Thursday, April 14, 2016
Pheaturing Phile Alum Jim Korkis
Hey, kids, good afternoon. Welcome to the Phile for a Thursday. Thursday? Yeah, I'll be away this weekend and wanted to get one more entry in this week. You're welcome, America... and the world I guess. Man, this whole bathroom North Carolina law thing is crazy, right? The only public bathroom law I'd support is banning people who don't courtesy flush. Ringo Starr, Zooey Deschanel's favorite Beatle and half of the half of the Beatles that are still alive, canceled a concert in North Carolina to protest their horrible anti-LGBT bill. House Bill 2 forces transgender people use the toilets in the rooms that correspond to the gender on their birth certificates, and people from Bruce Springsteen to porn site XHamster have pulled out of the state in solidarity with the LGBT community. The concert was slated to take place in June as part of his "All Starr Tour," (points for the pun, Ringo) at the Koka Booth Ampitheatre in Cary, North Carolina. Many people are also surprised that he still tours. Actually, Starr has been touring since 1989 with his All Starr Band, a supergroup of revolving rock legends. My dad even was supposed to be on one of the All Starr Band's in the early 90s, but couldn't because of timing with is own tour. Anyway, Starr said in the statement, "I’m sorry to disappoint my fans in the area, but we need to take a stand against this hatred. Spread peace and love." A wise band once said, "All you need is love." Here's hoping North Carolina gets the message.
A firefighter's wife is attracting controversy for a posing for a photo in which she breastfeeds while wearing her husband's uniform. Usually, when there's a controversy around breastfeeding, it's because some judge-y person is upset that there's a boob feeding a child in public (you know, doing its natural biological function as a boob). This time, though, the controversy is that this woman was photographed wearing a uniform that didn't belong to her. The New Mexico firefighter is now under investigation and could face disciplinary action because of his wife's photo, according to KFOX14. But Tara Ruby, the photographer who took the photo, says this is unfair, and that the woman in the photo was used as a model to empower moms who actually do work as firefighters. "The intention has been since the very beginning to show that a mom can be a full-time mom and still work a full-time job and do both equally at the same time," Ruby said to the local news station. "I was mad for the mom and the husband she has that's supporting her in this. It was never intended to be anything negative. It's only you know supposed to be positive." "To think that support was instantly negative and to date, nobody has reached out to talk to me," she added. "If someone has an issue with a photo that I took or the meaning behind that photo, they should reach out and ask me. I don't understand why this is happening." Who are the real boobs here?
Jared Fogle is not doing well right now. On top of his weight gain and embarrassing prison nickname, "In Touch" has now published a letter the former Subway spokesman wrote to an old female acquaintance who recently reached out to him. In it, he downplays the severity of his crimes, and seemingly tries to reignite an old romance. "It has been a very hard nine months for me. I made a couple of mistakes but nothing like the media reports have said. They are making me into some sort of monster which is absolutely not true." It certainly doesn't sound like Jared's celebrating his 15 year prison sentence. Fogle places most of the blame for his paying to have sex with underage prostitutes on the Jared Foundation's former director, Russell Taylor. "I’m currently appealing my prison sentence and am hoping for the best with it. Bottom line, my director of my foundation and friend did some bad stuff and tried to throw me under the bus with him." "In Touch" reports that Fogle encouraged the woman to send more photos of herself, and complimented her as "so hot!! (Just like I remember).” "Your two pictures you sent me have just made me smile so, so, much!! Can you send me some more good ones?" He ended by asking her to continue corresponding with him over the prison's private email system. "I’ve thought about you over the years but had no way of contacting you. What is your email address? I have email access from here but I have to plug your email and phone number into the computer and then you accept it and we are good from there. [The email] is monitored, but who cares? LOL. Please write me back as soon as you get this letter!! Jared XOXOXO." It remains to be seen if Fogle will still be willing to correspond with this woman after she betrayed him and went to a tabloid with information he told her in confidence (not to sympathize with him, of course). Considering that he's already at rock bottom, probably.
