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July 31, 2017

Now it's time to say goodbye: Marty Sklar's family, friends, colleagues pay tribute to a Disney GIANT


Marty and Leah Sklar, center, are surrounded by family members prior to last year's Walt Disney Family Museum Lifetime Achievement Award ceremonies. Marty was the second recipient of the prestigious honor. [Courtesy of the Walt Disney Family Museum]

Oct. 11, 2015, dawned cool and crisp along the New Jersey shore, a far cry from the 100-plus degree days Marty and Leah Sklar left behind in Los Angeles before heading east. They made the long coast-to-coast flight for two reasons: To visit with family members on the East Coast and for Marty to promote his latest book, One Little Spark!, in Toms River, N.J.

After he retired from the Walt Disney Company in 2009, no one would have blamed Marty if he decided to kick back a little, take it easy and play the role of the stereotypical senior citizen, especially when you consider he spent more than five decades on the job. But if you ever had the pleasure of meeting the retired leader of Walt Disney Imagineering, the company’s creative wing, you know that slowing down was simply not an option. There was just too much pixie dust left to spread around.

“I’ve often wondered what my life would be like if I did that … slowed down and took it easy,” he mused on that perfect autumn day as he held court in the large, grassy space outside the Ocean County Library, where he would give a presentation and sign copies of One Little Spark! a little more than an hour later.

Marty and his bride of 60 years, Leah, as well as Marty’s cousin, Sue Torrisi, her husband Victor and their daughter, were making their way across the courtyard toward the library’s entrance when he was recognized by some early arrivals. Marty was wearing a dark blazer with an open-collared shirt and no necktie – a style that’s been all the rage among Disney’s top executives. Attached to the lapel of his jacket was a silver dollar-sized pin sporting the words Walt Disney Imagineering.

Ever gracious, Marty stopped to greet the handful of fans, posed for photos and exchanged pleasantries. During the impromptu meet-and-greet, he was given a colorful drawing of the Disney character Figment [of Journey Into Imagination attraction fame, where the song One Little Spark! was the featured soundtrack] by a young girl; he would absolutely thrill her at the beginning of his presentation when he showed the drawing to the 250 or so people in attendance. He then asked her to join him on stage, where her wide grin and blushing cheeks spoke volumes.

It was obvious by the smile on Marty’s face that he had no problem stepping out of the spotlight for that moment and letting it shine brightly on his new friend. It was yet another example of Marty’s compassion and humility.

Marty Sklar, who touched so many lives in so many different ways during his 83 years on this planet, passed away on July 27. He left behind a legacy at the Walt Disney Company that few will ever match, as well as a grieving family and a legion of fans and colleagues who loved and respected him. Among his myriad interests was his passionate support of Ryman Arts, the arts scholarship program and he his beloved wife Leah co-founded.

In the second half of One Little Spark!. Marty reached out to dozens of his former charges and asked them for their input. He asked them to talk about themselves, their careers and how they navigated “the road to Imagineering.” Through Marty, I’ve been fortunate to have been able to interview and cultivate relationships with many of those same people. He was never shy about telling me: “Get in touch with so-and-so. He/she should be able to help you” if I had a question. And then he’d supply me with an email address, a phone number, or both. With his personal “letter of recommendation,” I have spoken to an amazing group of Marty-certified individuals.

The day after he died – much like Marty had done for One Little Spark! – I contacted many of Marty’s friends and former colleagues and asked them to share their thoughts and memories of a man they all held in the highest regard … a man they truly loved.

Here are the responses I received:

Former Imagineer Zofia Kostyrko poses for a photo with Marty at one of his "Dream It! Do It!" book signings. [Courtesy of Zofia Kostyrko]

Zofia Kostyrko, former Disney Imagineer

“Behind every legend, there is a man. The Marty Sklar I knew was one of the best kind: Generous, approachable, funny and smart, fair and honest. He was my mentor, my teacher and a personal friend. Not the kind that I hung out or partied with, but nevertheless one that always had my back, looked out for me and pushed me beyond my self-imposed limits during my Imagineering tenure. He recognized and rewarded my efforts, and made me feel valued and heard.

“Once I was ready to leave WDI, he opened many doors and gave me tools and knowledge to succeed on my own. We stayed in touch. He saw my potential long before I could, and when I doubted it. He believed in me, as he did in so many of my colleagues and friends. With many thousands of people that he crossed paths with during his long life, he made so many of us feel personally special to him, so blessed with his interest, concern and support. He truly saw us and listened. We knew it because he remembered small details about our lives, families, work, dreams and ideas.

“When you were in his presence and conversation, he was there with you. I felt like he always listened well, was never too hurried or busy to make time for me, and was genuinely interested in what I had to say. I remember that he listened more than he talked. He asked questions more than he gave directions or orders; he gave the creatives room and support to solve seemingly impossible puzzles on our own, by simply nudging us in the right direction and let us work out the impossible. Marty was a great editor and writer, with a wonderful sense of humor. He was a gifted story-teller.

“His mentorship in my work changed my professional and creative life. His personal friendship and kindness saved a life dearest to my heart. When my daughter was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, I called him first in panic, late in the evening, seeking his advice. His immediate help led us directly to the doctor that saved her life. I shall never be able to repay this debt of gratitude.

“We spoke the day before he left. He was so enthused and full of ideas, and generous remarks about people we both knew. I am so deeply grateful that he was a key part of my life, and so sorry that he left us. My thoughts and prayers are with Leah and his children and grandchildren. I am so sorry to see him go.”

Disney Files Magazine editor Ryan March proudly takes a photo with Marty prior to a D23 event at Walt Disney World last year. [Courtesy of Ryan March]

Ryan March, Disney Files Magazine editor

“As a Disney fan born after the passing of Walt Disney, people like Roy E. Disney, Richard Sherman and Marty Sklar have always been more than just legends to me. They’ve been my generation’s connection to a man whose work continues to have such a profound impact on my life. It was their limited degrees of separation from Walt that, for much of my youth, placed these uniquely talented individuals among my vaunted heroes (pedestals shared in my childhood by everyone from Michael Jackson to the Dukes of Hazzard to anyone in a Dodger uniform).

“As a (relative) grown-up, my Disney career has afforded me extraordinary opportunities to get to know many of my heroes (at least my Disney heroes – the Dukes of Hazzard never answered my letters). Whether interviewing these Disney Legends in private for a Disney Files Magazine feature or on a stage before of an audience of Disney Vacation Club Members at a live event, my questions through the years became less about Walt and more about them. And along the way, they stopped being my heroes and started becoming my friends.

“But my relationship with Marty was different. He wasn’t just the casual friend with whom I’d connect at an event or interview for a feature. He was the guy with whom I’d correspond multiple times a week; the guy who became a Disney Files columnist and copied me on his hundreds of thoughtful replies to reader emails. He was the guy who would send a handwritten thank you note after every event…and fire off a snarky text whenever his UCLA Bruins outperformed my Oregon Ducks. He was the guy to whom I’d vent my frustrations and share my joys. He was the first person outside of my family to learn that my wife and I were expecting a baby.

“Hearing the news of Marty’s unexpected passing hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. Truth be told, it’s still difficult to comprehend. But here’s what I do understand: Marty was the very definition of a Disney Legend. I’d go so far as to say he’s the standard by which other all legends are measured.

“For decades, he was our company’s conscience, our Jiminy Cricket, if you will. And because he spent so much of his life mentoring countless Disney cast members like me, this place is now crawling with crickets. Marty may be gone, but his influence isn’t going anywhere.
“While I feel tremendous sadness in a world without my dear friend, what I feel most is gratitude. My world is better, not just because Marty was in it, but because he helped create it. And for that, I will be forever grateful.”

Frank Reifsnyder, Walt Disney Imagineering

“Marty was always revered much in the same way as a favorite grandfather is respected. His memory of even the smallest details was always so sharp and he had a talent for storytelling, as all the great Imagineers have had. He was kind and generous of his time, both to non-profit organizations and to his former colleagues.

“It was an honor to be with Marty in Shanghai during the grand opening of Shanghai Disneyland, with Marty being the only individual who attended the opening of all 12 of Disney's theme parks. When we discussed the opening several months prior, he seemed doubtful that he would come out for it, so it was a delight to see him there enjoying the work of so many of his mentees.

“His stories will continue to live on through his books and the countless Imagineers he mentored, and in the thousands of fans he spoke to over the years. He was truly one of a kind.”

Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet president and founder Don Morin presents a check to Marty bound for his beloved Ryman Arts foundation. [Courtesy of Don Morin]

Don Morin, President/Founder Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet

“Marty has touched so many in this world with his work, caring, guidance, written word and encouragement. I am so honored and fortunate to have known him.
“He was always so encouraging and supportive of me, Michelle, the Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet and all our guests over the years. I cherish each and every email, conversation and our time spent together. I may never have been an Imagineer or even a Disney employee, but he treated me as if I was just as important.

