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February 1, 2016

Still Goofy About Disney: A blog, re-imagined

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Mickey Mouse leads the parade along Main Street U.S.A. during the author's first visit to Walt Disney World in 1972. Photo by Chuck Schmidt


by Chuck Schmidt
AllEars.Net Guest Blogger

When the Walt Disney Company updates an attraction, adding new pizzazz to a ride that's well past its prime, they often tell us the ride has been "re-imagined."

Star Tours in Hollywood Studios was re-imagined a few years back to become Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, with new scenes from Episodes 1, 2 and 3. So, too, was Test Track in Epcot, where you can now design your own car before taking it for a hair-raising spin around the banked speedway.

After seven years writing a blog on all things Disney on SILive.com, we've decided to re-imagine it. Much like the Festival of the Lion King show in Animal Kingdom, which was moved to another location, we'll now be blogging on AllEars.net, the preeminent website for all-things-Disney. In keeping with the re-imagining theme, my contributions to AllEars will be titled Still Goofy about Disney.

The focus of Still Goofy about Disney will be a subject near and dear to my heart: Disney of old. I have always been fascinated with the history of the most successful entertainment company in the world. During my 30-plus years of covering Disney either as the Sunday Editor of the Staten Island Advance or as a Disney blogger, I have been fortunate to have gotten to know many of the most prominent cast members in Disney history, folks like Marty Sklar, Jack Lindquist, Tony Baxter, Bob Gurr, Tom Nabbe, Bill Sullivan, Ron Dominguez, Charlie Ridgway and, of course, Deevy See [just kidding].

Through personal contact or phone interviews, they have shared many, many intriguing stories about their lives and their careers .. stories that I have, in turn, enjoyed sharing with my readers.

My wife Janet and I first visited Walt Disney World in 1972, a few months after we were married. I have still-strong memories of a place that we've returned to dozens and dozens of times over the last four-plus decades. Like those conversations I've had with the Disney Legends, all those previous visits will form the fabric of Still Goofy about Disney going forward.

In addition to my blog, which I started in 2009, I have authored two books on Disney, with a third due out this spring.

The first was Disney's Dream Weavers [Dog Ear Publishing], which goes into detail about the common thread I found running through Disneyland, Freedomland, the 1964-195 New York World's Fair, and Walt Disney World. The second is On the Disney Beat [Theme Park Press], which tells the story of my more than 30 years of covering Disney, either at elaborate Walt Disney World/Disney Cruise Line press events or through extensive interviews with some of the most respected Disney Legends.

Marty Sklar, one of those Legends, graciously wrote a foreword to On the Disney Beat, leaving me both honored and humbled. In part it reads: "It's not just Chuck's reporting and writing that we at Disney appreciate so much. It's the trust that we place in Chuck -- that through his knowledge and appreciation of what we have created and built, we will be treated fairly, respected for our passion and skill, and loved for 'making the magic real.'"

Hopefully, my passion for Disney will continue to shine through in future Still Goofy about Disney blogs.

February 7, 2016

Disney Postage Stamps

Gary Cruise banner

Yes, you read that title correctly; there really are Disney postage stamps! They’ve been around since September 11, 1968 when the US Postal Service issued a stamp commemorating the life of Walt Disney.

That stamp featured a portrait of Walt, surrounded by children of the world.

1968 Walt Disney Commemorative Stamp

It was an immediate hit with stamp collectors around the world who scrambled to buy the stamps and some limited edition “First Day Of Issue” envelopes. Philatelists (stamp collectors) refer to these special envelopes as “covers”.

1968 Walt Disney Commemorative Stamp Covers

Over the next twenty years the Disney licensing machine operated in high gear as Disney artists produced custom art work for countries all around the world which were producing Disney postage stamps.

That’s when Carol began her collection, in about 1989. Her first purchase resulted from a magazine ad she saw; it was a packet of 100 stamps from around the world that she purchased from a philatelic distributor in Calgary Alberta.

Since then she has kept her eyes open and her ear to the ground, following for new releases, and she has made some good buys! She is strictly a "topical collector" - she focuses entirely on Disney stamps!

All of the images below come from Carol’s collection. In most cases you can click on the image to see a larger version.

