Scarlett Stahl has regaled us with stories about her many Disney friends. Today’s story about a recent weekend in Hollywood is no exception! Imagine spending a weekend with such amazing Disney celebrities and legends. Frankly, Scarlett, I’m green with envy! ~~Rick
A DISNEY WEEKEND
Don Hahn and I worked out the details. So let’s get together for a Friday Pub Night reunion at the KING’S HEAD PUB 12969 Ventura Blvd. Sherman Oaks ( just west of Coldwater) Ye Olde King’s Head, British Pub, Restaurant, & Shop.
See you there! Ppppuh-Lease spread da woid!
Now everyone in animation knows Tom Sito, President Emeritus, The Animation Guild Local 839, IATSE Hollywood, animator and Professor of Animation at USC. When Tom calls a panel or issues an invitation, people show up! And the Roger Rabbit 25th Reunion Crew Night was no exception. Not only did the crew show up, but members of ASIFA-Hollywood and voice artists did as well. The group gathered in a separate room at the Kings Head Pub, where they dined on snacks or the famous fish and chips, while others chose a variety of beverages. There was socializing, laughter and much camaraderie.
Also present but not photographed were Animator Frans Vischer (Winnie the Pooh, Frog Princess and author/illustrator of Fuddles and Jimmy Dabble), Miriam McDonnell (painter from Ireland, also worked on An American Tale and We’re Back), and Julia Orr (checker from Britain, also did Rover Dangerfield and American Tale II).
Disney Legend Don Hahn was at the reunion and had been co-producer on the film, which combined live action with animation. Don had mentioned that luckily, Steven Spielberg was able to help make connections to the other studios and get access to their characters. However, they had to take every bit of pencil test that they animated and show it to Warner Bros. or to Max Fleischer’s son Richard for approval on the work. A portion of the film was done in London and Don lived there, along with others, like Andreas Deja. Everyone agreed that they would love to do a sequel to Roger Rabbit but doubted that this could be done.
When Tom Sito was asked how he and his wife Pat came to work on Roger Rabbit, he replied:
In autumn 1987, Pat and I went to London to help out our friend Eric Goldberg (animator of The Genie from Aladdin), who had a commercial studio at that time. While there, I dropped in on Richard Williams at the Roger Rabbit Studio in Camden Town. I had worked for Dick in the past, but I did not expect anything this time. As soon as he saw me, he cried “Oh Sito! You have to work on this movie!” When I stuttered that my wife was here also, Dick responded, “then she is hired too!” And that was that. We packed up the house and headed to Old Albion to complete Roger. It was one of our favorite projects we ever worked on…a terrific crew, and crazy old Hollywood-style cartoon animation, the likes of which hadn’t been seen in years.
The event didn’t last late but was a fun casual Roger Rabbit reunion, very different from the elaborate Roger Rabbit Reunion which had been held at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences earlier in the year and was reported on in MiceChat.com. (See “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” Celebrates 25 Years.)
Recently when I saw Mark Silverman at the D23 MiceChat booth, he had asked if I could arrange for him to meet X Atencio, the legendary Imagineer. Mark is such a nice guy, that it is hard to say no, so I contacted Maureen Atencio and told her of Mark’s wish. She agreed to a visit.
Now for those who don’t know Mark, he is a voice actor, well known for being the voice of Rod Serling in the Tower of Terror Ride in the Disney parks. However, he has voiced many video games as well as TV series and radio.
As for X (short for Xavier) Atencio, he is a Disney Legend, having worked as a Disney artist from 1938 until 1965, when he became an Imagineer. He helped design the Disneyland Railroad’s Primeval World diorama segment, wrote the script for both Adventure Thru Inner Space and Pirates of the Caribbean, as well as the lyrics to “Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me)” and provided the voice of the talking skull in the attraction. X also wrote the script for the Haunted Mansion, including the lyrics to “Grim Grinning Ghosts,” in addition to working on numerous other attractions.
On Saturday August 17th, Mark picked me up and drove to Maureen and X Atencio’s home, which is in the San Fernando Valley. Following are snippets of their conversation:
Mark: I was obsessed with Pirates of the Caribbean as a little boy and I even had water from the ride on a nightstand by my clock radio. I built the skull, which had a string, but no mechanics, so I would pull the string and do the voice and then I found out that you did the voice.
X: chuckling, I didn’t have all those contraptions then, I had to make it up. Walt assigned me to do the script for the Pirate ride. Marc Davis and Claude Coates worked out the mechanics. I said I would try.
Mark: That was so amazing. You didn’t even know if you could do that. And its like the greatest Disney attraction of all time.
Maureen: Walt told him to.
Mark: Walt told you to and he was right.
X: And he was right.
Mark: Did you like pirates as a kid or did you have to read up on it?
X: I looked it up at the library to get the feeling and so I just became a pirate.
Mark: I got to go into Imagineering a few months ago to do some pirate voices for an attraction at Walt Disney World called Treasures of the Seven Seas, an interactive game. When I was in there, I just kept thinking about you and Walt and Pirates of the Caribbean. Its like you and Walt invented how we know pirates today. (in the background you could hear X chuckling.) But I love that ride and I honestly I believe that I love it more than anybody in the whole world. So I can not tell you what an amazing feeling and honor it is to meet you after all these years. And Mark lowered his voice like Rod Serling, while X chuckled.