“He gave so much of himself and his time to people from all corners the world to educate, to share and to chat Disney ... to have had the opportunity to bring him to the Pacific Northwest several times over the years so that so many others could have the chance to hear his stories, to meet him and to experience what a kind, generous and amazing man he was ... that means the world. My heart goes out to his wife Leah and their family. This is a tremendous loss for everyone. Thank you, Marty! Thank you for everything. We will miss you dearly.”

Leslie Sklar, Marty’s daughter

“The thing about my dad's books is that you can hear him in them. … He was always happy to represent Disney and recently spent many hours signing books in that famous red felt tip pen and meeting fans at the recent D23 Expo.”

Bill [Sully] Sullivan, Disney Legend

"We are all sorry to hear about Marty. He was true Disney, through and through. He was dedicated to preserving the excellence of Disney! He will be sorely missed."

Paul Comstock worked closely with Marty during his days as the principal landscape architect for Disney's Animal Kingdom. [Courtesy of Paul Comstock]

Paul Comstock, Principal Landscape Architect for Animal Kingdom

“I have one really fun memory which stands out among the hundreds of encouraging, uplifting and inspiring moments I shared with Marty.

“As the humble and virtuous ‘Paladin of Imagineering,’ Marty protected and supported our creative dreams. Along with scores of RED-INK notes of guidance and encouragement, a delightful memory often fills my head. After many ‘sit-downs’ on the couch in Marty’s gold coast office, I became fascinated with a very rare and unusual tree outside of his window which shaded his desk from the scorching afternoon sun. I determined it was a rare Bishofia javanica, or commonly called Bishop’s Wood tree from Indonesia. It was a very unusual tree to be growing in an industrial park landscape.

“How it got there no one knows. After mentioning its beauty and botanical interest to Marty, I expressed my desire to plant the tree for guest enjoyment in a Disney landscape. With a half-smile and a shrug, Marty casually gave me permission to relocate the tree. Well … six to eight months later, over a weekend, we removed the tree from outside Marty’s window. We dug and boxed the Bishofia for transplantation. Barbara, Marty’s long-time executive assistant, told me he came in the following morning and said, ‘What the heck!!!’ Less than an hour later, security delivered to me a RED INK note with an Imagineering Sorcerer’s Apprentice name pin, but instead of my name, the pin spelled out my new Imagineer’s name in big, blue letters: TREE THIEF. That pin is my treasure.

“Note: For those fellow tree huggers who are interested in where the Bishofia was planted, it’s labelled as Marty’s Tree and is now thriving outside the west entry doors of the World of Disney store in Downtown Disney in Anaheim. Oh, yeah … one more time, Thx Marty.”

Michael Eisner, former Walt Disney Co. CEO

“Marty Sklar was my partner and friend, building seven parks in my 21 years as Disney CEO. We lost a true gentleman!”

Bob Iger, Disney Chairman and CEO

“Everything about Marty was legendary – his achievements, his spirit, his career. He embodied the very best of Disney, from his bold originality to his joyful optimism and relentless drive for excellence.”

Wayne Hunt, Board President, Ryman Arts

“I never took a paycheck from the Walt Disney Company but worked with Marty and his Imagineers nearly continuously as a graphics consultant since 1974 [last year we saw two nice assignments fulfilled in Shanghai]. Until a few years ago, I knew him only as one tough and demanding client. He had a finger on the pulse of everything around him and no detail was too small for his often acerbic red pen. You went into Marty meetings prepared or else.

“But then around 2006, I joined him on the board of his beloved Ryman Arts foundation and got to know the real, or whole, Marty. The patient, inspiring, almost fatherly guy who worked tirelessly to shape Ryman Arts into the nationally respected arts teaching organization. Watching him lead a board meeting was also inspiring and a great learning experience in itself. He was a master fund-raiser, he said because he believed so much in the cause. Marty was a prolific personal note writer, inscribing each of hundreds of invitations to Ryman Arts events each year, yes, in red marker.

“In 2014, I took over for Marty as board president of Ryman Arts – talk about gigantic shoes to fill! – and that’s when I really found out what he had done so beautifully for 25 years. Let me tell you, it ain’t easy being Marty.

“For any of you diehard Marty fans, your most meaningful tribute to him would be a donation to Ryman Arts, in any amount []. You won’t get a red-pen note back now, but you’d help fulfill one of his biggest dreams.”

Marty poses with three fellow Disney Legends at the recent D23 Expo in Anaheim. From the left are Marty, Tom Nabbe, Orlando Ferrante and Ron Logan. [Photo by Ken Nabbe]

Tom Nabbe, Disney Legend

“Marty loved sharing his Disney heritage and Disney history with anyone who would listen, through his books and interviews. He was one of the few of us that had direct contact with Walt. He wrote Walt’s scripts! Who would know Walt better than his script writer? In his retirement, he kept the Disney image alive with his involvement in the different Disney fan conventions and his help in developing the D23 program to what it is today. In addition to promoting Disney, he helped to develop young, up-and-coming Imagineers and artists.

“I worked for Marty during the Epcot project. Even though he was on the top of the organizational chart, he would always recognize us and offer encouragement in getting the job done. I’ve done a lot of interviews and every once awhile, I would get a note from Marty praising my comments during the interview, such as, ‘You hit the nail right on the head’ or ‘That’s what Walt would have said.’

“I’ve been lucky to have had contact with Marty on so many occasions at various Disney events throughout my retirement. Every discussion or panel with him was a learning experience.”

Kevin Rafferty, Walt Disney Imagineering

“Marty was a huge fan of the Disney fans and of his Imagineers. He loved and lived all things Disney. Right to the end, he kept on going with boundless energy and creativity.

“For decades he was the THE creative funnel through which all of our ideas and projects poured. Marty came from a family of educators and he was actually one himself because there was no better teacher in the themed entertainment industry. He taught his Imagineers well and cared for each and every one of us deeply. He sent out thousands of personal notes of congratulations or encouragement to his Imagineers through the years and these notes can be found tucked away amongst our greatest treasures.

“No one has had more influence on Imagineers and Disney parks since Walt Disney himself. Marty, like Walt, was an American original, a powerhouse of creativity, a courageous pioneer, a game-changer, a life-changer, a dreamer and a doer. And like Walt, he was loved by all. We could not have asked for a better boss, mentor, teacher, advocate and dear and cherished friend.

“But to me he was more than that. He was family. He ‘raised’ me in my career and I feel so blessed I was there during Marty's remarkable, prolific era when he was the heart and soul of Walt Disney Imagineering. I could not be more proud that I was one of his ‘kids.’”

Marty and Bob Gurr were long-time friends and colleagues who were not shy about tossing a well-meaning insult at one another. [AllEars.Net]

Bob Gurr, Disney Legend and former Imagineer

“Within hours of Marty's having Gone West [an aviation term of the Quiet Birdmen], so many of his dear friends created loving observations of his Imagineering life … all well told.

“On a personal note, let me tell you about Marty. A fun friend of more than half a century, we relished a special relationship of insults and hugs. A wordsmith of the highest skill, he delighted in skewering me in communications, baiting me for a counter reply.

“I fell for his tease, never coming close to matching his wit. Over many years we both unknowingly collected a file of exchanges … mine named The Marty Barbs. He used these on me publicly once in a Bob Gurr Roast. Touche, dear sir!

“Now, let me really tell you about Marty. As long as I've known him, he never failed to send personal, hand-written thank you notes to those who helped him with his many projects. In the form of a thick vertical name imprinted postcard, Marty's thanks were always penned in red.

“I've treasured all the ones Marty blessed me with for decades … another file, this one labeled The Marty Grams. With his personal words which I can return to anytime, Marty and I live on together.”

Marty and Wendy Lefkon, Editorial Director of Disney Editions, sign copies of Marty's "One Little Spark!" book in Ken Shue's office at the Disney Studios in Glendale, Calif.

Wendy Lefkon, Editorial Director, Disney Editions

“Marty was one in a trillion. I was lucky enough to have known him for more than 30 years.
“We first met when I started my career writing the Birnbaum Guides to Walt Disney World and Disneyland. We worked on many projects together over those years as I published lots of Imagineering-related books. But once he retired, my dream job commenced. Working with Marty on his two books, Dream It! Do It! and One Little Spark! was truly a joyous journey. For me, Marty played many roles – teacher, mentor, friend and a little dad thrown in.

“We’ve all lost a special man, a guiding star.”

David Cohen

"Marty was one of Walt's most trusted advisors and made his own mark on the company, a legacy that will last for all time.

"I met him years ago at a Disney Leadership conference and then I had the pleasure of meeting him again just last November. He shared many of the amazing memories of his legendary Disney career.

"Afterwards, I saw him in the hallway and we had a wonderful conversation. He was just a regular guy, very down-to-earth. It was a thrill chatting with an all-time Disney great."

Tony Baxter, Disney Legend and former Imagineer

“I was lucky to share the stage with Marty two weeks ago at the D23 Expo. He was in terrific form ... the top of his game and very funny! Just two days before his passing, he was making plans to attend Epcot's 35th anniversary in October.

“We shared stories and memories of the wonderful people at Imagineering who have influenced our lives. It says more about Marty than I can put to paper. That will require a book and I'm not up for that yet!”

