Disclaimer: While I took lots of notes for this panel, a lot of what I wrote down was paraphrased and or summarized (and/or could be wrong). Most things I wrote down may not have been in the exact words the Imagineers said during the panel. Also some portions of the panel are incomplete. There were times where I wasn’t sure what they were saying or what they were talking about. I believe poor X Atencio said he had surgery on his throat! If you were at the panel, please correct or add anything that may be wrong and/or missing!
The panel started off with a video of Walt Disney and how the idea of Disneyland first came about (i.e. watching his daughters riding a carousel). After the clip of Walt, the video turned into a montage of interviews with various Imagineers talking about what a visionary Walt was (Bob Gurr and Rolly Crump were in it!).
Once the video was over, we were all introduced to our moderator, Marty Sklar! He was joined by X Atencio, Alice Davis, and Bob Gurr (BTW, when Marty introduced Alice, Bob decided to be a perfect gentleman and went to help her walk to her seat). The panel was basically the Imagineers talking about what it was like working with Walt during their time working at Disney.
Bob Gurr being a perfect gentleman!
The first question Marty asked the panel was to describe how they first met Walt. Alice Davis said the first time she met Walt Disney was at the Tam O' Shanter. She just married Marc Davis and they were eating at the restaurant when Walt came in and saw Marc. Walt came by to say hello and then asked if the woman Marc was with was his new wife. So Marc introduced Walt to Alice, and Walt decided to get to know her. Walt asked her what kind of work she did, and Alice explained to him that she mostly worked with clothes/costumes. Alice remembered how the conversation somehow led to the topic of elastic, and Walt was simply fascinated! They spent almost the whole dinner talking about elastic! Before he left, Walt told Alice that she’s going to one day work for him. Two years later, Walt asked Alice if she would do the costumes for the IASW dolls, and the rest is history!
Bob Gurr mentioned that he first met Walt when he was working in Autopia. He said he remembered a man coming by looking very scraggly and asking questions about the Autopia cars. When the man left, Bob was told by his coworkers that man was Walt Disney.
X Atencio originally started off in Animation. He left Walt Disney for the army, and came back after World War II was over.
Marty Sklar first met Walt when he went to pitch the idea to sell newspapers on Disneyland’s Main Street (at the time, he was the editor for the ‘Daily Bruin’). Walt ended loving the idea and hired Marty to sell newspapers at Disneyland. Marty remembered wondering why such an important man would waste his time speaking to him for a silly newspaper idea. He soon realized that Walt was a man of details, and Marty learned the importance of details after that day.
Marty next asked the panel what was their favorite project. Bob said that he loved all his projects. Then Bob started talking about when he was assigned to work on the Lincoln animatronic. The Lincoln animatronic wasn’t working correctly so Walt had Bob take a look at it and fix it for the World’s Fair.
Alice’s favorite project was IASW. She mentioned she was born during the Great Depression and was very poor. She remembered all her friends having dolls while she didn’t. The reason she loved working on IASW was because it made her feel like all the IASW dolls were hers. Alice also remembered when working on IASW, she asked Walt what her budget was for the costumes. Walt told her to not worry about the budget but instead to make the best costumes she could for the attraction. When working on projects for Walt Disney, Walt always liked to give more than you expected. To add on to Bob’s Lincoln animatronic story, Alice remembered during the World’s Fair, the Lincoln attraction was next to the Japan Pavilion. The pavilion was handing out ball bearings, and people would take the balls and throw it at the Lincoln animatronic because they all thought the Lincoln was a real person.
X talked about how he remembered being asked by Walt to write the script for Pirates. X never wrote a script before, but the more he worked on it, the more he started to like writing scripts. X also remembered suggesting to Walt that they should do a song for the attraction. Walt loved the idea and had X write a song. Ever since then, he started to write a song for all the attractions he worked on. He also did the famous “Grim Grinning Ghost.”
Marty’s next asked who was their favorite team member? Bob mentioned that Walt always wandered around the studio and talked to people. He had a way of bringing the right people for each job. Bob also noticed that Walt had a way in making the company work as one.
Marty then asked Alice what was it like working on IASW with so many great talents? Alice said that it was wonderful, and it was wonderful working with Walt.