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Where's the Window - The Buzz Price Story - Part II

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by , 04-20-2011 at 07:30 PM


Last week, we rediscovered a true Disney Legend who was perhaps more responsible for Disneyland landing in an Anaheim orange grove than any other man but Walt Disney himself. A little background for those who missed Where's The Window Part I. I was admiring the worthy tradition at Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom to honor those who have made an impact by placing their name on a window on Main Street. Walt Disney himself started the idea. According to Marty Sklar, the rules for achieving this honor are:

  1. Only on retirement
  2. Only the highest level of service/respect/achievement.
  3. Agreement between top individual park management and Walt Disney Imagineering, which creates the design and copy concepts.
Now, let's get to Part II of our story.

Yes, if…


Buzz Price would be called upon frequently to weigh in on the viability of a project and he developed a research methodology that suited Walt and Roy’s needs. The process that he used when working with Walt was a “Yes if” line of attack. Price said, “Yes if…is the approach of a deal maker. It points to what needs to be done to make the possible plausible. ‘No because…is the language of a deal killer. Creative people thrive on ‘Yes if.” He added that, “Walt liked this language.”

Price refined this innovative research process by hosting more than 150 design workshops called a charrette. Charrette is French for little cart. Back in the Ecole des Beaux Arts period in Paris, students would bring their paintings to be judged by their masters in carts. In many cases, the artists would still be working on their canvases while on the move.

In modern usage, a charrette is a process whereby all those affecting and affected by the outcome of a project come together to collaborate on finding solutions. After a lot of consideration and discussion, the group can start to develop a consensus and establish clearly articulated performance goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. With these goals set, the project’s success can be judged by the ability to meet or exceed the planning criteria. By using performance goals, it is easier to manage and comprehend a complex project. What may have appeal to Walt was the layer of storytelling applied to the technical process of spatial planning.

The Focus Group



In November of 1953, Walt had Price conduct a charrette with four of the leading figures in the amusement park business. Price gathered William Schmitt who owned River View Park in Chicago, Harry Batt of Pontchartrain Park in New Orleans, Ed Schott of Cincinnati’s Coney Island, and George Whitney of Playland at the Beach in San Francisco.

Price rented out a hotel suite at the Sherman Hotel in Chicago during the annual amusement park industry convention and trade show. Along with Price were Richard Irvine, president of WED Enterprises, Bill Cottreall, vice president of WED Enterprises, and Nate Winecoff, the man who recommended Price to Walt. The men worked the crowd for over two-hours the old-fashioned way with “Chivas Regal and caviar” then a presentation

The Disney team used the famous Herb Ryman “lost weekend” conceptual drawing that Roy used when he had to convince the banks to fund the project. Price called this “a dog and pony show.” After the presentation, he recalls that the “reaction was unanimous. It would not work.”

Price documented their group’s reaction to the Disneyland proposal and he noted that they all agreed that all of the “proven moneymakers are conspicuously missing, no roller coasters, no Ferris wheel, no shoot-the-chute, no tunnel of love, no hot dog carts, no beer, and worst of all, no carnie games like the baseball throw.”

Walt’s proposal to build his own attractions was met with skepticism. The naysayers said, “Custom rides will never work. They will cost too much to buy and they will be constantly breaking down, resulting in reduced ride capacity and angry customers.” They suggested, “Only stock off-the-shelf rides are cheap enough and reliable enough to do the job. And besides, the public doesn’t know the difference or care.” They also determined that there was not enough ride capacity to make a profit.

After reviewing the park’s layout as designed by Marvin Davis, they were critical. In their experience, the fatal flaw was the single entrance into the park. This would mean a bottleneck at the front gate and that was unacceptable. They suggested the need for entrances all around the park next to parking lots and transit if Walt wanted to be successful.

“Most of Mr. Disney’s proposed park produces no revenue but it will be expensive to build and maintain,” said the focus group. “Things like the castle and pirate ship are cute but they aren’t rides so there is no economic reason to build them. There is too much wasteful landscaping.” They also found other examples of waste. Spaces like Town Square with its little park, City Hall, and a fire station were not designed to make any money. That was a poor use of real estate and did not add to the bottom line. Even the Main Street vehicles like the horse trolley, fire truck, and omnibus would be money-losers because they also suffered from a
capacity issue.



