving their spots to see the 10am celebration. We, as it turned out, were gonna see it from the front row.
Well played, Disney Parks Blog!
Over the course of the hour we had to wait for the event that this week's Entertainment Times Guide called "Celebrating Disneyland's 59th Anniversary", my friend and I took pictures around the area and chatted a bit with the other guests that we stood with. Noticing a red carpet behind us with a microphone standing on it, we started speculating what it was for. Someone next to us said it represents the spot where Walt Disney stood when he gave his dedication speech. A Cast Member overhearing us added that we should return here later at 2:30 p.m. to hear the speech played at that time.
Finally, the event started on time at 10 a.m. as the Mayor of Disneyland arrived at the podium to begin the festivities. He introduced the Dapper Dans and, for this performance, their piano accompanist to perform a number of signature Disneyland songs including "The Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room" and "It's a Small World". Their five-song set got the crowd warmed up and in great spirits! Then, the mayor returned to briefly speak a bit about the success of Walt's theme park before welcoming 59 Disney characters and park Cast Members who entered town center and scattered themselves on and around Main Street Station for the next part of the celebration, leading the park guests in singing "Happy Birthday".
After that, the Mayor of Disneyland unveiled a new logo for Disneyland's 60th Diamond Anniversary with a flourish of white doves. And then the ceremony closed with the 59 Disney characters and Cast Members dancing to an upbeat version of "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes" that's been performed at past park birthday celebrations. I gotta say, overall it was a fun fifteen minutes. And having front row privileges really made it that much better.
Afterwards, after chatting with some very jealous friends who were at the park too and found me after the ropes dropped at the end of the show, it was off to the Opera House where we would learn what this reception thing was all about. Our wristbands were again our exclusive pass to get in, and once inside we found the front exhibit area crowded with guests. There were also refreshments found for the taking: ice water, lemonade, and three flavors of cupcakes. Cast Members were everywhere to help with clearing trash off the tops of a few tall tables that were set up here and there and to replenish the drinks and cupcake trays when they were empty. Looking over the crowd, towards the back area where the entrance to Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln is, we saw lines going around the Capitol building model ending in photo ops with Elsa, Anna, Mickey and Minnie. I'm not usually one to make any effort to get my picture taken with a Disney character, but knowing how much of a grind it is these days to get pictures with the popular queen and princess from "Frozen" at the park these days, I felt I couldn't pass up this opportunity. I mean, now I can tell my friends I got my picture with Elsa and Anna and didn't have to wait three hours in line to get it! (If this blog were a text, this is where a smiley face with a huge grin would go.)
After my cupcake, lemonade and pictures with Disney royalty were taken, it was time to head out. Earlier while we were waiting in line for our photo ops, I received a text from my friends outside.
"We know what your gift is! Awesome wish we could have gotten one."
My friend had seen large boxes on a tray near the entrance when we walked in but didn't see what was inside. Now it was time to find out.
As we rounded the corner to exit, we were greeted by a very dramatic scene. There were indeed gentlemen carrying trays near the entrance/exit, and the opening past them that normally led to the Mad Hatter store was now curtained off with displays set up inside. We walked up to the gentlemen and one of them asked for our gift vouchers. Handing them to him, we each received a bagged cookie with the new Disneyland 60 Diamond Celebration logo printed on it. Then we continued into the new display area, which felt a little like a jeweler's shop, where another Cast Member handed each of us a blue box with the same new logo printed in silver on top. He opened it to show me what was inside and that's when my jaw hit the floor.
It was a large, beautiful crystal with the Disneyland 60 logo etched on top. I didn't realize until I got to my car later and my friend pulled it out of the box, that the crystal is in the shape of a diamond! We also received a Disneyland coupon book filled with actual FASTPASSes that we could use in both parks today only. The Cast Member explained that there was a colored ticket on top and a matching white duplicate ticket underneath each colored ticket. The duplicate is the one we could show at any attraction today to use as a FASTPASS. That way, if any were used, the colored tickets would still remain to give the coupon book its original appearance. Of course, you know what I was thinking when my brain managed to understand what he was saying as I was still working to pick my jaw up off the ground. That there was NO WAY I was gonna violate this sweet new Disney collectible by tearing any pages from it! Silly Disney Cast Member.
Dazed and thrilled, we left the Opera House feeling euphoric over the gifts we received and the great, great time we were enjoying today, all compliments of Disney Parks Blog.
There was only one hiccup to our otherwise exceptional day.
We decided to hang out until 2:30 p.m. so we could enjoy Walt's speech then as we were told by that Cast Member. We spent our time in between having lunch at the French Market, enjoying jazz music by the Royal Street Bachelors, and uploading our day's pictures to Instagram.
