Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Pheaturing Jim Korkis

Hey, kids, welcome to another Phile entry for a Wednesday. How are you?  Well, they say gasoline could be $6 a gallon. But the good news is the White House says President Obama is aware of the problem, and will continue to talk about it between fundraisers. Speaking of the President, he released his NCAA bracket. He is a huge basketball fan. But privately, White House aides are worried that if he spends so much time on this, it could affect his golf game.  Happy be-birthday to Mitt Romney, he’s 65 years old. At his party, he didn't blow out the candles. He gave a speech and the candles just flickered and died. Romney's birthday is not a big deal herein the States. But in the Cayman Islands, it's a national holiday.  How about that Rush Limbaugh? It was nice for me to see somebody else apologizing for something for a change. Don't kid yourself, Rush is in a lot of trouble. He's down to two national sponsors. You know what they are? One is Crisco, and the other is Hostess Twinkies.  Drug users in San Francisco have now formed a drug users' union. So look for the union label when you're buying crack. Actually, the drug users are really different now that they've formed a union. Now one guy smokes crack and four other guys stand around watching.  Police across the country say there's been a spike in criminals stealing Tide laundry detergent. So I guess all those commercials that say it cleans blood stains are really paying off. If you steal Tide laundry detergent, would that be considered a white-collar crime?  Okay, so you know how much I love The Lorax movie, right? Well, I was wondering what other Dr. Seuss movie they could make next, and it came to me when I looked at the book's Logan had when he was a kid.
Check it out. 

Wouldn't that make a good movie?  Do you kids like the History Channel? I love the History Channel, but it seems they always focus on the same stuff. To explain, I thought I would make a pie graph so you know what I'm talking about. I love pie graphs.
Aliens do exist. Okay, now for some sad news.

Peter Bergman 
Nov. 29, 1939 – March 9, 2012
Gary the Seeker has finally climbed aboard the Heavenly Bus.

Okay, this is soemthing I tried back on the Super Bowl entry and made no money, but I thought I'd try again. Vegas has betting, so I thought the Phile should to. and to help you make your bets, here are the odds.
1. Murdered by deranged fans who later got off on a "Temporary Lin-Sanity" plea - 3:1
2. Pummeled by LeBron James for winning an NBA championship before him - 2:1 
3. Fatally injured in a pick and roll gone horribly awry - 1:1
4. Trips and falls on ice after misreading MSG schedule and suiting up for Rangers vs. Canucks game - 7:1
5. Food poisoning from $20 MSG hot dog - 2:1
6. Asthma attack from dust collecting on all the unsold Jeremy Lin merchandise - 2:1
7. Suffers concussion when attempting lay-up and hitting head on Dwight Howard's junk - 9:1
8. Kills self when Knicks go back to sucking again and he goes back to sleeping on his brohers couch  - Even

Okay, there you have it. So, in the past I had quite a few Democrat party guests on the Phile to talk about different topics. Well, today another Democrat wanted to come on the Phile and talk about what is wrong about Mitt Romney. This could go on all night. Anyway, please welcome for the first time on the Phile, ex-White House Press Secretary Mister Robert Gibbs in a pheature I have to call...

Me: Hello, sir, welcome to the Phile. It's an honor to have you here. So, what is wrong Mitt Romney?

Robert: Hello, Jason. Mitt Romney has got to stop saying "y'all."

Me: What? That's it? He says "y'all"? When and where?

Robert: Campaigning for the Alabama and Mississippi primaries the last couple of weeks, he's been making his way through the South and coming out with stuff like this: "Mornin', y'all. Good to be with you. I got started right this morning with a biscuit and some cheesy grits."

Me: That's crazy, sir.

Robert: He's been calling himself an "unofficial Southerner." A few days ago he said he thinks catfish is "delicious" when, month before last, he said he didn't like it.

Me: Maybe he does like catfish. LOL. Do you think he's been phony?

