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.
I’m excited to share with you the first of a number of photos I will be posting of Walt Disney World under construction! These NEVER-BEFORE-SEEN photos are by Donald M. Gardner, who was the chief electrical engineer at MAPO, the manufacturing department at Walt Disney Imagineering. An electrical and mechanical engineer, Don worked not only on the opening of Walt Disney World, but also worked on Disneyland projects and attractions such as the Walt Disney World monorail.
I’m sad to report that Mouse Clubhouse friend John “Doc” Anello has passed away. Doc had a fascinating Disney career, and I had fun interviewing backstage at Disneyland’s Carnation Plaza Gardens a few years ago, which I’ll share on here really soon! After leading his own big band, Doc began his Disney career as Production Manager at Disneyland in 1975, making sure all entertainment venues in the park were up and running smoothly. In his second year, Doc took over another great Disney tradition, the All American College Band Program, giving top college musicians a once in a lifetime music, performance, and educational opportunity. Doc told me, “I set up auditions around the country and auditioned students from the various colleges. We then chose those students who would be invited to participate both at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. My title at that time was Education Program Director. I left Disney in 1980 to accept a professorship at College of The Desert in Palm Desert and was there for eight years. We developed a singing, dancing performing group and performed locally and at various locations around the country. After I left the college, I returned to Disney in 1992 and I was assigned as Manager of Talent Booking (for Disneyland and the Disneyland Hotel). Sonny Anderson was working primarily in Florida at that time. I left that position I believe in 1996 and decided I would just kick back and start my band again. Stan Freese was working here and I told him I’ve got the band, and we started playing here and I’ve been here ever since, just playing the one night a month. It’s been a great association.” “Doc” will be missed.
Mother Nature was so nice to me when I took this photo of Peter Pan’s Flight in the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World! Look at how she placed those beautiful clouds perfectly to complement this marquee!
Jamie Gunyuz in front of Cinderella Castle in Walt Disney World, still under constructionEnjoyed interviewing Jamie Gunyuz, head engineer for the opening of Walt Disney World. I’m looking forward to sharing the fascinating conversation with you. Here’s a photo of Jamie in front of Cinderella Castle, still under construction.
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.
I just posted my interview with Disney Legend and Imagineer, Orlando Ferrante, who talks about his time coordinating everything from attractions to complete Disney parks, as well as Disney’s participation in the 1964/1965 New York World’s Fair, and the Disney Cruise Line. CLICK HERE for the interview