After reviewing other concept drawings, the men suggested that Walt’s commitment to the little design details was just not warranted. They felt, “People will vandalize the ride vehicles and destroy the grounds no matter what you do, so you may as well go cheap.”

Even the level of design for the building interiors became an issue. Walt wanted the interiors to be as highly detailed as the exteriors. The men told the team “the interior finishing concepts of the restaurants are too expensive, especially since a hot dog and a beer are about all anyone eats at an amusement park.” They said, “He will lose his shirt by over spending on things the customers never really notice.”



Then they began to really tear the project apart. During the presentation of the Jungle Cruise, the men said that the ride would not work because the animals would be sleeping or hidden. Walt’s desire for year round operation was a bad idea when 120 days is “the only way to go.” Most importantly, the lack of barkers is certainly a bad idea. One critic said, “Without barkers along the midway to sell the sideshows, the marks won’t pay to go in. Customers are likely to leave with money left in their pockets.”

Price summed up the thoughts of the participants with this statement. He wrote, “Mr. Disney’s park idea is too expensive to build and too expensive to operate.” Their advice was, “Tell your boss to save his money. Tell him to stick to what he knows and leave the amusement business to people who know it.”

Walt appreciated the practical tips but he was always ready to compete when he thought he had a better idea and the results of this focus group was the affirmation he needed to hear. Now he was even surer that his idea would work. Instead of another amusement park, Walt knew he was creating the first theme park. The difference between the two, as explained by J.G. O’Boyle in Persistence of Vision magazine, is, “A theme park is not ride-dependent. A theme park without rides is still a theme park. An amusement park without rides is a parking lot with popcorn.”

After Price had completed his research, he predicted that first year attendance for Disneyland would be between 2.5 and 3 million guests. The actual attendance that first year neared 4 million guests.


Two Giants



Robert Moses was the most powerful man in New York for forty-eight years. As the head of a number of semi-public agencies, he created a power base that allowed him unprecedented influence without having to be responsible to the public or elected officials. Under his leadership, New York built tunnels, bridges, parks, and parkways all at the expense of mass transit. Moses was not shy to destroy existing neighborhoods in pursuit of “progress.” Moses would go on to shape New York’s physical environment more than any other single person and it reflected his vision of what that great city should be. Moses was the force behind the influential 1939 New York World’s Fair and now he was interested in creating a sequel in 1964.

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. (Ret.) William Everett “Joe” Potter, an MIT graduate, an engineer who helped plan for the invasion of Normandy during World War II, and governor of the Panama Canal Zone worked for both Disney and Moses. He said, “If you said to either of them, ‘That’s impossible, that will cost a lot of money, or people will be against it,’ you didn’t last long.”

In an interview in 2010, Buzz Price recalled a story of two giants, Robert Moses and Walt Disney, during a flight in the Disney-owned 25-passenger Grumman Gulfstream. His job was to pour the drinks while two men who literally reshaped the world discussed the site plan for the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair. The conversation was not going well.

Walt was drawing on a map and trying to tell Moses that the lay out would lead to failure. In Walt’s Revolution by the Numbers Price said, “I poured Walt and Mr. Moses each a big scotch and then watched the two giants verbally spar with each other. They were two strong protagonists, each accustomed to being number one.” Neither was listening to the other, “they were talking at the same time for about an hour.” It was a test of wills and neither man was backing down.

The men were specifically arguing about the transportation planning for the Fair. Walt did not like what he saw in the plans and had some suggestions. Walt knew he was an expert in how people moved about and after reviewing the plans; he felt that people would not leave the main Fair grounds to go to the recreational area. They needed to have some “special inducement like a monorail or a PeopleMover.” Price said, “Walt unsuccessfully tried to encourage Goodyear to install a people mover and even paid for a study.” Walt thought a Disney designed Alweg monorail system would become an attraction itself just like at Disneyland and would have the proper capacity to get the job done. It would also make for a fine legacy project and would remain operating after the fair closed.

Moses decided to go with a much cheaper system built by AMF. The difference between the technologies was the Disney version rides on top of the beamway and the AMF configuration was the I-beam type where the train was suspended underneath the beamway. Of course Walt disliked the hanging monorail technology because his wife Lillian got ill on such a train during a visit to Germany.

