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The Walt Disney Story
This film debuted on Main Street on April 15, 1973. When ride coupons were still in use, it was a free attraction presented by Gulf Oil. The waiting area was home to a mural with a character from every animated Disney film up to The Great Mouse Detective. Other displays in the waiting area included a Sorcerer's Apprentice set-up used for photographing a View Master reel in 3-D, a button from the Tokyo Disneyland Main Street Electrical Parade, Zero's cape, Mouseketeer ears, the special Oscar the studio won for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and countless other pictures and documents.
The movie was presented as a giant photo album, where pictures from Disney's career would move and come to life. It used audio clips from Walt to tell the story of his life, his studio, and his theme parks. Bill Borsch, who was an artist, writer, and producer at Disney for 30 years helped compile the film.
The Walt Disney Story Script:
(Note, on the audio there are times when Walt stammers or partially repeats a sentence. Those instances have been omitted.)
(A book titled The Walt Disney Story opens up and pictures of Disney patriarchs are shown. The film dissolves to show the Chicago World's Fair.)
Walt Disney: My Dad worked as a carpenter in Chicago on the World's Fair buildings. He worked for a dollar a day. And out of that, he and my mother saved enough money (laughs) to go in business.
(A city scene is shown, followed by a picture of Walt as a baby.)
Eventually, he ended up in Chicago as a contractor. And my mother drew the plans, my Dad would build the houses and he was doing that when I was born; December fifth, nineteen hundred and one.
(A picture of a farm house and Walt's father, Elias, is shown, followed by another baby picture of Walt and a picture of another farm house.)
So my dad made some money as a contractor and he wanted to get back to the farm. They finally ended up buying this farm in Marceline, Missouri.
(The photo album shows the picture of a farm, flanked by pictures of Grandpa Taylor and Doc Sherwood.)
I had two pals, one of them was Grandpa Taylor, who was a Civil War veteran. And another one was a retired doctor by the name Doc Sherwood. And Doc had this beautiful stallion, Rupert. (A picture of a horse is shown.) Doc had me come over one time and brought my crayons and my Big Chief tablet and I was going to draw a picture of Rupert for him; he was going to give me a nickel or something. (A scribble appears on screen to depict Walt's attempts to draw the horse.) This day I had never seen Rupert so restless. Now I was trying to draw him and I'd get one stick down for a leg and then Rupert would turn around and then I'd have him from a profile. I'd move around to the front view and Doc couldn't hold Rupert still. So it turned out to be quite a mess, but he liked it.
(Farming pictures are shown, followed by pictures depicting the auction.)
Things got pretty tough on the farm. My dad had a sickness and decided to sell the farm. But then he had to auction all the stock and things, and it was in the cold of the winter and I remember Roy and myself going out and going all around to the different little towns and places, tacking up these posters of the auction. So they sold out, took the money and they went to Kansas City.
(Walt is shown as a newsboy in Kansas City.)
My dad bought this Kansas City Star route. The ol' Star route was quite a thing. They gave me a small route, oh, I must have had fifteen customers. I was about nine or ten when they started that. In winter, we'd go out at three thirty in the morning right after a blizzard or in a blizzard or in pouring rain, it didn't matter. I did that for six years. It was tough.
(Pictures of World War I are shown as "Over There" plays.)
It was in '17. June 17, 1917. They moved to Chicago and I didn't move. In the meantime, my brother Roy had joined the Navy so I wanted to join him. Another boy, but I don't think he was as old as I was, but he looked older, we went to the Navy and they turned us down, saying we were too young. Finally this kid came in to me very excited, he says, "There's something just forming here that you and I can get in!" I said, "What is it?" He said, "An ambulance unit." And so we went down and signed up and we were on our way to France.
(A picture of Walt as a solider is shown, along with other pictures of World War I, including a drawing done by Walt.)
And we became replacements. I was assigned to Evacuation Hospital number five in Paris. I had my drawing board right by my bunk. So I started painting pictures all over my truck. That doughboy I used in a lot of these cartoons, this doughboy with this beaming face. I was in Paris the third of September when Perishing pulled out. The whole headquarters company left. All the guys I knew had gone. Paris, which had been this exciting thing with all these soldiers and things, suddenly there wasn't a soldier to be seen and I suddenly became very lonesome. So then I went in, put a request in to be discharged, and I left shortly after that to come home.
