Each month, Disney fans and D23 Members send us dozens of questions for Disney Legend and Chief Archivist Emeritus, Dave Smith. To get your answers, check back every couple weeks—we’ll be publishing more of our beloved Disney Legend’s answers to your questions about Disney history!
Q: Can you give me any information on Disney’s early 1990s concept theme park called Disney’s America?
Hank, Tellico Plains, Tennessee
A: Disney’s America was to be a history-themed park in Prince William County, near Haymarket, Virginia. The plan was to bring history to life by examining the country’s conflicts and successes. While state officials and local residents were generally in favor of the project, there was intense opposition from a group of historians and environmentalists who complained about it being too near the Manassas Civil War battlefield. Eventually the project was canceled.
Q: How would you describe your experience on your recent trip to Marceline, Missouri?
Rachel, Marceline, Missouri
A: I had visited Marceline 40 years earlier, so it was a delight to return and realize that there had been few changes to that classic Mid-American town. Today, the town features a historical museum in the railroad station devoted to Walt Disney and a handsome community hall, neither of which were there during my previous visit. In strolling around the town, one can easily imagine the young Walt Disney doing so, many years ago. I can see why so many Disney fans want to make a pilgrimage to Marceline.
Q: At the most recent D23 Expo, I found a piece of sheet music (identified as a “vocal composite sketch”) that is purported to be from the recording session for the song “Yo Ho” for the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at Disneyland. It has pencil marks indicating solos for Thurl and Ernie, as well as a tuba solo for George. There is also a note in the corner indicating that The Jungle Book would be recorded on February 17. I had assumed it was a reproduction, but the pencil markings appear to be actual pencil notes, rather than the ink of a printed reproduction. Was this sort of thing ever offered as a reproduction, perhaps as part of a CD box set? Or might it actually be an original piece of music from the recording session?
David, Los Angeles, California
A: I am not familiar with the piece you describe; it could be original. Thurl, of course, refers to Thurl Ravenscroft, the bass singer who worked on a number of Disney projects. George refers to composer George Bruns, who also played the tuba.
Q: Is the Walt Disney Archives open to the public for tours? If not, are there any plans to open a Disney museum one day?
Rebecca, Manassas, Virginia
A: The Walt Disney Archives is not open to the public, but there are D23 tours of the studio and Archives scheduled on weekends several times a year. Someday there may be a Disney museum, but there are as yet no definite plans. Check the D23 website for information on a major Disney exhibit coming this summer to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.
Q: When did Disney regain the rights to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit after losing them to Mintz?
Roy, Portland, Oregon
A: It wasn’t until 2006 that Disney regained the rights, after losing them 78 years earlier. Disney CEO Robert Iger arranged a deal with NBC Universal, who then owned the rights, trading them ESPN and ABC sportscaster Al Michaels. The deal relates to the rights to the character and to the Oswald cartoons made by Walt Disney in 1927 and ’28, but not later ones that were made by Walter Lantz.
Q: What is your personal most favorite item in the Archives?
Kristian, Melbourne, Australia
A: I especially like a postcard Walt Disney wrote to his mother when he was 15 years old, doing a drawing on the back. He was in Kansas City; she was in St. Louis helping to care for an ill brother.
Q: I’m a pin trader who likes to find and trade unique Disney pins. Last year, I traded for this small, unpainted metal circular pin that has the symbols E, 4, A, and Mickey’s head all in the spaces between an X (kind of like a symbol in each slice of a pie). Around the bottom rim of the pin, it says “Ears for the Arts.” It doesn’t have the official pin-trading symbol on the back, but it does say “Disney” with the copyright symbol. Can you tell me what this pin is? When was it released? Where did it come from, or if you don’t have any records, do you know of anyone who might have information on it?
Stephie, Las Vegas, Nevada
A: Ears for the Arts was begun in 2011 for students participating in the Disney Performing Arts programs at the Disney resorts, and the pin you have was their “badge of honor.” The first pins were presented on February 11, 2011. The E – 4 – A stands for Ears for the Arts.
Q: When will the first part of the Fantasyland expansion at Walt Disney World be open to the public??
Mitchell, Hudson, New Hampshire
A: On March 12, 2012, a portion of Storybook Circus, including Dumbo the Flying Elephant, The Barnstormer Featuring the Great Goofini, and the Fantasyland Station opened as part of the Fantasyland expansion. The Fantasyland Forest (which will ultimately include areas inspired by the Disney films The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) is planned to open in phases beginning in late 2012.
Q: I’m writing an assignment on how Disney constructs family and family life in general, both in the resort and in the films it produces. Do you have any comments on this from your experience?
Rachel, Virginia, Washington
A: From its early beginnings, Disney was always known for producing the “finest in family entertainment.” Family is the significant word. Walt Disney was insistent that the company’s product under the Disney name, whether it be a movie, a television show, or a theme park, be one that could be enjoyed by parents and children alike. The kids may see a film or a park attraction in a different way than their parents do, but all can enjoy it.
Q: I recently found a toy that belonged to my father. It appears to have once been a squeak toy. It is of Oswald Rabbit and it is in great condition, but it does not squeak anymore. I believe it is from between 1931 and 1935. Is there anyone who can help me determine if this is a true collector’s item?
