Disney EchoEar Mouseter
Joined: Aug. 2005
||Posted: June 04, 2006, 5:52 pm
When he himself started working on Disneyland in that warehouse, he was surprised to see Walt himself come in every day and talk with project managers. Then, to even more surprise, he saw Walt stop at different desks, asking questions about their work, getting their feedback. He was stunned when Walt stopped at his, not only to ask questions, but asking for HIS input, his opinions. He said even as we talked, I told myself to memorize every detail of it because I knew this was an important moment in my life.
That was only the first time he talked with Walt, who even though a strong manager and personality, would ask each person questions and feedback on all the details. He didn't manage from "on high", but got into the nitty gritty.
The famous picture of Walt Disney walking through Disneyland the night before it opened where his hands in his pockets: the photographer took that picture, then realized this wasn't a man enjoying his dream finally built and it wasn't a man worried what tomorrow would bring. It was a depressed man. So he ran up to Walt and asked if he was okay. Walt said he had gotten a call from Roy 2 hours before. Disneyland was an abject failure. They sent 15,000 invitations (I think it was 15 or 12). Only 2,000 responded. It was a bust.
The next day, of course, Disneyland overflowed with people. Despite all that went wrong that day, Walt knew it could be fixed and the park was a success.
Walt had 2 best friends; one of them was Art Linkletter. Later, in the 70s, the man I spoke with did a show with Art, and as they sat about the green room, he asked him 2 questions: what was your best investment decision and which was worst? Linkletter smiled at him and said, I know you're from Walt's co., so you know the 2nd. In those first weeks, when the park was already declared a hit, Walt walked Art around it again and said, because of friendship, he wanted to give Art half ownership of Disneyland. Linkletter refused, thinking the fad would fade. Walt insisted so Art made a compromise: he'd take the profits from the Kodak licensing, and only for 10 years. Linkletter said it was his worst decision ever -- giving up 50% of Disneyland! -- and the worst day ever was the one where his last check came from Kodak licensing.
Mr. Anderson said he had 2 favorite stories about Walt Disney and Disneyland. One is that Walt everyday would check the VIP list for DL, and if it was someone he wanted to personally greet and escort, he'd scoot down to the park. After awhile of this, Roy Disney suddenly realized his brother was getting to the park awfully quickly from their studio offices. Walt told him he had gotten a 1 man helicopter. Roy paled and scooted himself down to the hanger for it. He ordered it shut down and locked up; only he, not even his brother, could authorize it be used. When Walt protested, Roy said that he feared not only losing his brother in such a small (and appearing more dangerous) machine, but that Walt was too important. "NONE of us can afford to lose you. If you want to go down to the park whenever, fine. But take the limo!"
The other favorite story is: Billy Graham was coming to Disneyland and Walt said he'd escort him around. Graham's people said to Disney, We know you like to be called Walt. Mr. Graham likes to be called Bill, not Billy, by anyone not in his inner circle." So Walt met them, and very respectfully called him Bill. Graham was thrilled at this and said, "Mr. Disney..." but Walt cut him off. "I'm Walt talking to Bill." and then led them through Disneyland. At the end, Graham wasn't sure what to say, so he ended with, "You've built yourself a wonderful fantasy land here." Walt smiled and said, "You don't understand. The fantasy is out there." and he pointed outside of DL's gates. "In here, it's reality land."
When Mary Poppins did so well, Walt formed (as you know) MAPO. He went through his WED engineers and picked who was moving to MAPO. Thrilled, Mr. Anderson was chosen. His supervisor then told him that when Walt was stopping at all those desks each day and asking for input, he mentally marked down who he thought did the best job, not just as an engineer, but with vision. Later, the MAPO people would later be combed through again and they became Walt's new Imagineering department.
When the Lincoln exhibit was first created, its opening night was invitation only: Washington VIPs etc. Despite successful tests, the attractions suddenly broke down and wouldn't work at all. Walt had to go in front of all his invited, important guests and announce "Mr. Lincoln is sick" and wouldn't be able to perform. To avoid that embarrassment again (and something like the Disneyland opening), they created the concept of Soft Openings.
I've rambled on a lot here! I hope you don't mind, but I'll try to be briefer with the rest.
Mr. Anderson went on to a very long and wonderful Disney career. Some of his projects included:
-- Walt said he wanted a 5 senses experience for the guests. Sight, sound, touch, scents, and taste. They got the last part down in Horizons, when they gave the orange scent. Since then, attractions like Soarin and Philharmagic use the same techniques.
- I got it wrong; his certificate isn't for being in WED. When Disneyland first opened, if you were a VIP that got to pilot the riverboat, you got a certificate signed by Walt himself (signed in advance). Some CMs and Imagineers tried catching the boat captain's eye to pilot the riverboat. Mr. Anderson did this shortly after DL opened and has the certificate framed on his wall to this day.
-- He, along with a good friend, worked on the initial Journey to Imagination. They also were at the lunch where Adventurers Club was first conceived, Wilson making very rough sketches on a napkin.
-- He helped create Streetmosphere for MGM. He goes back to DL and WDW all the time, and loves the additions to Streetmosphere such as the very touristy couple. He was also glad to see guests enjoying these performers so much again.
-- A friend of his worked on the Great Movie Ride and created the concept of live actors jumping out in the gangster and western scenes, overtaking the car, and be thwarted at the jewel scene. Disney management balked, saying guests would find live actors amongst animatronics jarring.
- On the first soft opening for that ride, just for CMs and Imagineers (plus family), the ride broke down because of a thunderstorm/lightning overloading the circuits. They sat there for 45 mins., joking that maybe Walt and Roy didn't like the live actors after all!
- Like Roy Disney, he thought Eisner did great things, especially in the beginning. And he gives credit where credit is due. Disney was floundering before Eisner came in, but at the end, it was time for a change.
-- When I asked him about the rumor that Dreamfinder was returning to Imagination, he just smiled. Which could mean either answer.
- I had lent his daughter my "Lost Disney Attractions" DVD set, and he had watched them that morning. He said he loved them and wished Disney would put something like that out.
At the end, my DH joked that this was like the Dining with an Imagineer except you got a commerative plate. He teased, "Would you sign this?", holding up his unused bread plate. Mr. Anderson grinned and said, "Get me a sharpie and I will!"
To paraphrase Eliza Doolittle, I could have talked all night.