Robert: I'm not sure it's actually physically possible for a person to be any more phony. And this is a guy who thinks we'll be fooled into thinking he's got our best interests at heart because he uses a contraction.

Me: Let's give the guy the benefit of a doubt. Maybe he likes the people in the South, sir.

Robert: Actually, he's a career politician from 1,200 miles away who would give tax breaks to millionaires over the middle class and roll back everything President Obama's done to create jobs and make sure our families have health care. And catfish is the least of what he's changed his mind about: unions, Roe v. Wade, climate change... the list goes on.

Me: Why would he lie do you think?

Robert: Well, he thinks he's got a chance to win our votes. I can only figure that he thinks we're stupid because we talk differently than he does. No matter how he does in any other primary, let's get together and send a message from us straight to him: We're not stupid, we're not buying what you're selling, and you don't get to say "y'all."

Me: Anything else, sir?

Robert: No, but thanks to the Phile for whatever you can to help. I am glad that you can let your readers, family and friends aren't any more inclined than you are to see Mitt Romney on TV for the next four years... let alone in the Oval Office... I'd appreciate it.

Me: Thanks, sir.

Robert: Also, it's "cheese grits," Governor. Not "cheesy." Just "cheese."

Me: Ex-White Hoouse Press Secretary, people. I like that guy.

This is so cool. Today's guest is someone I wanted on the Phile for a long time. His book "The Vault of Walt" is the 17th author to be pheatured in The Peverett Phile Book Club. He is a real Disney Legend. Please give a warm welcome to the one and only... Jim Korkis.
Me: Hello, Jim, welcome to the Phile. Ever since I started interviewing people back in 2008 you were always someone I wanted to interview. So, thank you for being here. How are you?

Jim: Thanks for inviting me. Right now I am finishing up work on another book of Disney stories that will hopefully be published this year. Also, I am in the midst of writing several stories for different websites. I feel it is important to get these "lost and forgotten" stories out there for Disney fans to enjoy and future Disney researchers to use.

Me: Jim, I miss walking through the Cast Services building at Epcot and seeing you and saying hello. I am now at Star Tours at the Studios, which we'll talk about in a minute. You don't actually work at Epcot or for Disney anymore, right?

Jim: No, I am no longer a Cast Member. I was one of the thousands that were laid off a couple of years ago. However, I still do some freelance work for the Disney Company including writing a quarterly column for the DVC magazine, Disney Files, as well as doing a couple of historical videos for The Disney Blog.

Me: How long did you work at Disney, Jim?

Jim: I started working at Walt Disney World in 1995. I left Los Angeles to come out and take care of my parents who had some health problems. I always figured I could get another job but not another pair of parents. They passed away a few years ago. My first role was doing magic and making balloon animals for drunk college students at Pleasure Island. Then I quickly moved over to "assisting in the portrayal" of Merlin the magician in the Sword in the Stone Ceremony at Magic Kingdom. Then in 1996, I was hired as a full time salaried animation instructor at the Disney Institute. When D.I. kept reformatting itself, I moved to Disney Adult Discoveries, the group that created and faciliatated backstage tours for guests and convention groups. Finally around 2000, I moved to Epcot where I was a Coordinator with College and International Programs and finally a Coordinator of the Epcot Learning Center, sort of a library and computer lab for cast members. While doing all of that, I also found time to do things like write the text for the Magic Kingdom trading cards, be a facilitator for the Disney anti-drug puppet show The Disney Crew, be a guest speaker several times on the Disney Cruise Line and more. All of that came to an end in 2009. In California, I didn't work for Disney. I actually worked for Six Flags Magic Mountain and wrote Tiny Toons comic books for France, Spain and Germany among other things.

Me: Have you been a Disney fan all your life since you can remember? Was that your goal to work for the Mouse?

