To the Forum Administrator:
I am Mark Rhodes, one of the producers on "Disneyland - Imagineering the Magic" DVD. I have a great admiration for the knowledge your readers share with one another and if it is agreeable with you, I would like to address in an open letter a few of their comments concerning the recent release of the DVD at Disneyland. Thank you.
An Open Letter on “Disneyland – Imagineering the Magic” from the producer
I read with great interest all the comments that were posted over the weekend concerning “Disneyland – Imagineering the Magic.” Since there were so many insightful and valid suggestions concerning the DVD, I thought it only right to address the writers in an open forum and try and answer the responses that were posted.
The overall consensus was that the DVD was not made for the Disney Geek. You guys are absolutely correct it wasn’t. A friend of mine, Richard Skillman, one of the other producers on the project, told me that Disney might be looking for an alternate approach to the typical guided tour souvenir that they had been doing for many years. I contacted Cameron Roberts and Greg Jones of D7, Inc – a production group that I had worked with on numerous Disney and independent projects – and the four of us made a pitch to Disney merchandise to do a story on the creation of Disneyland as told by the Imagineers.
I was an Imagineer for almost twenty-five years. I came to work at WED Enterprises during the final creative push to finish EPCOT Center and the start of Tokyo Disneyland. At that time I was lucky enough to work in the company of giants. Mark Davis, Ward Kimball and Harper Goff all came back from retirement to work as consultants on projects that I was assigned to. Herbie Ryman, Claude Coats, X Atencio, Blaine Gibson, Wathel Rogers, Harriet Burns, Collin Campbell, Joyce Carlson, Bill Morgan and John Hench were all working Imagineers that I saw on an almost daily basis, and Disney Legends like Peter Ellenshaw, Ken Anderson and Jimmy Macdonald would show up every now and then to give us a hand on special projects that involved their expertise. Marty Sklar was the creative lead at that time, and Tony Baxter was and still is a close personal friend. I learned more about storytelling and theme park design from those two than can ever be put in a single DVD. However, I also heard the stories about Walt and the creation of Disneyland from the men and women who worked with Walt. Those same stories had also been told to Tom Fitzgerald, Kevin Rafferty, Eric Jacobson, Kathy Mangum, Kathy Rogers, Michael Sprout, Dave Fisher and all the other Imagineers that came in about the same time as I did. Sadly, so many of the original Imagineers are no longer with us.
The pitch we made to Disney merchandise was to do a tour of the park as told by today’s Imagineers. The Imagineers that appear in the DVD were gracious enough to set down and re-tell the stories that they had heard first-hand, as well as, to include their own personal anecdotes on the projects in which they had contributed. Our original rough cut ran over three hours long, and the contract we had with Disney stipulated that the running time was to be no more than 60 minutes. Needless, to say, the comment that this was like a “Reader’s Digest” tour of the park I think is also accurate. Our intention was to give an overview of opening day attraction stories and a quick update on how some of those attractions had changed over the years. For the die-hard Disney fan, I’m sure these are all stories that they have read or heard about many times before. For the first time visitor to the park, or for families that do not have the extensive collections focused on the park, this was my chance to present Walt as a real person, and to give credit to some of the Imagineering Legends that are not familiar to the general public.
To get down to some of the specific concerns that were mentioned such as using music from the attraction in the DVD – as much as I would have liked to, our contract required that we produce new music – and we brought in David Wallace and Jeff Corkum of Luna Red, another company that has long ties to Disney to produce the music, sound effects and edit the audio for stereo and 5.1 surround-sound mixes for what was essentially silent clips. As to the question of the aspect ratio – that was my call. Although I usually consult with my partners to get a consensus on any important decision, I made a creative call and I think I made the wrong decision. All the new footage of the Imagineers was shot in high-definition, meant for widescreen television sets. I didn’t want to see the black bars on the sides of the old footage. What I should have done was to have the editors push in on the shot so as not to distort the ratio. I’ll not make that mistake again. Thanks for the feedback - it is much appreciated.
I also think you all make a valid statement when you point out that the DVD does not offer anything new to you. I did not take you guys into consideration when making this and I should have. The Imagineering Research Center supplied me with images of numerous pieces of original Imagineering artwork and still photos of Imagineers that I had never seen before. From your comments these were obviously not as new to you as they were to me, and nor was the B-roll that we were given access to from the Disney Library. I will keep that in mind as we work on future projects. I would really like to hear what stories you are interested in, and perhaps do another Imagineering volume on Disneyland that covers those more “meaty, technical and behind-the-scenes” interests. Once again, thank you for all your comments. Imagineering has always been a learning process and I was lucky enough to have someone like Marty Sklar who encouraged us to take risks – and then learn from the risks. I have learned much from this experience and hope to apply your suggestions and input into all future projects. Thanks much.