Let's look at some of Carol's Disney stamps from the 1980's, starting with this group from Dominica, a small island-nation in the Lesser Antilles. They featured a Peter Pan theme and were produced for Christmas 1980.

1980 Dominica Peter Pan Christmas
(Did you remember to click on the picture to see a larger version?)

That same year Grenada sold two series of Christmas stamps, one based on Bambi and the other featuring Snow White.

1980 Grenada Christmas

In 1982 the tiny South Asian nation of Bhutan had a special issue of stamps based on Disney's Jungle Book.

1982 Bhutan Jungle Book

There were even stamps to commemorate the 1982 World Cup, played that year in Spain. The soccer themed stamps weren't produced in Spain though, they came from Dominica.

1982 Dominica World Cup

In 1983 Anguilla, a British Territory in the Caribbean, had a series of Christmas stamps showing Disney characters in scenes from Dickens stories.

1983 Anguilla Christmas

A series issued by Antigua and Barbuda celebrated Donald Duck's 50th birthday. Donald and his nephews were shown enjoying a Caribbean cruise vacation for Christmas 1984.

1984 Antigua Cruise Holiday

The theme was "50 Years Of Color Animation" in the series issued by Romania in 1985.

1985 Romania 50 Years of Color animation

In 1988 there was a huge stamp exposition in Chicago. "Ameripex '86" was hailed as The World's Fair of Stamps. The stamps below were produced for that event by Grenada and the Republic of Maldives.

1988 Grenada and Maldives Ameripex

Let's conclude our little postage stamp tour of the 1980's by looking at this cute little Christmas train from 1988. These stamps were produced by St. Vincent, another tiny island-nation in the Lesser Antilles.

1988 St. Vincent Christmas Train

There was a Canadian addition to Carol's collection in 1996. Canada Post and Walt Disney World joined forces to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Walt Disney World by issuing a stamp series featuring Canada's most popular bear. She didn't even have to fly south to get these stamps, she picked them up in our local post office!

1996 Canadian Winnie The Pooh Stamps

Since the new millennium began there have been frequent releases by the US Postal Service, based on "The Art of Disney", and Carol has collected them all.

First came the "Art of Disney Friendship" series in 2004. The four stamps in the series depict some of your favourite characters with their best friends!

2004 The Art Of Disney Friendship Sheet

Naturally Carol bought the "First Day Of Issue" covers!

2004 The Art Of Disney Friendship Covers

The series also included a set of four 8" X !0" prints. My princess bought them as well, to complete her set.

2004 The Art Of Disney Friendship Prints

The theme for 2005 was "Celebration" and Carol was thrilled when this offer from the US Postal Service arrived in the mail!

2005 Celebrate The Art Of Disney Advertising Poster

The Celebration stamps portray Disney characters enjoying festive activities; music, dancing, a birthday and a tea party.

2005 The Art Of Disney Celebration Sheet

Once again she ordered the First Day Of Issue covers!

2005 The Art Of Disney Celebration Covers

. . . and the 8" X 10" prints . . .

2005 The Art Of Disney Celebration Prints

. . . and the postcards . . . you just cannot get too much of a good thing!

2005 The Art Of Disney Celebration Postcards

Things took a romantic turn in 2006. What could be sweeter than these Disney couples?

2006 The Art Of Disney Romance Sheet

As you probably guessed, Carol just had to have the First Day Of Issue covers! They were released at the 2006 EPCOT Flower and Garden Show and each cover shows the corresponding topiary that was on display during the festival.

2006 The Art Of Disney Romance Covers

. . . and the 8" X 10" prints.

2006 The Art Of Disney Romance Prints

We attended the Flower and Garden show that year and Carol was lucky enough to pick up one of the special framed cachets. It was a Limited Edition of 185.

2006 The Art Of Disney Romance Cachet

Magic took center stage in 2007. There were four magical moments from Disney animated feature films depicted on the stamps that year.

2007 The Art Of Disney Magic Sheet

Of course she bought the First Day Of Issue covers and the prints . . .

2007 The Art Of Disney Magic Covers

2007 The Art Of Disney Magic Prints

. . . and the postcards!

