Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Few Questions With: Rolly Crump

Today I am returning to the popular A Few Questions With segment as I recently got in touch with my favorite Disney Legend and past Imagineer Rolly Crump. Here is a quick biography of Rolly from the Disney Legend website:

“Words may not fully describe designer and Imagineer Rolly Crump. So to get a handle on this spirited, multi-talented Disney designer, think: Leonardo DiVinci's Universal Man.

A true "original," even among Imagineers, Rolly drew forth genius in others. Concept designer John Horny observed, "Rolly has a knack for bringing out the best in others. Trusting their talent, he encourages artists to push their creativity to the limits. It's a rare creative person who can let others run with the ball."

Show writer Jim Steinmeyer added, "The idea is king with Rolly. It doesn't have to be his vision, as long as it works."

Born February 27, 1930, in Alhambra, California, Rolly took a pay cut as a "dipper" in a ceramic factory to join Walt Disney Studios in 1952, and to help pay bills, built sewer man holes on weekends. He served as an in-between artist and later, assistant animator, contributing to "Peter Pan" (1953), "Lady and the Tramp" (1955), "Sleeping Beauty" (1959), and others.

In 1959, he joined show design at WED (Walter Elias Disney), Enterprises, now known as Walt Disney Imagineering. There, he became one of Walt's key designers for some of Disneyland's groundbreaking new attractions and shops, including Haunted Mansion, Enchanted Tiki Room, and Adventureland Bazaar.

Rolly served as a key designer on the Disney attractions featured at the 1964-65 New York World's Fair, including It's a Small World, for which he designed the Tower of the Four Winds marquee. When the attraction moved to Disneyland in 1966, Rolly designed the larger-than-life animated clock at the entrance, which sends puppet children on parade with each quarter-hour gong.

After contributing to the initial design of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Florida, and developing story and set designs for NBC's "Disney on Parade" in 1970, Rolly left the Company to consult on projects including Busch Gardens in Florida and California, the ABC Wildlife Preserve in Maryland, and Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey Circus World in Florida, among others.

He returned in 1976 to contribute to EPCOT Center, serving as project designer for "The Land" and "Wonders of Life" pavilions. He also participated in master planning for an expansion of Disneyland until 1981, when he again departed to lead design on a proposed Cousteau Ocean Center in Norfolk, Virginia, and to launch his own firm, the Mariposa Design Group, developing an array of themed projects around the world, including an international celebration for the country of Oman.

In 1992, Rolly returned to Imagineering as executive designer, redesigning and refurbishing the "CommuniCore" pavilion-turned-"Innoventions" and "The Land" pavilion.

Rolly Crump "retired" from The Walt Disney Company in 1996, but don't believe it. He's still breathing life into original ideas at his home in Fallbrook, California.”


Rolly is my absolute favorite Imagineer. I simply love the way he describes Walt and Disneyland. His use of words and hand motions and the way he talks just suck you into his stories. Here is a short video of Rolly discussing the Tower of the Four Winds and Walt: 

Rolly became a Disney Legend in 2004 and has a window on Main Street. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I have. And now a few questions with Rolly Crump:

  • How did you first hear of WED back in the day?

WED was created to design and build Disneyland in the early 50's.  When I was hired in Animation WED was on the Studio Lot and I was aware of it.

  •  What was your first studio week like?

My dream had always been to work for Disney.  The first week was spent learning about Animation and actually doing some "in between" stock work to get a feel for how it was done.

  • What was the best thing about working for WED back then?

Freedom; we had the freedom to imagine, design and create things that had never been done before.

  •      What’s your hope for the future of Imagineering?

That technology doesn't take the place of creativity.

  •  Do you trust this next generation with WDI?
       Yes, I do.

  •  Are you hopeful for new advances in technological availability or do you think we should get back to basics?
I think it should be a marriage of both.
  •  How does someone become an Imagineer in your opinion? What degree, what type of school etc…
Even before any formal training an artist needs to develop and expand his or her imagination.  Enrolling in a school like Cal Arts which carries on the Disney tradition of design.

  •  What is the best advice you could give someone wanting to become an Imagineer?
Be persistent, believe in yourself and don't be afraid to be different.

  •      Do you trust the current leadership of the Walt Disney Company?

Yes, I do.
  • How often do you visit the parks?

About once a year I visit Disneyland.
  • What changes, if any, would you like to see take place in the parks?

Eliminate the strollers.
  •  What was it like to be around Walt and what was the biggest thing you’ve taken away from that experience?

He always made you feel comfortable no matter who you were.  I learned that you have to believe in yourself and trust yourself and the people around you.
  • Besides all his accomplishments, what in your opinion was the number one thing that made Walt Disney so special to all of us today?

He was a visionary. He cared more about the product than the profit.
  • Finally, what was your fondest memory of you and Walt? 

How comfortable I always felt around him. I knew that he believed in me.  An example of that would be our collaboration on the Museum of the Weird project that was never built.
He saw my sketches and came up with a way for us to bring them to life and make them a part of the Haunted Mansion.

I would like to thank Rolly and Marie for taking the time to answer this questionnaire. Please feel free to leave comments below and let me know what you thought about this article and others as your feedback is greatly appreciated!!!

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