Within the pages of the colorful, fun It’s Kind of a Cute Story, legendary Disney Imagineer Rolly Crump shares memories of an extraordinary life with the help of MiceChat.com writer Jeff Heimbuch. Since Rolly was heavily involved with the planning of Disneyland landmarks like the Enchanted Tiki Room, it’s a small world, and the Haunted Mansion, I knew I was going to enjoy it (and I wasn’t disappointed). What really makes the book special, however, lies in how it gives a sense of Crump’s enthusiastic personality and eclectic interests – interests that have taken him well beyond the Disney company.
Prior to reading this book, I was vaguely aware that Rolly Crump was one of the more interesting guys at Disney. For proof, one needs to look no further than his interviews on the Disneyland: Secrets, Stories and Magic DVD, where Rolly is seen (presumably in his home) with tasteful framed art of a naked woman hanging in the background. Boobies on a Disney DVD! The artwork in question, a portrait of entertainer Josephine Baker (reproduced in this book), sums up Crump’s funky, laid-back California vibe pretty well. That casual/cool feeling is reflected in the imagery generously spread throughout this book’s pages – and in the chatty, “cute” stories Rolly shares within. And what memories! Whether it’s being a grunt in the Disney animation department in the ’50s or overseeing massive projects for Jacques Cousteau and gambling titan Steve Wynn, he’s had an extraordinary career.
Were I to sum up the Crump aesthetic, I’d say it’s a little bit Disney, a little bit ’60s surf/beatnik culture, a little bit midcentury modern, and a whole lot of charm. One can definitely see the appeal his work had for Walt Disney in developing Disneyland (Disney obviously valued the younger, funkier insights Rolly had over his fellow imagineers). It kind of surprised me to read how much of Crump’s handiwork is around at Disneyland, even today – not just the obvious such as the still awe-inspiring small world façade or the charming statuary in the Tiki Room forecourt, but little things as well like the trash cans (and those themed figures churning the butter in the park’s popcorn machines? Crump’s idea.) Elsewhere, Crump delightully recounts his ideas for the earliest incarnation of the Haunted Mansion (when it was conceived as a walk-through attraction), preparations for the 1964 New York Worlds Fair, and his contributions toward various pavilions at EPCOT. While the Disney stuff is fascinating in itself, Crump also goes into detail on various projects involving other theme parks – and the efforts of his own company, Design 27 (this book is not authorized by the Disney company, which is a huge asset in my opinion).
Although the printing on this book leaves a little to be desired (the paper is thin), I would recommend It’s Kind of a Cute Story not only for Disney fans, but also for those who’d enjoy getting to know a unique guy who marches to his own, propeller-festooned drummer. The book is available here at Amazon.com.