At around two, we started heading back to Main Street, U.S.A. Halfway down I realized we hadn't heard any announcements overhead stating the Walt Disney speech would be played soon. Then I remembered the traditional time his speech is replayed is 4:45 p.m. So why 2:30 p.m. today? Then I realized we had already heard the speech. It was played during this morning's birthday celebration.
I went to City Hall to ask about it again. It was now 2:20 p.m. But a Cast Member there also said it would happen at 2:30 p.m. So my friend and I waited.
There was a small gathering of guests including a few we recognized from standing with them this morning at the celebration. Mickey Mouse came out, but only to pose for pictures by the flag pole and sign autographs. Now why is Mickey signing autographs? Shouldn't he be part of the Walt Disney speech event?
After twenty minutes we finally gave up. It was the only downer, but only moderately so, to what was otherwise an incredibly - yep - magical day. But even if it somehow had turned out to be a lame, boring day, we were still cognizant of the fact that we were leaving the park with diamonds!
You can see the rest of the pictures I posted that day over on Instagram and also see those plus a few extras all embiggened in a new gallery I have on Flickr.
Looking forward to Disneyland's 60th!
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.
Thanks for the feedback and the "likes" for those of you who enjoyed last week's first installment of my articles about Blu-rays. I really enjoyed putting it together, and there'll be lots more entries like that that I think you're find helpful and interesting.
This week I didn't find any new retailer exclusives to point out. But there are a couple titles debuting on Blu-ray this coming Tuesday October 16 that some of my friends might like to know about., in particular those who are of the Disney persuasion and those who are classic Looney Tunes enthusiasts.
The Disney Blu-ray release is Pete's Dragon. I've yet to see this, and I can already hear my friends yelling at me as they read this that I "...must watch it NOW!" It's a combo pack meaning it includes both a Blu-ray Disc and a DVD, the idea being that for those who haven't yet added a Blu-ray player to their homes can conveniently begin building their Blu-ray Disc library in advance of ultimately getting one yet still watch the DVD on their current equipment.
This also brings up an interesting fact about certain combo pack titles. Sometimes, studios will release it in both the shorter Blu-ray-sized packaging and the taller DVD-sized packaging. That's the case Disney chose here with Pete's Dragon, releasing it DVD-size format as well. This lets those same folks just entering the world of Blu-ray but who really, really want to have their DVD cases on the shelf be all the same height have their wish!
The new Looney Tunes release is the second three-disc collection of Warner Bros.' classic cartoon shorts (It has the red box cover design shown above). Volume One (with silver and blue package design) was released last November in two editions, a standard three-disc set (center image above) and a "Limited and Numbered Edition" in a box containing bonus swag goodies (beauty shot above right).
Beyond that, I wondered what other Blu news I could talk about today. Then an idea finally came to me last week as I was reading through discussion threads at Blu-ray.com's forum boards. Someone had posted information about a recent Blu-ray release that influenced my decision to buy it, even tho' I'd already known about the release months ago and decided to pass on it. The new info, especially in the way it was shared, made me second-guess my original decision. It was also then that I realized that that experience would be a great chance to show you a tool that Blu-ray enthusiasts use today, something I'm sure many of you didn't know about. It involves making videos and posting them on YouTube.
Unboxing videos are made by online news sites and Blu-ray enthusiasts all over the world. What they do is shoot video while opening a fresh, new Blu-ray Disc release that they've just received. Sometimes goofy, always geeky, and often done by amateurs aspiring to make a reputation for themselves among niche YT viewers, they're meant to not only share the enthusiasm they have for their latest and greatest addition but also provide some insight to fellow fans about new and distinctive releases who might be wondering how a particular title is packaged or what exactly is included inside. The video below is a brief (which is rare that it's so brief!) example of a typical unboxing.
Pretty basic, but because this was a non-standard type of packaging, fairly informative too. If you were on the fence about what you were getting when you looked at the non-standard, bulky, oversized Star Wars: The Complete Saga Blu-ray set, and the beauty shot of it shown at left didn't really answer all your questions about it, this video becomes very helpful.
Now, what about a different type of Blu-ray release. Say, one of those big huge box sets, like the ones Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has done for Gone with the Wind or 20th Century Fox for The Sound of Music? You can find beauty shots of their contents also, but like in above video wouldn't it be more helpful if someone opened it up for you to show you how it looks inside and see them holding all of the swag items in their hands? That post I mentioned earlier featured an unboxing video of a box set and after watching it, I immediately became more enamored of it.
And what was that set? It was Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures Blu-ray Collection. But not the standard release that can be purchased anywhere. It was an exclusive box set, a retailer exclusive actually, available only from Amazon UK.
That's the Amazon on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, in the United Kingdom, in an entirely different continent. An international retailer exclusive!
