Interviews: Dave Smith – Walt Disney Archives

DAVE SMITH

BIO: With the establishment of the Walt Disney Archives on June 22, 1970, Dave Smith joined The Walt Disney Company as the director of the Archives. As the company’s Chief Archivist, Dave was charged with collecting and preserving all aspects of Disney history and making the material available to researchers from all areas of the company. Since the company is often working on projects which reuse elements from its past, there is constant call upon the Archives for information. The Archives also answers mail, email, and telephone inquiries from the public.

In the years since the Archives was established, it has grown from a one-person department to a current staff of eleven. The Archives is located at the Disney Studio in Burbank. It has come to be recognized as a model among corporate archives in the country, and now, even though retired, Dave is still regarded as the final authority on matters of Disney history.

Born and raised in Pasadena, California, the child of librarians and educators, David Rollin Smith earned a B.A. in history and a Masters Degree in Library Science from the University of California at Berkeley. Before coming to Disney, he received library and archives experience working in the Manuscript Department of the Huntington Library in San Marino, having an internship at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., and serving on the staff of the Research Library at U.C.L.A.

As the Disney chief archivist Dave was an active member of the Society of California Archivists. He served from 1980 to 2001 as Executive Director of the Manuscript Society, an international association of collectors, dealers, librarians, archivists, and others interested in manuscript material.

Dave has written extensively on Disney history, with a regular “Ask Dave” question and answer column in the former Disney Magazine and Disney Channel Magazine, online on the Disney Insider, and on the D23 website, as well as numerous articles in such publications as Disney News, Starlog, Manuscripts, The American Archivist, and The California Historical Quarterly. Dave is the author of the official Disney encyclopedia Disney A to Z (1996, updated editions in 1998 and 2006 and 2015). With Kevin Neary he co-authored The Ultimate Disney Trivia Books 1, 2, 3, & 4. His book, Disney: The First 100 Years, co-authored with Steven Clark, was published in 1999 (with an updated edition in 2002). He compiled The Quotable Walt Disney, a collection of Walt Disney’s quotes, in 2001. He has written introductions to a number of other Disney books, and often lectures on Disney subjects. Dave’s latest book Disney Trivia from the Vault (2012), compiles 29 years of questions and answers from his “Ask Dave” column. In October 2007, Dave was honored with the prestigious Disney Legend award.

A Burbank, California, resident, Dave retired in 2010 after passing his 40th anniversary with The Walt Disney Company, but he continues work as a consultant with the title of Chief Archivist Emeritus.

I know, I hadn’t heard of him either until I read the bio. Yeah, right! Like everyone else, I’ve always enjoyed reading Dave’s books and seeing him on various Disney videos. His humble and friendly manner just draws you in. I was thrilled when I first met him… on Facebook. Hey, maybe someday I’ll meet him in person!

But this post is all about the interview, so let’s get right to the questions:

Q1 – What would be your Disney dream job if you couldn’t be involved with the Archives?

Dave: It would be hard to think of a dream job better than the one I had as chief archivist. I’m not really qualified for any other jobs with the company.

Q2 – What is your favorite piece of Disneyana in your personal collection?

Dave: I don’t really have a personal Disneyana collection (I always felt that it would be a conflict of interest), but I do have signed copies of many of the books on which I helped out the authors. I also treasure the Walt Disney signature I have. When I ran into Walt as a teenager at Disneyland, he declined to sign an autograph because it caused crowds to gather around him. But, he told me to write him at the Studio. I did, and he sent me the autograph.

Q3 What is the question you get asked the most that you have the hardest time answering?

Dave: I dread the “why” questions; why did Walt do something, etc. If it isn’t written down or in an interview, then an answer is not known.

Q4 – How comfortable are you with your Disney celebrity? Does it surprise you?

Dave: It is hard for me to consider myself a Disney celebrity, but I guess I am. Most Disney fans seem to know who I am, and they appreciate the work I did at the Walt Disney Archives.

Q5 – How would the Disney Company be different if Walt was alive today?

Dave: It is hard to guess what Walt would have done with the company had he lived longer, but since he was an innovator and willing to take chances, we might have progressed to where we are today even faster. He certainly would be impressed with the technologies and opportunities of today that were not available to him during his lifetime.

EPILOGUE: I’m constantly amazed at the graciousness of Disney personalities! I truly appreciate Dave taking the time out of his busy schedule to grant this interview for Cool Nouns by Lee Beatens. I hope you feel like you know him a little better now.

Ed Wynn Visits The Twilight Zone

Disney-influences-Television

Submitted for your approval, or at least your consideration, a very funny man in a not-so funny dramatic role. Long-time star of stage and screen, including many Disney live-action and animated programs, is one Ed Wynn. Mr. Wynn is about to step over from whimsy into… The Twilight Zone!

