For the few Disney fans who don’t know who Jeff Kurtti is, his body of work spans many mediums. He’s authored such books as: Walt Disney’s Imagineering Legends, Disneyland Through the Decades, and Since the World Began: Walt Disney World – The First 25 Years. He was a producer on The Boys: The Sherman Brothers Story, and has also been featured as an expert moderator on audio commentaries for such Disney DVDs as Peter Pan and Sleeping Beauty.
I met him one fine day at the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco, and we decided to grab a coffee together. Realizing we had multiple things in common, we quickly became friends. It has been a distinct pleasure getting to know Jeff, who is not only a talented and knowledgeable individual, but a really great person as well. I would like for you all to get to know a little more about the guy I am proud to call my friend.
In this inaugural episode, Jeff and I discuss his experience working with the Walt Disney Company, the Walt Disney Family Museum, and we even touch upon the upcoming film Saving Mr. Banks. Below is a paraphrased example of just some of the things we talked about.
Keith: How’s it going, Jeff?
Jeff: Very well. This is good coffee.
Keith: You’ve written what, twenty books about Disney?
Jeff: Probably 25 or so. Books on various Disney subjects: animation, the parks, Disney history, some weird ones, some obscure ones, some well-known ones. I’ve kind of been all messed up on Disney since the mid-Sixties.
Keith: Right around the time Mary Poppins came out.
Jeff: You mean the greatest movie ever made. Yeah that was it. Something happened during that movie, and it all went on from there.
Keith: A lot of people don’t know that you acted as a Creative Consultant for the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco.
Jeff: Oh yeah. I was one of the first parts of that creative team… We kept reminding ourselves not to tell stories that can be told elsewhere.
Keith: I’ve read many Walt biographies… I was surprised at how much new information was presented.
Jeff: When you’re dealing with the breadth of a life… it’s hard to do that within the confines of two book covers and make the kinds of connections with people that you really want to.
Keith: Let’s talk about Saving Mr. Banks.
Jeff: It’s not about Walt Disney, which is one of the first giant mistakes people make in their view of the film… I did read the initial screenplay, which was very focused on her (Poppins’ author Pamela Travers) story, and the elements within it that were about Disney were not accurate.
Keith: How do you feel about Tom Hanks playing Walt?
Jeff: You know, there’s a joke in The Simpsons Movie where Tom Hanks appears and says, “I’m here to lend my credibility.” There have been several portrayals of Walt on the screen, and each has been geared to the need of the storytelling.
Did you know that Tom Hanks is not the first actor to portray Walt Disney in a film? Jeff goes on about who else played Walt, which films they were in, and how Walt was portrayed. To hear the conversation in its entirety, please check out episode 1 of Coffee with Kurtti in the player below:
Music by Steve Williard and Andrew Taylor from Amplify This Music.