An Italian woman lost a $56,000 lawsuit against her ex-husband claiming he never once pleased her sexually during their 12-year marriage. She sought the damages to compensate for emotional distress. Her suit was focused on medical evidence that she was still a virgin, and that her ex also had some sort of "anatomical problem." After making its way through several levels of the Italian justice system, her suit was ultimately thrown out (and the court didn't even offer it coffee or call it an Uber). The case lasted 11 years, or in sexual terms, about three Sting orgasms. That's correct: she fought this in courts for 11 years. Either they never had sex, or he did something else to really piss her off. It's unclear why she made this her focus instead of pursing some rebound action. Because with 11 years and a few thousand euros, anyone can eat, pray, love, and get their groove back. She ultimately lost the case because her ex remarried and had children with his new wife. So whatever the "anatomical problem" was previously, he (likely) got his plumbing fixed. She even ended up having to pay for his legal costs for the case. She should probably keep this a secret while pursuing new lovers, because saying you'll sue someone for 11 years if they don't satisfy you is a well-known red flag.
Match.com, according to Mashable, put up an advertisement in the London Underground that has for the most part done little more than confirm online dating sites are filled with jerks. The ad is a close-up of a ginger woman with some ace bangs and a plethora of freckles. Here's the ad...
"If you don't like your imperfections," the copy reads, "someone else will." Gingers and freckled people responded with indignation at the dig, with one person posting a sign over the ad that says "This isn't imperfection. It's a skin tone." Huffington Post UK reported that Match has since reconsidered the propriety of the ad and are in talks to remove the freckle-shaming posters. "We’re sorry if this ad has been interpreted in a different way and we apologise for any offence caused, this was not our intention," Match said in a statement with silly British spelling. "Our overall campaign is all about celebrating perceived physical and behavioural imperfections, from having freckles to being chubby, messy or clumsy." In other words, beware any other ads taking a knock at people's "imperfections."
Hey, do you kids like Kraft mac and cheese? I do. But I was a little curious about their latest ad...
Hmmm. It just slightly depressed me. Ha! Did you see the new thing that is sponsoring Hillary Clinton? I think it's sponsoring her... not too sure.
Hahahaha. Moving on... So, they are filming the new Star Wars movie right now... Episode 8, and I have an exclusive pic from the new movie, which kinda doesn't make any kind of sense.
Vader's back? Huh? Alright, so, do you ever see in magazines when they show celebrities without their makeup? I thought that's pretty popular so I might as well do the same thing here.
They could almost be brothers, right? Alright, so, there's something I have to tell you about myself, and close friends and family members can tell you... I always follow the rules. Unlike some some people...
It says "pull down with TWO hands!" Ugh! Why is he only using one? That drives me crazy! Sheesh! Okay, I'll get over it in a minute. So, you know I live in Florida, right? Well, here in Florida things happen that happen no where else in the Universe. So, once again, it's time for...
Ella Fishbough is an eighth-grade student who received detention for giving her friend a hug before school. Ella attends Jackson Heights Middle School in Oviedo, Florida. Her friend was having a bad day, so Ella gave him a hug, which resulted in detention. That's it! As if junior high weren't difficult enough, kids keep getting in trouble for ridiculous stuff. The hug allegedly violated the student conduct and discipline code, which broadly prohibits "inappropriate touching": "Inappropriate or Obscene Act – the use of oral or written language, electronic messages, pictures, objects, gestures, or engaging in unwelcome or inappropriate touching, or any other physical act that is considered to be offensive, socially unacceptable, or not suitable for an educational setting." It should be noted that she had been warned about a previous touching incident with her friend, who is a boy. The scandal deepens! The previous incident was when Ella's friend placed his hand on her head. Sinners. This is the biggest controversy Florida has seen since the recent tweet saga with Zola. They should know better than to flaunt such lurid interactions in public. Ella's mom, Kathy Fishbough, agrees with the policy when it comes to kissing between couples. But she thinks the interpretation goes too far, because all hugs are banned. "I did ask the principal, if something happened in our family, and she needed to console her cousin or her cousin wanted to console her, would she get in trouble? She said, 'Yes, ma'am. She would get a PDA.'" Wow. The kids in Seminole County better make sure they don't have any family problems, because no hugs at school. No matter what. No touching!
Dramatic re-enactment of the hug with her mom. Awe. Okay, so, kids, you heard about #ThrowbackThursday, right? Well, being Thursday, I thought I would do something similar... start a new trend. Oh, boy. Here we are...