Twilight Zone Ed Wynn 1

Season Five (also the final season)

Twilight Zone Ed Wynn 3

How can you not smile at this dear older gentleman?

Whether you enjoyed him as Mary Poppins’ floating uncle or his madcap antics as The Mad Hatter, Ed Wynn has certainly left an impression upon every Disney fan! Mr. Wynn appeared in at least one other episode of The Twilight Zone (Season One’s One for the Angels).

Twilight Zone Ed Wynn 2

Sorry, I just had to include this priceless expression!

I noticed how frail Mr. Wynn was looking in this episode, and with a little research, learned that he was 77 at the time this was filmed in 1963. This was just three years before his death on June 19th, 1966. And don’t forget that you’ve seen his son, Keenan Wynn in many Disney live-action films as well, and the Season One episode of the Twilight Zone called A World of His Own.

Let’s put it to a vote as to which role was most memorable:

  • Uncle Albert from Mary Poppins
  • The Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland
  • The Toy Maker from Babes in Toyland
  • Rufus from the Gnome-Mobile
  • or something else?

Cast your vote with your reason in the comments below and share your thoughts about this Disney Legend (inducted August 10th, 2013).

#DisneyTrivia: Welcome to Disney, Mr. Davis!

Marc Davis

Hello everyone, and welcome to Tiggerific Tuesday #DisneyTrivia segment, the weekly trivia segment that I host along with my good friends Jodi from Magical Mouse Schoolhouse, Jen from Disney Babies Blog, and Heidi from Heidi’s Head!  Even though today is not Tuesday, it’s Monday evening, we like to get a good start on our trivia for the week, so I hope you’ll forgive the faux paux!

Today is a very important day if you are a Disney History buff like I am!  Today, as you can see from the image, is the 78th anniversary of the hiring of Marc Davis!  Mr. Davis, as you may recall from my Disney Legends post about him, is one of Walt’s Nine Old Men, and was noted for such incredible attractions as Pirates of the Caribbean, among others!  I think it is safe to say that today was a very big day, not only in the life of Marc Davis, but also in the life of all of us that love to visit Disney parks around the world!  Here is the official text, as seen on This Day in Disney History:

December 2, 1935: Marc Davis begins working as an apprentice animator at the Walt Disney Studios. He is immediately thrown into 2 weeks of intense drawing classes – taught by the studio’s resident instructor Donald Graham. Davis will go on to become one of Walt’s “Nine Old Men” and create such memorable Disney characters as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Tinker Bell and Cruella de Vil! He will later become one of Walt’s original Imagineers and ultimately a Disney Legend.

Thank you for taking a trip down Disney history Lane with me, please go check out what Heidi, Jen, and Jodi have for us as well, and please add your own trivia posts into our list!

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Tiggerific Tuesday Trivia – Disney Legends 1992

Today marks the 21st Anniversary of the Disney Legend Class of 1992!

Today marks the 21st Anniversary of the Disney Legend Class of 1992!

Hello everyone, and welcome to Tiggerific Tuesday Trivia!  Today we are getting an early jump on our trivia, by taking a look at what happened in Disney History for October 21st and 22nd!

Did you know…

That, on this day in 1992, the Disney Legends Class of 1992 was inducted?  This class, headlined (in my opinion) by Annette Funicello, featured the following Disney Legends (shown in alphabetical order):

  • Jimmie Dodd – Television Actor (given posthumously); Adult Mouseketeer & musician
  • Bill Evans – Imagineering; horticulturist & landscape specialist
  • Annette Funicello – Film & Television Actress; everyone’s favorite Mouseketeer
  • Joe Grant – Animation; story artist
  • Jack Hannah – Animation; director of TV shows and films
  • Winston Hibler – Film (given posthumously); narrator, writer & director
  • Ken O’Connor – Animation & Imagineering; genius layout artist and art director
  • Roy Williams – Animation & Television Actor (given posthumously); the Big Mooseketeer

 October 22, 1942…

Continuing our emphasis on Annette Funicello, did you know that on October 22, 1942, Annette Funicello was born?

