...

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Interview with Walt Disney Incarnate David Skipper - Part III

By Ron Baxley




When actor David Skipper performs as Walt Disney in one man shows, he seemingly becomes him. See David Skipper become Walt Disney incarnate in a three part series of interviews by Disney Avenue contributing writer Ron Baxley, Jr. in which David not only discusses Walt and his own life but will actually transform into him before your very eyes. This time around David discusses Walt Disney’s background in television and portrayals of him in film, television, and documentation that shows how Walt was in real life affects his performances. Join us today for the final interview with Walt Disney incarnate David Skipper...



Interview with Walt Disney Incarnate David Skipper - Part I

Interview with Walt Disney Incarnate David Skipper - Part II




Review the treat that is David Skipper performing as Walt Disney...








You will remember from the second article in the series on David Skipper portraying Walt Disney nationwide: Colorado actor David Skipper, a native Floridian who visited Walt Disney World for most years of his life, has toured the country for 30 years in one man shows portraying many creative people, including J.M Barrie, Charles Dickens, H.G. Wells, L. Frank Baum, and, of course, of most interest to Disney Avenue and its fans, Walter “Walt” Elias Disney. The late Walt Disney (or Uncle Walt as he has been known for many years) has been a life-long interest for Mr. Skipper. Continue to read in the third article in the series by Disney Avenue contributing writer Ron Baxley, Jr. as David discusses Walt Disney’s background in television and portrayals of him in film, television, and documentation that shows how Walt was in real life affects his performances. (NOTE: Some of Mr. Skipper’s opinions about aspects of the Disney Corporation and its theme-parks are not ones that are all shared by contributing writer Ron Baxley, Jr. nor Disney Avenue)


TELEVISION VIEWING OF WALT DISNEY BECOMES REALITY…

1) One photo shows you as Walt Disney with the World of Color background with his Disneyland show that went to color. Are you old enough to have seen Walt Disney on television when he was alive? Did this have any effect on your performance? Did you see him on the Disney Channel during reruns in the early 80s?

I grew up with the “Mickey Mouse Club, Zorro, Disneyland, The Wonderful World of Disney” and “The Wonderful World of Color.”  Sunday night was family TV night in our household. I remember watching “Flipper”, which was on just before The Wonderful World of Color. Walt Disney was like a member of the family. I also remember when we got our first color television set. Walt insisted on filming all his shows in color. He had the foresight to know that people would buy color television sets. I did not follow the Disney Channel reruns during the early 80s, as I was focused on training programs for the Florida Department of Corrections. I did produce a number of training films during this time that included Hostage Negotiations, Surveillance Techniques, Verbal and Non-Verbal Communications, Courtroom Preparation and Presentation, and others.

Seeing many of his appearances on the Disney Treasures DVD series was one of the inspirations for me bring Walt back to life for interested audiences.


“Television is an ‘open sesame’ to many things.”

- Walt Disney


DAVID PLUS-SIZES HIS PERFORMANCE… AND NOT THE COSTUME!...

2) Walt Disney was fond of encouraging his employees to do something called plusing. If something looked good, he would push them to make it excellent, etc. and gave it the aforementioned positive name. Do you explain the process of plusing in your show?

Yes, I often cover plusing and weiners!  Walt would motivate his team to take their work to another level. He challenged them to see what was possible, and then take it a step further…and then a step beyond that. Taking it from good to great to mind-blowing.
A weiner on the other hand is a visual enticement.  For example, as you enter Main Street USA in Disneyland or Walt Disney World, you see in the distance, a castle.  Tomorrowland’s weiner used to be the TWA Moonliner.

When Walt was working on four shows for the 1964-65 World’s Fair in New York, the Carousel of Progress needed an extra punch.  Walt plussed the attraction by adding a weiner, the dog we first see as the stage rotates to each new scene.

"The park means a lot to me in that it's something that will never be finished. Something that I can keep developing, keep plussing and adding to—it's alive. It will be a live, breathing thing that will need changes.”

- Walt Disney




(Source: David Skipper) David as Walt Disney shares the inspiration for audio-animatronics, an antique, wind-up mechanical bird




DAVID PULLS NO PUNCHES ON THE PUNCHIER SIDE OF DISNEY…

3) Walt Disney was a smoker (something he allegedly tried to hide to stop kids from getting into it because of his influence) and could get impatient with his staff at times and cuss at them according to some sources. Do you ever show Disney as smoker and as sometimes having a temper? Do you show another side to him?

