About the Column

The best way to learn Disney history is to get it from the people who helped make it. Rolly Crump made a lot of Disney history.

Rolly was hired by Walt Disney Studios in 1952 to work as an artist and animator on such classic movies as Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, Sleeping Beauty, and 101 Dalmations. In 1959, Rolly joined WED ('Walter Elias Disney'), the original name for Walt Disney Imagineering. At WED, Rolly became one of the chief designers for such classic attractions as Haunted Mansion, Enchanted Tiki Room, and It's a Small World.

Rolly worked closely with Walt Disney for many years. The friendship between the two men and Rolly's long tenure with the company puts him in an increasingly rare position: he can relate important episodes of early Disney history first-hand, and he can do so without notes or sources because he experienced it himself.

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FROM: The Truth of the Matter Is Published Mondays

Rolly Crump on Bob Gurr, Part 2

The "synergistic process" is an important element of Disney magic. Imagineers didn't work in isolation. Each drew from the talents of the others. Sometimes there was even a bit of "ghost designing", as in Rolly's second tale of working with Bob Gurr.

Walt asked me one day what I was going to put on the platform in front of It's a Small World.

I didn't have any ideas, so he said: "Why don't you put a clock out there?"

I liked that idea, and I began thinking about how such a clock would work. I imagined the panels coming around sort of like the laundry racks at the dry cleaners: the rack would come rumbling by and there were your pants or your shirt.

I wanted to do that with time. Instead of laundry, panels of "time" - one o'clock, two o'clock - would come by on a conveyor belt.

When I told the engineer what I wanted done, he began designing all sorts of tricky stuff, and it got to the point that he was talking his technical language, which I didn't "speak".

He'd tell me something, and then I'd have to get hold of Bob Gurr, who had an engineering background, and ask him to translate.

Bob knew what I was trying to do with the clock and agreed with it. He told me: "Call that guy back and tell him so-and-so". The engineer understood exactly what I said, and we all kept on like this, with Gurr as the translator, throughout the project. In a sense, Bob was the 'ghost designer' of the Small World clock, since he worked through me to get it done.

The engineer, however, thought it was mostly his work, since he never realized that Bob was involved.

Bob Gurr was my favorite person to work with at Disney. We always got along and had great times no matter the project.

If you'd like to hear a few stories directly from Rolly himself, buy 'A Walk in the Park with Rolly Crump', an hour-long audio tour available from Kenbow Communications in which Rolly takes you for a stroll down Disneyland's Main Street through the areas of the park that he had a hand in creating. It's the best $4.95 you'll ever spend.

You can also hear on iTunes Rolly's interview with DisneyDispatch columnist Jeff Heimbuch on iTunes for free (or download it if you don't have iTunes), and you can read an excerpt of it in a recent installment of Jeff's column, From the Mouth of the Mouse.