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of the club…
One does feel special crossing the threshold of Club 33. It is not unlike being let in on a secret as well. I have been there before, but the thrill of stepping through that door and ascending the stairs to delightful dining does not diminish upon repeat visits. I wanted to step out on the balcony, lean against the balustrade and raise my arms in an Evita-like pose, looking down on the minions below. Alas, there were no minions below. I just had to settle for yummy food and good company instead, not an entirely bad thing, I’d say.
We were instructed to find a place to sit and then go to the buffet for our food. The array of food was dazzling. I grabbed an blue rimmed plate emblazoned with Club 33 on the underside and began to select. There were dozens of boxes of cereal. Can you imagine eating sugar frosted flakes at Club 33? I can’t either. I passed on that. There was a huge selection of cheese artfully displayed with an edible creature at the top of the mountain of cheese. There was a nice selection of fruit, not just your usual melons, but raspberries, blueberries and strawberries as well. There were miniature Mickey Mouse waffles. "Would you like one?"
"Yes, please," I held up my plate like Oliver Twist asking for more.
"Would you like syrup?"
"That would be divine," I replied as a silver ladle sent golden, hot, syrup glistening over my waffle.
There were huge covered serving trays filled sausages, scrambled eggs, and thinly sliced potatoes.
"What are those green bits?" I inquired of the server in regard to the scrambled eggs. "Are they onions?
"It’s parsley, but there are onions in the eggs."
"Oh," I said, "I can’t eat them then, I am allergic to onions. Are there onions in the potatoes?"
"Yes," was the answer.
At this point I thought, "Oh well, I guess I will be feasting on fruit and breads then." I hadn’t even ventured to the table bursting with all manner of sweet rolls, tiny brioche, scones, and croissants on the opposite wall. But then, Dear Readers, I heard the words, "Tell the chef to cook some eggs and potatoes without onions. We’ll bring them to your table in a few minutes." I was a little astonished. I hadn’t asked for this. I hadn’t even thought to ask for this and yet it was offered. How very lovely. And, not only did they bring two huge plates of scrambled eggs and potatoes to my table, they also later inquired if the food was to my liking. It was very nice and it was much appreciated.
After the meal there was ample time to wander around the Club taking in the history, the artwork and the general atmosphere. I would imagine the Castmembers found us somewhat comical, as there were so many cameras, it looked like a paparazzi convention. Everyone, it seemed, wanted to make sure they documented their visit by snapping as many shots as possible of all the famous treasures of Club 33.
Castmembers, acting as escorts for the tour, were on hand to chat and point out the various artifacts of the Club. Of note was the vulture in the trophy room that would have talked to the guests, the table that was in the movie, Mary Poppins, and the glass enclosed phone booth from the movie Happiest Millionaire.
When it was time to leave Club 33, we broke into three color-coded groups and began the descent back down the stairs to the real world and on to the streets of New Orleans Square. Standing outside, surrounded like a rock star mobbed by fans, was Cynthia Harriss, president of the Disneyland Resort. Everyone wanted to say hello to her, and I, Dear Readers, was no exception. Before I could introduce myself, a tall, boy-next-door type, young man from our group approached her, "Hi, I’m one of your Castmembers," he said. Although I’m sure she had somewhere to rush off to, Ms. Harriss was quite personable and stopped everything to talk to this young man. She grabbed his hand and asked where in the park he worked. She seemed genuinely interested to meet him and hear what he had to say as she treated him with warm regard.
It was really quite sweet—both the young man’s approach to Ms. Harriss and her response to him. I was glad to be of witness to it. Sometimes, my feeling is that Disney is this big money making machine with no humanity. This kind of thing gives the big machine humanity and heart.
She treated me with no less regard as I introduced myself and told her I work for MousePlanet. She asked what I had written and when I told her the articles about the Toad and Cinderella events she quickly inquired if I would be at the Divas Event. "Yes, I can’t wait, " I said.
"It’s going to be really good. I think you’re going to like it."
Again, I reiterated that I couldn’t wait, thanked her for her time and was off to rejoin my group led by Castmember Jennifer to Town Square on Main Street.
Each of the three groups was led to a different part of Disneyland for the first portion of the tour. Ours began in front of the floral planter by the flagpole on Main Street. I do have to interject into the story a bit to tell you, Dear Readers, just how well organized the Disney folks were. I imagined we would walk around a lot and then stand and hear whatever it was to be said. The tour was much more civilized and comfortable than that, however. Chairs were set up for us to sit in and each of the three Imagineers was equipped with a microphone so the entire group could hear what was being said. Each gentleman was allotted approximately a half-hour to talk, followed by questions from the audience and a photo opportunity.