Oh, my God! I am sooooo sorry. Oh, man. Mister Korkis will never come back on the Phile again. I solo apologize. Moving on quickly...
Huh? If you spot the Mindphuck let me know. It should be pretty easy.
It's 4:33 PM, 85° F and Kelly had a new baby and gave it a name with too many syllables. Kelly recently popped out her second baby with her talent manager husband, Brandon Blackstock (not a "Game of Thrones" character). The baby boy, born on April 12th, joins Clarkson's 1-and-a-half-year-old daughter River Rose. With a name like that, baby boy Blackstock has to have an equally lyrical name, right? Well, sort of. Remington Alexander Blackstock. Less like a fairytale name and more like some old white dude name engraved on a statute. Which is nice. It's classy. Soon enough, young Remington (Remy? That's an attractive person name for sure.) will be joining River on Kelly's social media and doing things like being a precious little creature. That kid is cute, as her little brother surely is, too. Sadly, Kelly has not yet introduced him to the Internet.
Alright, today's pheatured guest is a Phile Alum and author of "How To Be a Disney Historian," the 46th book to be pheatured in the Phile's Book Club which is available from Theme Park Press and is available on Amazon. He is one of my favorite guests I ever interview and one of the most popular. Please welcome back to the Phile... Jim Korkis!
Me: Jim, welcome back to the Phile. How are you?
Jim: Good. I just sent off the manuscript for a new book that will be published this summer. It is entitled “The Unofficial Disneyland 1955 Companion” with a foreword by Disney Legend Bill “Sully” Sullivan and an afterword by Disney Legend Bob Gurr. With Disneyland celebrating its 60th anniversary, I thought I would put together a book filled with snippets of interviews I have done over thirty years with people who worked at the Park in 1955 when it first opened. Just a nice simple quick book. That was two and half years ago. As I gathered the snippets, I realized I better try to explain what these people were talking about because nomenclature had changed, things that were there in 1955 disappeared by 1956, people they were talking about needed to be identified, etc. So the book covers who the actual fire chief of Disneyland was and where the real fire station was in 1955, why Walt had all managers wear orange ties, why he put real live baby alligators in a pool at the entrance to the Jungle Cruise and how they recaptured them when they kept escaping, what was supposed to be the wienie in Adventureland but as costs rose it was never built, how the cast cafeteria was run by a bookie who was taking bets from the Disneylanders (the term “Cast Member” wouldn’t be used until the 1960s) and more. I had a lot of fun writing it and hope people interested in the birth of Disneyland will have fun reading it. It was close to impossible to confirm some things because Disney never kept any documentation about most of it because they were too busy trying to get the place open and maintained. Even though I interviewed people (most of whom are dead now… they are less than ten people who are members of Club 55 who are still alive), they sometimes just had some vague memories so I had to double check what they told me. Again, if people like it, they should vote with their wallet and buy a copy or buy a couple of copies. I have enough I had to edit out for space to write another book. If I did do a sequel, I think I would concentrate on the Tencennial in 1965, the first ten years the park was open and the years that Walt was personally in charge. Keep checking themeparkpress.com.
Me: Whew! Okay, when that book cokes out I'll definitely have you back. Before we talk about your new book "How To Be a Disney Historian" I have to ask you about a few other Disney stuff. So, Disney's Shanghai park whatever they are calling it... what do you think of it? What do you think of Disney building parks all over the world first of?