Jim: I grew up in Glendale, California which is right next door to Burbank where the Disney Studios are located. As a kid, of course, I went to Disneyland a lot but I also watched the Disney weekly television show and wrote down the names in the credits at the end of the show. When I was about ten, I would look up these names in the Glendale-Burbank phone book and call these guys up to ask them about animation which I was very interested in. About eighty percent of them were really nice and invited me to come over and watch them draw and they told stories and I wrote some of those down for my school paper and later the local newspaper. The other twenty percent thought when I called them it was a gag by one of their friends... having a kid call up and talk about animation. The big joke in L.A. was that I was the most Disney person that my friends knew but I never worked for Disney. I was an original member of the two big Disney fan clubs in the Eighties and Nineties: The Mouse Club and the National Fantasy Fan Club. They each held Disneyana conventions so I got to meet and talk with even more of my heroes. I also started writing for Disney fanzines like The Duckburg Times, Carl Barks Collector, Persistence of Vision and more. Both my brothers were working at Walt Disney World in the Nineties. One was in entertainment as a Streetmosphere performer and the other worked in merchandise. Neither of them was able to help me get a job when I came out. I kept going to auditions and sending resumes to the Casting Center.

Me: We use to come down to Orlando every year around February when my dad played down here. And growing up my sister and I always dreamnt about working at Disney World. I always wanted to be Peter Pan. HA! Anyway, I have been at Disney going on 24 years, and my first job was in Custodial at Epcot. What was your first job there?

Jim: As I mentioned in the previous answer, my first job was doing magic and making balloon animals. I had learned those skills at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, California. In fact, I even wrote a stage show for Six Flags called "Lucky Louie's Roaring Twenties Revue" which was based on a show I loved at Disneyland, "The Golden Horseshoe Revue" with Wally Boag. It was the same format of comedy and music and dance. I specifically wrote the part of a magician into the show to be played by me in a blue glitter vest. I levitated a young lady from the audience for each show and also called up a young kid to mimic me doing some simple trips.

Me: You're from California originally, right? Did you visit Disneyland quite often?

Jim: My dad worked for the City of Glendale (which is about 45 minutes away from Anaheim) and was a member of the Magic Kingdom Club like most city employees. That meant that he got special ticket books for Disneyland that had MORE tickets. We went to Disneyland at least twice a year (once during the summer and once during the Christmas holidays) but as my brothers and I grew older we went more often. Of course, once I could drive in high school, I got an Annual Pass. I would love to sometimes just drive out to Disneyland and sit and watch the shows and the people while others raced on to the rides. I proposed to my ex-wife at Disneyland. It was late at night on Main Street after we had spent the entire day in the park. I had a glass slipper and while she was sitting on the bench, I brought out the slipper and told her I was looking for the princess whose foot fit the slipper. In the slipper was the ring. She said "yes" but unfortunately, unlike Disney films, there is not always a happy ending.

Me: Living there in California you even had Mrs. Disney as your 3rd grade teacher, am I right? She was Walt's sister-in-law? That's really bloody cool. What was she like as a teacher?

Jim: Oh gosh, Mrs. Margaret Disney was strict... and scary. She was the second wife of Herbert, Walt's brother who was a mailman. She taught at Thomas Edison Elementary School in Glendale. I remember two things vividly about her. When I found out she was related to Disney, I took a big sheet of easel paper and drew Jiminy Cricket (my favorite character at the time) and gave it to her in hopes she would take it immediately to the Disney Studio and I would be hired and not have to learn my mulitplication tables. The other memory was rehearsing the Christmas show and she was playing the piano and she looked over at me and said, "Are you singing?" and I said, "Yes." She said, "You shouldn't." I was crushed and for the performance I didn't sing but just mouthed the words. Later, I realized she may have been saying "The song is over. You shouldn't be singing." or "Only the girls are singing this part." Or "You are singing too loud." But at the time I was crushed. Oh, I also remember her complaining in class one time that all Walt gave her husband were free tickets to Disneyland. I think she thought Walt had a fortune and should give a huge chunk to his older brother.

Me: Did you get to know anybody else in the Disney family?