We meet Marty
After we settled in, Jennifer introduced Marty Sklar. He began by noting what a nostalgic location Main Street is for him. He started his career at Disneyland one month before the park opened in 1955. Next time you go to Disneyland have a look at the green door to the left of City Hall. That was Marty Sklar’s first office. At that time, it had a light post just outside the door, that said Police Station. The guests would come there and interrupt his work looking for security help so he tended to close the door. One day he left the door open and guests came in asking questions. After a while, he decided that was a good thing. It was Disneyland’s first year, leaving that door open helped to learn what the people wanted and how to respond to guest’s queries.
Marty also would spend time at the ticket windows that first summer. He overheard guests saying, "I want to go on the Mark Twain. I want to go on the Jungle Cruise and I want to go on the Flight To The Moon, but I don’t want to go on any of the rides."
He quickly deduced that people related rides to the old amusement parks—roller coasters and Ferris wheels—they knew that Disneyland was different because Walt sold he idea so well on TV. From then on, a whole new vernacular for theme parks came into being. The word ride left Marty’s vocabulary. It was replaced with words like adventures and experiences. Marty said that has lasted about 30 years, but lately he expressed the feeling that maybe the Disney folks are getting a little sloppy in their terms because that was one of the things that distinguished Disneyland, and people knew it was different right from the beginning.
Marty Sklar told so many more stories that I wish I had the space to tell them all to you, Dear Readers. If I did however, this column would go on for days and I wouldn’t get to Rolly Crump and Sam McKim. And, that would be tragic. So, I will tell you one more of Marty’s stories, my favorite one, and we’ll move on.
Is that the way you see me or do I really look like a gargoyle?
Herb Ryman had the reputation of working rather slow. The reason for this wasn’t because he was actually slow. In fact, when he got down to it, he was pretty fast. He just took a long time to contemplate what he was doing before he actually did it. One of the predominate things in Herb Ryman’s house was his large collection of books. He used these books for research to decide exactly what the objectives were on any project he worked on. When Herb Ryman died, his sister gave his book collection to WDI (Walt Disney Imagineering).
When Imagineering started work on WDW (Walt Disney World), Herb Ryman was given the job of coming up with a design for the castle. Marty Sklar was assigned by Dick Irvine (the head of WED Enterprises until 1973) to get Herb to finish the task in a timely manner. Marty kept after Herb constantly and yet Herb came up with nothing. Finally one day, Herb asked Marty why he was bothering him about the illustration.
"Well, I’ve been ordered by Dick Irvine to get you to close your door and do the illustration."
The next few days Herb closed his door all right. There was a catch though, he wasn’t in the office, he was out wandering around. Finally Marty said, "Herbie, you know you’re holding up the whole project because you have no design for what the castle is."
"Okay," Herb said, "Come back Friday."
The following Friday Marty came back to get the illustration. He was a little surprised that it was an illustration of Marty as a gargoyle on the castle clutching his scripts to his breast and spewing out verbs and nouns. "Oh…….This is lovely. Herbie, I can’t show this to anybody."
"Okay, come back next Wednesday."
Two days later Herb Ryman came up with the illustration for the beautiful Cinderella Castle that we see at Walt Disney World today.
And that gargoyle illustration? Marty Sklar still has it. It is one of his proudest possessions.
It all started with a propeller
We moved on to our next location—Small World Mall, where more seats were arranged for us and Imagineer Rolly Crump waited. I must confess Dear Readers, he was my favorite. I know, I know, just as a mother says she loves all her children equally just different, I should profess enjoyment of each of the Imagineers. But I just can’t help myself, Rolly was fun. I had the distinct impression that if you were a co-worker of his, he was the one who would get you into trouble with his schemes, but the ride to trouble would be worth the suffering.
In the late 50’s Rolly Crump left his job as head dipper with a pottery factory for a job at the Disney studios as an Inbetweener. The job paid half the amount that the head dipper paid. Rolly listened to his dreams took a second job on the weekends to pay the bills and stuck with Disney and the rest is history.
In animation, you have a head animator, a breakdown man and an inbetweener. The Head Animator draws the crucial drawings of the scene, the Breakdown man does the main drawings in between that may contain special drawing problems and the Inbetweener makes the remaining drawings to finish the scene.
Animators are a playful lot. They like to make toys, play practical jokes, and generally have a good time. Walt encouraged this. The play makes the work better. One day, Rolly strolled into Wathel Rogers (artist and sculptor with the Disney studios) office where he spotted a small propeller. Rolly was intrigued and Wathel would not share with Rolly how he had made this propeller. Rolly spent the next six weeks trying to figure out how to duplicate the propeller. Finally Wathel consented to sell him the design…for a penny and Rolly made his own propeller.
He proudly displayed it on his desk when a guy from the art department spotted it and wanted to know how to make one. Rolly was a little more benevolent than Wathel, he didn’t charge for the design. Unfortunately, the guy made a better propeller than Rolly and this set Rolly off. He spent the next six months occasionally working on his inbetweens with his main objective being to fill his entire office with propellers.