At a book signing in 2013 in a Barnes & Noble location in Fullerton, Calif., Marty, left, was joined by Dave Bossert, Roy Patrick Disney [Roy E. Disney's son] and Mindy Johnson, left to right. [Janet Schmidt]

Dave Bossert, animator and author of Remembering Roy E. Disney

“Marty Sklar was one of the nicest people that I got to know at Disney. He was a genuinely kind person who continuously had an upbeat and positive view of the world. Anytime I saw him, it was always an uplifting and inspiring conversation. He was someone that had such a wealth of knowledge about the company and was always happy to make time for you, to help you out, and offer up invaluable advice as well as great stories from over the years.”

“This is a tremendous loss not just to his friends and family but also to the corporate memory at Disney. Marty was one of the last links to Walt Disney himself and in a sense, he was the embodiment of all the values and principles that define what Disney is to millions of fans the world over.”

“Marty was active right up to the end. I saw him two weeks ago at the D23 Expo, ever smiling, and we chatted briefly. He was so enthusiastic, and asked how one of my book projects was coming. He never stopped and I am so glad that in the later years he wrote several books, lectured, and just continued to give back – just a wonderful human being and a radiant spirit.”

Janet Schmidt

"What I admired most about Marty was that he never made it all about Marty. He always took the time to thank each and every person who came to see him, especially the young girl who had drawn him a picture at the Toms River book signing. Considering what he had accomplished in his life, he was always humble ... warm, kind, polite and gracious: A true gentleman. I'm still saddened by his loss."

Eddie Sotto, former Imagineer

“We lost Marty Sklar, our leader. He taught us all never to fear the blank sheet of paper. So sad!”

And last but certainly not least …

Jack Lindquist, Marty’s dear friend, who died in 2016

“Marty was always a big troublemaker. He’d bring water guns to work and, right there in our offices above City Hall in Disneyland, we'd have shootouts! Either that, or he was always throwing footballs around the place.”

I couldn’t resist. Thanks to all who shared their thoughts and memories of Marty, a man who impacted so many lives … a man of integrity and honor who will never be forgotten by those whose lives he touched.

Microphone in hand and a smile on his face, Marty prepares to answer a question during an appearance at a Disney fan convention. [Courtesy of Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet]

July 30, 2017

The Happiest Horses on Earth

Gary Cruise banner

When you walk along Main Street USA and you hear that familiar tune start to play,

♫♪Clang Clang Clang Went the Trolley♪♫

you know exactly what’s coming!

Clang Clang

If you’re like Carol and I you always stop beside that horse-drawn trolley for a few minutes to watch those talented dancers perform . . . and you probably always get a picture of that magnificent horse!

Have you seen those six little ponies that pull Cinderella’s Carriage during parades and wedding ceremonies?

Cinderella Carriage

Have you ever wondered, “Where do the Disney horses live?”

“Where do they kick back with a flake of hay and a few gallons of cold water after a long hard day at work?”

The answer to both of those questions is Disney’s Tri-Circle-D Ranch.


Have you ever wanted to get up-close and personal with some Disney horses?

Up close

Up Close

Then come on over to the Tri-Circle-D for a visit. It’s located in Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, just a few steps from Pioneer Hall.

Carol and Dan

Take a boat from the Magic Kingdom or ride a Disney bus to the campground and make your way to the Pioneer Hall area; you can’t miss the horse barns.

The barns are open during normal working hours and you are welcome to explore the public areas and read about the magnificent animals who live at the ranch and work in the Disney parks and resorts.

Heading to work

The cast members who work at Tri-Circle-D are all experts in equestrian care and are always happy to meet visitors and share their knowledge.

Coastal hay


Please do not touch the horses or try to feed them . . . but feel free to take pictures and tell them how beautiful they are!



You can read a bit about each horse, the jobs they do and the food they eat.



You can see the elaborate livery the horses wear for special performances.


You might see one of Cinderella's ponies being groomed!

Trimming a pony

You can even watch the horses have a shower as they prepare to go to work.

Shower time


Have you seen the Headless Horseman lead the parade at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party? That huge black horse he rides is a Percheron named Khan.



Most days, if the work schedule permits, there is a special 30 minute guided tour of the stables. One of the cast members will meet guests at the barn entrance and share their intimate knowledge of the horses with you. Look for this sign in front of the barn.


Just across from the stables is the blacksmith shop. Usually every Thursday a farrier drops in to give some of the horses a mani-pedi. These highly skilled tradesmen trim the horse’s hooves, check for irritation or disease, and often put on new shoes. It’s a real treat to watch the farriers work.



If you’re looking for something unique to do at Disney; if you want to add a new wrinkle to your vacation experience; take a trip over to the Tri-Circle-D Ranch and get to know some Disney horses!

This brochure from 2010 adds a bit of extra information including travel instructions.

Tri-Circle-D Brochure
Click on the image to see a readable copy of the brochure

It also describes some of the adventures that are available at Tri-Cricle-D Ranch. Be sure to telephone and confirm that the activities in this 7-year-old brochure are still being offered!

Tri-Circle-D Brochure
Click on the image to see a readable copy of the brochure

So what are you waiting for?
Go and meet some Disney horses.

They're the Happiest Horses on Earth!

July 28, 2017

Leslie Sklar on her dad Marty's passing: 'We haven't yet understood just what we've lost'


Marty Sklar and Leah, his wife of 60 years, are saluted at a Ryman Arts function. The Sklars were co-founders of the arts scholarship program which honored the legendary Disney illustrator. [Courtesy of Ryman Arts]

Lost in the craziness of the recent D23 Expo was this item: After taking part in three panel discussions, Disney Legend Marty Sklar spent four hours signing copies of his books, Dream It! Do It! and One Little Spark!

That's right, four hours. At the age of 83, Marty was almost as popular as the two-month-old Avatar: Flight of Passage attraction at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

But that was Marty Sklar. Hard-working. Patient. Gracious. Untiring, with a quick, sharp sense of humor. And, apparently, he was the possessor of a right wrist that was immune to carpal tunnel syndrome. Even though his calm, grandfatherly demeanor belied it, he was no doubt among the hardest-working men in show business.

News of Marty's passing yesterday [July 27] hit like the proverbial ton of bricks. My wife Janet and I were crushed, to say the least. I knew Marty for nearly 10 years ... not so much Marty, the legendary head of Walt Disney Imagineering, but Marty the man: Loving husband to Leah for 60 years, cherished father to Howard and Leslie, adored grandfather to Gabriel, Hannah, Rachel and Jacob.

And yes, I counted him as a friend.

One of the highlights of my career ... and indeed, my life ... came in 2013 when Janet and I and friend Mike Splitstone joined him for lunch at Club 33 in Disneyland. It was an afternoon steeped with wonderful stories, plenty of laughs and unforgettable memories. At the end of the lunch, he and I posed for photos in front of artwork that was done by his friend and colleague, Herb Ryman.

Marty and I pose for a photo in Club 33 in Disneyland in 2013. [Janet Schmidt]

Back in November, I had lunch with Marty and Disney Files editor Ryan March at The Wave in the Contemporary Resort. Marty had just given an informative talk to thrilled Disney Vacation Club cast members. Later that afternoon, he spent time in the Contemporary's main convention center, rehearsing for the next day's D23 event. At lunch, I had a surprise for Marty: I gave him a copy of a program from Fantasia, which was given to movie-goers in the 1940s. He was thrilled to accept it.

Over the years, I'd think nothing of shooting Marty an email if I had a question or a request. He'd usually get back to me within an hour. He, too, would email me out of the blue, often with suggestions for a blog or some behind-the-scenes Disney news he knew I'd be interested in. Or about baseball. As a kid growing up in New Brunswick, N.J., Marty and his brother Bob were big Brooklyn Dodgers fans and they would often bug their dad to take them to Ebbets Field, riding on a bus, two ferries and two subway trains to get back and forth.

Marty was my go-to guy whenever I needed information about Disney, particularly Disney during the mid-1950s through his retirement in 2009. He was, after all, THE main conduit to Walt Disney himself, having worked side-by-side with him until his death in 1966 ... a death, by the way, that Marty took particularly hard.

Earlier this year, I started working on a book about Disney's Animal Kingdom, in conjunction with the park's 20th anniversary in 2018. After I emailed Marty about my plans for the book and asked for his help, he was enthused ... so much so, that a day after I contacted him, he sent me an email with an extensive list of people who were involved in the planning, concept and design phases of Animal Kingdom. Not only that, but he gave me phone numbers and email addresses for all those wonderful folks. His help, as usual, was invaluable.

I was both honored and humbled when he wrote the foreword to my book On the Disney Beat, which detailed my 30-plus years of covering Disney. I even devoted an entire chapter to "My coast-to-coast adventures with Marty Sklar." During the span of a year, I saw no less than four presentations by him, as well as book signings in New Jersey and California.