Jim: I met Lillian Disney briefly when I was at Walt's gravesite in Forest Lawn paying respects. Someone had put up garish Mickey Mouse balloons and things and I was afraid she thought it might be me. I have also met Walt's daughter, Diane Disney Miller. She wrote the introduction for my book "The Vault of Walt" and invited me to come and be a guest speaker at the Disney Family Museum. I spoke there in July 2011 on "Walt Disney's Fascination with Outer Space". She would like me to come back and do another presentation. While I was there I had lunch with Diane and her husband Ron. I was so excited I could barely eat. It was a dream come true.

Me: You are a major Disney buff, Jim, so I have to ask you what is your favorite Disney moment and memory?

Jim: Oh, gosh, that is like asking someone to pick their favorite child. I just mentioned meeting and spending time with Diane. I have so many memories of making people happy in the various roles I performed at Walt Disney World. Meeting Jack Hannah, the very first Disney animator I met from my early phone calls. He was wonderful and I interviewed him several times. The first time I set foot on Main Street in Disneyland. Drawing Disney characters with Bill Justice at Give Kids the World for these terminally ill youngsters. I could write a book. Teaching animation in Florida... including an eight part class on the history of animation for Disney Feature Animation Florida. Sneaking a couple of kisses with a girl I thought was going to be my second wife on WDW property.

Me: Remember we had tour Disney memories or something on our name tags? What did you think about that idea? What did you have? I had "Escape to Witch Mountain" on mine.

Jim: On my nametag I had "Mickey Mouse" because especially the earliest version of Mickey was such a reflection of Walt himself. Mickey was the smartest or the strongest mouse but he was loyal to his friends, loved his girlfriend with his whole heart and was never tempted, always tried his best, and made people feel good.

Me: Living in California you found yourself on a few game shows, am I right? "Family Feud", "Dating Game" and even the "Gong Show". Let's get off topic for a minute and talk about this. Was that a fun thing for you to do, being on a game show?

Jim: I was planning on being a professional actor. I performed in hundreds of stage plays, everything from Shakespeare to Chekhov to Shaw to musicals like "Guys and Dolls" and "Oklahoma". I did voice over work for odd jobs like The American Medical Association. I was even in a Disney educational film I have been trying to track down where I had one line. I got the job because I went to college with a girl whose father was a director at Disney. I was a union member so going on game shows I got paid scale, the minimum wage, and that certainly helped to pay the rent. My performing career was interrupted by moving to Florida. However, I still got to do things like be the narrator and voice of a dozen different animals on the Disney syndicated television show, "Secrets of the Animal Kingdom". Not many folks remember that show.

Me: Were you "Family Feud" when Richard Dawson was the host? How was he in person?

Jim: Dawson was before my time. My host was Ray Coombs, who later committed suicide. He was sparkling and lots of fun and really amused at the Korkis family. Besides myself, there was my father, my two brothers and my ex-sister-in-law who at the time was a Marilyn Monroe impersonator at Universal Studios Hollywood. You can't imagine how small the set actually is and how it is held together with bent nails, duct tape and the like. On television, it looks magnificent.

Me: I am sure I saw you on there as we used to watch that show every day. How did you do on the "Dating Game"? Did you get a date? And what on Earth did you do on "The Gong Show"? Did you get gonged?

Jim: On "The Gong Show", my brothers and I went on as The Quaismodo Belairs, singing-dancing Hunchbacks. "Say, Quasimodo, do you know who is going to win the next race?" "No, but I got a hunch!" We won. I still have the award but the money was spent long ago. On "The Dating Game", again it was the three Korkis brothers. The date was a stuntwoman at Universal Studios Hollywood. It was a nice dress she was almost wearing. She chose my brother Mike. She said she didn't like that I answered one of ther questions in the voice of Mickey Mouse.

Me: So, do you think Chuck Barris was a spy?