Maureen: You have a great voice, Mark. Obviously that is why you do what you do.
Mark: (Again in character) Well thank you. That ride was so much of the inspiration, along with watching movies on TV was the inspiration to becoming a voice person. And I used to bring my tape recorder into the ride and record all the pirates. And I loved the song and you wrote the lyrics to Yo Ho.
X: Yes, I got through doing the script and suggested to Walt that we have a song in there. I had a melody and lyric in mind. So I got George Bruns to work on it with me. We put our heads together and came up with the music. It didnt take me long to write those lyrics as I used the narration as a guide.
Mark: You’ve got that line in there about real bad eggs. To this day if I find someone, who is kind of mean, I refer to them as a bad egg, just because of that song. I loved that.
In the background you could hear X’s warm laughter. Did you ever go on the ride, just to hear yourself and know that you wrote all that?
Maureen: We have nine grandchildren and they all have been on it with Grandpa.
Mark: I am the voice of Rod Serling on the Tower of Terror. I watched a lot of Twilight Zone when I was a kid. So when I heard myself on the ride, it was amazing. So it must have been just great for you as not only did you do the voice but also wrote the script.
X: When you do it, you just become a pirate. That’s it.
Mark: When I went into do the Rod Serling voice. Rod Serling always had a cigarette as he smoked. I don’t smoke so I had bubble gum cigarettes. I walked in there feeling like Rod Serling. You really got to become the part.
Maureen: When Johnny Depp was filming the first pirate movie in Burbank, he wanted to meet X, which was quite lovely. So we went into Burbank for the afternoon but before Johnny met X, he wanted to get dressed in costume. He was absolutely charming and nice so I asked the director if he was always so nice. He said Johnny is always so nice to everyone that they all love him. See the picture up on the wall of Johnny Depp and X? We heard that before Johnny Depp did the movie, he went down to Disneyland and rode the Pirate Ride again and again and again to get the flavor of the pirates.
As I didn’t want to wear out our welcome, I suggested that we go even though we were all having a good time.
On Sunday, August 18, Floyd Norman and Margaret Tinker Bell Kerry were signing books for the Carolwood Pacific Historical Society at Walt’s Barn in Griffith Park.
Disney Legend Floyd Norman began his Disney career working as an animator on Sleeping Beauty and continued working on The Sword in the Stone, Jungle Book as well as Robin Hood. He was the last scripter for the Mickey Mouse comic strip before it was discontinued. Recently he has worked for both the Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar as a free lance consultant, as well as the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco.
Margaret Kerry was in Our Gang Comedies and played the role of “Sharon” in one of the first network sitcoms, The Ruggles, on ABC-TV. She also played the ingénue lead in the Eddie Cantor film If You Knew Susie. Margaret was the live action reference model for Tinker Bell in the Disney animated film Peter Pan and was also the model and voice of the red headed mermaid in the film. Margaret has been a producer, writer and host of What’s Up Weekly on KKLA-FM Los Angeles, a Christian radio station and is also a sought after motivational speaker.
Visitors enjoyed chatting with these talented and sociable celebrities and leaving with autographed books. Carolwood Society had pre-purchased Floyd Norman’s recently published book Animated Life: A Lifetime of tips, tricks, techniques and stories from an animation Legend from his publisher, which Floyd signed for the guests. When they ran out of his books, I suggested that they continue to take the money, add extra for shipping, give receipts and then purchase more books for Floyd to sign at a later date to be shipped. This suggestion was accepted happily by all concerned.
Margaret Tinker Bell Kerry had brought some books called Fairy Dust and Quest for the Egg, written by Gail Carson Levine. She autographed the books and donated the proceeds to the Carolwood Pacific Society. Margaret also said “I am delighted that Floyd’s book sold out and I am hopeful that mine, which will be out in a couple of months, will do as well.”
Terri Hardin Jackson was there with her husband, Lindsay, and a friend from Mattel, Brian Johnson. Terri is a former Disney Imagineer, artist and sculptor, who was enjoying visiting with both Floyd and Margaret. She was overheard discussing having an event signing and selling her own book, Disney Tales from Terri Hardin, A Sculptor’s Life, which she anticipates will be out mid-September.
It was a very warm summer day but everyone had a good time and they also had the opportunity to ride the trains.
Here’s a little bit of the history of Walt’s Barn: In 1950, Walt built the Carolwood Pacific Railroad in the backyard of his house in Holmby Hills, California. He named the railroad for the street where he lived: Carolwood Drive. Amidst the railroad, he had a barn built where he could monitor and remotely control the switches on the track. When the Holmby Hills home was sold, Walt’s daughter Diane Disney Miller contacted Michael and Sharon Broggie, founders of the Carolwood Pacific Historical Society. The Barn was dismantled and it was stored until an agreement was secured with the City of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Live Steamers Museum. It opened in Griffith Park as a loan to the people of Los Angeles on July 19, 1999, and is located inside the 1/8th scale track, the same scale that Walt had at his home.
The Barn is open on the 3rd Sunday of each month from 11 am to 3 pm Check carolwood.org to see the celebrity guest schedule planned.
As you can see, it was a weekend to remember and I’m so delighted to be able to share it with all of you.