Angus Wynne invested $7 million to build the recreational area. Wynne would later go on to open the Six Flags theme parks. In the end, Walt was right and Moses was wrong. Just as Walt had predicted, the site plan for the fair and the transportation connections did not bring enough traffic to the recreational area and Wynne end up bankrupted by Moses’ mistake.

The 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair would attract 51 million over two seasons, less than the projected 70 million and lost money. The poor layout was cited as one of the reasons for the failure. Ray Bradbury, who wrote the script for the United States Pavilion’s exhibit, said the Fair failed because Walt did not design the whole thing. He said, “There were not enough benches, not enough trees, not enough restrooms…all the things that developers think are not necessary Walt would have provided.”

After the Fair, Moses asked Walt to build a park in the New York area. However, Walt declined because he doubted that New Yorkers would embrace anything like the Anaheim Park. “He said that audience is not responsive. That city is different.” Walt was also concentrating on a new location to the south.

Well, that's our story on the amazing Buzz Price. So, can somebody explain to me why Harrison “Buzz” Price does not have a window on Main Street in either Disneyland or Walt Disney World? If there was anybody who really deserved this, it has to be Buzz. Come on Disneyland, you can do it.

Join MiceChat and SAMLAND in support of the Buzz Price Ryman Arts Endowment Fund and its agenda to make a real difference in the life of gifted young artists:

The Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) Foundation, along with the Ryman Arts program has teamed up to create the Buzz Price Ryman Arts Endowment Fund.
The Ryman Arts program is entirely free of charge, competitively based and seeks

out the most talented high school artists in Southern California – over 4,000 have graduated.

Every Saturday, students from 90 different high schools join together to draw and paint and
learn techniques from professional artists and teachers. The program was created to
honor the memory and achievements of Herbert Ryman, who drew the very first overall
sketch of Disneyland and every memorable Disney project – from Epcot to Tokyo and
even Paris – until his retirement in 1988. Herbie loved to pass on his knowledge and
know-how to young artists – he was an inspiration.

As Imagineer and Disney Legend Marty Sklar said, “There are few things in life that
you know are so obvious and “right” that we don’t have to spend even a moment
wondering, “Should I do this?” The idea of the Themed Entertainment Association and
its members creating a scholarship endowment in the name of Buzz Price, to encourage
talented young artists to become part of our industry, is certainly one of those moments.”

Won’t you join us by writing a check to the TEA Foundation earmarked for the
Buzz Price Ryman Arts Endowment Fund? You can also visit the Ryman Arts Buzz Price Scholarship web page to learn more about Ryman Arts or to donate online.

Themed Entertainment Association
150 E. Olive Avenue, Suite 306
Burbank, California 91502
Would you like to see Buzz Price get his much delayed window on Main Street? We'd love to hear from you below.

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Updated 04-20-2011 at 07:50 PM by Dustysage

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Comments

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  1. WRDup's Avatar
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    Ya blowin' my mind!
  2. kiminil's Avatar
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    How many of those other parks still exist? I know that by the early 60's Riverview had become a dangerous place full of broken down rides and shady people. I remember when I was little, asking my parents to take me there, but we only went a couple of times because it was so awful.
  3. LFTWNG9's Avatar
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    It's interesting to read how the so-called "Amusement Park People", the guys who prided themselves on "knowing what they were doing", were so negative towards Walt's ideas. It is almost like one of them had somehow seen the plans ahead of time and gathered the others together and said, "Look, this could destroy us - we need to shut this thing down before it even opens!"
    They say that people are negative toward your successes because it only highlights their own failures. I get the sense that the Amusement Park People knew their days were numbered!
  4. DOMINGUESS's Avatar
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    I'm impressed, amazed and inspired!

    Thank you
  5. ChrisWoodruff's Avatar
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    Sam, as usual OUTSTANDING. I loved your article, both the material and how they read. I actually get sad when I've reached the end (I want more)!

    I think you are right... I think Buzz SHOULD have a window.