(Chicago is shown, along with a picture of Walt's father.)
So I hit Chicago, that's where my parents were living. And my father said, "Walter, Mr. Scrogin, he's got a job for you at twenty-five dollars a week," and all of that, and I said, "Dad, I want to be an artist." And my dad, he just couldn't buy that.
(Kansas City is shown, along with a picture of Roy. Walt is shown animating and with a movie camera.)
So I went to Kansas City and Roy was in Kansas City working at a bank, so I went into this Kansas City Film Ad Company. So that was where I got started in the animation business. The first money that I made, I bought myself a motion picture camera that was called the Universal. But I wanted to experiment with making theatrical cartoons so I started experimenting at night and I worked on a little idea that I had that I wanted to sell to the Newman theaters, a chain of about three theaters. I called the things Newman Laugh-O-Grams.
(Walt is shown drawing a Laugh-O-Gram.)
Well, I was desperately trying to get something that would get a hold, that would catch on. So I was thinking if I had something with a novel twist, I might crack the market. They had had the cartoons working with the humans, (A title card from an Out of the Inkwell short is shown.) the cartoon would always come off the drawing board and run around in a real room and work with a real person. I said, "Well, maybe I'd pull a reversal on that, I'll put the human in with the cartoon." (Footage from an Alice comedy is shown.) And I found a little girl that had been posing for some of the commercial things.
(More footage from an Alice Comedy is shown.)
But I still couldn't get anywhere with it and the company began to collapse. There was no money coming in so there was nothing left but to go into bankruptcy. I'd failed. But I learned a lot out of that and I think it's important to have a good hard failure when you're young, you know?
(Pictures are shown to depict Walt's arrival in California.)
It was a big day, the day I got on that California Limited and came to Hollywood. It was in July, I think, of 1923. I was 21, going on 22. Now my brother Roy was already in Los Angeles, both of us were unemployed. We solved the problem by going into business for ourselves. We established the first animated cartoon studio in Hollywood. Several years of producing one series after another on shoestring budgets followed.
(A clip of an Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon is shown and Mickey is shown being drawn.)
Mickey Mouse came into our life. He popped out of my mind onto a drawing pad on a train ride from Manhattan to Hollywood at a time when the business fortunes of my brother Roy and myself were at lowest ebb and disaster seemed right around the corner. Mickey's first actual screen appearance was at the old Colony Theater in New York in Steamboat Willie. I did the voice.
(A clip from Steamboat Willie is shown.)
Mickey was the first cartoon character to express personality. I thought of him from the first as a distinct individual, not just a cartoon type or symbol going through comedy routine. Mickey was simply a little personality assigned to the purposes of laughter.
(Clips of other early Mickey Mouse films are shown as Walt continues, then turns into a clip from The Skeleton Dance.)
By nature, I'm an experimenter so with the success of Mickey, I was determined to diversify. I had another idea which was plaguing my brain. It was the Silly Symphonies. It was a series without a central character. With a series like that, I felt it would give me a chance to really develop my medium. The first of that series was called The Skeleton Dance.
(Clips of The Skeleton Dance continue, then turn into a clip from Flowers and Trees.)
Technicolor about that time came out with their three-color process. I was very excited about it. I had a picture in the work called Flowers and Trees. I had finished about half of it in black and white but I just felt that this color would do so much for the cartoon medium that it was worth doing the picture over. Flowers and Trees opened and fortunately for me, it did hit.
(A segment is shown from The Three Little Pigs.)
Well, The Three Little Pigs followed sometime in early '33 and we got a very warm reception from the audience. All the Little Pigs seemed to register with them and it was the thing we'd been working for a long time, personality out of the character. Individual personalities.
(A picture of people watching a movie is shown, flanked by images from black and white Mickey Mouse cartoons.)
I saw the handwriting on the wall early. Because the short subject was just a filler on any program. I just felt I just had to diversify my business. Now if I could crack the feature field, I could do things!
(An early silent version of Snow White is shown.)
I had done a little story research on different fairy tales I might do, and Snow White was one of them. It was a thing I remembered as a kid. I saw it in Kansas City one time when I was a newsboy ; they had a big showing for all the newsboys, and I went and saw Snow White. It was probably one of my first big feature pictures I had ever seen.
