A Word from Walt

by Wade Sampson, staff writer
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I was recently in a discussion with someone who knew Walt very closely for over 30 years. We were discussing whether Walt actually wrote the prayer statement I shared in an earlier column ("The Gospel According to Walt," February 14, 2007) because over the years, other hands were involved in crafting Walt's words—from Joe Reddy, who was in charge of publicity at the Studios, to Jack Speirs, who wrote many of the introductions for the television show, to Marty Sklar, who wrote some of Walt's presentations.

We agreed that no matter who was doing the wordsmithing of Walt's thoughts, that the bottom line was that Walt had to approve the final copy and the more it sounded like him, the more likely it was to get approved. In the case of the prayer, I particularly felt that another writer would not have included the paragraph about DeMolay.

One of the most popular columns I have written was the one where I pulled Walt quotes from magazine and newspaper interviews ("In Walt's Words," September 27, 2006). I think one of the reasons for its popularity was that these quotes usually don't appear when someone is looking for a Walt quote to use in a story or to make a point. We are all pretty familiar with the standard quotes.

I am putting together another column of Walt quotes from magazines and newspapers but while I labor on that project, I thought I would also share some of the introductions that Walt has done for training manuals and books. We often forget that no matter how other hands might have crafted Walt's words for these publications that they were still the thoughts and feelings of Walt.

Van France and Dick Nunis were in charge of developing the early training program for Disneyland and were responsible for the creation of Disney University so their handiwork is probably in these two early introductions but there is much more of Walt himself.

First, here is the introduction for the very first Disneyland training manual, from 1955, entitled A Guide for Hosts and Hostesses (24 pages):

Welcome to Disneyland

To make the dream of Disneyland come true took the combined skills and talents of hundreds of artisans, carpenters, engineers, scientists and craftsmen.

The dream that they build now becomes your heritage. It is you who will make Disneyland truly a Magic Kingdom and a happy place for the millions of guests who will visit us now and in the future years.

In creating happiness for our guests, we hope that you will find happiness in your work and in being an important part of Disneyland.

– Walt Disney

Seven years later, here is Walt's introduction (dated May 15, 1962) from the Disneyland Training Guide:

Hello there!

I'd like to welcome you to Disneyland.

What you do here and how you act is very important to our entire organization and the many famous names of American business represented among our exhibitors.

You will learn in this guide about other branches of our Disney organization... and our world-wide reputation for family entertainment.

But here at Disneyland we meet our world public on a person-to-person basis for the first time.

Your every action (and mine also) is a direct reflection of our entire organization.

So it's vitally important all of us thoroughly understand our responsibilities... particularly our responsibility for guest relations and safety.

Think of it this way. For our guests from around the world, the curtain goes up on an all new show at Disneyland every day and you, as a host or hostess, are truly "on stage".

I know you will give a courteous and friendly performance.

Walt

The Mickey Mouse Club Circus opened on November 25, 1955, giving two 75-minute performances a day, including Christmas and New Year's Day. The original Mouseketeers performed in these shows, staged by Hal Adelquist, along with traditional circus acts coordinated by Ted DeWayne. While Walt Disney loved circuses, he quickly found that nobody came to Disneyland to see a circus, and the show closed in early January 1956 due to poor attendance.

The extremely rare printed program from that show featured this introduction from Walt:

Everyone loves a circus and I'm no exception. I've been fascinated by the clowns and the animals, the music and the excitement ever since I worked in one of these wonderful shows for a few days as a youngster.

While we've had a number of circus themes in our pictures through the years—you will remember Dumbo as an example—we've never had a real honest to goodness live circus until now. It seemed to us that Disneyland was just the right spot for one.

We are happy to present, in their first personal appearance, the Mouseketeers from the Mickey Mouse Club television show. And in the show, you will also see the old circus wagons we have collected—interesting show rigs which have rolled all over America and which are now restored to their original state.

I hope the Mickey Mouse Club Circus will add many pleasant memories to your visit to Disneyland. My best wishes to every one of you.

– Walt Disney

From 1965, here is Walt's introduction to the Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln Operating Guide. It was one of Walt's favorite attractions, even prompting him to offer free admission to children to see the presentation.

Most Americans will agree with me that no man has had more of a positive impact on a nation than Abraham Lincoln has on our Country. He is venerated not only in our land but in many other parts of the world. Yet I have always felt that too few people realize that Lincoln's concepts and philosophies are as useful, as necessary, as applicable today as they were when hepronounced them a century ago. His analysis of freedom and its true meaning, his approach to justice and equality, his own courage and strength—all areas vital in the 1960s as they were during the mid-1800s.

There are many fine statues of the great Civil War President and an even larger number of Lincoln portraits and photography. Many of us have spent memorable moments in theaters as some of our best actors have brought him to life on the stage or motion picture screen.