Ward Kimball saw the room filled with propellers and remarked to Walt, "You gotta go see this guy’s propellers." Walt took a look. His response to Ward was, "We ought to get that kid to come and work with us on the Disneyland project.
In 1959 Rolly joined WED (which changed its name to Walt Disney Imagineering in 1986) and it was all because of a little propeller.
In addition to designing the illusions for the Haunted Mansion and developing It’s A Small World, Rolly also worked on the Enchanted Tiki Room. His story about the origins of the idea for the Tiki Room was amusing. Originally, it was supposed to be a restaurant. Walt said he wanted to do a little Tiki tearoom in Adventureland. John Hench worked on a concept drawing and came up with the idea of birds suspended above in their cages. Walt took a look at the rendering and said, "John, you’ve got birds in there."
"You can’t have birds in there."
"They’ll poop in the food."
At this point Rolly paused to assure us that Walt really said that.
John Hench carried on with his proposal, "No, they’re not real birds. They’re stuffed birds."
"Disney does not stuff birds," Walt countered.
"No, no, no, they look stuffed. They’re little mechanical birds that cheep."
"Oh, little mechanical birds that cheep? Maybe they could cheep back and forth to each other."
And that, Dear Readers is how the Tiki Room was born.
One more Rolly Crump story before I move on (for a Rolly Crump Haunted Mansion story read my report on 1999’s Haunted Mansion Event). I think it illustrates why things were achieved with a little more expedience than they are today.
Rolly was assigned to design the pre-show Tiki Gods. The first piece of sculpture he ever did was the God of Time, Maui. All the pre-show tikis were sculpted in a parking lot at WED and then shipped to Disneyland to be cast in fiberglass. After casting, they were shipped back to Rolly to be painted. When he finished that, he took them to Disneyland, got out a wrench and installed them himself. "If you were to have that done today," he told us, "you’d probably have about 50 people. There’d be renderings done and then engineering done. In those days, we did what ever it took to do it."
Rolly was such a good storyteller that there was no time for questions or pictures and he really left my group craving for more. As we were heading out to our next destination, we ran into Cynthia Harriss again. I said to her, "This is a wonderful event. Disneyland did a great job on it and I just have to tell you what a marvelous storyteller Rolly Crump is. He needs to write a book. In fact, we need a Rolly Crump Event." She concurred with my thoughts and said, "He’s going to be at the Divas event."
The very first wall map
Our last stop was overlooking the Rivers of America near the Haunted Mansion. Sam McKim was waiting for us and clearly seemed to be enjoying his role at the event, as he didn’t even wait for Castmember Jennifer to introduce him before he launched into his talk.
Sam graduated from Chouinard (now CalArts, an art school funded by Disney). He talked about the projects he worked on--sketches for the original Frontierland, Main Street, and Fantasyland. At one point he drew complimentary thank you sketches that Roy E. Disney would send out. He did sketches for the Golden Horseshoe and Fort Wilderness on Tom Sawyer Island. Perhaps his most famous work is the original map for opening day at Disneyland. He had some examples of his work that he passed around for us to look at.
Sam had a Walt story to tell. He said that Walt was not one to heap accolades on the artists that worked for him. If he said to you, "It’ll work," it was high praise. Sam thought that the best compliment Walt could give anyone who worked for him was the fact that they were still working for him.
I think perhaps the group was tired at this point. We were required to be in line at 6:15 AM so by the time Mr. McKim asked if there were any questions I think we were all brain dead. We had no questions. He filled the void with stories of his family. His sons and daughter-in-law continue the legacy with work for Disney. Then, he graciously posed with anyone who wanted to take a picture and talked a bit more to those who lingered about. My impression of Sam McKim was that he is nice, kind, sweet, and definitely a gentleman, who also just happens to be a talented artist.
Besides that, he complimented me on my choice of attire, so he’s okay in my book.
The morning concluded up in the Disney Gallery with the exhibit of Herb Ryman’s work. Do have a look at it if you go to Disneyland. It’s rather nice. It also includes the work of some of his students, Eric Robison among them. The quotes from the students give you the feeling that Herb was quite a guy.
I did forget to mention... there was shopping. There’s always shopping, it’s Disney.
The Disney folks handled this one with flair too. I hear there were a few problems with the first two Saturdays of this event, but I did not see any evidence of that. My experience was, well let’s use Disney vernacular, shall we? My experience an E ticket all the way. There was no big push to sell stuff. It was there if you were interested, easily ignored if not. At Club 33 a list of available purchases was discreetly placed on the table. You checked off what you wanted, signed your name, address, and credit card number, and handed it to one of the Castmembers. At the conclusion of the event, it was all waiting, neatly packaged for you up on the patio of the Disney Gallery. No sweat. No pain. No lost orders. It was lovely.
I spent too much money.
But then again, how often does one get to dine at Club 33? And you know everything tastes better in a Club 33 glass.
The Ryman-Carroll Foundation is located at:
315 West Ninth Street #201
Los Angeles, CA 90015
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