For me, today is a very special day.
You see, aside from writing a multitude of columns right here on MiceChat every week and doing Communicore Weekly, I’ve been quietly toiling away on another project. For the last two years, I’ve been working with Disney Legend and former Imagineer Rolly Crump to compile his life story into a book, called It’s Kind Of A Cute Story.
And today, you can finally read it for yourself. That’s right, after all that hard work, It’s Kind Of A Cute Story is being released today!
For Disney fans, this is going to (hopefully) be a huge deal. Sure, there have been plenty of other books where Imagineers talk about their life and times at Disney. But, much like Rolly himself, this one is a little different.
Rolly has had a very wide and varied career. He’s not only worked at Disney, but also for such people as Jacques Cousteau, Steve Wynn, The Sultan of Oman, and a slew of other theme parks, including Knott’s Berry Farms.
On top of that, he is unbelievably candid about his career. I don’t think you’d find a more honest story than Rolly’s. If he didn’t like something, he tells you. He was always the first to speak his mind, and I think that’s part of the reason why Walt loved him so much…and part of the reason why I find his story so incredibly charming.
Rolly is one of those Imagineers where you can feel his presence on attractions without really knowing it was him. If you’re not familiar with his work, I think you’ll find, after reading the book, that he was responsible for a lot of the things you know and love in Disney’s most famous attractions.
For me, this entire project has been a dream come true. I can undoubtedly tell you, all bias aside, that Rolly Crump has always been my favorite Imagineer.
Since my first visit when I was 4, I found that I was always drawn to very certain and specific things in the Parks: the arms holding the candelabras in the Haunted Mansion; the Tikis with glints in their eyes while they beat the drums in the Enchanted Tiki Room; the wonderful toys of It’s A Small World.
While I was fascinated with everything about Disney, these were the things that stuck out in my mind. I had to know more about them.
Little did I know that one man was behind all of them.
I actually first learned of the Imagineers because of my quest to learn more about these seemingly minute details. Now, you have to remember, this was before the online Disney community was as vast as it is today. In fact, there WAS no online Disney community yet, because there was no online yet! Information was a little harder to come by. But, through some old-fashioned research in my local library, I was able to discover this wonderful world behind the curtain of magic, and coincidently, Rolly Crump was the first name I came across.
Of course, I knew who Walt Disney was, and he absolutely is considered the original Imagineer. But Rolly was the first one I learned about beyond him. I remember checking out a VHS tape of an episode of Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color from the library, and rushing home to watch it. I’m quite certain that this wasn’t an ‘official’ VHS release, but rather a homegrown copy, now that I think about it. But regardless, I popped it in, and was entranced by the glimpses of WED that it showed.
And then came the crowning moment; Walt took the girl he was showing around to a corner of the room to look at all these weird models. The man he asked to help explain them? Why, it was none other than Rolly Crump, of course.
After that, I became obsessed. I read up on everything that helped create the magic of Disney. The wonderful world of WED came alive in my mind and took on a legendary status. Soon, I started to learn the names of all the other Imagineering greats but, somehow, everything I read always came back to Rolly. He was always associated with stuff that was a little off-the-wall and outside the norm. He sounded like the type of guy I wouldn’t mind hanging out with!
Flash forward to years later, when I first started writing about Disney seriously. I was writing my From the Mouth of the Mouse column. Up until that point, I had only spoken with people on the front lines, learning more about their day to day responsibilities.
Rolly had just released his 45 minute audio tour of Disneyland, A Walk in the Park, and I thought ‘What the hell, let me email him to see if he would be interested in talking to some kid from Jersey who grew up admiring his work.’
Thankfully, he was all for it.
So, one Saturday afternoon, I set up a mini recording studio in my fiancée’s closet and called Rolly Crump.
I won’t lie to you; talking to a man I’ve looked up to and admired for years was nerve-wracking. But I found that, while speaking with him, he was an absolute delight. What was supposed to be a 20 minute interview turned into an almost 2 hour conversation.
He was quite possibly the most laidback and hilarious person I had ever spoken with. Despite my telling him what an honor it was to speak with him, he had to keep reminding me that he was “…just a regular guy that got lucky.”
After the interview was over, I was thrilled. I could have been happy with just that. But, as luck would have it, I wasn’t through with Crump just yet.
A few months later, Rolly began writing a short, weekly column for the same site I was writing for at the time, detailing some of his adventures at Disney. I looked forward to reading his exploits every week because they were always so crazy.
‘Someone should really help this guy turn this into a book,’ I kept thinking.
It wasn’t long after that I was asked by Rolly to be that someone.
I was absolutely floored! How the hell did I get to be so lucky?