Marty on stage with Mickey Mouse and Neil Patrick Harris last year. Marty received the Walt Disney Family Museum's Lifetime Achievement Award during the event. [Courtesy of the Walt Disney Family Museum]

When I approached him recently about getting together to chat about Epcot's 35th anniversary in October, he was, as usual, all in ... but only after taking some time to recuperate from the exhaustive weekend that was the D23 Expo.

"Give me a little time," he wrote me on July 17. "Still recovering from the D23 Expo over the weekend where I was on three panels, and signed books for four hours on Sunday."

Strange as it may sound, four hours of signing books with his favorite red felt tip magic marker was not a record for Marty.

At one book signing in 2016, Marty – incredibly – signed 500 books in five hours. If there is such a thing as a "rock star" in the world of theme park entertainment, Marty Sklar was Mick Jagger and Bruce Springsteen rolled into one.

Marty's popularity spoke volumes on just how revered he was with the expansive Disney fan base. The fact that he worked side-by-side with Walt Disney for a decade had a lot to do with it ... and so did the fact that he made so many important contributions to the growth of the Walt Disney Company and had an encyclopedic memory of so many important milestones in Disney history. Among his many talents was his innate ability to cultivate and inspire talent.

On July 17, 1955, Marty Sklar was an energetic young man on the precipice of a legendary 54-year career with the Walt Disney Company. July 17th, of course, was the day Disneyland – the world's first theme park and one of many enormous bets placed by renowned wheeler-dealer Walt Disney during his lifetime – opened in Anaheim, Calif.

At the time, Marty was a student at UCLA who was about to become the editor of the campus newspaper, The Daily Bruin. He was a wet-behind-the-ears Disneyland intern who had been tasked, by none other than Walt Disney himself, with creating an early 1900s-style newspaper to be sold to guests as they entered the park.

Marty Sklar, seated center, poses for a photo with Disneyland's original press and publicity department. The photo was taken in 1956. [The Walt Disney Company]

Marty was hired exactly one month before Disneyland opened. He was interviewed in the administration building on the property, which was actually the former residence of Disney Legend-in-waiting Ron Dominguez and his family. For decades, Ron's family cultivated orange groves and lived in a house that was located about where the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction is now located. In typical fashion, Marty helped set up an interview with Ron for me several years ago.

The Disneyland News was a big hit among those first park guests – and more importantly, it was a big hit to Walt Disney himself. After Marty graduated from UCLA in the spring of 1956, he was offered a full-time job in Disneyland's press and publicity department ... and a long and storied career took flight.

He "made his bones" working for his first boss, Ed Ettinger, and with legendary publicist Eddie Meck, as well as with the incomparable Jack Lindquist, who remained one of Marty's closest friends until his death in early 2016. Marty wrote press materials and made significant contributions to a number of initiatives which helped solidify Disneyland's standing as The Happiest Place on Earth.

Owing to his newspaper pedigree, he was a writer, first and foremost, during those early years, a talent that served him well over the course of his life. As Marty told me on several occasions: "When I get the writing itch, I have to scratch it."

Prior to the opening of the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair, Marty was asked to leave his post in Disneyland's PR department and join WED Enterprises, the forerunner of Walt Disney Imagineering, and his career truly blossomed.

Perhaps his most significant contribution to the company came during an eight-year period from 1973 to 1981, when he and a small band of colleagues helped bring the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow – or Epcot – from a conceptual drawing on a napkin sketched by Walt Disney to the innovative, two-pronged entertainment venue we know today.

Marty, in a red jacket, oversees construction of Epcot during the early 1980s. [Walt Disney Imagineering]

I know he was really looking forward to marking Epcot's 35th anniversary in October. In March, he gave several talks at Epcot during the first Festival of the Arts. Afterwards, I asked him if another Marty Sklar book was in the works. "Yes, I've started working on another book, but it's hard to get motivated," he admitted. "But the Festival of the Arts audiences – including my separate book signing on Sunday – have inspired me to get moving."

When I interviewed him earlier in July, he told me he was about 75% done with his next book. "What's it about?" I asked him. "More Disney stories," he said. Here's hoping his talented daughter Leslie, who edited his two books, will find the strength to pick up the baton and bring the book to the finish line.

Marty's book signings and presentations, be they inside a Disney theme park, at a fan Disney fan convention, at a library or in a book store, were true events, with hundreds of adoring fans in attendance.

Marty shakes a fan's hand on Main Street in Shanghai Disneyland last summer ... keeping intact his record of having been in attendance on opening day at all 12 Disney parks worldwide. [Orange County Register]

Those adoring fans, as well as his loving family, friends and former colleagues, mourn the death of a truly remarkable man. He will be missed, to be sure. We also honor his memory and his many accomplishments throughout his remarkable life, particularly his involvement with the Ryman Arts scholarship program, which he and his wife Leah helped found.

In 2015, after the release of One Little Spark!, I wrote a blog on the book. As I always did whenever I wrote something about him, I sent Marty the link to the blog. In response, he sent me this email:

Sent: Monday, August 10, 2015 1:48 PM
To: Chuck Schmidt
Subject: thanks

Chuck – You are a super kind editor – I hope someone will think of you when it comes time for my obituary ...

Thank you, sir.


I have to admit, I was taken aback by that. "Hopefully," I quickly wrote back to him, "that won't be for many, many years." But that was typical Marty. Honest, sincere and a realist. I always made it a point to send him an electronic birthday greeting each February and his typical response was: "The good news is I'm still here."

Like Walt Disney himself, Marty Sklar was one of a kind, a tireless ambassador for the Walt Disney Company and an advocate for Walt Disney Imagineering ... and the men and women who create the magic on a daily basis.

Bob Weis, the president of Imagineering, was effusive in his praise of his former boss after learning of his death. "Marty was one of Walt's most trusted advisors and helped turn his most ambitious dreams into reality. For us, it's hard to imagine a world without Marty, because Marty is synonymous with Imagineering.

"His influence can be seen around the world, in every Disney park, and in the creative and imaginative work of almost every professional in the themed entertainment industry."

Marty's daughter Leslie perhaps put it best when she told me: "We haven't yet understood just what we've lost." The family has requested that all donations be sent to Ryman Arts in Marty's honor.

To borrow from Marty's signature greeting: All Good Things to the Sklar family during this difficult time.

A cherished keepsake: An autographed copy of Marty's Sklar's Walt Disney's Disneyland book ... in red ink, of course! [Janet Schmidt]

July 16, 2017

Dayton Disneyana 2017

Gary Cruise banner

What is it that motivates a couple of normal, rational Canadian Disney fans to drive 656 miles to Dayton Ohio for a one-and-a-half day stay, then drive 656 miles home again? The answer is Dayton Disneyana.

Dayton Disneyana 2017

It's a gathering of Disney fans from across the continent who meet in Dayton once a year to buy and sell Disneyana collectibles, trade Disney pins, attend interesting seminars presented by well-known Disney personalities and hang out with people who share our Disney obsession. If we can find any spare time we have also been known to sit around, over adult beverages, swapping Disney stories and tips.

Dayton Disneyana 2017

This was our fifth trip to Dayton in as many years. As usual, our son Rob came along; like Carol, he's a hoarder a pack rat an avid Disney collector. I'm not a collector; it's the seminars that I enjoy!

On Friday June 9th we were on the road bright and early and arrived at the Thousand Islands border crossing, about 25 miles from our home, just after dawn. There wasn't a single car ahead of us.

Thousand Island Bridge

The US Border Patrol Officer spotted the two big boxes full of acrylic globes in the back of the vehicle and asked what they were. When I told him they were Mickey Mouse lamp posts he raised an arched eyebrow, then waved us on through. I'm not sure if he was amused or bewildered!

Our journey took us from Ontario through New York, Pennsylvania and finally to Ohio.



The weather was good, traffic was light and we made great time. We made one fuel stop and took one rest area break before pulling off the highway in Erie, Pennsylvania, for a bite. We don't have Chik-Fil-A restaurants in Canada and it was the unanimous choice for lunch!

We were back on the road in no time and carried on westbound across the southern shores of the Great Lakes. At Cleveland we turned south and passed through Columbus on our way to Dayton.

Our route to Dayton

We pulled into the Holiday Inn, Fairborn Ohio at 4:30 and, after sitting in the car all day, enjoyed a few minutes of stretching as we settled into our rooms.

We didn't have long to rest though; I quickly assembled the Mickey Mouse lamp post we were donating for the charity raffle and we tracked down the event organizer, Anita Schaengold, to deliver it. She was busy in the grand ballroom where 29 vendors were setting up a whopping 74 tables full of Disney collectibles. Carol was vibrating with anticipation as we walked past the closed doors of the ballroom.

The first official function was a 6:00 p.m. dinner, held in a meeting room near the grand ballroom, and this was our first opportunity to meet Disney artists and animators Mike and Patty Peraza who were featured guests for the weekend.

2017 Dayton Poster

After we enjoyed a nice dinner, the emcee for the evening, Disney historian Jim Hill, introduced the husband and wife animation team to the audience of 100 to 120 people. It was a small crowd and there was plenty of interaction between the speakers and those of us in the audience.

