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

Fun with Mary Blair and Leota Toombs

Rolly Crump was supposed to be painting the Tiki birds with Leota Toombs. But it wasn't long before Rolly was painting Leota, and Leota was painting him. When it was over, Rolly told Leota to go home and tell her husband Harvey. She did.

Mary Blair, who helped design It's a Small World, used to dress wild: capes, boots, black tights. She had short blonde hair. Her look was so striking that Jack Fergis and I decided to build a 'Mary Blair doll' for Small World.

The faces in the characters that Mary drew were round, so Jack and I used jewels for the doll's eyes, and we dressed her in a Mexican poncho, black tights, and black boots - not much different from the clothes Mary usually wore. I did a caricature of her face and made her hair from yellow chicken feathers.

You can see that doll today in the Eiffel Tower at Disneyland's Small World.

We didn't just use our people as doll models. Sometimes, we put them in crystal balls. Anyone who passes through the Haunted Mansion will remember the face in the crystal ball: it was modeled on the face of Leota Toombs, who was re-hired by Disney in 1962 when I was working on the Adventureland Bazaar and the original Tiki Room.

Lee was kind of shy, and I was not. I always tried to have fun with the people around me. It wasn't long until Lee lost some of her shyness.

We were working together on some of the birds for the Tiki Room. I reached over and painted a little heart on Lee, and she reached over and painted a little heart on me. We liked that, and took a break from painting the birds to paint each other.

Lee was well-endowed, and so I painted a thin line that started beneath her blouse and continued all the way down to her big toe. I told her that when she saw her husband Harvey that night she should tell him: "Look what Rolly did to me".

She told him! It's a good thing he had a sense of humor, too.

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.