Jim: I think there is a lot to Chuck Barris nobody really knows. On camera, he looks like he doesn't care and is laughing at people and is probably condescending. I will tell you when I saw him backstage talking to the contestants, he was quiet and shy and the kindest guy I ever saw. He really, truly supported these outrageous performers and encouraged them. I personally doubt he was a spy... simply because he was doing so much. At the time I did the Barris shows, including one called "Camoflague" where I won a red Cadillac mere hours after my car broke down driving to the studio, Barris was doing so many shows I doubt he had time to do anything else.

Me: Okay, I work at Star Tours, as I said, Jim, and was on test and adjust for the ride and opening team and go to see Lucas on opening day. Do you remember when the original opened? It opened in Disneyland first. Was that a big deal do you think with Lucas joining forces with Disney?

Jim: I was there for the Disneyland opening and like many Disney fans at the time I was suspcious about Disney going to outside people and franchises for attractions. Eisner and Lucas were supposed to arrive at the ceremony in a flying saucer hanging from beneath a helicopter but just hours before, they saw the helicopter take an unexpected dip and decided against it. Eisner was going to give Lucas all of Tomorrowland. Not just Star Tours and Captain EO but there were announced plans that Lucas was going to re-do the Carousel of Progress... there would have been a crashed flying saucer sticking out of the building and each of the stages would have featured entertainers from outer space who were filling in time until they were rescued. Watching over my mom and dad for so many years, I wish that Disney would just lock down one pod and run the film in 2-D so everyone can enjoy the experience.

Me: What can you tell the readers and myself about the Star Tours development?

Jim: Lucas toured Imagineering and was taken with the motion control simulator project that Disney was working on for a 20,000 Leagues attraction on the Nautilus. Lucas was very hands on with the development of the ride. He is the one who came up with the idea of having a sense of danger of something go wrong because all Disney rides are safe. He is the one who came up with the idea of a wacky pilot. Originally it was to be Crazy Harry, a veteran of the Clone Wars who kept having flashbacks. Lucas envisioned it as a modern day Jungle Cruise Captain. Lucas spent hours guiding the fabricating of the C-3PO and the shell was from parts sent by Lucasfilms. The repair droids G2-FT and G2-9T were two geese audio-animatronics borrowed from "America Sings". That's why they are "G" class for "goose". Lucas actually had enough story material that the ride would have lasted over twenty minutes so he had to be convinced to cut it back.

Me: Have you been on the new ride yet, Jim? What do you think? I have to show you around it one day.

Jim: I think the new version is terrific. Wonderful layers of storytelling. As a historian, a lot of people think that I will grab my old man cane and wave it in the air and rant about any changes. Walt made changes but when he changed something it was always for the better. I think this attraction is definitely for the better. The only grumbles I have heard is that Disney may have oversold that whole "54 different variations" thing. Sometimes only one element of four possible elements are changed and some guests just don't get that. I think that a lot of thought and effort was put into this new version and I am still discovering things. I had to learn "Aurebesh", that's the universal language in the Star Wars universe but it is never spoken only written, to appreciate some of the signage in the new attraction and to identify all those other Starspeeders.

Me: I think I have to explain a dozen times a day the 54 adventures. It's easier to say 11 scenes with a combo of 54 combinations. I did test and adjust and was told by an Imagineer that four other scenes were made and might be added later. I have no idea how they chose which planets were going to be featured in the ride.

Jim: The idea of going to Kashyyyk (the home planet of the Wookies) was suggested by legendary John Lasseter. Those StarSpeeder commercials say that other destinations are Alderaan (it hasn't been blow up yet), Bespin and Endor. Those Starspeeders in the docking bay are coded to go to other places like the Outer Rim Territories (controlled by the Hutts like Jabba), the grasslands of Dantoonine, and more so the future is wide open for other adventures

Me: So, what is your favorite Star Wars movie, Jim?