Jim: I used to teach the Cultural Immersion classes at Epcot to International Cast Members about differences in culture, how to get along with people from another culture (like if the food they cook smells odd or their sense of time is different… that 9:00 in some countries means any time close to 9:00 so 9:20 is completely acceptable to them…) and I think Disney executives should have been required to take those classes as well. I don’t think as a company that Disney really understands other cultures and, as a result, often makes some terrible missteps that are disrespectful and costly. Disney got fooled by Japan that loved Disney and wanted a truly American experience. They were taken aback when they didn’t receive the same reception in Paris who among other things insisted that all signage be in French and that if American was included it was to be one fourth the size of the French lettering. I helped trained some Cast Members for Hong Kong Disneyland and the biggest problem was that the Cast Members had no clue who the Disney characters were. In one class, they cheerfully identified Winnie the Pooh as Mickey Mouse. They did not grow up watching the characters on television or going to a Disney theme park. It would be like me putting you in an amusement park based on the legend of the Monkey King and all the characters and stories so familiar to even the youngest child in China. Can you name the pig sidekick of the Monkey King or what he wears or what he is famous for and whether his role changes in the stories? Neither could the young people I taught about Baloo or Chip’n’Dale or dozens of other Disney characters. Readers are probably Googling “China Monkey King” right now. Certainly, the world has become a smaller place and with all today’s technology, people are exposed to many elements of international culture but there are still some significant differences. For instance, Disney had absolutely no clue that Zootopia would be such a huge hit in China but if they understood Asian heritage where there are were-foxes rather than were-wolves (a European concept) they might have had a suspicion of how to tap in to the Chinese tradition and love of animals. We have all grown up as “Disney Kids” watching the cartoons, buying the comic books, listening to the music, going to the movie theater, visiting the parks, etc. but that is not true of other countries. Countries like Italy and South America have long histories of publishing original Disney comic books and creating new characters. In Brazil there is a monthly comic book just featuring Jose Carioca. He was so popular they had to take American Donald Duck comic book stories and redraw Donald as Jose. So Disney needs to be careful about taking Disney to another country. There are lots of issues.
Me: Do you think you'll ever want to go to China to see their park?
Jim: I am such a Disney geek that I want to see all the Disney theme parks, especially the two in Japan that follow closely Walt’s own vision of cleanliness, quality, and friendliness. The Rocket Rods never worked properly in Disneyland but the Oriental Land Company willingly spent the money to make sure the system worked when they installed it in a ride attraction at Tokyo Disneyland and they haven’t had any problems with it. I am sure it will be the same Twilight Zone experience I had when I first came to the Magic Kingdom in Florida. I was so used to Disneyland. I had visited as a kid, teenager and adult and knew all the “work arounds” and where things were and best times, etc. and then I came to the Magic Kingdom and it was similar but completely different as if I was in an episode of the "Twilight Zone" where the Pinocchio ride never existed but the Hall of Presidents did.
Me: Do you think it's a good idea for Disney to build a park in China?
Jim: Disney never asks my opinion. Disney is building in China because that is where the money is today and it is an audience that they haven’t previously tapped. Other companies like Universal are building around the world as well. So, as with so many things Disney does today, it looks great on a balance sheet but whether it is great for the Disney brand is open to debate. However, one reason I don’t think it was a great idea was because there were such huge cost overruns that Disney Cast Members in America were let go to compensate for losses. That never seems fair to me to punish those who are working so hard because of a mistake the company made.
Me: I don't know if you heard but here in Central Florida lately at Disney there has been lots of cut-backs. Working for the company for over 28 years this is nothing new to me. Haha. Anyway, are you surprised when you hear Disney is cutting back? I am sure you're not.
Jim: Again, people don’t realize that Disney has not operated under Walt’s principles for decades. Once upon a time Disney as a company was known and lauded for its differences, especially in its treatment of employees. Today Disney is just like any other business… outsource (including all audio-animatronics to Garrett Holt who at least cares about the work and does quality work), eliminate staff and replace them with less expensive (and less experienced so they won’t challenge anything) people, don’t keep up maintenance, slow down the introduction of new things, buy things “off the shelf” instead of creating something new, etc. That’s business in America today. Under Walt, it didn’t operate that way. He could have easily and less expensively bought “off the shelf” vehicles for Mr. Toad but he had them each built specially based on Imagineer Bruce Bushman’s color concept drawing. Walt laid off people, one of the most notable times was after the completion of Sleeping Beauty (1959) that cost so much and did not do well at the box office and Disneyland was still draining money with the introduction of the E Ticket rides but it wasn’t a massive elimination, and those who were laid off were treated fairly and often brought back when the fortunes of the company improved. This all started on a massive scale in 2009 where I was part of that layoff where over 3,000 Cast Members regardless of what they contributed or awards they won or whatever were let go in the same week here at WDW and not replaced. The remaining people had to do their own work as well as the work of people let go and sometimes had to take a pay cut to keep their jobs. It was supposed to be temporary but Disney saw it worked and now it has become standard operating procedure. I don’t think anyone imagined there would be a day where Disney would do massive layoffs of animators and Imagineers, especially when their projects were making so much money. Disney Cast Members shouldn’t suffer because some executive thought it was a good idea to make The Lone Ranger movie and he still gets his bonus or that Magic Bands were introduced before they were fully tested and operational. Disney keeps saying it is the Cast Members who are important and I have seen many Cast Members constantly sacrificing and working under managers who are bullies but the company never treats them as important. They are interchangeable cogs in the machine and other cheaper people can take their places. Giving them a free Mickey Mouse ice cream bar semi-annually doesn’t help morale.
