On this episode of the Disney Avenue Podcast, host Keith Michael Mahne and Dusty Sage team up for another amazing interview with the one and only Rolly Crump! Words may not fully describe this man, but one thing is for certain, he is a true “original,” even among Imagineers.

Born Roland Fargo Crump on February 27, 1930, in Alhambra, California, Rolly took a pay cut as a “dipper” in a ceramic factory to join The Walt Disney Studios in 1952. To help pay bills, he built sewer manholes on weekends. He served as an in-between artist and, later, assistant animator, contributing to Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, Sleeping Beauty, and others.

In 1959, he joined show design at WED Enterprises, now known as Walt Disney Imagineering. There, he became one of Walt’s key designers for some of Disneyland’s groundbreaking new attractions and shops, including the Haunted Mansion, Enchanted Tiki Room, and Adventureland Bazaar.

Rolly served as a key designer on the Disney attractions featured at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair, including it’s a small world, for which he designed the Tower of the Four Winds marquee. When the attraction moved to Disneyland in 1966, Rolly designed the larger-than-life animated clock at its entrance, which sends puppet children on parade with each quarter-hour gong.

After contributing to the initial design of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Florida, and developing story and set designs for NBC’s Disney on Parade in 1970, Rolly left the Company to consult on projects including Busch Gardens in Florida and California, the ABC Wildlife Preserve in Maryland, and Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey Circus World in Florida, among others.

He returned to Disney in 1976 to contribute to EPCOT Center, serving as project designer for The Land and the Wonders of Life pavilions. He also participated in master planning for an expansion of Disneyland until 1981, when he again departed to lead design on a proposed Cousteau Ocean Center in Norfolk, Virginia, and to launch his own firm, the Mariposa Design Group, developing an array of themed projects around the world, including an international celebration for the country of Oman.

In 1992, Rolly returned to Imagineering as executive designer, redesigning and refurbishing The Land and Innoventions at Epcot Center. Rolly “retired” from The Walt Disney Company in 1996, but continued to work on a number of creative projects. He was inducted as a Disney Legend in 2004 and released his autobiography, It’s Kind of a Cute Story, in 2012.

Get ready for a truly amazing show… you just might hear a “cute story” or two…

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The Disney Avenue Podcast would like to thank Geren Piltz for the sound quality and other contributions to the show!

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Keith Michael Mahne is the founder and editor of DisneyAvenue.com and the Disney Avenue Podcast. He has made countless trips to the Walt Disney World resort since his first trip in 1989 at the age of four. Keith has a strong passion and respect for Walt Disney, the parks and resorts, and the men and women who help create them. He started Disney Avenue as a way to inform and entertain readers and to repay all those who make dreams come true everyday. Keith is proud to be a part of the MiceChat family.

  • Jungle Trekkie

    This was a very enjoyable interview, Keith and Dusty. Thanks for your good work.

    Would you consider doing a show about John Hench? He gets talked about obliquely in a few interviews with people like Rolly Crump and Tony Baxter, but I’ve not heard much about the man himself.

    He was a seminal figure in Disney theme park design and had a larger vision that influenced the design of our modern world. It would be nice to hear more about him from the people who knew him.

    • Keith Mahne

      Thanks for your kind words! I would love to do a show on John Hench and that is definitely in the works. On episode 3 of the Disney Avenue Podcast, we interviewed Marty Sklar. I had the chance to ask Marty about John Hench and I think you might enjoy his response. Thanks for listening!

  • bamato

    Now THAT was a treat. Rolly was the first person I knew to be one of these “Imagineers” when I learned the term many many moons ago. Seeing the footage of him going over ideas for the Museum of the Weird with Walt Disney (the candlestick man stands out the most for me) was fascinating. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that he was what sparked my imagination and love for Disney, but he was a figure for me right from the start. I can’t think of anything in this physical world I wouldn’t give up to travel back in time and be around these unbelievably talented people, and see them make all the magic we know and love today so tangible and real.

    If you do read these replies (Rolly), I just want to take a moment to say thank you. Imagineers are the unsung heroes of theme parks. The average park guest never stops to think about the magic that people created just for them to experience. Us Disney fans ride and enjoy the attractions and try to place ourselves back in time to see how you special people did what you did. I step out of the mansion or small world and I see your faces. I see an imprint you made in this world that will be loved and appreciated forever. It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. You all have a special place in my heart, with feelings of love and appreciation that will never fade, and only root stronger as time passes. You guys really are something special, and it’s a gift that can never be topped to be able to say I was around to hear about your life on such an intimate level.

    Thank you, the worlds that much better with you in it.

  • Keith Mahne

    I have to say, this show was extremely special for me personally. I have always adored Rolly and his amazing stories…I mean I don’t know many who can have one literally clinging to every word. He isn’t just a Disney Legend, but a Disney Treasure! I will remember this show for a long time to come and feel so blessed to have had his undivided attention for a short while. Such a great soul!

    Rolly, we love you dearly, we thank you for your amazing stories, for your “weird” creations that have touched and entertained so many and will do so for years to come! With great respect and admiration…thank you!

    – Keith Mahne

  • Chuck-D

    My kids (8 and 11) and I really enjoyed the Seekers of the Weird comic book series. After they enjoyed hearing about all the other cool things Rolly had done. I forgot that he did Knotts Berry Tails! I’ll have to tell my kids about that too!