Patty Mike and Jim

Each of them gave us a brief description of their life-long careers with Disney and briefly mentioned a few of the films and features they worked on. The Fox and the Hound, Mickey’s Christmas Carol, The Black Cauldron, Dragon’s Lair, Space Ace, The Great Mouse Detective, TRON, The Little Mermaid, Return to OZ, Ducktales, Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers, Talespin, Goof Troop, Darkwing Duck, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast are a few of the projects they talked about.

Both Patty and Mike are graduates of the prestigious California Institute for the Arts, a university that Walt Disney himself established. Mike entertained us with a few unusual stories from his days at "CalArts" when his roommate was Tim Burton. I think it's a given that any story that includes Tim Burton has to be a bit unusual.

Patty put a different spin on her CalArts story. She was a Graphic Design major at University of Delaware when the dean approached her to recommend the Disney Animation program at CalArts. She knew that CalArts was a bit beyond her family's financial means so she respectfully declined. Just a few weeks later the dean returned, this time with the offer of a full scholarship. Patty quickly applied and was accepted.

She was the first female graduate from CalArts hired by the Disney Corporation and during her long career with the company she picked up some pretty strong "vibes" about her scholarship. She was never able to confirm it, but she is pretty sure that it funded by Walt Disney's wife Lillian.

Mike and Patty kept our interest for a full hour and left us all wanting to hear more. I was looking forward to their seminar the next afternoon.


The last performance of the evening featured Anita and Randy as they drew some fabulous, one-of-a-kind door prizes.


Randy claimed to be Vanna White's younger brother and he did a wonderful job presenting, modeling and demonstrating each of the prizes!

After the official events wrapped up a few of adjourned to the bar beside the hotel lobby for a comforting adult beverage. Rob and I joined in the imbibing crowd while Carol dashed back to the room, gathered up her bag of pins and headed off to the training tables.

By 10:00 that evening my long day behind the wheel had caught up to me; I headed back to the room. Carol was tired, too; she was back by 11:00 p.m.

Saturday Jun 10, 2017

We were up bright and early. Carol and Rob were two of the 75 people who paid $30 each to be "early-birds". Early-birds are allowed to enter the ballroom and shop for 90 minutes before the doors open for everyone else. They are also eligible to win door prizes provided by each of the vendors and they get a goody bag full of interesting Disney "stuff"! Carol assures me that she get's more than her money's worth... but I think she'd pay the Early-Bird fee even if she didn't get the goody bag or the chance at the door prizes. She'd be happy just to get the extra shopping time!

The early-birds

Just after 8 a.m. Carol and Rob joined the line of eager early-birds in the hall outside the ballroom.

I snuck into the ballroom to get a few pictures before those avid shoppers arrived!


I think the vendors enjoy Dayton Disneyana as much as the collectors do; many of them travel long distances to get there. This year there were four vendors from Florida and one from Southern California.

I’m pretty sure the vendors were just as excited as the crowd waiting in the hall for those doors to swing open!

You want thingamabobs? I got twenty!

Gary and Gary

Gary and Gary from Ozark Missouri had several tables full of wonderful Disney items, including this great Scrooge McDuck figurine!





There were popcorn buckets, figurines, snow globes, watches, glasses, mugs, plates, movie posters, magazines, telephones, pins, Vinylmations, and so much more. No matter what you collect, you are sure to find it at Dayton Disneyana.



Need a talking alarm clock? Two to choose from!

How about a Goofy phone? There were two of them as well!

A Mickey Mouse corn popper. The first one I've seen!

This year Dayton Disneyana had a bit of International flavour... and it was not just because of the four car-loads of avid Canadian shoppers who made the long drive! The first Canadian vendor was there; our friend Cheryl from the Toronto area. Her hand-crafted Mouse Ears and EPCOT Passports have been selling like hotcakes through her "LetsMakeSomeMagic" ETSY store so she brought some along to Dayton.


Cheryl's Minnie Ears
One of Cheryl's unique creations!

If you have a favourite Disney character, a princess or a villain, Cheryl can customize some ears just for you!


The passports are a great activity for kids. Children can have them stamped at all of the KidCot activity stations. Most of the cast members will also add a personal greeting in their native language. It's a fun way for kids to learn about foreign cultures and customs!



The passports can be personalized with your children's names, the date of your trip, etc.

There are even honeymoon passports so newlyweds can collect some unique wedding wishes in a variety of languages!

What a great idea!

Some unique figurines!

Band Concert Phone
I wonder what the ringtone sounds like on this phone?



By 8:15 the vendors were all set and there were plenty of early-birds waiting impatiently in the hall. Anita decided to let the shoppers in early... there was a round of cheering in the hall as she made the announcement!

In come the early-birds

Carol's goody bag

Carol was about 20th in line this year. She paused for just a brief second to show me her bag of free early-bird goodies, then scurried off to shop!

Happy shoppers

The happiest shopper

Carries Kermit Phone

Our friend Carrie couldn't wait to get back to her room and make a call on her brand new Kermit phone. Isn't it a beauty?!

Mike and Rob
Mike Peraza with Rob

By 10:00 both Carol and Rob had been around the ballroom a couple of times and they had picked up about half of what they would purchase over the weekend.

Carol Eric and Trisha

Carol with friends Eric and Trisha from Ohio. She sees them every year at the annual Epcot pin event. This was their first time at Dayton Disneyana.

The rest of the crowd enters

At 10 a.m. the doors opened for the rest of the shoppers. In less than a minute the crowd in the ballroom doubled as everyone rushed in to join the early-birds.

More shoppers



Fortunately there was plenty of merchandise to go around!

Before long Carol and Rob dropped their new-found treasures off in their rooms and adjourned to the pin trading room.

Pin Trading room

There were plenty of traders who had pin books, pin binders, Disney buttons, boxes full of Vinylmations, Sorcerer Cards, Transportation Cards, all sorts of Disney collectibles to trade!


Traders of all ages joined in the fun!

Carol would pop back into the ballroom once in a while to do a quick lap... when things on the tables sell the vendors reach into boxes stacked under the tables and pull out more merchandise.

She found a few unique treasures because she kept going back to the ballroom for another look!


There were several different games organized in the trading room throughout the day. That happy crowd in picture above are playing Pingo. It's similar to Bingo, but the entry fee is a pin and the prizes are pins!

I picked up some fast food for lunch and we enjoyed it in the trading room before Rob and I headed off to the seminars and Carol continued trading.

Seminar room

The seminars were held in a meeting room directly across from the ballroom.

Before the speakers began their presentation Anita introduced us to Joe Cox, the president of Pirate Packs, a local charity which provides food for needy children in the area.

Anita and Joe Cox

All of the money raised over the course of the weekend was donated to Pirate Packs.

There are school programs which give hungry children access to three meals a day, but for some children there is no food in the home on days when they don't go to school.

That's where Pirate Packs comes in!

When those kids go home for the weekend they take a backpack that contains three meals a day for each day they'll be away.

Pirate Packs

It's a great program and the assembled Disney fans were happy to support it. Over the course of the event there were silent auctions, live auctions and a bicycle raffle. The 402 Disney fans in attendance helped Dayton Disneyana raise almost $3,000.00 for Pirate Packs! Well done folks!

At 1 p.m. Jim Hill introduced the featured speakers, Mike and Patty Peraza. They kept us spellbound for an hour and a half. They used audio-video images and clips to describe their Disney careers and told us some very interesting "inside stories" about the many movies, cartoons, park attractions and other projects they worked on.

Mike and Patty

They worked on The Muppet Movie

I think every Disney fan gets a special kind of chill, or goose bumps, when they are part of a very small audience and share a room with people like Mike and Patty who have worked directly with Walt Disney, Jim Henson, the Nine Old Men, even Lillian Disney. Our 90 minutes passed in a flash, none of us wanted it to end.

Mike and Patty

Words cannot describe how much I enjoy the seminars, you'll just have to come to Dayton and experience them for yourself!

The second seminar of the afternoon featured well-known Disney Historian Jim Hill. Jim is not a cast member, he never has been, but he has a wide network of contacts in the organization and an encyclopedic repertoire of the history and lore of the organization.

Jim Hill

He talked about the original design of the Disneyland Paris park and the new challenges the Imagineers faced with their first foray into an international location. Imagine that as you stand in line at an attraction the people standing near you could speak as many as five different languages and none of them speak English or French.

You can't put five languages on a sign; it was interesting to hear some of the innovative solutions those talented Imagineers came up with!

Immediately after the second seminar it was time for the costume contest. Naturally Disney costumes dominated.



After the judging was done all the competitors paraded through the ballroom so the vendors could share in some of the fun too!

Saturday evening there was a sort of "impromptu" dinner. It wasn't part of the original schedule, all the planning was done late Friday afternoon. There were only 33 seats available in the small dining room we shared with Mike and Patty Peraza and Jim Hill. The hotel donated the space and all the hors d'oeuvres we ate! Each of us paid $30.00 to attend and it all went to Pirate Packs!

Jim Hill

After we enjoyed a bite to eat Jim Hill introduced Mike and Patty who shared some more stories and experiences with us. Each of them showed a few of their favourite creations on the large TV screen.