I enter the stage with loud footsteps and a prominent cough and will perhaps cough throughout my monologue. I tell the audience it’s how I let my staff know I am coming. I always have a scotch mist sitting on stage and refer to ‘my fairy godmother Hazel’ is looking after me. Hazel George was the studio nurse. I only have a temper, as Walt, if in the Q&A someone asks about the studio strike in 1940 or raises a question about the party Disney put on for his staff after the completion of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” There are two sides to every story, but I tend to take Walt’s side of the story.  Compared to Warner Brothers and MGM animation sweatshops, Disney was the cream of the crop.

One story I remember is one animator decided to bring in a seat cushion for his chair at his animation table. Then everybody wanted one. So Walt provided them each with seat cushion. Then another animator brought in a second seat cushion, then everybody wanted a second seat cushion. Walt thought, ‘where will this stop?’ So he said one cushion.


“I got the reputation for being anti-labor and I’ve never been anti-labor in my life.  I’d say I’ve been more pro cartoon industry, pro-staying alive.  I had unions in there from the time I started the studio.”

- Walt Disney


DAVID DICTATES DISNEY’S DAYDREAMER QUALITIES…

4) How do you convey the imaginative qualities of Walt Disney? Do you make him appear more wistful?

I simply present Walt for what he is, a storyteller, and as Ray Bradbury called him an optimal behaviorist. This is achieved through reminiscences of his childhood exploits, adventures as a news butcher, his World War I experiences and the highs and lows of his career that made him a better optimist, a better person. -Something we need a lot more of today.

As a storyteller myself, this is easy for me to do. He has a child-like wonder that serves as an inspiration to us all. We desperately need someone like Walt and Ray Bradbury to help us cope with these troubling times.


“People say I still have the innocence of a child.  Maybe I have.  I still look at the world with wonder, and with all living things I have a terrific sympathy.  It was the most natural thing in the world for me to imagine that mice and squirrels might just have feelings like mine.”

- Walt Disney


DAVID’S PERFORMANCE IS NO KIDDIE SHOW (WHO SAID DISNEY WAS ONLY FOR KIDS ANYWAY?)

5) Do you find that children or adults are more curious about Walt Disney? Has this changed at all through the years?

I have found that my show as Walt Disney appeals strictly to adults. I do not promote my show exclusively for children. My show is nostalgic and recreates the imagination of yesterday’s tomorrow. The children of today only know the brand Disney. They do not know who Walt was or what he stood for.  Some may think he is a brand character like Col. Sanders and Kentucky Fried Chicken. Walt Disney always stood for quality family entertainment, but The Company, as I refer to it now, has become an unwieldy conglomerate interested only in the bottom line.  That is why I thought it important to create a Chautauqua program about Walt Disney, so people could see who this creative man really was, a once-in-a-lifetime dreamer who brought his dreams to life.


“The truth of the matter is, I try to make movies to please my own family.  We don’t aim at children specifically.  When does any person stop being part child?”

- Walt Disney


DAVID DISHES ON OTHERS’ DISNEYS…

6) You mentioned having seen “Walt Before Mickey”, and I think I read on social media that you have seen “Saving Mr. Banks.” What do you think about the actor’s performance on Walt in “Walt Before Mickey”? Did you study it? How about Tom Hank’s portrayal of Walt Disney in “Saving Mr. Banks”? What did you think of it?

I think the adaption of the book “Walt Before Mickey” was a great independent film and was spot on about Walt’s career in Kansas City in early animation.  “Saving Mr. Banks” was more fiction than fact. The story was more about P.L. Travers’ journey. Walt had been after the rights to the Mary Poppins book since the late 30s. But Travers would not budge. She did not want her book turned into a cartoon. Roy Disney did most of the negotiations over the next 20 years and finally got Travers to relent.

I think Tom Hanks did a wonderful job as Walt, but he was a secondary character.  In the scene, in which Disney greets Travers at Disneyland, never happened.  Walt went to Palm Springs and left Bill Walsh, Don DeGradi, and the Sherman Brothers to deal with her. She was a difficult person to deal with, but I think BBC commentator and author, Brian Sibley, who worked with her on a possible re-imagining of Mary Poppins, gave her a more even temperament. As an author, you take pride in your work and want to protect its integrity. “Mary Poppins” was Walt Disney’s greatest achievement. As P.L. Traver’s manager told her ‘you can deal with animated penguins while you shovel money into your bank account.’  It’s a matter of perspective. Sales of Traver’s Mary Poppins books increased considerably after the release of Disney’s film.




