It’s Kind of an Amazing Book, Disney Imagineer Rolly Crump and His New Memoir

Written by George Taylor. Posted in Disney, Disney History, Features, Imaginerding

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Published on December 03, 2012 at 5:01 am with 14 Comments

It’s Kind of a Cute Story is a Disney memoir that stands heads and shoulders above the slew of small- and self-published books from the past year. It’s also a book that surpasses most of the Disney Publishing releases and it raises the bar for how an artistic memoir should look.

If you’ve set foot in Disneyland, the Magic Kingdom, Epcot or Knott’s Berry Farm, then you have seen and felt the influence of Rolly Crump. Rolly started as an animator and quickly moved into helping design and build Disneyland. He was instrumental in bringing it’s a small world to fruition and laid the groundwork for the designs on the Enchanted Tiki Room and the Haunted Mansion. Rolly was a visual artist that had a long-standing career in and out of Disney and It’s Kind of a Cute Story is an amazing look at an amazing life.

Before we get too deep into the review, there are a few disclaimers I need to put forward. The author, Jeff Heimbuch, is a Mice Chat columnist and my writing partner. He is also my co-host on Communicore Weekly (the Greatest Online Show™) and partner in all things shenanigans-wise. I have a deep interest in promoting the book, but I’m also a huge proponent of books and Disney research. If I tell you a book is great when it isn’t, then you’re not going to trust me.

It’s kind of a Cute Story is extremely entertaining and informative. I felt like I was sitting in Rolly’s living room while he regaled me with these amazing tales of his life. The book follows Rolly’s life as he develops as an artist. We read about his earliest days discovering his love for art and move to his animating days at Disney. The anecdotes that Rolly relates are incredibly heart-warming and charming. Like any of the animators that worked at the Studio in the 1950s, you get a true sense of the camaraderie and mischievousness that permeated the work environment. The stories will make you laugh out loud.

For us theme park nerds, the book really shines when Rolly talks about designing attractions for Disneyland and working with Walt. It’s amazing to think that Walt would set Rolly free in Adventureland to design and build a new shop. No committees, no groups of lawyers and no need to run every idea through someone else. The tales of designing attractions and Rolly scratching his head to put them together are priceless.

There are forays into the 64-65 New York’s World Fair, including the design and construction of the signature attractions. It was an incredible time to be working in the Disney organization and if Walt liked and trusted you, then you had a lot of free reign. After reading about Rolly’s experiences, it’s surprising that the World’s Fair actually got off the ground. It’s also charming to hear the tales of the attractions being brought back to Disneyland. I’ll never look at the facade of it’s a small world the same way again.

Much of Rolly’s career after Walt’s passing was spent designing attractions for Knott’s Berry Farm, Steve Wynn’s casinos, Jacques Cousteau and many more. Even though I’ve never visited a lot of these locations (I’m working on it), it was incredibly insightful to see how Rolly worked with organizations and for people that wanted to capture that Disney magic. You can see how Rolly tried to bring the same work and design sensibilities to these other projects. Sometimes it worked an sometimes it didn’t; usually it was no fault of Rolly, just a lack of vision (and funding) from the owner. Regardless, seeing the other attractions and shows that Rolly designed is truly inspiring. I was glad to read about the project that Rolly did for Oman (and to see photos of it). It shows the ability this talented artist has.

This book isn’t sanctioned by Disney, which is a great thing. Rolly iterates his stories like he would to a trusted friend; he doesn’t pull any punches. There were people in the Disney organization that he didn’t like and he let’s us know. He never skewers anyone, per se, but there are a few people that he didn’t like working with for various reasons, mostly because they were Walt’s Yes Men. Therefore, there isn’t any art from the Disney Archives–everything presented is from Rolly’s collection or from fans. Hopefully we’ll see more memoirs like this in the future.

The chapter on Rolly and Walt was one of my favorites. As with any biography, memoir or history of the Company, you come away with a specific view of Walt Disney–whether it’s Walt the Imagineer, Walt the sotryteller or Walt thebusinessman. Rolly takes the opportunity to talk about his individual interactions with Walt and you step away with a sense that Walt loved what he did and held everyone to the same standards he held himself. It’s safe to say that Rolly had a very unique relationship with Walt simply because Rolly believed in himself and his vision; undoubtedly Walt respected the simple fact that Rolly wasn’t a yes man.

Congratulations to Rolly and Jeff for creating such an astounding memoir. Also, kudos to the publisher and staff at Bamboo Forest Publishing for working incredibly hard to make Rolly’s book a reality and for the singular vision of creating a an unparalleled work. The design of the book is spectacular and truly relates to Rolly’s own artistic vision.

It’s rare that you see a publisher go all out for a book, especially in such a niche market. Bamboo Forest Publishing has released a string of great titles and they’ve set the bar high for all future books from any publishing house. This book is charming and offers something for every Disney fan. Disney researchers need to grab this to add to their collections. There are a lot of stories that haven’t been heard before.