Jim: My favorite Star Wars film is the original, now labelled as Episode IV. I think it is an exciting, well-written and even though I can quote lines and describe scenes, I still watch it when it pops up on television. I prefer the original version, not the revised version with all the added CGI.

Me: Jim, let's talk about your book "The Vault of Walt" which is in the Peverett Phile Book Club now. When did you write it and how long did it take to write?

Jim: I tell people it took me thirty years to write because that is how long I was doing research on some of those stories. Physically, it took me about a year to write. There are so many different kind of Disney fans. Some just love pins. Some just love Hidden Mickeys. Some just love the parks or just one particular park. Some just love the films. So I wanted to write something to cover a wide area since I love it all. Also, I wanted the stories to be short and self contained. I get intimidated when a 300 page plus book comes out and I think "When am I going to have time to read all that? If I stop, will I be able to remember what I read when I come back to read some more?" I regret there was no room for an index or a bibliography. As it was, the publisher cut out two chapters that I had written... I'll use them in the next book.

Me: Is this your first book you wrote about Disney?

Jim: This is the first book JUST about Disney. I have co-written with John Cawley (my business parter in California when we ran a business called Korkis and Cawley's Cartoon and Comic Company where we sold books about animation, animation cels and drawings, videotapes and more) several books including "Encylopedia of Cartoon Superstars", "Cartoon Confidential", "Animation Art Buyer's Guide", and "How to Create Animation". There are large Disney sections in each of those books and I was surprised when I came out to Florida that animators at Feature Animation Florida wanted me to autograph their copies. I have written other books on other topics and written lengthy introductions to books on the Three Stooges, "I Love Lucy", Peter Rabbit, Peter Pan, Charlie Chan, Sherlock Holmes and others. I wrote a book on music of the Sixties that was paid for but never published.

Me: There's a lot of different Walt and stories in the book, Jim. What is your favorite story?

Jim: Again, this is like asking someone to pick their favorite child. I guess "The Gospel According to Walt" and "The Miniature Worlds of Walt" are two of my favorites because no one else had written about those aspects of his life and it gives a better perspective of Walt as a person.

Me: Do you know if any of the Disney people read it? Diane Disney did, right?

Jim: I was so flattered that Diane said she learned things about her father that she never knew. She said she has gaps in her knowledge about Walt at work but really knows Walt at home as a husband and father and brother. She said I captured the spirit of her father.

Me: You talk about what Walt really thought about religion and prayer. What did he think about it?

Jim: I was doing some research the other day on an article I am currently writing and I found evidence that Walt even considered making an animated feature on the life of Jesus Christ and told one reporter than working on audio-animatronics humans gave him an even greater respect for God. As an adult, Walt never attended church regularly and he had respect for all religions. One of his daughters dated a Jewish boy for a long time and Walt had no problems with that fact. His other daughter explored becoming a Catholic nun and he had no problem with that either. He was certainly beloved and honored by all religions. Personally, Walt believed in God. He also believed that people are basically good and that we should all try to help each other.

Me: Apart from Disney stuff, what else are you into, Jim?

Jim: Well, I am also recognized as an animation historian. I wrote articles and continuing columns for just about every major animation publication and of course, co-wrote books about animation. I am also recognized as a comic historian. I wrote articles and continuing columns for a variety of comic fanzines. Moving to Florida and working for Disney, it made more sense to just concentrate on Disney research because it was more job related. I love old movies. I am addicted to Turner Classic Movies. I thought I had a wide knowledge and exposure to films of the Thirties and the Forties but they constantly surprise me. I am fascinated by vaudeville. I am a real "knowledge hound" and am constantly picking up books on a variety of topics from old television shows to old amusement parks to puppets to biographies.

Me: I bet your house has Disney all over it. Funny enough, even though I have been at Disney for going on 25 years there's not a whole lot of Disney stuff in our house. What is the main thing you collect, Jim?

