...

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Walt Disney and the State of the Company in 1966

By Keith Mahne




Today we have something really special to share with you. Something that will allow us to return to the Walt Disney Company back in early 1966. Walt and the Company were riding on cloud nine. Everything was going as planned and so many projects were taking shape, such as the Florida Project and the Mineral King one as well. The Sherman Brothers just signed a new contract, Walt's appearance on the Jack Benny Show was a huge hit, and Disneyland's Tencennial was still going strong. There were so many incredible things taking place for Walt that was all captured in the 1966 edition of The Disney World magazine that we are about to see. Join us today as we revisit Walt and the state of the Company in 1966...

When I recently came across this December 1965 - January 1966 edition of The Disney World magazine I was reminded just how amazing it must have been to be a part of the Walt Disney Company back then. Not only that, imagine how Walt must have felt during this time in his life! Everything he was touching was turning to gold and everyone was jumping at the chance to work with the master of imagination himself. Let's check out this fantastic edition of the magazine and really get a grasp on exactly what was going on during this time in Disney history...








Before we get into this edition of The Disney World magazine, I think it's important for you to know exactly what the magazine was intended for. Although it is no longer in print, the concept of the magazine was extraordinary. You see, Walt and Roy felt that every area of their Company, specifically different departments and important new developments, be covered in one place for the employees of the Disney Company. They wanted a place were they could also report on interesting people when interesting news came up. Perhaps the president of WED Enterprises or a new director or producer on an upcoming film for the studio. The Disney World magazine was an in-house publication designed as a means of improving communication within the Disney company, but its goal was to remain interesting and informative. And judging by today's issue we are about to see, it definitely hit its goal...




(Click on each page to enlarge)




We begin our look back with this first article that talks about the 1966 Rose Parade. The parade's grand marshal that year was our very own Uncle Walt, along with Mickey Mouse, of course. The theme of the parade was It's A Small World. At that time, the It's A Small World attraction had already entertained millions of visitors at the 1964-65 New York World's Fair and was scheduled to open later that year at Disneyland in Anaheim...








Next we see the discussion of the Florida Project and even get one of the very first views of what will soon be Walt Disney World taken from the window of Walt's airplane...





View of a newly acquired WDW property as pictured above.




Up next we get some wonderful insight about Walt's lead-ins ranging from the hit shows Disneyland to Wonderful World of Color. In 1966, Walt was more popular than ever and people loved his cleaver lead-ins to some of the best family entertainment ever to grace a television set...








Unfortunately, much like his original plans for EPCOT, Walt's spectacular Mineral King project never made it to reality and you can read more about that HERE. During this time in history, Walt had just received word that his plans for a $35,000,000-plus resort slated for Mineral King, California had been accepted by the Department of Agriculture and the United States Forrest Service. Keep in mind that he just announced his $100,000,000-plus Florida Project! Yeah, it was good to be Walt in 1966...








When I think of a Disneyland Ambassador during the mid-1960s, Julie Reihm immediately comes to mind. But did you know that Julie was eventually replaced by a new ambassador of Disneyland during late 1965 named Connie Jean Swanson? I learn something new every day! Below, we see Connie meeting with Walt and the "world of Disney." We even learn how much guests were paying to experience Walt's magical Disneyland attractions. In fact, 6.3 million guests visited the park and paid over 58 million dollars in A thru E tickets...








Below we see some special groups of newsman from the national media that Walt brought in on the company's Gulfstream for Disneyland's Tencennial. They were all given tours of Disneyland, the Studio and WED (Imagineering today)! What I would give to be on one of those trips...








Next up we see two very special articles. The first announces that the Sherman Brothers have just extended their contract with Walt for another 3 years. The Sherman's mom and dad were even on hand for the big extension signing. After that we get some wonderful insight on Walt's recent appearance on the Jack Benny Show. More on that after the article...








Walt Disney's appearance on the Jack Benny Show is one of my all time favorite clips of Walt. As the article states, "Walt made an unannounced and hilarious appearance on an NBC special, "outbennying" his host, Jack Benny...". Walt was great during the show. He played his role perfectly and even outperformed Jack. See for yourself...








Next up is a great little segment featuring Walt with Arthur Alligham. Walt has just discovered that there are streets in London named Disney Place and Disney Street...








This section of the magazine gives us a rare glimpse at Walt with the Florida delegation and Disney's Florida legal counsel taken during a meeting at the Studio on Project Florida. Basically, these are the men that granted Walt with special rules and tax breaks that he wanted in order to create his dream of EPCOT, the city. Because of Walt and his meetings with the men below, Walt Disney World is pretty much its own country, which the company governs primarily free of Florida law, code and certain taxes even to this day...








Here is a great shot of the gigantic Disneyland drum Mickey loved to bang...








This next part I really enjoy. The first section discusses what The Disney World magazine is all about. After that, we see a rare photo of Walt's Beachcraft King Air (perhaps used to shuttle Walt to and from Palm Springs although this is just speculation and hasn't been confirmed) that was taken from his Gulfstream as it flies over the Studio for a great view below...








Finally, we see the official insignia of the 77th Annual Tournament of Roses, prepared by Walt Disney Studios, and featuring a gorgeous "It's A Small World" design...








As we wrap up this fantastic edition of The Disney World magazine and the unique look at the state of the Disney Company in late 1955 to early 1966, it's easy to see how Walt was literally on top of the world. All of his greatest dreams were coming true. The approval of the Mineral King project, the announcement of the Florida Project, the extension of the Sherman Brothers contract, being the grand marshal of the Rose Parade, knowing he would be free of Florida code and tax so that he could properly construct his community of tomorrow... things couldn't have been better for the old mousetro.

As heartbreaking as it is to remember, in just 12 short months, the magic would step aside and reality would set in. Sadly, his passing was only a year away. Could you imagine if he had 10 more years?! My God, the things he would have done! I have no doubt that the way we now travel, live, work and play would be drastically different... and for the better! All because of a man who wasn't afraid to dream... and dream BIG. We all love and miss Walt Disney and this special moment in time for him and the Company he created. May we never forget him and may we never forget to dream as he once did. Here's to you Uncle Walt...











******








Keith Michael Mahne is the owner and editor of Disney Avenue and the host of the Disney Avenue Podcast. He has made countless trips to the Walt Disney World resort since his first trip in 1989 at the age of four. Keith has a strong passion and respect for Walt Disney, the parks and resorts, and the men and women who help create them. He started Disney Avenue as a way to inform and entertain readers and to repay all those who make dreams come true every day.

No comments:

Post a Comment