2007 The Art Of Disney Magic Postcards

In 2007 the stamps shone their spotlight on Disney Imagination.

2008 The Art Of Disney Imagination Sheet

Carol added a sheet of stamps, the First Day Of Issue covers and the prints to her collection.

2008 The Art Of Disney Imagination Covers

2008 The Art Of Disney Imagination Prints

The next issue from USPS was in 2011, the "Send A Hello" series showing characters from five popular Disney/Pixar animated features.

2011 Send A Hello Sheet

Carol bought the standard covers and the First Day Of Issue covers.

2011 Send A Hello Covers

In 2012 they followed with the "Mail A Smile" series, once again depicting five Disney/Pixar films.

2012 Mail A Smile Sheet

Once again Carol bought both sets of covers.

2012 Mail A Smile Covers

Alas, there haven't been any new releases in North America in the past few years, but Carol continues to keep her eyes and ears open looking for new philatelic treasure!

There are some resources available for aspiring Disney philatelists! There is an out-of-print book dedicated to collecting Disney stamps; there are Disney stamp collecting albums and kits; there is even a Facebook page for Disney stamp collectors. A simple Internet search should help you find these resources if you want to read more, or begin your own collection!

February 15, 2016

Marty Sklar and Card Walker: A winning combination

CHUCK SCHMIDT / Still Goofy about Disney
AllEars.net Guest Blogger

In very real sense, Marty Sklar is the keeper of the flame ... the Disney flame, that is.

Since retiring from the Walt Disney Company in 2009, Marty has gladly taken it upon himself to ensure the stories of Walt Disney, The Walt Disney Company and the many wonderful people he worked with during his 54 years of service are presented in a fair, accurate and truthful manner.

When you speak to Marty about the most influential people in his career, there's one man near the top of his "most respected" list. It's the man who hired him in 1955 and who, 15 years later, presented him with his most daunting challenge.

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Card Walker

The story of Esmond Cardon Walker -- or Card, for short -- is one of those classic American tales that should both inspire and educate us. It's the story of a man who started at the lowest rung of the Disney corporate ladder and rose to become company president, overseeing the construction of both Epcot Center and Tokyo Disneyland and, along the way, proving decisively that nice guys do finish first.

As then-CEO Michael Eisner said of Walker in 1990: "In a very real sense, Card is the link between the small, family-owned film company of the '30s and the major global corporation we are today. I'm grateful to have had the benefit of his experience, his judgment, and his convictions about the 'Disney way' of doing things."

Card Walker was born on Jan. 9, 1916, in Rexburg, Idaho. He moved with his family to Los Angeles in 1924. After graduating from UCLA, he began his business career in humble fashion in 1938 in the Disney Studio mail room, a place where Walt Disney felt new hires could experience every facet of the studio operation. And Card learned his lessons well. He was transferred to the camera department and would go on to serve as unit manager on short subjects in the production department.

In 1941, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Card enlisted in the U.S. Navy, serving as a flight deck officer aboard the USS Bunker Hill, which fought in eight battles between 1943 and 1945. After the war, he returned to Disney and rose to the position of vice president of marketing and sales.

It was during the mid-1950s, with construction of Disneyland nearing the final stages, when Marty Sklar and Card Walker crossed paths.

"I was fortunate the have known Johnny Jackson," Marty said. "He was the executive director of the UCLA Alumni Association. I had received a scholarship to go to UCLA. The tuition at the time [1952] was 50 dollars. My scholarship was full tuition ... 50 bucks!

"At some point in 1954, Johnny went to work for Disney. He, along with several other people, reported to Card Walker. When they decided to do a tabloid newspaper to be sold on Main Street, I was about to become the editor of the Daily Bruin at UCLA.

"In the spring of 1955, I got a call at my fraternity. When I got the message, I thought one of my frat brothers was playing a trick on me because his father worked at The Desert Inn in Las Vegas. I didn't return his call because he said someone named Card called. I thought it was a joke. It was my good fortune that Card was a graduate of UCLA and was a big booster.

"I eventually went in for an interview and they hired me."

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Card Walker looks over Walt Disney's shoulder during a visit to the Florida property in the mid-1960s. [Walt Disney Company photo]

Marty then told me a story about how a person at the Disney Archives recently sent him a memo he had discovered regarding his hiring.