(Footage and model sheets from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs are shown.)
But anyway, to me, I thought it was the perfect story. I had the heavy, I had the prince, then the girl, the romance. I had the sympathetic dwarfs and things. I wanted no doubt about the personalities, so I sort of picked the name to fit the personality. So I had Bashful, he was bashful. I had Happy, he was happy. I had Dopey, he was dopey. I got voices for everybody, you see, but we couldn't find a voice for Dopey. So we said, "Well, let's let him be mute. We just won't give him a voice, that will make him different." And it worked.
(Pencil tests from Snow White are shown, along with pictures of animators.)
We started Snow White sometime late '35, and we were , we had it running in the theaters December '37. So, actually, it was around two years in the making.
(Pictures, blueprints and construction photos are shown of the Disney Studio.)
With the profits of Snow White, I built the Studio. The Studio ended up costing us around three million dollars. By 1940-something, we owed the bank four-and-a-half million dollars. But I had all these pictures in the works. Pinocchio, Bambi, Fantasia. (The photo album shows footage from each film.) I had Fantasia set for windscreen. I had dimensional sound. To get that windscreen I had the projector running sideways. But I didn't get to building my cameras or my projectors because the money problem came in. I think if I had had the money, if I could have gone ahead, I'd have had a really sensational show at that time.
(Footage of Disney's war films is shown.)
During the War, we did briefing films for the Marine Corps on the landings on the island and they were all very top secret. We did a heck of a lot of islands I'd never heard of. I think we did over four thousand insignias.
(Walt is shown with a bow and arrow on his television show, followed by footage from his live-action films and True-Life Adventures.)
Then after the War, there was quite a problem picking up the pieces. I wanted to go beyond the cartoons. I thought that if I could get into the live end, there's things I could do. I wanted to see if I couldn't do something in an educational way. So I sent the crew to Alaska and I got a group of educators together. We discussed what we might do. And out of it I came up with this: it can be educational, but don't label it at such. So, I took the film that I'd shot about the seals on this island, made it into an entertainment package. I coined this title True-To-Life Adventure.
(The photo album shows a picture from Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan that come to live as Walt mentions them.)
Now I wanted enough different types of things that I could do with my organization that I could say, pull out of my nose with one of these pictures. But I had another one right behind it that would hit. So then I started out, and the first one I think I did there was Cinderella. Then, the next one on the schedule was Alice, but I had another one coming right behind it, I had Peter Pan!
(A clip is shown from Cinderella.)
Cinderella hit big, made a lot of money. Alice in Wonderland came out and just made a nose dive. You see, Cinderella, you pulled for Cinderella, you felt for Cinderella. Alice, there were millions of people who didn't care about Alice. There's no heart to it. Without that heart, you see, I don't think anyone will laugh. In other words, for every laugh, there must be a tear somewhere, and I believe in that.
(A clip from Cinderella is shown where Cinderella's dress is torn by her step mother and step sisters. A clip is then show of the Nautilus from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. The photo album then shows moving pictures from other films such as Dumbo, The Absent Minded Professor, 101 Dalmatians , Darby O'Gill and the Little People and Sleeping Beauty.)
After all the concentration on live-action and cartoon films, we decided to try something that would employ about every trick we had learned in the making of films. We would combine cartoon and live action in an enormous fantasy, Mary Poppins. (A clip of the Jolly Holiday sequence is shown.) And what a far cry that was from Snow White. As the original Mary Poppins budget of five million dollars continued to grow, I never saw a sad face around the Studio and this made me nervous. I knew the picture would have to gross ten million for us to break even. But still there was no negative head-shaking. No prophets of doom. Even my brother Roy was happy. He didn't even ask me to show the thing to a banker before it was finished. Then the horrible thought struck me, suppose the staff had finally conceded that I knew what I was doing?
(The color introduction to the Wonderful World of Disney is shown and then pictures of Walt and his family are shown.)
Television was the start of Disneyland. The idea for a Disneyland lay dormant all those years. It came along when I was taking my kids around to these kiddie parks. (A moving picture of a kiddie Ferris Wheel is shown.) And I'd take them around; we used to go out every Saturday and Sunday. We went everywhere, zoos and parks... (Clips of amusement parks and zoos are shown.) And while they were on the merry-go-round, riding forty times or something, you know, I'd be sitting there trying to figure what you could do. (The Disneyland King Arthur Carousel is shown, followed by the first concept artwork for Disneyland.) And, when I built the Studio I thought, "Well, gee, we ought to have a three-dimensional thing that people could actually come and visit."