Mike Peraza


Kermit and Jim Henson.jpg

One of Mike's favourite pieces. He created this painting of Kermit holding a Jim Henson puppet just after Mr. Henson's death. It now hangs in the Henson home.


Chatting with the artists

We were seated at the table right next to the Disney artists and were able to chat one-on-one with them throughout dinner. After their presentation was finished we resumed the chatter while we waited for the charity auction to begin!

Terence and Sarah

Our friend Sarah was the successful bidder for a Minnie Mouse sketch Patty Peraza donated for the auction. Patty spent a few minutes personalizing the sketch for Sarah, and while Patty was doing that her husband Mike created a matching sketch of Mickey. Wasn't that a nice gesture?

Nice things like that happen quite often at Dayton Disneyana!

The Mickey Lamp

The final auction item was the Mickey Mouse lamp post I donated. The lamp was surprisingly popular and the bidding was intense. It sold for $220 and all of the money went to Pirate Packs!

After dinner a few of us gathered in the bar for some refreshments. Rob and I joined the saloon crowd while Carol did some more pin trading!

Sunday Jun 11, 2017

We had a more leisurely start on Sunday. The ballroom full of vendors didn't open until 10:00 a.m. Naturally Carol, Rob and I were there when the doors opened.



I chatted with a few friends and took some more pictures while they scoured the vendor's tables one last time.

Bob and Latosha


Jay and Chantal

All too soon it was time to think about that long drive home. I always regret missing the Sunday afternoon seminars, but with a 10-hour drive in store we always try to pull away by noon.

We said our goodbyes and thanked the organizers, Anita and her committee, for another wonderful event. We began our northeastward trip home at 11:30 a.m.

Traffic flowed well, there were no accidents or other tie-ups and we arrived home safe and sound at 10:30 p.m.

You might think that our 656 mile drive to Dayton was the furthest that anyone traveled... but it wasn't.

JoAnn and Abby

Joann flew from Hartford, Connecticut, to Ohio and met friend Abby from Norton, Ohio, for the trip to Dayton. That's about 775 miles! There sure are some dedicated Disney fans around!

I didn't buy anything all weekend, but I came home with some wonderful memories and a few new Disney stories that I picked up from the speakers.

You're probably wondering what Carol and Rob brought home after their many hours of determined shopping. Here are a few pictures of the booty they collected.

Free Stuff
Raffle prizes and early entry gifts - all this stuff was free!

Rob's Treasures
Rob's new treasures.

Rob's favourites
I asked Rob to select his favourite - he couldn't decide between these two.

Rob's Fan Page
Rob's fan page - signed by Kathryn Beaumont who was
the voice actor in the 1951 Alice in Wonderland movie.

Carol's treasures
Carol's new treasures.

Carol's plates
Carol's new plates.

Carol's favourite
Carol's favourite.

Carol's pins
Pins Carol found in Dayton.

In 2018 Dayton Disneyana will be held at the Hope Hotel and the adjoining Richard C. Holbrooke Conference Center on June 8th, 9th and 10th. They are located at 10823 Chidlaw Road, less than two miles from the site of the 2017 event.

The new venue will provide much more room for vendors and that has Carol very excited!
I don't care about the vendors... I'm already wondering who the speakers will be!

We hope to see you there!

Follow for more details on Dayton Disneyana 2018 on their Web Site HERE or on their Facebook page HERE

July 13, 2017

The Mousy Mindboggler



As you know if you subscribe to the AllEars® Weekly Newsletter, each month our friend James Dezern (known as "dzneynut" around several Disney discussion forums) supplies us with a puzzle of his own design.

Every month, James also Shares the Magic in another way -- by posting an all-new puzzle here in this AllEars.Net Guest Blog.

This month, James writes:

Here is the solution to the last crossword puzzle.

We received 39 correct responses. All of you knew that the opening narration for the film, “The Shaggy Dog” was none other than Paul Frees. Paul and his distinctive voice could, of course, be heard in the many Haunted Mansions around the world as the “Ghost Host,” as well as other attraction voices, and also the lovable Ludwig von Drake.

The winner of a Figment pin, randomly drawn from the correct responses, was Seth K. from Robbinsville, NJ.

If you missed it last month, that's OK, because here’s another chance.

This month we are continuing our look at the extensive library of Disney’s live-action films. This month’s film, “Darby O’Gill and the Little People," was the debut of two actors who would go on to star in two different types of movies! Sean Connery would go on to star as the definitive “Bond, James Bond!” Janet Monro would go on to star in several Disney live-action films, such as “Swiss Family Robinson,” “Third Man on the Mountain,” and “The Horsemasters."

The object of this puzzle is, as always, to have fun, but if you'd like a chance to win a Disney collectible pin, send me the answer IN THE SUBJECT LINE OF AN EMAIL addressed to

Send your entries no later than 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on August 5, 2017. All correct answers will be entered into a random drawing, and the winner will be awarded a Disney pin. The answers and drawing winner will be posted in this Guest Blog sometime in August.

Please note, for this puzzle ALL of the clues are used.

As always, any feedback on the puzzle format or topics would be appreciated! Drop me a line at

Thanks for playing, everyone!

July 10, 2017

Disney's participation at the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair was a pivotal moment for the company


The endearing dolls in the it's a small world attraction at the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair. [Chuck Schmidt collection]

Before there was Walt Disney World, Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland or Shanghai Disneyland, there was just little, ol' Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif.

Although Walt Disney detested doing sequels to his movies, he wasn't averse to creating a second Disneyland. In the years following the opening The Happiest Place on Earth in 1955, there was some talk, both from within the company and from outside sources, that building a sequel might not be a bad idea.

It's still hard to imagine, given the success of Disney's theme parks worldwide today, but Walt and many of his top lieutenants had some doubts about building a second Disneyland east of the Mississippi River. Specifically, it was thought by many that Disneyland was a West Coast phenomenon and Disney's brand just wouldn't be very successful on the East Coast.

In 1960, a group of businessmen from St. Louis approached Disney about building a second Disneyland in the city known, ironically, as The Gateway to the West. Disney looked at the possibility long and hard, but after months of haggling, "Some key person backed out," according to Disney Legend John Hench, and the idea of a St. Louis Disneyland faded.

Still, Walt couldn't get the idea of heading East out of his mind. He needed something to convince himself that making a bold move East would be viable. So when the opportunity arose to participate in the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair, Walt jumped at the idea.

Walt Disney's ties to international expositions go all the way back to the 1893, when his father, Elias Disney, worked as a carpenter at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

And at the 1939-1940 New York World's Fair, Disney characters Mickey, Minnie and Pluto starred in a five-minute Technicolor cartoon named Mickey's Surprise Party.

A poster promoting the 1958 Brussels World's Fair, which featured the Disney attraction "America the Beautiful."

In 1958, Disney decided to test the waters on an international scale, setting up a show at the World's Fair in Brussels, Belgium. According to Disney Legend Bob Gurr, "Walt was always thinking ahead of things. He sent a lot of guys over there [to Brussels] to sort of case the joint, to see what was involved."

At the Brussels World's Fair, Disney's then-innovative 360-degree Circarama film America the Beautiful played to packed houses. It was the first Disneyland-style attraction to be shown outside the United States.

Then, in 1962, "Walt sent a bunch of us to the Seattle World's Fair for the same reason," Gurr said. By "casing the joint," Walt was able to get a good idea of what would work and what wouldn't work at a World's Fair ... setting the stage for one of the biggest gambles of his life: The Walt Disney Company's participation at the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair.

When Robert Moses and the folks at the New York World's Fair came calling, the wheels began turning in Walt's head. By participating in the Fair, Walt figured, he could resolve, once and for all, the question of whether his style of entertainment would be popular with East Coast audiences. And if Mickey and Friends were a hit in New York City, maybe ... just maybe ... Disney could make the move East on a permanent basis.

"The New York World's Fair was critical, because Walt used it as a proving ground for Walt Disney Imagineering to develop bigger and better shows and to advance animatronics beyond the [Enchanted] Tiki Room," said Tony Baxter, Imagineering's former senior vice president of Creative Development.

"I consider the Fair to be the first golden era of Imagineering attractions. New ride systems and sophisticated Audio-Animatronics were developed for the Fair. It was a giant leap forward in what could be done [in Disney's theme parks]."

But over and above that, Walt wanted to see first-hand the reactions of Easterners to those attractions. To paraphrase Frank Sinatra, if Disney could make it in New York, it could make it anywhere. As it turned out, that anywhere became a huge tract of land south of the then-sleepy town of Orlando, Fla. When the Fair opened on April 22, 1964, Walt was already secretly scooping up property in central Florida.

In a stroke of pure business genius, Walt enlisted corporate sponsors pay for each of Disney's four Fair attractions. Moreover, according to former Imagineering leader Marty Sklar, when the Fair closed, those same companies paid for the attractions to be shipped back to Disneyland, where they took up residence in whole or in part [it's a small world and some of the dinosaurs from Ford's Magic Skyway can still be seen in the Happiest Place on Earth].