Have you had the chance to pick up this book? What do you think? Do you have a favorite Rolly attraction?

ImagiNERDing is written and edited by George Taylor

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email me at [email protected].

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I am one half of the incredibly talented, handsome, charming, sanguine, lucent, refulgent, beguiling, hilarious, perturbable, welcoming, sentient, loquacious, side-splitting, mesmerizing, scintillating, lustrous, invigorating, incandescent, inescapable, rollicking, perceiving, wayfaring, devastating, steadfast, cinematic, whelming, imposing, irrefutable, breathtaking, carefree, witty, sparkling, joyful, indulgent, coquettish and intelligent duo behind Communicore Weekly. You can find them on the Mice Chat Youtube Channel.

About George Taylor

George has been obsessed with Disney theme parks since the first time he saw a photo of the Haunted Mansion in the early 70s. He started writing about Disney in 2007 and has amassed one of the world's largest Disney-related libraries.

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  • Dusty Sage

    I’m Dusty Sage and I officially endorse this book ;-)

    This really is one of those rare MUST HAVE Disney books. Yes, there are a million great Disney books out there, but once in a while, a book will come along which has a unique perspective. In this case, the story is the unvarnished truth of the early days at WED/Imaginering and beyond.

    I don’t know nearly as much about the Disney Company as I thought I knew, but I’m thankful to Rolly for teaching me in his famous cut through the bull $#]¥ style.

    If you’d like to meet Rolly in person and have him sign your book, save the date of Feb 2nd. Clich this link and vote in the poll to be notified wen event tickets become available:

  • shoewee

    I wish it was an Apple iBook made in iBooks Author with some interactive elements. It seems this book would be a perfect book to do that with!

    • George Taylor

      I spoke to the publisher and he said that converting to iBook takes a little bit of cash and time. ;)

      You could always download the Kindle App–although the artwork is so beautiful that this is a book that you should own in paper format.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • Algernon

    He designed a lot of great rides. I really miss Knott’s Beary Tales. I hope Disneyland doesn’t get around to destroying his work, like they have done to so many other things.

    • George Taylor

      Thanks for the comment.

      We’re lucky that Disney has kept so much of Rolly’s work around. Maybe because it was part of the transition period after Walt.

  • JiminyCricketFan

    I love that Rolly was able to speak directly and honestly about his life. I think this is a must have book for Disney and Disneyland fans.

    • George Taylor

      I agree. It was like a breath of fresh air to read Rolly’s unexpurgated anecdotes.


    • Jeff Heimbuch

      Thank you! I hope you enjoy it!

  • TristanBeck

    I would love to buy this book, but $25 is way too much for a paperback. I’ve been burnt by other Disney insider self published works – spending $30 for 100 pages (I’m looking at you, Mr Alcorn), although I must say this book looks better than the rest.

    • Jeff Heimbuch

      Hey Tristan!

      As author of this book, I absolutely assure it is worth every penny. Granted, I”m biased, but, we absolutely did keep in mind all the other self-published (and Disney published) books out there, and tried to right all the wrongs they have done. We really did raise the bar for Indie publishing, let alone regular publishing.

      Go on Amazon, and a take a look at the “Look inside this book” feature so you can see how beautifully it really is laid out.

      I’ll tell you what…if you buy the book and are NOT blown away by it and can give good reason for it, I will personally give you your money back.

      Trust me…I will stand behind this book any day of the week. It’s gorgeous, the stories are wonderful, and it’s definitely a huge step above the rest!

  • kat3010

    Can’t wait to read the book!

    • George Taylor

      Thanks for the comment!

      It really is phenomenal. The stories are good and the artwork is brilliant. The layout truly is unparalleled.

  • Speedway

    I felt the negative comments to other Imagineers were quite poor taste. I’m sure many of the people Rolly talks about were yes men to some extent or another, but it does make me wonder how much of Rolly’s resentment also may perhaps come from jealousy or similar work competition-related issues. I felt that the voice of the author often came across as quite petty and immature and that left a bit of a dark cloud over the fascinating anecdotes and information provided in the book.

    • George Taylor

      Speedway–thanks for the comment.

      With any memoir, you have to expect a lot of the bias of the author/subject to seep through.

      Rolly was the type of person that enjoyed being himself and doing what made him happy. It was obvious that he loved Walt and wanted to make him happy without compromising his own standards.

      I think a lot of people are used to the “whitewashing” that Disney does with a lot of their history. The Amid Amidi/Cartoon Brew/Ward Kimball book is a perfect example. Amid had the opportunity to tell the tale of one of Walt’s most colorful and unique animators. When Disney got hold of the title to “ok” the artwork, they opted to exercise a heavy hand on the book. Apparently, they are chopping out a lot of the book.

      I’m glad to read Rolly’s opinion. As with any biographical or non-fiction work, you have to realize that there will be a lot of the author that will bleed through. It’s great to have these anecdotes and stories that tell one man’s view of the Company.