So, every time I kept thinking of television, I would think of this park. And I knew that, if I did anything like the park, I had to have some kind of a medium like television to let the people know about it. (Pictures of Disneyland are shown as Walt continues talking.) So I said, "Well, here's the way I'll get my park going." So, I just sort of insisted that my Disneyland Park be a part of my television. Well, I had Adventureland, Tomorrowland, Frontierland. It brings in the things that I want to do, that I'm interested in. I'm interested in fantasy, I'm interested in the world of tomorrow, which is vital to it. In the park, I want to get exhibits and things that do the same thing, but they're three-dimensional things. Frontierland, I've always been interested in the past, in the history, and I think it's vital. I think that in this world that we're living in today, and this new era that we're going in, we can't forget the things that happened. Such as, I mean, the founding fathers and that Constitution, which is such a vital thing to what we're doing today. And, well, that's what I believe in there, you see.
The park means a lot to me, in that, something that will never be finished. Something that I can keep developing and adding to. Not only can I add things but even the trees will keep growing. The thing will get more beautiful every year!
(Footage is shown of Walt Disney World, including a shot of a Bob-A-Round Boat in the Seven Seas Lagoon.)
Now, I want to share with you some of our ideas, some of the philosophy for Disney World. I've always said, "There will never be another Disneyland." and I think it's going to work out that way. So that there is a distinction between Disneyland in California, and whatever Disney does in Florida.
Here in Florida, we have something special we never enjoyed at Disneyland, the blessing of size. There is enough land to hold all of the ideas and plans we can possibly imagine. It will be a community of tomorrow that will never be completed. (The Progress City model is shown.) But the most exciting,and by far the most important part of our Florida project, in fact the heart of everything we'll be doing in Disney World will be our Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow. (Concept artwork from Disney's 1966 Epcot presentation film is shown.) It will never cease to be a living blueprint of the future, where people actually live a life they can't find anywhere else in the world.
(A Mickey Mouse cartoon is shown as Walt talks.)
You know, I was stumped one day when a little boy asked, "Do you draw Mickey Mouse?" And I had to admit I do not draw anymore.
"Well, then you think up all the jokes and ideas?"
"No," I said, "I don't do that."
Finally, he looked at me and said "Mr. Disney, just what do you do?"
"Well," I said, "sometimes I think of myself as a little bee. (Footage of Walt with the Imagineers from the Disneyland Tenth Anniversary Show appears in the photo album.) I go from one area of the Studio to another and gather pollen, and sort of stimulate everyone. I guess that's the job I do."
(Walt is shown touring construction projects at Disneyland.)
Well, after forty some odd years in the business, my greatest reward, I think, is that I've been able to build this wonderful organization. Also, to have the public appreciate and accept what I've done all these years. That, that is a great reward.
But all individuals are different. Some of us just wouldn't be satisfied with just carrying out a routine job and being happy. Yet I envied those people. (The footage of Walt is now actual interview footage that matches on the screen what he is saying.) I had a brother who I really envied because he was a mailman. But he's the one that had all the fun. He had himself a trailer, and he used to go out and go fishing, and he didn't worry about payrolls and stories and picture grosses or anything. And he was the happy one ... I always said he's the smart Disney.
Other Theater Attractions
The area served as a preview for EPCOT Center in 1981-1982 and showed a film titled A Dream Called EPCOT beginning on June 1, 1981. The space later served as a Disney/MGM Studios preview area from 1987-1989. The Walt Disney Story was shown for the last time on October 5, 1992. The display area was used for annual passport redemption starting in 1993 and then became a part of the 25th Anniversary Welcome Center and later the Town Square Exposition Hall. The exhibits are no longer in place but the mural is still intact, although it can no longer be seen by guests. The film was originally presented in double theaters. One of these has been remodeled and now shows cartoons. The door to the other theater can be seen at the back of the Hall. Many of the audio quotes used in The Walt Disney Story are now used in the One Man's Dream film that is now playing at the Disney/MGM Studios.