"It was an inter-office communication for Disneyland, Inc. It was from Ed Ettinger, who was my first boss at Disneyland. The memo read:

Subject: Editor for newspaper-Disneyland.

We have an editor for the Disneyland newspaper. Martin Sklar will be editor of the newspaper. He was thoroughly checked out from every angle. He comes highly recommended.

"The memo," Marty added, "was copied to Card Walker." Marty was particularly amused by the "thoroughly checked out from every angle" line.

One month after being hired, Marty had to present the concept he came up with for The Disneyland News to none other than Walt Disney.

"The meeting with Walt took place at Disneyland in the conference room in the Administration Building, which was [Disney Legend] Ron Dominguez's former house. [The Dominguez house, part of a large orange grove that was owned by his family for decades, was located near where the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction now stands. The property was purchased by Disney and the house subsequently was moved to an area behind the Main Street Opera House, serving as an administration building for about 10 years.]

"The key thing to me was Walt had the time for this little thing I was doing. It really fell into place when I realized why Walt had time for it. Main Street, for him, was a real place. A story point and a detail."

The Disneyland News, like Disneyland itself, was a huge success. And for both Marty Sklar and Card Walker, the newspaper and the theme park would provide a springboard to future success for both men.

Next time: Card Walker pops the big question to Marty Sklar: "What are we going to do about Epcot?"

February 17, 2016

The Mousy Mindboggler - February 2016

Riddle

THE MOUSY MINDBOGGLER

If you subscribe to the AllEars® Weekly Newsletter, you'll know that we run a little game called the Mousy Mindboggler. Sometimes it's a word game, sometimes it's a riddle, sometimes it's some other brain-teasing challenge -- but it's always fun!

Once each month, in the AllEars® newsletter, 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. The subject of the puzzle will vary, and James will award the winner of the challenge a collectible Disney pin!

This month, James writes:

Here is the solution to last month’s crossword puzzle, commemorating the 20th anniversary of AllEars.Net.

http://allears.net/ae/mb011516-key.pdf


We received 51 correct responses; all of you knowing that the theme of the 15-month celebration of Walt Disney World’s 25th Anniversary, which actually began in 1996, was “Time to Remember the Magic.” The celebration was highlighted by the conversion of Cinderella Castle into what many people lovingly referred to as the Pepto-Bismol®-Pink Cake! You either loved it or hated it; I heard there were many cancelled weddings that year!

The winner of a Figment pin, randomly drawn from the correct responses, was Danielle M. of Bartonsville, PA.

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

Starting this month we are going to go back to crossword puzzles, but continue the special puzzle series I started last month, concentrating on Disney History. The subject of this month’s puzzle will be “This Month in Disney History, February.” All of these events happened sometime during the month of February. Please note, for this puzzle ALL of the clues are used.

http://allears.net/ae/mb021516.pdf

The object 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 dzneynut.puzzle@gmail.com.

Send your entries no later than 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on March 13, 2016. 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 in mid- to late March.

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

Thanks!

February 21, 2016

Windows on Main Street

Gary Cruise banner

Do you ever stop to look at the windows on Main Street USA? Each of those windows pays tribute to someone who has a significant place in Disney history . . . and each window tells a story.

Academy of Fine Art

When Walt first imagined Disneyland he wanted Main Street to resemble the commercial hub in a turn-of-the-20th-century American town. Harper Goff was one of the early Imagineers who played a key role in designing that magnificent park entrance at Disneyland. It reflects Walt’s memories from his younger years in Marceline Missouri and Harper Goff’s recollections from his formative years in Fort Collins Colorado. Walt Disney said, "For those of us who remember the carefree time it recreates, Main Street will bring back happy memories. For younger visitors, it is an adventure in turning back the calendar to the days of their grandfather's youth."

The storefront windows display goods on sale in the shops along Main Street, but if you look at the second story windows you will see some make-believe businesses. Walt decided to use those windows, and those imaginary businesses, to honour the many people who helped him make his Disneyland dream a reality.

When Walt Disney World opened in Florida in 1971, the Magic Kingdom included Main Street USA and more of those special tribute windows. In fact, every Disney park around the world has a Main Street.