(Source: David Skipper) David Skipper has P.L. Travers and Mary Poppins-related props among his many other Disney props and collectibles that he uses during his one man show as Walt Disney

(Source: David Skipper) In addition to background on the film and stage versions of “Mary Poppins”, Mr. Skipper can also attest to the fact that famous children’s author Roald Dahl once had connections with Disney and worked on preparing a never-released animated production of “The Gremlins” with them long before the horrific comedy of the same name.



“Mary Poppins (1964) is a hit.  Everybody’s happy… but not me. I’m on the spot.  I have to keep trying to keep up to that level. And the way to do it is not to worry, not to get tense, not to think ‘I’ve got to beat Mary Poppins’. The way to do it is just to go off and get interested in some little thing, some little idea that interests me, some little idea that looks like fun.”

- Walt Disney


DAVID DESCRIBES DISNEY’S DISDAIN FOR CHEAP AMUSEMENTS…

7) Walt Disney had a love for Disneyland, a place he built where both adults and children could have found, in addition to his studio. He talked about sitting at a cheap, dirty amusement area one time while one of his daughters rode the ride. He wanted to create a different experience than this. Do you think he succeeded and why? How do you convey this enthusiasm by him for the Disneyland theme-park in your show?


The story goes… Walt would take his two daughters to the Griffith Park carousel for Saturday outings. They rode the carousel while he sat on a nearby park bench and munched on peanuts. He felt there should be a clean and safe environment parents could take their children to and enjoy with them. Now much of this was studio publicity. He had already been thinking hard about a park when model trains became his hobby. A studio tour grew into an ambitious theme park and Disneyland was born.

For Walt it was always about the next thing. In ‘Imagineering with Walt Disney”, I take the audience on a joy ride, sharing how each project he was involved with built a foundation for new and innovative projects. Animation to live action films.  Live action films to trains. Trains to Disneyland. Disneyland to Urban Development. Urban Development to EPCOT.


“I guess you could call it daydreaming, but that’s the way Disneyland was conceived.  A dream that grew into reality.”

- Walt Disney


DAVID DIGRESSES INTO DISNEY’S SO-CALLED “FOLLY”…

8) Walt Disney often acted out storyboards when explaining the stories for shorts or animated features to his employees. Do you do that during your one man show and how?

I convey the story about Walt sending all his animator’s out to dinner one night on his dime. They are to come back to the studio afterwards. They enter onto a stage with a single spotlight shining on Walt. For the next two hours he enthralls the animators with his story and vision of ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.’  He acts out all the parts.

I share a bit of this wonder in my show where I describe the scene when the evil queen, transformed into the old hag, presents Snow White with the ‘magic wishing apple.”


“We had decided there was only one way we could successfully do Snow White and that was to go for broke—shoot the works.  There would be no compromise on money, talent or time.  We did not know if the public would go for a cartoon feature, but we were darned sure that audiences would not buy a bad cartoon feature.”

- Walt Disney


DAVID SKIPPER HAS DISNEY DREAMS OF HIS OWN…

9) What are your aspirations for the Walt Disney one-man show? Do you have any other projects related to Walt Disney in mind?

I am indeed a one-man show. I do not have an agent and I market myself in small ways. I would like to make my Disney show more readily available throughout the country, but grants to allow for these types of programs are few and far between. I did have a contract for my Walt Disney show for the 2009 Ashland Chautauqua Festival in Ohio, but I had made plans to go to Europe.

If I were King of the Forest and won the lottery, I would love to write a musical about the life of Walt Disney. I think this idea has wide appeal and creative Imagineering potential, but The Company will never do this. They are stuck on raiding the Disney vaults and remaking everything and buying other people’s work, like the Star Wars and Marvel franchise.

The only film remake, to me which captured the genuine emotion and spirit of Walt Disney, was “Pete’s Dragon.” The original musical was off balance, but this remake tugged at the heart strings and made you cry. Walt would cry at emotional scenes in his films, and he would have approved of this film. I am going to a special screening of “Beauty and the Beast” soon. I just wish The Company would become more original and innovative like it once was.

Walt never wanted to do sequels, though I have found that people will argue with me.


“I’ve never believed in doing sequels.  I didn’t want to waste the time I had doing a sequel.  I’d rather be using that time doing something new and different.”

- Walt Disney, The Saturday Evening Post, 1956




(Source: David Skipper) Walt Disney (David Skipper) takes questions from the audience at Denver Comic Con, one of the largest pop culture events in the country, in 2016.