The Walt Disney Story was later released as an education film and is available on VHS but be warned of the edition that has a picture of Walt standing next to a window with a shadow of Mickey. This tape is edited and not the same film that was shown in the theme park! In addition to being a bad pan-and-scan version, about five minutes have been chopped off and replaced with a new introduction and ending with a costumed Mickey Mouse inside the Disney/MGM Studios animation building.
There was later a DVD for sale at the theme parks that had footage of the 100 Years of Magic celebration and included a letterboxed version of The Walt Disney Story as a bonus feature. The added introduction and ending have been dropped. The film is rather grainy and still appears to have an incorrect aspect ratio but it is an improvement. It was also available again on VHS with a new cover but be warned that it may be in pan-and-scan.
Whoooo Gives a Hoot About the Postshow?
For many years, there was a display in the postshow that featured scale models and an owl named Hoot Gibson that was going to be in the Western River Expedition. He spoke the script below when a button was pushed near his display. When The Walt Disney Story film was changed out to A Dream Called Epcot, Hoot's spiel changed. He later gave a different speech when the Disney/MGM Studios sneak preview was being held. After that park opened, the owl was removed.
Hoot Gibson Postshow
(Note: My audio is very distorted toward the end when the bass music plays. The sentence I am not able to capture has ellipses.)
(Hoot Gibson is asleep in a tree branch. Next to him is a branch with a book on it called "Our Family Tree". An Audio-Animatronic programming board is below. Hoot is heard snoring and then wakes up.)
Hoot Gibson: (Snoring) Whoooooo! (Snoring) Whoooooo! (Wakes up) Who are you? Uh, Who am I? Why, hee hee, I'm the real Hoot Gibson, that's who. I'm the star of a brand new western show being made for Walt Disney World.
I'm what they call Audio anima .. anima... Animatronic. Whew. Hee Hee ! You see, before my kind came along Walt Disney's characters were strictly movie star types. (The book opens to show the owl from Bambi.) My grandpa, for example, had one of the lead roles in Bambi.
But with all due respect, he and the rest of the family were sort of flat actors. (The book turns to a page showing a family tree of Disney owls.) Yeah, they were these flat drawings. (Chuckles.)
Well, one day Walt felt it was high time to work up some three dimensional animation. (The book shows an Imagineer working on an Audio- Animatronic figure.) It took years and years of thinkin' and tinkerin'.
First there were little bitty figures (The book shows an Imagineer working on one of the Tiki Room birds.), then full size ones (The book shows Imagineers working on the Abraham Lincoln figure), and finally out of all of this came a brand new kind of animation Walt called anima, anima, audio anima, whew, Audio-Animatronics.
Today right here in Walt Disney World, you see the greatest animated stars yet led by the old pro himself, Maestro Mickey Mouse. (The Mickey Mouse Audio-Animatronic figure from The Mickey Mouse Revue is shown in the book.)
I'll tell you something, though. It wasn't easy for any of us to break into this kind of showbiz. Why, whooood whood ever thought that even I had to start right at the bottom? (The book shows the owl in one of the Western River Expedition preproduction drawings.) There I was, just a rough idea on an artist's sketchpad. Hee hee hee!
Next, they made me very carefully into a tiny little model. (A scale model of Hoot is shown in the book.) Pretty cute, huh? Just when I figured I was good enough, they did me up full size, big as life. Hee hee! (The book shows the owl being built.) Well, from the sculptor's table, I winged over to the workbench to get loaded up with all those nuts and bolts and wires, control hoses and even air hoses. You can't hoot without an air hose! Ooh hoo hoo hoo!
After that my very own makeup crew came along. Treated me just like a star out of Who's Whooo. And finally (The Audio-Animatronic board starts to flash and beep.) I got my schoolin' from a mighty smart fellow and his computer console. (Music heavy on the bass line is played.)
...Console...'cause it works my beak. The ones here beside me make my eyebrows tweak. The one just below them makes my head turn around. Put them all together and you've got a real cool sound! (The Audio-Animatronic programming board stops and the book closes.)
Well, that's my story, folks. I sure hope you'll come back and see me in the future, at the Western River Expedition right here in Walt Disney World.
Now that you know whoooo I am, whoooo are you?
(Hoot goes back to sleep.)
Back to Main Street
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See ya real soon!