When we set out to select the speeches and writing for the monologue in the show, we decided to bypass the Gettysburg Address, even though its poetic qualities and poignant message are unexcelled. Because it is so familiar to nearly every American, we felt that it would not contribute significantly to our purpose—an in-depth, fresh presentation of Lincoln's principles, ideals and philosophies.

We hope the audiences in the Lincoln Theatre agree that we have achieved our goals. We believe it is much more than a new entertainment medium or art form; it is a different and exciting way to stress history's importance to each of us and the applicability of its lessons to everyday lives.

It wasn't just training publications at Disneyland that benefited from Walt's words. Several books feature forewords and introductions.

Kids Say the Darndest Things (Prentice Hall, October 1957) was written by Art Linkletter. The original hardcover sold over 300,000 copies and was reissued as Cardinal Pocket Book edition in 1959. "Quips, Slips and Shockers compiled by Art Linkletter from his fabulous 'House Party Program" proclaimed the cover.

The book was illustrated by Charles Schulz, famous even then for his Peanuts comic strip. (Pick up the Pocket Book edition if you want to see the back cover where the heads of Bob Hope, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Jack Benny and Bob Cummings are put on Charles Schulz bodies).

The introduction was by Walt Disney. The Linkletters were close friends of the Disneys. At one point, Walt's daughter, Sharon, was dating Art's son, Jack, and the two fathers like medieval kings contemplated that possible union might result in the combining of two entertainment dynasties. That romance ended but the Linkletters remained close to the Disney family, with Art contributing to many Disney projects over the years.

Here is part of Walt's introduction to Art's book:

Somewhere among the hundreds of amusing anecdotes in the Linkletter collection every reader is sure to find one that is reminiscent of his own youth or the confidences of his sons or daughters.

Here is the exciting play of fanciful imagination, of lively curiosity, of the need to find out, to seem wise beyond their years. Here is the nonsense that sometimes make strange sense, the quick inventions, the unconscious witticisms—the wonderful, intimate revelation of childhood in honest, funny, sometimes pathetic sayings about itself.

It is a shame that we must lose this forthright honesty, this searching curiosity, this drive of the imagination toward great deeds, exciting adventure, knowledge, achievements to win fame and honors and pleasure, in the process of ‘growing up".

These are the qualities which the inventors retain, men like Edison, Fulton, Dr. Forest—artist, poets, musicians, scientists, naturalists. The natural heritage of children.

Age has nothing to do with it; I mean the actual years. It is the conventions, the expected staid behavior of adults, the embarrassment at being thought 'childish', which finally cramps down our imaginative flights and inventive curiosity.

I myself have been flattered by the reputation for never having quite grown up...Well, if I ever was a potential champ in this respect, I now willingly hand the crown over to Art.

I believe he is on close confidential terms with more youngsters than any other man of our day. He had done us all a fine service in publishing this record of what our children believe and the happy way in which they let us back into their world of wonders and magic—that blessed place and state of being of which a great writer has said: 'Heaven lies about us in our infancy.'

Finally, I have written in the past about the horticultural heritage of Disney ("Horticultural Heritage," February 7, 2007) and with the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival still fresh in my mind, let's end this installment with an introduction that Walt wrote for the book Disneyland World of Flowers by Morgan "Bill" Evans (1965 Walt Disney Productions):

This is the story of the landscape of Disneyland.

In a sense, Disneyland is a stage—a most unusual stage. Members of the Disneyland audience, unlike the audience at a motion picture or a Broadway show, do not simply look on. They participate in the drama, the adventure or comedy.

They walk onto the stage. They move through the sets. They touch the props. They examine the set dressings. And so sets, props and dressings must be authentic.

At Disneyland, a jungle must have a jungle landscape. The Rivers of America must be banked by trees which are indigenous to American rivers. And a Living Desert must, in truth, appear as a living desert.

To achieve the right effect, our Disneyland landscape architects combined their talents with those of builders and maintenance personnel and created a believable and authentic scene of nature's own design.

In giving credit for the landscaping at the Park, it is impossible to mention all who have contributed. Special plaudits are due to Ruth Patricia Shellhorn for her design of the formal Victorian plan for Main Street, the Town Square and the Plaza. The trees and shrubs she selected in the spring of 1955 are still used. The late Jack Evans, to whom this book is dedicated, worked mightily to create authentic and delightful landscapes throughout the Park. Morgan Evans, a third generation horticulturist and brother of Jack Evans, has been supervising landscape architect at Disneyland since 1956.

This book by Morgan Evans is the story of the living scenery at Disneyland. it is also a guide for those who wish to take a landscape tour of the Park's unique international botanical collection.

More words from Walt to come in the future and maybe some of these forgotten thoughts will start appearing in other people's articles in the future instead of some of those well-worn phrases that we always see.