    Maybe we should organize something... oh I dunno,like...
    We pick a currently "blank" window (has to be accesible by people on the street) and using a bar of soap (or one of those "washable window markers") we "make" a buzz window! They clean it, we re-write it. Eventually they may "get it"? Okay you could probably get tagged as a vandal, just thinking outloud...
  6. DisWedWay's Avatar
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    I think it was Walt's attention to detail that has always kept people coming back for more. There was always something new to see that you didn't see the last time. That has always inspired me after I first saw the Columbia interiors. I'm hoping to see that Buzz Price window on my next visit to Disneyland. PD
  7. ReptarBrew88's Avatar
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    Buzz should have window! Amazing article!
  8. Mousecat's Avatar
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    Thanks for the great comments. Of course, keep 'em coming. I would suggest that you write to the D23 people. If they can find some angle that they could exploit and make money from, they may be interested in Buzz's contributions. Unfortunately, Buzz didn't leave behind pretty pictures, just great project reports and that is not an easy sell. I don't want to see his work erased because it wasn't marketable (the current definition of what Disney considers historic). He is a great man and more important then most people realize. But you guys get it. That is what I love about the MiceChat audience.

    Thanks again,
    Sam
    SamLand's Disney Adventures

    By the way, you can follow Samland on Twitter - Samlanddisney
  9. D.E.1955's Avatar
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    WOW!!!!!
  10. MickeyMaxx's Avatar
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    I've never heard the Moses-Disney conversation before. Fascinating angle on two extraordinary people! Would that Moses had listened to Walt's advice, and incorporated his ideas in the 64-65 New York World's Fair. It would be fascinating to know what might have remained of that spectacular exposition in the year 2011.

    Thanks!
  11. GoBotDotCom's Avatar
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    Fun-tastic article!
  12. StevenW's Avatar
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    [QUOTE][FONT=Verdana]Angus Wynne invested $7 million to build the recreational area. Wynne would later go on to open the Six Flags theme parks. [B][I]In the end, Walt was right and Moses was wrong.[/I][/B] Just as Walt had predicted, the site plan for the fair and the transportation connections did not bring enough traffic to the recreational area and Wynne end up bankrupted by Moses’ mistake. [/FONT][/QUOTE]
    [QUOTE][FONT=Verdana][SIZE=3]After the Fair, Moses asked Walt to build a park in the New York area. However, [I][B]Walt declined because he doubted that New Yorkers would embrace anything like the Anaheim Park.[/B][/I] [/SIZE][/FONT][/QUOTE] Maybe the second reason was better for the failure of the recreation area. Not everything Disney touches turns to gold.
  13. DragonRose's Avatar
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    There MUST be a window for this amazing, skilled and infuential man. That there isn't one is a crime and a shame.
  14. Not My Real Name's Avatar
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    Get Buzz a window!

    I didn't know that the '64-'65 World's Fair was a failure. I wanted to see it, but my parents (especially my Dad) didn't want to go anywhere east of Texas, where we lived. The closest we came was seeing some of the Sinclair dinosaurs which were on a couple of trailers, on a nationwide tour promoting the fair.

    Oh, and Angus Wynne learned from Disney; his original park had (and still has) a steam train circling it and a Skyride (which is now gone).
  15. Disneykin Kid's Avatar
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    Amusement park people were so negative towards Walt's ideas. It is almost like one of them had somehow seen the plans ahead of time and said, "Look, this could destroy us - we need to shut this thing down before it even opens!" They say that people are negative toward your successes because it only highlights their own failures. I get the sense that the Amusement Park People knew their days were numbered!
    Actually, I don't think the amusement park people saw it coming, I think they were truly clueless as to what Walt was trying to do. They could only understand profit, and the most efficient way to that goal. They had no appreciation for the big picture which includes a lot of things that don't directly create profit. Sadly, reading about their opinions reminds me of someone who actually managed the Disney parks much later, Paul Pressler.

    "Custom rides will never work. They will cost too much to buy and they will be constantly breaking down. Only stock off-the-shelf rides are cheap enough and reliable enough to do the job. And besides, the public doesn’t know the difference or care."

    "Proven moneymakers are conspicuously missing, no roller coasters, no Ferris wheel, no beer, and worst of all, no carnie games. Mr. Disney’s proposed park produces no revenue but it will be expensive to build and maintain."

