Dream It! Do It! (Disney Editions Deluxe)

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Authors: Martin Sklar
Tags: Disney Editions Deluxe
They were true believers, followers, and leaders. Walt created Imagineering, but the Imagineers made it sing and dance.
    It might never have happened if Walt Disney’s friend and neighbor, Los Angeles architect Welton Becket, had coveted the design job. When Walt approached him about designing Disneyland, and explained the concept brewing in his head, Mr. Becket gave his friend this advice: “You’ll use architects and engineers, of course. But Walt—you’ll really have to train your own people; they are the only ones who will understand how to accomplish your idea.”
    My good fortune in the 1960s and 1970s as “the kid” on the WED staff was that Herb Ryman, John Hench, and the other Disney Legends-to-be (the Legends program was established in the mid-1980s) became my mentors. They may not have thought of themselves as teachers, but anyone who worked around them as they transitioned from animation and live-action films to theme park stories and designs was surely enrolled in a master’s program in theme park creation. I write about a few of them on these pages, but in the interest of being as inclusive as possible, the following are the Imagineering Legends who most influenced me: Ken Anderson, X. Atencio, Mary Blair, Roger Broggie, Harriet Burns, Claude Coats, Bill Cottrell, Rolly Crump, Marc Davis, Marvin Davis, Don Edgren, Bill Evans, Blaine Gibson, Harper Goff, Yale Gracey, Bob Gurr, John Hench, Dick Irvine, Fred Joerger, Bill Martin, Sam McKim, Wathel Rogers, and Herb Ryman. I also count three Disney Studio Legends as teachers: advertising and graphic art icon Bob Moore, and songwriters Richard and Robert Sherman. And no Marty list would be complete without mentioning Al Bertino, T. Hee, Vic Green, Bob Jolley, and Bob Sewell of Imagineering; Jim Love and Norm Nocetti of the Disney Studio; and that “Vegas dealer,” Card Walker.
    It was author Ray Bradbury who perhaps best captured the essence of the Imagineering organization. Ray had once urged Walt Disney to run for mayor of Los Angeles, only to be told, “Why should I run for mayor when I’m already king of Disneyland?” In a talk to an assembly of Imagineers in December 1976, during the development of Epcot, Bradbury spoke of the group as “Renaissance People”:
John [Hench] and Marty told me I was supposed to come up here and explain you to yourselves…and to tell you what you are and what I am and what I’m doing here. There are a lot of places in the world I could be, but I’ve been coming through WED and going to Disneyland for many years now, and I like what I see… And so, really, what you are is Renaissance People. If ever there was a Renaissance organization, this is it. You haven’t peaked yet, but you’re peaking, and sometime in the next twenty years, when you peak completely, the whole world’s going to be looking at you.
    The WED Model Shop, where designs are studied in three dimensions, became the hub of the Legends’ classroom tutorials, always disguised as design sessions for submarine voyages and bobsled rides, pirate adventures, and ghostly surprises. Every day was a learning experience, as Walt challenged his most trusted designers and storytellers to imagine new experiences for Disneyland, the New York World’s Fair, and, just before his death, Walt Disney World. Those of us fortunate enough to be assigned to their teams— always a team effort—were also challenged to grow from undergrad to graduate students, earning our degrees under the wings of these professors: John Hench for design, color, and philosophy; Marc Davis for story, character, and animation; Claude Coats for dramatic staging and continuity; Herb Ryman for overall concept and key story illustrations; Bill Evans for theme setting through landscaping; Rolly Crump for weird and wonderful iconography; Blaine Gibson for turning cartoon sketches into real people; Yale Gracey for the tinkering that created the most simple—and magical—effects; Roger Broggie for

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