Mark, Bradbury, California
A: This toy would not have been a Disney product, because our years with Oswald were 1927 and 1928. When Walt lost the rights to Oswald, Walter Lantz at Universal Studios continued making cartoons with the character, and there were comic books and merchandise items relating to the Lantz years.
Q: It has been brought to my attention that you did a booklet or article on the old Disney Mission to Mars/Man in Space cartoons from the late 1950s. If so, please bring the title and publisher to my attention, as I cannot locate them through the usual means.
John, Smithfield, Rhode Island
A: The article was called “They’re Following Our Script: Walt Disney’s Trip to Tomorrowland,” published in the magazine Future (May 1978). A shortened version of the same article titled “Walt Disney’s Conquest of Space,” with different illustrations, appeared the same month in Starlog.
Q: There was a mini series about a ghost pirate. It had a speedboat and was set on an island in the Caribbean. What was the name of that show?
Sean, Sandy Hook, Mississippi
A: The series was The 100 Lives of Black Jack Savage, made by Walt Disney Television for airing on NBC in 1991. Steven Williams played Black Jack Savage, the ghost of a legendary 17th- century Caribbean pirate. A black trimaran speedboat named the Blackbird figured in each episode. There were only seven episodes plus a TV movie.
Q: Does Walt Disney World acquire objects for resale to collectors or to keep in its archives? If so, I believe I may be in possession of a small toy with the earliest incarnation of Mickey Mouse. If you have any interest in determining the authenticity of this toy and/or buying it, please so advise. I live in Bradenton and could bring it over for you to inspect.
Robert, Bradenton, Florida
A: At one time, Disney acquired and sold old Disney character merchandise in its Disneyana Shops, but that is no longer the case. Only rarely does the Walt Disney Archives purchase items, if there is some special item that would fill a hole in their collection. You can contact the Archives at Disney.Archives@Disney.com.
Q: The 1961 Disney movie The Parent Trap is one of my all-time favorite movies. I was wondering, though, what year it was actually produced in. I have tried to find out the actual production dates of when the movie was filmed. The newest cars in the movie are 1960 models, I believe, and the telegram “Sharon” received from “Susan” has a date of July 22, 1960, on it. Was the movie actually produced and filmed in 1960? And could you let me know the approximate dates it was filmed, whether it was in 1960 or 1961?
David, Central City, Iowa
A: The Parent Trap was filmed from July 14 to October 14, 1960, in California at the Disney Studios in Burbank and Disney’s Golden Oak Ranch, as well as in locations at Big Bear Lake (Camp Inch) and in Monterey.
Q: I’m doing some research for Starlee Kine, a contributor to NPR who’s doing a story that includes two entertainers who worked at Disneyland a long while back. We’re looking for Jim Barlow, the magician who worked in Fantasyland, and Frontierland’s trick roper Eddie Adamek. We believe that Mr. Adamek has passed, but we’d love to find his family. We’d love your help in finding these interesting guys and wonder if you have any idea what other jobs they might have had, where they came from, or where they went after they worked with Disney. Any help would be tremendous!
Julia, San Francisco, California
A: Edward Leo “Eddie” Adamek passed away in 1988, at age 77. He had sold trick ropes in Frontierland in the 1950s, was a stunt man in the movies, and was still working in his 70s, doing trick roping at rodeos. Jim Barlow worked in Merlin’s Magic Shop (closed in 1983) in Fantasyland. When he worked at Disneyland, it was from Adamek and Barlow that actor Steve Martin learned trick roping and magic tricks.
Q: When our boys were little, we acquired a Donald Duck ride-on bouncy ball at a garage sale. The ball is blue and has Donald’s head on it. It has held up for 25 years, so obviously it was made well. Was this released by the Disney Company or another toy company?
Sheryl, Sacramento, California
A: The Donald Duck bouncing toy, called a Hoppity Hop, was made by Sun Products Company, under license from Disney, in the 1970s. There was also a Mickey Mouse version.
Q: Is there a complete list anywhere of all cast member Tinker Bells who have “flown” from the Disneyland castle through the years?
Kathy, Atlanta, Georgia
A: I know of no complete list. The first Tinker Bell, in 1961, was veteran circus performer Tiny Kline, followed by Mimi Zerbini, Judy Kaye, and Gina Rock. Through the years there have been several others who have played the role.
Q: My brother and I have always wondered about Goofy and his son, Max. Goofy seems to be unmarried, and we wonder who Max’s mother was. We have tried looking in all the older cartoons, but found nothing.
Alexandria, Naples, Florida
A: The writers of the stories for Goof Troop and A Goofy Movie did not create a mother for Max. In some early cartoons, Goofy played a character known as George Geef; there was also a Mrs. Geef and their son Junior in those films.
Q: Since it’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ 75th anniversary this year, will there be any special celebrations at Disneyland to honor her? Do you know if there will be any collectibles?
Sally, Canyon Country, California
A: You will want to attend D23′s Destination D: 75 Years of Disney Animated Features at the Disneyland Hotel on August 11 and 12. Included will be a special salute to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. No doubt there will be special collectibles created for this momentous anniversary.
Q: I have a Walt Disney Masterpiece Cinderella VHS Home Video Stock No. 5265. Is there any value for this movie?
Bev, Meridian, Idaho
A: As most people have moved from VHS to DVD, there is little value to the old cassettes as long as the films, such as Cinderella, have been made available on DVD. However, there are some old Disney films that were only available on VHS, and collectors still pay good prices for them as collectibles.