    “Things like the castle and pirate ship are cute but they aren’t rides so there is no economic reason to build them. There is too much wasteful landscaping. They also found other examples of waste. Spaces like Town Square with its little park, City Hall, and a fire station were not designed to make any money. That was a poor use of real estate and did not add to the bottom line."

    "He will lose his shirt by over spending on things the customers never really notice."

    I don't know if Pressler actually thought the same way as these people, but he had an efficiency expert come in and study how Disneyland could be more efficient, and thus, more profitable. In a 'theme' park, efficiency is not always the best way. Reading the amusement park experts' opinions reminded me a lot of DCA and of Pressler's general management of the parks.
    Updated 04-21-2011 at 09:58 PM by Disneykin Kid
  16. jedited's Avatar
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    I agree 100% with Disneykin Kid. I also thought that the amusement park people didn't see it coming. There are still TONS of people out there that still don't get it and MOST of them work for Cedar Fair or Six Flags.
  17. Disneykin Kid's Avatar
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    IMO the policy of 'everything needs to generate a profit' is a death knell to the health and yes, profitability of a theme park. I'm not a cast member, but when I heard a while ago that the cast member eateries raised their prices because of a mandate that all locations must make a profit just sounded so wrong.

    Japanese companies and Google prove that well taken care of employees create profitable companies. A low priced good meal at the cast member eateries would produce happy bellies, which in turn produce happy cast members, which in turn produce a better experience for the customers they interact with, which in turn would produce a better, healthier, more profitable company in the end. Am I missing something here?

    I assume Walt instituted the 'write off' policy for the cafeterias. From reading about how he felt about the importance of being willing to spend on things that don't necessarily turn a profit, writing off cast member meals sounds right in line with his philosophy.

    I'm all for Disneyland being healthy and profitable. And it's certainly not dying, they're certainly doing a lot right, and they've got a lot of cash in the hole right now. You look at all the detail going into Cars Land and you certainly see Walt's philosophy at work. Cast member meals may be a small thing, but I'll bet it would translate into happier workers and a better Disneyland overall.
    Updated 04-22-2011 at 10:17 AM by Disneykin Kid
  18. Galaxy Glue's Avatar
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    I can answer the question why Buzz Price doesn't have a window at Disneyland/Walt Disney World.

    Because Walt Disney didn't like him. Need proof? Read this:

    http://www.ryman.org/aboutrymanarts/...20Magazine.pdf

    Go to the second page, midway down and read the real story about Buzz Price on the plane with Walt Disney and Robert Moses (the part that Sam conveniently left out). Makes you wonder what Walt would say about all the morbidly obese riding around on electric scooters in his parks nowadays, hmmm?

    Furthermore, Buzz Price worked FOR The Walt Disney Company, he did not work AT The Walt Disney Company. There's a difference. He was a third-party vendor/contractor. That alone, in accordance with Marty Sklar's criteria, would not have warranted a window in the parks.
  19. Dustysage's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Galaxy Glue
    I can answer the question why Buzz Price doesn't have a window at Disneyland/Walt Disney World.

    Because Walt Disney didn't like him. Need proof? Read this:

    http://www.ryman.org/aboutrymanarts/...20Magazine.pdf
    Yes, please READ the link you gave, because you couldn't be more wrong. The Disney's and Buzz were quite close and Walt recognized that Buzz helped him expand and refine his plans for Disneyland and Disney World. Walt trusted Buzz so completely that he put his beloved Cal Arts school into the hands of Buzz Price because he knew Buzz would see it through. Buzz wasnt just a Disney legend, he was an industry legend. He should have a window in many parks around the world!
  20. Galaxy Glue's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dustysage
    Yes, please READ the link you gave, because you couldn't be more wrong. The Disney's and Buzz were quite close and Walt recognized that Buzz helped him expand and refine his plans for Disneyland and Disney World. Walt trusted Buzz so completely that he put his beloved Cal Arts school into the hands of Buzz Price because he knew Buzz would see it through. Buzz wasnt just a Disney legend, he was an industry legend. He should have a window in many parks around the world!
    So, according to you, Buzz wasn't a Disney legend? Thanks for proving my point.
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