Let’s take a look at a few windows:

Ken Anderson

Walt referred to Ken Anderson as his “jack-of-all-trades”. He was an artist and had a background in architecture. Those factors made him an invaluable resource for Walt as Disneyland was being designed and built. The Ken Anderson window, above the Market House in Disneyland, also shows Walt’s tongue-in-cheek sense of humour. Anderson was an avid fly fisherman . . . and everyone knows that fly fishermen do not need bait!

Roy Disney Family

The Disney family is well represented in this window above Crystal Arts in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. It honours Walt’s nephew Roy E. Disney, his wife Patty and their children Roy Patrick, Abigail, Susan and Timothy. The entire family were avid sailors!

Card Walker

Look above the Emporium in Florida for Card Walker’s window. He was President, CEO and finally Chairman of Disney before retiring in 1983. The reference to psychiatry and justice of the peace attest to Walker’s skill at keeping the many divisions in a large organization moving in the same direction.

Charlie Ridgeway

Charlie Ridgeway worked in Disney’s Publicity Department from 1963 until 1994. His book, Spinning Disney’s World, details his career and gives some fascinating glimpses behind the scenes. It should be part of every Disney fan’s library. Look for Charlie’s window in Florida, above The Arcade.

Marty Sklar

There’s an interesting story behind Marty Sklar’s window at Disneyland and Marty himself tells the story in the Foreword he wrote for Chuck Snyder’s book “Windows on Main Street”. It seems that Marty was still working, as Executive Vice President and Imagineering Ambassador, at Disney in about 2008 when they proposed a window for him at Disneyland; that created a bit of a dilemma!

You see there are very clear rules about the windows at Disneyland, and Marty Sklar was responsible for enforcing them. The rules are: 1) Only retired employees, 2) Only the highest level of service/respect/achievement and 3) Agreement between individual park management and Walt Disney Imagineering. The awarding of windows is a bit less rigid at other parks; Mr. Sklar already had windows at Disneyland Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland and The Magic Kingdom. But when the Disneyland window was offered he was still working and he respectfully declined.

Marty's magic day came July 17, 2009; the day he retired his Disneyland window was dedicated. You can find Marty’s window at Disneyland’s City Hall.

Chuck Snyder book

There are several books about the windows lining Disney’s Main Streets and the one pictured above, written by Chuck Snyder and published by Disney Editions, is part of my Disney library. You can buy the book online through the Amazon links below or pick up a copy in the theme parks.

Ub and Don Iwerks

Ub and Don Iwerks have a Magic Kingdom window, above The Bakery. Ub was with Walt from the beginning and helped create both Mickey Mouse and the multi-plane camera used in those early days of animation. Ub’s son Don was a Disney cinematographer for over 35 years and helped perfect the Circle-Vision camera.

Jim Cora

Jim Cora has two windows, one at Disneyland, above Disney Clothiers, and the window pictured above which is in Disneyland Tokyo. Jim began his Disney career in 1957 as a part-time attraction host at Disneyland and by the time he retired in 2001 he had risen to Chairman at Disneyland International.

Mark and Alice Davis

Marc and Alice Davis are the only husband and wife team to have windows. Look above the Disneyana Shop in Disneyland. Marc was one of Walt’s “Nine Old Men” of animation. He joined Disney in 1935 and spent his entire career there. His achievements are too many to review here, but you can see evidence of his talents in The Enchanted Tiki Room, It's A Small World, Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean.

Alice is a Disney Legend. During the mad scramble to design and build those four famous exhibits for the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, Alice worked with Mary Blair to create more than 150 costumes for "It’s A Small World". She continued designing costumes for audio-animatronic figures, live action movies, even animated characters until her retirement in 1974.

Owen Pope

Owen Pope and his family were the only people to ever live in the Disneyland park. Mr. Pope was a horseman; he bought all the horses for Disneyland, he trained them, built their saddles, he even built the wagons and coaches used in Frontierland. In 1971 Owen Pope and his wife Dolly moved to Walt Disney World where he managed the Tri-Circle-D Ranch at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. Tri-Circle-D Ranch is home to all the Magic Kingdom horses!