DAVID DOES DISNEY THE RIGHT WAY…

10) If there anything else not covered that you would like to add about your performance as Walt Disney or something else about Walt Disney you would like to reveal?


Through my performances, I enjoy the opportunity to engage the audience, provoke them to think and to read more about the characters I perform.

With Walt Disney, it’s about setting the record straight. -Dispelling those urban legends, myths and misconceptions and bringing the man to life. Yes, he could be a difficult boss. Beware the days the security gate called and said ‘Walt is wearing his bear suit today.’ He was a human being and I try to separate the icon from the creative genius to reveal the human being. It was a challenge for Walt. He said, “I am not Walt Disney, (pointing to a publicity photo) he is. He doesn’t smoke, drink, or curse like I do.”

Walt was a real human being and it is that individual, with all his dreams and foibles, that I try to interpret into a meaningful and thought provoking performance.

“The fun is in always building something.  After its built, you play with it a little and then your through.  You see, we never do the same thing twice around here.  We’re always opening new doors.”

- Walt Disney


Thank you for your elaborate, expansive answers to my interview questions, Mr. Skipper. Interviewing you has been an amazing three-fold journey. It has been comparable to sitting in front of television in the 80s watching classic “Wonderful World of Disney” episodes on The Disney Channel and comparable to reading biographies of Walt Disney, self-improvement books based on him, and reading countless articles about Disney Studios and animation when I as a creative writer who also loved to draw aspired to be a cartoonist and/or animator at one point in my own life. I have read a lot about Walt Disney and have seen many television programs and films in which he was shown in person or through actors’ portrayals. I can honestly and safely state that I learned quite a few things that I did not know about Walt Disney from this interview and was inspired by how you portray him and by your approach to life. Thanks again, gentleman, scholar, and actor.

- Ron Baxley, Jr.

Thank you for allowing me to share my passions.

- DAVID SKIPPER


For more information about David Skipper's performances and bookings, contact David at [email protected] or visit his FACEBOOK Page exclusively devoted to his one-man shows: https://www.facebook.com/PendarynProductions.



Interview with Walt Disney Incarnate David Skipper - Part I

Interview with Walt Disney Incarnate David Skipper - Part II






*******









S.C. native author and former 15-year educator Ron Baxley, Jr. has visited Disney World since he was three in 1978. His mother, Marleen Baxley, was originally from Jacksonville, Florida and had family there who facilitated going to Disney World. Ron has been invited as a guest author at Oz festivals and science fiction cons since 2010 and was recently awarded the honor of a lifetime membership by the International L. Frank Baum and All Things Oz Foundation in Chittenango, New York, birthplace of L. Frank Baum, in June for his lifetime Ozian achievements. Within the past year, Ron posted a social media article with photographs entitled simply “Dad and Disney” in which he compared a lifetime of experiences in the Magic Kingdom in Disney World with his Dad including his first-time experiences in Disneyland after attending as an authorial vendor at OzCon in San Diego in 2015. From having a plush Mickey Mouse as his favorite, earliest toy to watching Disney films, Ron has been a Disney fan as long as he has been a fan of “The Wizard of Oz.” If he is not occasionally traveling to the closest Disney Store outlet in Concord, N.C., he enjoys yearly trips to the Disney Parks and collects different types of Mr. Potato Heads there and elsewhere.


Ron recently went on board with Mad Hatter Adventures Company, a travel agency that specializes in Disney destinations, as a part-time outside sales contractor selling Disney vacation packages. Contact Ron at [email protected] for more information on Disney vacation packages and visit his Mad Hatter Adventures Facebook Page here.

Ron is an Oz, fantasy, science fiction, children's, and young adult author of 25 years and part-time correspondent/reporter for the Orangeburg “Times and Democrat” in Orangeburg, S.C. He has most recently had an article on Eugene and Eulie David, former M.G.M. Wizard of Oz “Munchkin” actors and brothers who lived in his hometown of Barnwell, S.C. published in the August - October 2016 issue of the glossy national magazine “Filmfax” after it appeared in three newspapers. He placed this article and a fictionalization of it as well as stories which followed his previously published Oz books in a brand new Oz fan-fic collection, After Th’Oz, available from Amazon. A full listing of his Oz, co-written Oz/Wonderland, fantasy, and science fiction books (some of which were traditionally published from Maple Creek Press) can be found by clicking here and information on his other projects and updates can be found at his author page, here.

You can find all of Ron's articles here.



No comments:

Post a Comment