The exterior of the Illinois state pavilion at the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair.

Sklar traces Disney's participation in the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair back to 1957. "It started, I guess, with Abraham Lincoln," he said. "That show had been written - not the single Lincoln, but the entire Hall of Presidents show - in 1957." The problem was, technology hadn't yet caught up with Walt's wildly creative imagination.

But when Moses, the president of the Fair, saw mock ups of the Hall of Presidents show during a tour of the Disney Studios, he was insistent that Disney bring it to the Fair. "But Walt said, 'We haven't done one figure yet," Sklar said. "Ultimately, Moses put Disney and the state of Illinois together," which resulted in the Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln presentation at the Illinois state pavilion.

The Lincoln show was ground-breaking on so many different levels. To begin with, Disney's creative team had to make their recreation of Honest Abe look like an honest to goodness Abraham Lincoln. Anyone with a penny or a five-dollar bill in their pocket could easily compare the facial features on the currency with the Audio-Animatronics figure on stage. Abe had to be spot-on ... and he was, thanks to the work of sculptor Blaine Gibson.

And then there were the movements of the robotic figure positioned in the center of the stage. No one had ever tried, much less succeeded, in having a life-size animated figure move with the fluidity of a human being. The system used hydraulic and pneumatic valves to achieve that realism.

"It was a marvel the machine worked as well as it did from the get-go," said Disney Legend Bob Gurr, who was the main man behind the development of Audio-Animatronics. "It combined the sculpting, the skin, the detailed facial animation, animated hands, plus the body, plus getting him up out of the chair and all the electronics to do with that ... it was a big effort by so many people working on that machine."

The show began with the Lincoln figure seated at center stage. Then, to the amazement of those in the audience, Lincoln would rise up from the chair, stand and begin to recite lines from some of his most famous speeches. Gurr called Lincoln's rise from the chair "that trick thing."

The success of the development of the Lincoln figure in the years prior to the Fair's opening allowed Gurr to devise a system where Audio-Animatronics figures could be mass-produced.

A closeup of the Abraham Lincoln figure at the New York World's Fair, created by famed Disney artist Blaine Gibson. [The Walt Disney Company]

"Within a year, we found with the basic concept of Lincoln we could actually engineer what we would call production parts," Gurr said. "In other words, instead of making a part one at a time, we could make a whole group of parts. By investing in the tooling to make parts, we could manufacture humans and animals out of all these standardized parts. All of this started with the basic configuration of Abraham Lincoln."

Gurr and the rest of the creative team used this philosophy to build Audio-Animatronics figures for Disney's three other World's Fair shows: Ford's Magic Skyway, General Electric's Carousel of Progress and Pepsi-Cola's it's a small world.

The Magic Skyway show took guests, seated in authentic Ford Motor Company cars [sans engines and transmissions and all convertibles, so guests wouldn't hit their heads] on a journey through time, from the dawn of the ages to prehistoric times and then into the future [a subtle hint at Walt's desire to build a city of the future]. In addition to contributing to the development of the massive dinosaur figures seen during the ride, Gurr was the chief designer for the actual ride system which carried the cars on their voyage through time.

Borrowing from the booster brake system he and Arrow Development employed on Disneyland's Matterhorn Mountain attraction, Gurr positioned small one-horsepower gear motors with rotating 16-inch wheels several feet apart along the ride's two tracks. The wheels [there were a total of 714 of these motors embedded in the two tracks] would come in contact with metal plates attached to the underbellies of the cars, allowing them to move at a slow, but steady pace. [A similar technology is used in the WEDway PeopleMover attraction in Walt Disney World. It is often mistaken for the Omnimover system, where ride vehicles can pivot and traverse up and down inclines.]

Guests come face to face with a family of dinosaurs during the Ford's Magic Skyway attraction. [Associated Press]

Between the 1964 and 1965 seasons, Ford CEO Henry Ford II asked Walt Disney to record the narration for the attraction. Although "Walt had a terrible cough and kept blowing the lines," said Marty Sklar, "and it took a long time, we finally got a great take." It seems Walt also had problems pronouncing the names of many of the dinosaurs on display during the ride.

GE's Carousel of Progress showcased the advancement in electricity from the early 1900s through "modern times" ... or at the least, the mid-1960s. There even was a demonstration of nuclear fusion inside the pavilion.

In addition to the 32 Audio-Animatronics figures used in the four-part presentation, Disney employed a carousel-type system to present the show. There were four fixed stages representing different eras in the advancement of electricity and the audience revolved around each different set, with the song "There's a Great, Big Beautiful Tomorrow" playing every time the audience rotated to a different scene.

The exterior of General Electric's Progressland, which featured the Disney-created Carousel of Progress, between the Fair's 1964 and 1965 seasons. [Associated Press]

The Carousel of Progress remains a popular attraction; it's located in Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.

The it's a small world attraction is a mainstay at every Disney park worldwide, primarily because of its message of international peace and harmony, particularly among young people.

Although not as complex, Audio-Animatronics technology was used on the dozens and dozens of dolls on display during The Happiest Cruise That Ever Sailed. Gurr, although tied up with the Audio-Animatronics and ride systems on the other three Disney Fair attractions, made contributions to it's a small world, specifically working with Arrow Development to come up with the system that gently pushed the boats through the narrow canals.

Of course, the most memorable aspect of it's a small world is its theme song, written by Dick and Bob Sherman. According to Marty Sklar, it's a small world is his all-time favorite Disney attraction. "The line in that song ... There's just one moon and one golden sun and a smile means friendship to everyone ... what a wonderful world this would be if we could follow those feelings."

In the end, Disney's participation in the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair proved to be a huge success, proving once and for all that the Disney brand of entertainment would be a big hit just about anywhere in the world.

July 2, 2017

Mickey and Friends Gardening

Gary Cruise banner

A few weeks ago a package arrived in the mail from Disney Movie Club. Carol opened it up and much to my surprise pulled out a packet of Disney themed garden seeds.

Bambi Daisies
Click on the image to see a larger copy

Bambi is apparently a big fan of the Gloriosa Daisy.

I said, “I’ve never seen Disney seeds before!”

Carol immediately led me to her Disney Room and pulled a package down from one of the shelves. It was a Disney planting kit in a blister pack. The kit contains a packet of Pluto’s Pumpkin Seeds and a row marker for your garden.

Pluto Seed Kit

Carol found it a few years ago in a local thrift store.

I was doubly surprised because the Pluto Pumpkin Seed kit was produced by McKenzie Seeds, a Canadian company headquartered in Brandon Manitoba. We’re not used to seeing Canadian-made Disney products!

I did a bit of research online and found that McKenzie began producing licensed Disney seed kits aimed at young gardeners in 1996.

They produced Disney’s Mickey & Friends Deluxe Gardening Kits, Pocahontas Sunflower Growing Kits, Mickey & Friends Single Variety Packs and Pocahontas Flit Hummingbird Garden Kits. All were designed to teach children aged five years and older to respect the environment and love nature.

Some of the kits included things like growing medium, a watering can, garden trowel and fork, a gardening guide, seeds, and Disney character row markers.

Our son Rob stopped by for a visit just a few days after the Movie Club seeds arrived, and gave Carol a new Disney treasure he had picked up for her in another thrift store the previous day.

You guessed it – seeds!

Daisy Daisies
Click on each seed packet to see a larger image

Goofy Sunflowers

Minnie Marigolds

Mickey Peas

There were six different varieties of seeds offered and Carol has five of them. She's now on the lookout for some Donald Duck Carrot Seeds!

The kit that Rob picked up was still in the original box but the package was ripped, torn, faded and discoloured. It was beyond repair. There was also a small plastic pot to plant the seeds in and a tiny plastic trowel. Just what an ittsy-bittsy gardener needs!

The best part, of course, was the seed packets and also the cute set of row markers for the garden.

Row Markers
Click to see a larger image

Aren’t they special?

And how about the fold-out Mickey & Friends Gardening Story Guide.

Gardening Guide

The 4¼” X 4½” pamphlet folds out to display six cartoon style panels of gardening tips for tiny green thumbs.

Fold out pamphlet
Click to see a larger image

How cool is that?

I have no idea how long the Disney licensed seeds were distributed in Canada, but they are no longer available. So Rob’s latest Disney gifts for his mother will be prized additions to her Disney Room.

I imagine that one of the big seed companies in the USA had a similar licensing arrangement.

Here's a question for all of my fellow readers:

Do you have similar seed packets and gardening kits in your Disney collections?

June 26, 2017

When a 'hard freeze' hit Walt Disney World in 1989, cast members turned to faux plants along Jungle Cruise


During the hard freeze of 1989 in Florida, most of the vegetation along the Jungle Cruise died, forcing Disney to bring in plastic stand-ins. [AllEars.Net]

The term "hard freeze" sends shivers up and down the spines of anyone in Florida associated with plant life. When the temperature dips below 32 degrees and stays that way for several hours, the affects can be devastating to vegetation.

In 1989, central Florida experienced a particularly tough hard freeze which lasted for several days. And Walt Disney World wasn't immune.