Wally Boag

Wally Boag is another Disney Legend and you’ll find his window above the Blue Ribbon Bakery, beside the Carnation Café, at Disneyland. Walt Disney sat in on Mr. Boag’s audition in June of 1955 and offered him a two-week contract to perform as Pecos Bill at Disneyland’s Golden Horseshoe Revue. The show opened July 17, 1955 and Wally Boag performed there until he moved to Walt Disney World in 1971. He directed and performed in a similar show at the newly built Diamond Horseshoe Revue before returning to Disneyland in 1974. By the time he retired in 1982 Wally Boag had performed close to 40,000 shows in Disney parks!

Those are just a few of the hundreds of windows; this blog has barely scratched the surface. If you want to read more about the amazing people hidden behind those windows on Main Street I recommend that you buy one of the handful of books on the subject!

I wonder if Disney would ever accept nominations for new windows? If they did, I know who I would nominate . . . Oscar Martinez!

Oscar Martinez

Oscar began his Disney career on Dec. 29, 1956 and in 2011 he was honoured as the one and only employee to record 55 years of continuous service in any Disney company. During those 55 years at Disneyland he has trained thousands of cast members and has become a favourite of many guests, including Carol and I. We make sure we stop and visit with him every time we get to Disneyland.

Oscar Martinez

To commemorate Oscar’s 2011 milestone The Walt Disney Company created a special 55-year Snow White-themed service award. It’s unlikely that anyone else will ever achieve this milestone, so Oscar’s award is destined to remain one-of-a-kind!

Oscar's 55 Year Award

What do you think? Doesn’t Oscar Martinez deserve a window? Once he retires that is!

I’ll end this blog by suggesting a new game you can play at any of the Disney parks!

In an article written for the Summer 2005 issue of Disney Magazine Diane Disney Miller quoted her father Walt, “...if people were waiting in line, then you had to create more entertainment to keep them happy.” That explains the wonderful interactive queues we all experience in the theme parks, and it also suggests a second reason for those Main Street windows. They can help keep you entertained while you wait!

So . . . the next time you’re waiting along Main Street for the three o’clock parade take a minute to look around at those windows. Some of the names you may recognize immediately. But - when you see a name that isn’t familiar, pull out your smart phone and search the name on the internet. Involve your family; make it a game to see how many of the people honoured in those windows you can identify!

Learn more about the Main Street Windows:

February 29, 2016

Under Card Walker's guidance, Epcot begins to take shape

epcot6.jpg
One of the many concept drawings, done in the mid-1960s, depicting the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow -- Epcot. [The Walt Disney Company]

CHUCK SCHMIDT / Still Goofy about Disney
AllEars.net Guest Blogger

In early 1956, several months after E. Cardon Walker hired Marty Sklar to produce The Disneyland News, Card was named vice president of advertising and sales for Walt Disney Productions, getting the word out such films as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

The promotion was the start of a meteoric rise up the company ladder for Card who, like Marty, was a graduate of UCLA. In what seemed like rapid succession, Card was appointed to the company's Board of Directors in 1960. In 1965, he was named vice president of marketing, then executive vice president of operations in 1967, and executive vice president and chief operating officer in 1968. In 1971, he became company president. Five years later, he was named Disney's chief executive officer.

During his tenure as a top executive in the Disney corporate ranks, Card not only oversaw the creation of Epcot, but Tokyo Disneyland and The Disney Channel as well, providing a steady hand at a time when the company was still trying to find its way after the deaths of Walt Disney and his brother Roy.

With the success of The Disneyland News on his resume, Marty Sklar returned to UCLA in the fall of 1955 to complete his studies. After graduation in 1956, Marty accepted a position in Disneyland's publicity department, working with the likes of future Disney Legends Eddie Meck, Jack Lindquist and Milt Albright. Marty and his PR cohorts dreamed up a number of noteworthy initiatives, including Vacationland Magazine, all of which made great strides in promoting the park because, as Marty put it years later, "Disneyland wasn't a slam dunk during those first few years."

During the late 1950s and early 1960s, Marty's relationship with Card Walker remained strong.