Jim: Unfortunately, I collect almost everything. Yes, a large section of the house is devoted to Disney but there are almost large sections devoted to film, animation and comics. When it comes to Disney, I have tried to narrow my major purchases to paper items... magazines, newspapers, documents, books, etc... because it helps in my research and articles. However, I have quite an extenisve collection of Mickey Mouse figues (some from overseas) from all eras although my favorite is the early Mickey Mouse of the Thirties.

Me: Do you pin collect and trade?

Jim: I do have a collection of pins but only those that have an image I like or some sentimental value. For instance, I have a limited editon Donald Duck pin from 1984 that was given out to those people (like me) who worked on Glendale's Rose Parade float that year. It was supposed to feature Clarence "Ducky" Nash but he fell ill before the parade and passed away shortly afterwards. I have special limited pins from Disneyana conventions in Florida because I taught classes during those events. I really need to find a way to display the pins. I have friends who are fanatic about pin seems to me some of that obsession takes away a little of the fun and pins have become so expensive. However, if it makes them happy, then more power to them. People forget that in the Seventies and Eighties, Disneyana collectors collected buttons that were given away at the parks. I don't trade because I am not actively searching for any particular pin.

Me: You're into comics, so I have to ask DC or Marvel?

Jim: I grew up a DC fan and then became a Marvel fan. Now, I am really fascinated more with independent oddball titles like "Fables" (which always surprises me in a good way), "Astro City", "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen", "Rocketeer", Jeff Smith's "Bone", etc. I feel both the DC and the Marvel universe have become too complex and convoluted. You should be able to read a complete story in one issue and not have to worry about a hundred issues or more of continuity. I love that so many obscure comic book titles are being reprinted in hardcover like "Magnus", "Robot Fighter" or "Thunder Agents" or "Creepy" (especially the early issues written by Archie Goodwin) or "Flash Gordon" by Al Williamson and Reed Crandall. I learned to read from comic books. I learned to tell stories because I tried to make my own comic books with my own characters.

Me: Speaking of Marvel, what do you think of Disney purchasing Marvel? They ar not doing a whole lot with it, except for the movies, am I right? I wanna see Spidey and friends walking around in the parks. But as long as Universal has them that probably won't happen, right?

Jim: Disney had the young girl demographic wrapped up with princesses. They hoped they could grab the young boys with pirates but that didn't work. Buying Marvel was an attempt to have a ready made foothold in that demographic. Disney has to be careful because there is a lot about Marvel and the characters and some of the things they have done especially in the last ten years that are NOT even close to being "Disney". People used to be able to pick up comic books off a rack at a drugstore or supermarket or a dozen different places. Today, they have to go to a comics shop and two of them have closed in Orlando in the last year. I think the general public has no idea what is going on in comic books today. They may think they know that Peter Parker is Spider-Man but if you read the mulitple titles featuring that title, even that isn't certain or clear. I think we will start to see the characters introduced into Disney Hollywood Studios soon, especially to tie in with the movie release of The Avengers. The Marvel characters are tied up at different movie studios which is why you won't see Spider-Man in The Avengers. The contract at Universal will run out soon... and Universal will not want to do free publicity for Disney by using the characters. I just wish Disney would create memorable characters rather than purchasing ones like the Marvel superheroes and the Muppets and then not knowing what to do.

Me: Jim, for a while you wrote articles for different site as Wade Sampson. Is that so you wouldn't get in trouble?

Jim: I was coached at my job that I could not identify myself as a Disney Historian. I think part of the fear was that since I worked at Disney people would assume that I have the approval of Disney when I wrote something. So it was safer and easier to write under a pseudonym to clearly seperate the "work" Jim from the "non-work" Jim. It was one of the worst kept secrets. Most of the websites and the webmasters knew but were gracious enough to understand my circumstances so they protected my privacy from the general public and Disney. I did contact Disney Legal in California and they said it was fine to identify myself as a historian and to write Disney history... just nothing proprietary or modern. However, my leaders wanted to take a different direction.