Of course, I accepted. How could I not? A chance to work side by side with my favorite Imagineer of all time? Absolutely! It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I dove in head first.
I flew across the country shortly after that to spend some time with Rolly and to start working on the book. During that time, I was able to go through his personal archives of everything he ever worked on (and let me tell you, this stuff can probably rival the Disney Archives!). His house was like a living museum of Disney and theme park history. It was a truly incredible experience.
So, over the course of the last two years, armed with photos documenting Rolly’s life, theme park history notes and over 100 hours of audio interviews I conducted with the man himself, I set out to craft his story into this wonderful book, It’s Kind Of A Cute Story.
It was a daunting task, but it was a labor of love.
There aren’t a lot of folks left these days with firsthand accounts of working at the Studio, at WED, or even directly with Walt, so I’m glad that Rolly shared his story with not only me, but with all of you as well. It’s important from a history aspect that theme park enthusiasts know this stuff, not only because they are important from a Disney standpoint, but also because they are fantastic stories as well.
Rolly is such a great storyteller that it makes it so much easier to enjoy these stories. He’s not lecturing you about the ins and outs of the business. He’s sitting you down, pouring you a few drinks, and just letting it all come out (which, quite honestly, is exactly how we spent most of the nights I spent out in California working with him).
The guy who I grew up admiring and loving his work now calls me his “adopted grandson.”
Surreal? Absolutely. Hard work? Totally. Worth every minute? Without a doubt. I still have to pinch myself every so often to make sure this hasn’t all been a dream.
Not only is Rolly a truly gifted artist and an incredibly creative mind, but he is one of the sweetest, most genuine people I have ever met in my entire life. He helped shape the direction my life was going in well before I ever met him, and continues to do so to this day. But most important of all, he’s my friend. And that, ladies and gentlemen, made it all well worth it for me.
On top of that, the book is absolutely GORGEOUS. Sure, I may be biased, but it truly will blow you away. It is jam packed with over 200 photos from throughout Rolly’s career: from Disney, to working with the Cousteaus, to traveling to Oman, and much, much more. The story is absolutely complimented by how amazing the book looks. It’s definitely a book fitting of such an original artist.
Again, I know I’m biased, but I really do believe you will enjoy this book. Rolly’s story is one that is charming, candid, and one of a kind. He will make you look at things in a different light, and show you a wonderful side of Walt that most people have never seen before.
Now that I’ve raved about it, I hope you’re thinking ‘How do I get one?!’
Well, quite a number of ways!
There is a limited edition, signed hardcover copy that is available directly from the publisher, Bamboo Forest Publishing. It is limited to 500 copies, and trust me when I say it is going very quickly!
You can also purchase the softcover and eBook versions on all major online retailers, such as:
Heck, if you like doing it the old fashioned way, you can even walk into a book store and buy it!
In fact, we’ll be doing a mini-book signing tour in early 2013 out in California, so check out www.itskindofacutestory.com or our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/rollycrump for information about signing dates.
Also, as part of MiceAge’s 10th anniversary, there will be a special event on Saturday, February 2nd, where Rolly will be one of the guests of honor and part of a panel discussion. Books will also be available there as well. So you can buy the book and have Rolly sign it for you in person! More about the book signing and the MiceAge 10th Anniversary HERE.
Thanks so much for your continued support, everyone. Both Rolly and I really appreciate it!
A brand new book from a Disney Legend, as told to MiceChat’s own Jeff Heimbuch!
The Imagineers, those men and women who helped Walt Disney bring his creations to life, have achieved legendary status among theme park enthusiasts. It’s Kind Of A Cute Story is the life story of one of the most beloved Imagineers, Rolly Crump. Covering his long and varied career, including designing some of Disney’s most famous attractions and working directly with Walt himself, Rolly’s stories weave into a lighthearted yet riveting narrative of his life and accomplishments. Packed with over 200 photos, many of which have never been seen before, It’s Kind Of A Cute Story is a tribute to the life and work of a true original.
Also available as a limited edition, signed hardcover from Bamboo Forest Publishing.
And save the date of February 2nd, 2013 to meet Rolly Crump for yourself and have him sign your copy of the book during the MiceAge 10th anniversary celebration (more information about this event available soon).
by Jeff Heimbuch
If you have a tip, questions, comments, or gripes, please feel free email me at [email protected] or leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!
You can read past columns of The 626 by clicking here!
Jeff can help you plan your perfect Disney vacation with Fairy Godmother Travel! Call him at 732-278-7404 or email him at [email protected] for a free, no-obligation quote for Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, Aulani or Adventures By Disney.
Jeff also writes another column called From The Mouth Of The Mouse. We invite you to check it out.
Jeff co-hosts the weekly VidCast Communicore Weekly as well!
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