At Epcot, "the vegetation was virtually wiped out in that freeze," said Dennis Higbie, who went on to become Animal Kingdom's general curator of botanical programs. "We learned a lot in how to replace [plants] in record time."

At the Magic Kingdom, the Jungle Cruise was hit particular hard, especially when you consider the fact that there is so much natural vegetation growing all along the shorelines of the attraction.

According to Ted Kellogg, who was the supervisor of watercraft when Walt Disney World opened in 1971 and who was working in a more behind-the-scenes capacity during the time of the freeze, the water was drained from the Jungle Cruise to protect the submerged Audio-Animatronics figures.

Ted Kellogg enjoyed a long career with Disney, starting at Disneyland. He was the supervisor of watercraft when Walt Disney World opened, then transferred to behind-the-scenes work, helping to rehab a number of attractions and hotels. [Theme Park Press]

"But without water in the waterways," Ted added, "every tropical plant in the attraction literally froze to death."

Since it wasn't growing season, "there were no tropical plants available to replace them," Ted said. "So we bought every artificial plant we could find within 3,000 miles and brought them in by the truckload.

"We had an army of people getting rid of the dead plants and replacing them with all the artificial plants." It took about a week, but when the Jungle Cruise finally reopened, faux plants were the order of the day until the real things eventually returned with warmer weather. The thing is, nobody could tell the difference between the real and the fake plants.

But the Jungle Cruise's problems were the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.

On the first morning following the hard freeze, "I got to work at 7 in the morning before the park was open and was walking through Cinderella Castle," Ted said. "When I got to the other side of the castle, I noticed that the water in the fountain in Fantasyland was frozen solid. At about 10 o'clock, sprinkler heads that were frozen began to thaw and crack."

It set off a chain reaction as water started leaking throughout the park.

"We had to bring in the Reedy Creek Fire Department to shut down every sprinkler system in the park. Eventually, we had to order tons of valves, repaint them and have them installed."

Ted Kellogg supervised a rehab to the lobby of the Polynesian Village Resort in the mid-1990s. His innovative ideas saved the lobby from being closed during the work. []

Ted Kellogg is a man of many stories, from Walt Disney World, to Disneyland, to his days as a fishing boat captain, to his once-in-a-lifetime trip with two buddies from southern California to South America by car, bus and dugout canoe.

He started by working part-time at Disneyland, often piloting either the Mark Twain riverboat or the top-heavy keel boats.

He came down to Florida with his new bride as part of the first wave of Disney cast members tasked with setting up opening the Magic Kingdom. After several years supervising the boats, Ted transferred to construction, supervising the rehabilitation of a variety of park attractions and on-property hotels.

He was the guy in charge when the California Grill was refurbished in the 1990s. Also in the 1990s at the Polynesian Village, his creative plan helped rehab the main lobby without having to close it, which would have been a major inconvenience for Poly guests.

Ted has written a book about all of his experiences, which I had the honor of contributing to. It will be available soon.

June 22, 2017

The Mousy Mindboggler



As you know if you subscribe to the AllEars® Weekly Newsletter, each month our friend James Dezern (known as "dzneynut" around several Disney discussion forums) supplies us with a puzzle of his own design.

Every month, James also Shares the Magic in another way -- by posting an all-new puzzle here in this AllEars.Net Guest Blog.

This month, James writes:

Here is the solution to the last crossword puzzle.

We received 53 correct responses. All of you knew that the name of the sequel to "Old Yeller" was 1963's "Savage Sam," named after Old Yeller's son. At least the sequel didn't pull on your heartstrings, like the first one did!

The winner of a Pluto pin, randomly drawn from the correct responses, was Jodi A. of Madisonville, Lousiana.

If you missed it last month, that's OK, because here’s another chance.

This month we are continuing our look at the huge library of Disney's live-action films. This month’s film, "The Shaggy Dog," was Disney’s first foray into the arena of live-action comedy. It was also a launching point for actors who would become mainstays in Disney live-action films to come, Fred MacMurray, Annette Funicello, Tommy Kirk and Kevin Corcoran.

The object of this puzzle is, as always, to have fun, but if you'd like a chance to win a Disney collectible pin, send me the answer IN THE SUBJECT LINE OF AN EMAIL addressed to

Send your entries no later than 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on July 8, 2017. All correct answers will be entered into a random drawing, and the winner will be awarded a Disney pin. The answers and drawing winner will be posted in this Guest Blog sometime in July.

As always, any feedback on the puzzle format or topics would be appreciated! Drop me a line at

Thanks for playing, everyone!

June 18, 2017

The Architecture at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Gary Cruise banner

I’m a big fan of Disney’s talented corps of Imagineers!

When they design the theme parks we all enjoy so completely they do a masterful job. Every aspect of the product they create is realistic and immersive.

The Hollywood Studios park is a prime example. When they began laying out the concepts for the new destination, led by Marty Sklar, they had one overriding goal, to create something that showed “tinsel-town” in its glory days.

Rod Serling says it well in his introduction at the Hollywood Tower of Terror: “Hollywood, 1939. Amid the glitz and the glitter of a bustling, young movie town at the height of its golden age . . . “. That was what the Imagineers were striving to build in Florida . . . a way for us to experience exactly how Hollywood felt during that “golden age”.

They began by scouring modern day Hollywood for iconic examples of architecture and began planning the streetscapes around some of their favourites. An article in the Spring 2005 issue of Disney Magazine focuses on five of the buildings they incorporated in their final design. In the words of Imagineer Eric Jacobson, “Ninety percent of what you see on Hollywood Boulevard is inspired by, a modification of, or a copy of a real building in Los Angeles.”

The first building the article describes is Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, located on Hollywood Boulevard beside the Dolby Theatre and across from Disney’s El Capitan Theatre.

Grauman's Chinese Theatre

The Florida reproduction of that famous Hollywood building houses The Great Movie Ride.

Grauman's Chinese Theatre 2006

Compare the picture from the article with a picture of the original building I snapped during a 2006 trip to Hollywood.

Have you noticed the building shaped like a camera on Hollywood Boulevard? It’s on your right as you walk toward Grauman’s Theatre. The picture in the magazine article shows the original building, on Wilshire Boulevard, as it appeared in 1938 and compares it to the reproduction that appears in the theme park.

The Darkroom

Here’s a picture of that same Los Angeles building as it appears today. I captured the image on Google Earth, check it out, it’s at 5370 Wilshire. These days the building houses a restaurant, but that unique camera façade will be with us for a very long time; it’s protected by the Los Angeles Conservancy!

The Darkroom today

Next on the list is the Max Factor Building on North Highland Avenue. Once again the illustration in the article compares the original building to the reproduction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It’s a remarkable likeness! Check it out when you visit the park; it’s across the street from The Darkroom.

Max Factor

Thanks to Google Earth and their Street View function I was able to get a picture of the building as it looks today. It looks like Max Factor has gone and this building is also now home to a restaurant.

Max Factor today

That building just inside the Hollywood Studios gate, the one with Mickey on top of the tower, it is a reproduction of another Hollywood icon, the Crossroads of the World building on Sunset Boulevard.

Crossroads of the World

Here’s what it looks like today!

Crossroads ot the World today

The last buildings the article looks at are the two stone building on either side of the entrance to The Hollywood Tower of Terror. In the theme park version the tall tower houses restrooms and the shorter building opposite it used to be home for the FastPass dispensers. They are modelled after The Hollywoodland Gates which in 1923 were at the end of Beachwood Drive. Hollywoodland was a new real estate development being built in the 1920’s and there was a huge sign erected up in the hills behind the gate. The “land” portion of the sign fell down, leaving the iconic Hollywood sign we all recognize today.

Hollywoodland Gates

Of course Hollywoodland is fully developed these days, but those old stone gates remain. You can find them near the corner of North Beachwood Drive and Belden Drive.

Hollywoodland Gates today

One last structure I’d like to look at is the entrance to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. That magnificent structure that first greets you, built in the Streamline Moderne style.

Hollywood Studios Entrance

It is also based on a Los Angeles building, The Pan Pacific Auditorium at 7600 West Beverly Boulevard.

Pan Pacific Auditorium

Once again the Imagineers created a remarkable likeness!

1600 Beverly Blvd today

Unfortunately, the auditorium no longer exists, it was consumed in a fire in 1989. Today the property is home to a sports field!

If you want to read more, the entire article from 2005 is included below. Click on each of the three images to read many fascinating details about each of the five buildings.

Disney Magazine Spring 2005 page 63

Disney Magazine Spring 2005 page 64

Disney Magazine Spring 2005 page 65

The Hollywood Studios park is currently transforming in a big way with the addition of new areas based on the Star Wars movies and the Toy Story movies.

While I’m very much looking forward to enjoying each of these new lands, I hope that we never lose that feeling of “glitz and glitter” the Imagineers created along Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard. When some of the talented “streetmosphere” performers appear among those classic buildings it makes me want to sing "Hooray for Hollywood".

I really enjoy the “golden age of Hollywood” feeling I get when I visit the park!

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