The ABCs of Blu
Now here's something about buying Blu-rays and DVDs from another country. They don't automatically play in PS3s and other Blu-ray players made for the good ol' U S of A. The international home video industry follows region coding standards, a practice started years ago with DVDs and continued with the introduction of Blu-ray Discs. It has to do partly with licensing rights. Rights for different regions of the world may not necessarily be owned by the same distributor. And to keep folks honest, video players around the world are manufactured differently enough to allow Blu-rays and DVDs for one region to play only in players built for, say, Region A but not for players built for Region B or Region C. In fact, for Blu-ray Discs, there are only three region codes and they are Regions A, B, and C. For you regular international travelers, it's just like you having to buy a completely new thingamabob because the plug for your original thingamabob that you can use here in the US won't work in those European electrical outlets. They simply don't play nice with each other at all.
So, back to the Indiana Jones set and Amazon UK. I could buy the standard collection here in the US and have no doubt whatsoever that I can play the discs and watch them just fine. But theirs is a limited edition version with really cool swag included, not available from any other retailer except Amazon UK. Here is that unboxing video I watched. And it's pretty tempting to own...if only I knew it would play in my PS3.
Cool, huh? Especially that diary!
To the left is the beauty shot I found earlier this year of the set. I knew about the set's existence early enough. But my inclination at that time to not get it was swayed not just by the possible region code conflict, but also from someone's comment on the forum boards that for the extra money, we're just getting a lot of extra paper. Made sense. And that helped convince me at the time to keep my money in my credit card.
Then, last week I watched the above video and I was screwed.
Or maybe not! Perhaps it being released in the UK, it might strictly be a Region B disc, and not play on US's Region A players, ending further buying consideration permanently. I did some checking, and at first Blu-ray.com's listing for it identified it as "Region B (untested for A,C)". "Untested" refers to the fact that there are some Blu-ray titles that are manufactured to play in all regions; they're Region Free. So now, there was a possibility that the version from the UK might play in my PS3.
Now there are Blu-ray players that actually play BDs from all regions. They play Region A discs, Region B and Region C. My PS3 is not one of them. But there was bound to be someone on Blu-ray.com's forum boards who not only has an all regions Blu-ray player but would go ahead and test it for the rest of us wanting to know and share their results. (One of the reasons why I love visiting the forum boards!) In fact, I added a post myself to ask someone to do that. I went to sleep, and the next morning, I saw the following posted by "srinivas1015" as a direct reply to mine.
I just tested my UK set. It's Region Free. I set my PowerDVD software to region A and it played the disc perfectly. I also tested it in my Region C Playstation 3 and there was no problem.
Great googly moogly! I went to Amazon UK's listing for it and coincidentally their info was updated now stating it as ""Region Free" there too.
I did some quick exchange rate conversions online and to make matter worse - or I guess, better - it turned out that even with international shipping, the Amazon UK set was about the same price as buying the US version here - usually priced around $79.99 - with sales tax added.
So the fact is I'm eighty bucks poorer now. The set is already on its way via DHL and due to arrive to me before the end of the month. But I guess for all the digging around I did related to this holy grail-like quest to find my answers about a famous archeologist's records, I tell myself it was meant to be. But along the way, I hope you enjoyed this little introduction to unboxing videos and region codes. And if you feel like exploring on your own, there are many more unboxing videos to be found on YouTube.
As a postscript, I end this article with the only other Amazon UK exclusive collector's set in my collection. I bought it when it was released in 2010. That time, it was the metal OUTATIME license plate that I couldn't live without. And was I glad it was Region Free too!
Until next time...
Here's a video diary of my five hours waiting in line to enter Disney California Adventure on its Grand Re-Opening Day condensed into eight minutes.
On June 15, 2012, I got in line at four in the morning to join those who had been waiting in line since 6:30 pm the night before! However, when I first saw this line filled with hundreds of people, it was nothing compared to what I encountered seven years ago in the same spot. That was 2005, the year Disneyland celebrated its 50th birthday. And on July 17 that year, I arrived here at three in the morning to be among the first to enter the park when it opened, and there were thousands already in line. Coincidentally, Disney used DCA to stage the long line before its sister park opened at 7 am.
The video above shows the size of the line in the Promenade when I first got there and how it continued to grow over the next couple of hours. At 7am, the park's Re-Dedication Ceremony was broadcast in a live feed onto a jumbotron we could see, so some excerpts from that are included too. And from my place in line right at the main entrance, I got a nice, short piece of video of Disney CEO Robert Iger and Chairman of Parks and Resorts Tom Skaggs at the front gates opening them up themselves so we could finally come in.
I had a great time. So if you want to enjoy a special Disney event vicariously through the eyes of a Disney geek, here's your chance. Enjoy!
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!