It really saddens me to report that Marty Sklar has passed away. A true Disney Legend, Marty was originally hired to write for the Disneyland News souvenir newspaper, and soon became Walt’s top writer. He wrote many of Walt’s speeches and other company communications and ultimately became the head of Walt Disney Imagineering.
Recently, Marty and I had been in touch, as I was going to interview him. Several Disney Legends that I know how contacted Marty to encourage him to interview me, and I just love what he emailed me! “Gee Scott – How come you didn’t get Bob Iger to say I should talk to you? Looks like you have most of the Legends …”
In preparation for the interview, I’ve been reading Marty’s wonderful book, “Dream It! Do It! My Half-Century Creating Disney’s Magic Kingdoms.” While I never got that interview, I’m grateful to have his stories.
There’s something truly special about the Disney characters . I grew up going to Disneyland, and one of my earliest memories of the Disney characters was when the Big Bad Wolf was in a parade and came over to me and I cried! It’s kind of funny now. Since my last name is Wolf, I think we’re kind of family.
I’ve had many wonderful memories of the Disney characters since that old wolf scared the heck out of me, and into my adulthood I have never stopped getting that special feeling about the characters. I’ve witnessed grown adults crying tears of joy when meeting them, and I have heard extraordinary stories firsthand of how the Disney characters have touched people’s lives.
It remains exciting for me to see the characters in different situations. When I was working on a project for Disney back in the ’90s, I obtained a list of what’s called “overdressings” for Mickey. It’s Mickey’s special wardrobe besides his usual outfit. There was Mickey’s space outfit, Mickey’s patriotic outfit, a cowboy outfit, raincoat and hat, and hundreds of others. I feel these outfits bring new dimension, versatility and freshness to the characters.
Seeing the Disney characters in the “real world,” is also a special experience. The first time I saw Mickey Mouse outside of Disneyland was in 1988 when I was working at the Disney Studios, and Mickey visited the lot for his 60th birthday celebration. It’s a different feeling when he steps out of his world and into yours, making everything that much more believable. They had a photo location for employees to get a Polaroid photo with the birthday boy. There was a long line, and it was all adults waiting to snap a special moment! There was certainly no doubt that Mickey and his friends were not just for kids.
One place that you can meet the Disney characters away from the resorts is on a Disney Cruise! Yes, those characters get around! It’s great to travel to an island in the Bahamas, but even more memorable to disembark and see Captain Hook and Mr. Smee, from “Peter Pan”, with the beautiful tropical backdrop! (You can see my photo of the duo on Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay here). Above is a photo I took of Minnie Mouse on Castaway Cay, with the Disney Dream cruise ship behind her.
There are two stories in particular that come to mind whenever I think of the impact of the Disney characters.
The 1977 Disneyland Ambassador to the World, Susan Donald Edwards told me her memories of when she visited a children’s hospital with Mickey. A child who had been stricken with cancer talked to Mickey and the nurses seemed stunned. They were literally in tears. It wasn’t until after the meeting that Susan learned the child had not spoken for two weeks.
A similar story to Susan, the 1974 Disneyland Ambassador to the World, Carol DeKeyser Masters told me of when she visited a children’s hospital with Mickey Mouse. A little boy who had suffered a brain injury from a car accident had not spoken for over two years, and the specialists were trying to determine if he was what they call elective mute or if the brain was just not able to form words. When Carol and Mickey entered the room, the boy said, “Mickey Mouse,” and doctors and nurses fell to their knees crying. Carol did not learn of the situation until after the situation, and then was moved to tears herself.
I believe that these stories really emphasize that the Disney characters are not just special, but that there really is something magical about them.
Thought I’d post these photos I took for Disney 24 years ago at the Tournament of Roses in Pasadena. In addition to this float for the pre-show, Disneyland was also represented in the main parade as well. Standing in the red coat behind Mickey and Minnie below is Kathleen Mitts the 1993 Disneyland Ambassador to the World.
From Shani & I, have a wonderful 2017!!!
Here are a couple photos I took almost a quarter century ago in 1992. The elaborate Very Merry Christmas Parade at Disneyland began with an overture of Disney tunes over the speakers, followed by the live trumpeters. The first half of the parade featured scenes from classic Disney movies, including Snow White, Fantasia, Mary Poppins and others. The second half of the parade featured many of the elements in the current A Christmas Fantasy parade, including the snowmen, skating snowflakes, and of course Santa Claus and his reindeer for the finale.
What is now the entrance to Mickey’s Toontown in Disneyland, as it appeared in 1991, the entrance to the Meet Baloo attraction
When I became an assistant producer on Disney’s TaleSpin animated television series, I never thought it would end up being a big part of an exciting year at Disneyland in 1991! TaleSpin was part of the very first two-hour Disney animated block on television entitled “The Disney Afternoon” in 1990.
In 1991, the Disney Afternoon Live promotion at Disneyland includes special shows and parades and attractions. I always loved Disneyland, so to have an abundance of TV Animation represented was particularly exciting for me, especially having worked on TaleSpin since the start.
I hope you enjoy some of my happy memories, and feel free to click on any photo to view it larger.
I just posted my interview with Alyja Kalinich on my Mouse Clubhouse website. In this conversation, Alyja talks about her time designing costumes and overdressings for Disney’s many parades and shows at Disney theme parks here and abroad. CLICK HERE for the interview and lots of photos.
I just posted my interview with Ron Logan on my Mouse Clubhouse website. In this conversation, Ron talks about his beginnings playing trumpet in the 1958 Christmas parade at Disneyland, and climbing the ladder to become the executive vice president, executive producer of Walt Disney Entertainment, responsible for all the live entertainment in the entire company. CLICK HERE for the interview and more photos.
I just discovered this photo of me in Disneyland from 1975. I haven’t seen it in more than 40 years! That’s Prince John from “Robin Hood” that I’m giving a big hug to – he looks remarkably the same today! Also in that batch of photos I discovered are images from the groundbreaking Disneyland parade America on Parade, as the park was already celebrating America’s bicentennial.
My sister and I are at the entrance to Tomorrowland. Behind us, in what is now the entrance to Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters, is the CircleVision theater, presenting the 1967 America the Beautiful movie “in the round,” which just happened to lend itself perfectly to the bicentennial celebration.
As you can see, the movie was sponsored by AT&T at that time. Within the movie that was a tour of the United States, one segment visited Hawaii, and was shot from the AT&T ship, Long Lines, which, as it was explained in the movie, was a ship to help expand and improve the worldwide telephone network by laying underseas cable across the Pacific, the Atlantic, and in the Caribbean. At the conclusion of the film, the AT&T commercial jingle, “Reach out and touch someone” would play as the audience exited.
I sure loved that film! For those that are not familiar with CircleVision, it was a 360 degree movie that completely encircled the audience as if you were really standing in whatever location was being shown. What amazing technology America the Beautiful was! This was before video, and this meant having to run nine film projectors simultaneously, and have them on a loop to be able to run continuous shows throughout the day. Disneyland’s original CircleVision movies required 11 cameras, but the updated America the Beautiful used wider film formats which meant less projectors were necessary. Did you know you can still see some more recent CircleVision movies today at Epcot?
Since 2009, the opening music from America the Beautiful can still be heard as part of the Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln attraction at Disneland, and for me, it brings back such happy memories of the past, just as finding this old photograph did!