Me: I'm not a betting man, but if I was I'll bet Wade Sampson means something. Am I right?

Jim: I thought I was being clever. A former Disney animator, writing under a pseudonym, wrote a novel called "The Rat Factory" about working at Disney in the Thirties. To avoid a lawsuit, he couldn't use the name "Walt Disney" so he came up with "Wade Sampson". Dave Smith figured it out within the first month I used the pseudonym and the second person was Michael Barrier. It took others a lot longer.

Me: Hey, so, I have toa sk, what do you think of men being able to wear beards and goatees now at Disney? Me personally, I do not like that idea.

Jim: I prefer the men being clean shaven as well but remember that rule didn't come into effect until sometime in the mid to late Sixties. People worked at Disneyland with mustaches. The whole point of clean shaven was that it made you more accessible and less intimidating to the guests. I think that is true. I think the expectation is that Disney will have these clean shaven, perky people. However, Disney is an international company so to respect other cultures (in some cultures facial hair is a sign of manhood) and to increase the pool of people from which to hire, the change was made. As Disney expands into other companies, it would have been hard to find people to fill certain roles. I think it is going to be a nightmare trying to monitor what is the proper length. I am not a big fan of Casual Fridays either, even backstage. How you dress influences how you think and behave.

Me: You are a Disney historian, Jim, so is Dave Smith. You must know Dave, am I right? Who would win a Disney trivia challenge, you or Dave?

Jim: I've know Dave for nearly three decades now and have a great deal of respect and affection for him. A challenge might turn out to be a draw... simply because we know different things. So while I may get something wrong on one question, he might flub up on another. Also, one of the things Dave taught me is "No one can know everything". That's one of the reasons he wrote the Disney Encylopedia so he could have the information right there at his fingertips. Another thing Dave taught me was that when he was making up the trivia contests for the Disney Stores he made sure to mix up the questions. Someone might know everything about the Disney animated features but they might not know the name of Hannah Montana's father or what was the most popular song on Radio Disney over Christmas. I still run into people who think that Disneyland and Magic Kingdom are basically the same. Let's just say I am thankful I never have to be in a trivia challenge with Dave... I would be sweating every moment.

Me: Jim, thanks a million for being here on the Phile, sir. Please, please come back on and if you ever wanna write an article on anything Disney you are always welcome. Is there a website you'd like to plug?

Jim: Thanks for having me. I hope folks aren't too bored by my ramblings. I much prefer hearing what other people think and know. A biggie to plug would be where every Wednesday for years I have posted a new article about Disney history. I am also writing a monthly column for on the history of Walt Disney World. I occasionally pop up on Lou Mongello's podcasts at and write every issue for his Celebrations magazine. I also write occasionally for the Disney Family Museum Blog. Readers who want to see what I look like and what I sound like can go to the Disney Blog where I did a talk on steam trains and Epcot Holiday Storytellers And "The Vault of Walt" is available at

Me: Thanks again, and please keep in touch. You are truly a real Disney legend, my friend.

Jim: You know, Walt always said he wanted to be remembered as a storyteller. I would love to be remembered as one and I am working hard to earn that honor.

Me: Jim, thanks again, and please come back when the next book comes out. I have a million questions to ask you.

Well, that about does it for another entry of the Phile. Thanks to my guests Robert Gibbs and of course Jim Korkis. The Phile will be back on Sunday with musician Lee Abramson who is running for President. For real. Then on Monday it's the lead singer for the band Art Decade, Ben Talmi. Next Wednesday it's musician Dave Hause. So, spread the woird, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.


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Anonymous said...

I am that ex wife he speaks of. His story of proposing to me with a ring in a glass slipper is an out-and-out LIE. I don't know why he would make up such a silly story, like he carried a glass slipper and ring around all day.

He proposed to me at the Rusty Scupper in Glendale, California, in a most boring and unimaginative fashion.

Please correct this LIE. I have witnesses, this never happened. He has trouble with what is real and what is fantasy.