Actress/singer and original Mouseketeer Annette Funicello is born in Utica, New York. She and her family moved to Southern California in 1946. Walt Disney first saw 12-year-old Funicello dancing the lead in Swan Lake at the Starlight Bowl in Burbank, California, and later invited her to audition for his new children’s show, Mickey Mouse Club. She was a featured Mouseketeer on the hit series and took part (along with the other original Mouseketeers) in Disneyland’s grand opening in 1955. She later starred in several Disney features, including The Shaggy Dog, Babes in Toyland, The Misadventures of Merlin Jones, and The Monkey’s Uncle. Her Disney television credits included Zorro, Elfego Baca and The Horsemasters. As an adult, Funicello was one of many celebrities who took part in Walt Disney World’s three-day opening festivities in October 1971. In 1977, Funicello guest starred as the Blue Fairy in Disneyland’s Main Street Electrical Parade! Named a Disney Legend in 1992, her autobiography A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes: My Story was published two years later.

Special thanks, as always, to my co-hosts Jodi from Magical Mouse Schoolhouse, Jenn from Disney Babies Blog, and Heidi from Heidi’s Head!  Come click on their links to read all about their great Disney Trivia, and thanks for stopping by!

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Remembering Disney Legends – Ward Kimball

Ward Kimball and Walt Disney. Image courtesy Manicmation.

Ward Kimball and Walt Disney. Image courtesy Manicmation.

Hello everyone!  Two weeks ago I introduced you to my new mini-series about remembering the Disney Legends.  Our first legend that we featured was Marc Davis — today, I’ve got a special treat, as we take a look at another of Walt’s Nine Old Men, Ward Kimball!

Ward Kimball was born on March 4, 1914, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  In 1932, though, after he graduated from high school, he moved to California to attend classes at the Santa Barbara School of the Arts, where he had a scholarship.  Two years later, in 1934, he was convinced by an instructor to apply for a job at Disney — after one look at his portfolio, Ward Kimball was offered a job on the spot!

Kimball has so many accomplishments in the Disney Arena that it is hard to list them all!  Some of his most important contributions, though, are things that you may not have known, listed here:

  • Ward Kimball was the creator of the character Jiminy Cricket for the movie Pinocchio!  It’s been said that Jiminy resembled Ward Kimball in both looks and mannerisms, so the next time you watch Pinocchio, and look at Jiminy Cricket, you’ll be seeing a glimpse of Ward Kimball as well!
  • In addition to being an animator, Kimball was also a jazz trombonist.  In fact, he was a founding member of the Disney band the Firehouse Five Plus Two Dixieland Jazz Band!  The band became well known in Disney, playing to many different venues.  The members of the band were all Disney Studio employees, and were featured on television shows, in movies, later played live at Disneyland, and even recorded a string of albums.  In fact, at one time the Firehouse Five Plus Two was even outselling Dizzy Gillespie on the Jazz Charts!  But perhaps most importantly, the band was even caricatured in the Goofy short cartoon How To Dance!  A YouTube video of the short appears at the bottom of this post for your enjoyment.
  • However, the real reason I am writing about Ward Kimball isn’t anything to do with his movie roles, the characters he created, or even the Firehouse Five Plus Two.  When I think of Ward Kimball, what I really think of is his and Walt Disney’s love of trains!

Ward Kimball had a train layout in his backyard called the Grizzly Flats Railroad.  He, along with Ollie Johnston, were avid train guys, as was Walt Disney, of course, and it was Kimball that helped Walt Disney build the Carolwood Pacific line he had in his backyard.  Additionally, Kimball was part of the reason that the Disneyland Railroad was built around Disneyland!  I wonder whether or not the Walt Disney World Railroad would have existed if Ward Kimball hadn’t been around to help with the Disneyland Railroad…what do you think?

Ward Kimball officially retired from Disney in 1972, but was also involved in Disney projects long after his retirement.  In fact, Ward Kimball is even the Creator/Designer for the EPCOT attraction World of Motion!

Like all of the Nine Old Men, Ward Kimball was made a Disney Legend in 1989.

Ward Kimball passed away in 2002, and was married to his wife Betty for over 65 years.  Three years after his passing, the 5th locomotive to the Disneyland Railroad was added — and named the Ward Kimball in honor of him.  Here is a great picture of the locomotive, courtesy of the Disney Parks Blog.  Click on over to read more about the locomotive and learn what may be one of the coolest Disney stories ever!

Image ©Disney

Image ©Disney

If you didn’t know, one of the Disneyland Railroad engineers is none other than Nate Lord.  Who is Nate Lord, you ask?  Well, he just happens to be the grandson of Ward Kimball — and he can often be found guiding the Ward Kimball locomotive at Disneyland!  How incredibly cool is that, I ask you?!

Thank you for joining me on our look back at Disney Legend Ward Kimball.

Now, sit back, relax, and enjoy Goofy’s short, How To Dance!  After that, check out the video of Walt Disney and his friends working on the Carolwood Pacific Railroad!

 

Walt Disney and the Carolwood Pacific Railroad