"I had the good fortune to come out of a group that reported to Card at Disneyland," Marty said, "and I stayed very close to him over the years. Even after I had gone to WED [WED Enterprises was the forerunner of Walt Disney Imagineering] in 1961 to work on the New York World's Fair, I still did a lot of writing for publicity and marketing. I also was responsible for the annual report. Card kept me close to him all that time.

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Walt Disney poses for a photo after recording The Epcot Film in 1966. Two months after filming, Walt died. [The Walt Disney Company]

"To have somebody in that position trust you so much to continue to promote me, if you will, talk me up with Walt and other executives in the company, was quite an honor. And he knew I had written all that material for Walt for Epcot, of course."

Marty was responsible for writing the script for what became known as The Epcot Film. In it, Walt presented, in meticulous detail, his vision for the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow ... a city of the future that was the heart and soul of Disney's planned move to central Florida. Included with the film were concept drawings, many by artist Herb Ryman, a Disney Legend. Many of Ryman's renderings depicted a futuristic metropolis featuring monorails, PeopleMovers and a dome encasing the entire complex.

Filming of The Epcot Film took place in October of 1966; Walt Disney died just two months later, leaving the company he had founded and nurtured for decades in a lurch. With plans already in motion for the move to Florida at the time of Walt's death, Epcot was put on hold and the company concentrated on opening the world's first destination resort: A Disneyland-style theme park, on-property hotels and expansive recreational facilities.

Questions persisted about Epcot

After Walt died, "we continued to get questions about Epcot," Marty said, particularly from those people who had seen the early concept drawings. "After Roy [Walt's brother, who took over as company leader after Walt's passing] died in December of 1971, Card and Donn Tatum took up the mantel. I really think Card felt he had a debt to pay to Walt and he had to fulfill that debt as chairman of the company."

In May of 1974, Card Walker took Marty Sklar aside and asked him one of the most important questions of his career: "What are we gonna do about Epcot?"

Walt's original concept for Epcot, to create a city of the future where residents would live and work and where news ideas and systems would be introduced, was problematic, if next to impossible to bring to reality, at least without Walt Disney's guidance. "We knew we couldn't experiment with people's lives," Card said. "You couldn't have spectators peeking in people's kitchen windows."

Still, the Disney company was committed to building something on the property that reflected and fulfilled Walt's dreams of a great, big beautiful tomorrow.

"In a real sense, the concept of Epcot has been unfolding from the very beginning," Card said. "From the outset of planning and through the design, construction and installation stages of Walt Disney World, Epcot has been the ultimate goal."

According to Marty, "Card made a number of different speeches about ideas for Epcot. These speeches evolved into his vision of the project.

jimmy.jpg
As his wife Rosalynn looks on, left, President Jimmy Carter chats with Disney executive Card Walker in the Contemporary Resort. Seen over Walker's left shoulder in the background is Marty Sklar.

"I have a photo in my office of president Jimmy Carter in 1976 at the International Chamber of Commerce conference at the Contemporary. President Carter spoke to the conference. We brought all the work we had done to that point and put it in a ballroom at the Contemporary. We invited President Carter to come see, as well as leaders from all over the world."

The photo shows Card Walker talking to President Carter, with First Lady Rosalynn Carter to their right and Marty Sklar standing in the background. Donn Tatum is behind Mrs. Carter.

"Card really felt indebted to Walt for his whole career. This [Epcot] was Walt's big dream. He made a number of different speeches around the country," trying to get as many corporate leaders on board. "He was a good salesman. For example, The Living Seas pavilion. It wasn't part of the pavilions on opening day. It came about when Card was playing golf with Harry Gray, the CEO of United Technologies. [The Living Seas, now known as The Seas with Nemo and Friends, opened in 1986, four years after Epcot's opening.]

"Walt always said that no one company can do this [Epcot] by itself," Marty added. "Participation by the country's major companies was the key" to bringing Epcot to life.

One of Marty's chief responsibilities at the outset was to help bring as many of those companies on board as possible. "It was the start of eight incredible years of trying to figure out just what to do."

Next time: The long and winding road leading to Epcot's opening day.

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About February 2016

This page contains all entries posted to All Ears® Guest Blog in February 2016. They are listed from oldest to newest.

January 2016 is the previous archive.

March 2016 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.