Me: I like the free Mickey Mouse ice cream bars! Haha. Disney parks have started this thing called Preferred Parking where you pay 35 dollars and you get to park in a better parking space. I am sure lots of people will pay this. What do you think of this idea? Of course Universal had a similar system for years, but I don't know if it's worth it.
Jim: It certainly seems that unlike Walt’s philosophy that everyone be treated equally at Disneyland, that everyone was a VIP, that today’s Disney feels that if they can get more money from richer guests then they should do so and not leave that money on the table. In addition to Preferred Parking, there is the extra charge of $150 for a few hours at night and soon an extra charge of a few hours in the morning. There is an official Disney publication that I have written for that is geared just to Disney Guests who earn several hundred thousand dollars a year. Today, everyone feels entitled. Everyone feels they are a celebrity where people follow them on Facebook and Twitter and want to know what they eat and see pictures. Everyone has been told they are winners and are “special." So their feeling is why shouldn’t they be treated according to their status? And this whole generation that is growing up as Disney princesses are going to be even worse. I am such an old fogie that I don’t care for Fast Pass. There are still people who are unclear about Fast Pass or how to get it and use it. Basically, it was one of the first indications that not everyone in a Disney theme park is equal. There are people who are more equal than others. There are people who will bypass you if you are dumb enough to stand in line. Again, on the balance sheet it looks great. Disney can raise the cost of admission and parking multiple times a year just because it can and it won’t impact the attendance. Not one penny of that goes to those poor Cast Members standing in the heat and rain directing traffic and listening to people complain that they want to park somewhere else. Walt’s basic philosophy was to always give value to the guests, that they get much more than they pay for. I am not convinced that the higher prices at today’s Disney theme parks are providing more value than the cost.
Me: A few weeks ago I ate at the new Jungle Cruise themed restaurant at the Magic Kingdom called Skipper Canteen. It was so good. Have you eaten there yet, Jim?
Jim: No. I am eager to go to the Skipper Canteen and some of the new places at Disney Springs. Disney theme parks have come a long way in terms of food from hamburgers and hot dogs.
Me: Do you have a favorite on-property restaurant?
Jim: My favorite restaurant depends upon my mood. I always know I will get a great meal at lunch at Olivia’s at Saratoga Springs. I have always been fond of the Cobb Salad at Brown Derby but that may be just the nostalgia. Used to love the Liberty Tree in Liberty Square. LOVE the fish and chips in the U.K. pavilion. Best Disney food I have ever had was on the Disney Cruise Line ships. I don’t care for the menu changes at Pecos Bill’s in Frontierland but I may be in the minority. I am not a foodie. Just like Walt, I am a pretty straight-forward plain eater.
Me: I am a foodie, and my goal is to eat at every Disney restaurant on property. So, have you heard the rumor that the Tower of Terror is gonna be changed into a Guardians of the Galaxy ride? I am kinda excited, but can't see it happening. What is your take on it?
Jim: I think it would take too much work to change Tower of Terror into a Guardians ride so I don’t put much stock in that rumor but stranger things have happened at Disney. It would be cheaper to do a new ride than try to adapt to the existing structure and Disney today loves cheap. Certainly if the second Guardians movie does well, then we might see a Guardians attraction, except that it is a Marvel comics property and Universal still owns those rights for theme parks in Orlando. I have heard rumors of Disney negotiating with Universal but once they give Universal some money Universal will reinvest it in their park and knock Disney down another peg or two. What I have heard is that Tower will be the new icon for the Park now that the controversial Sorcerer’s Hat is gone. That is probably more likely. I also thought Disney would rehab Cranium Command to tie in with the animated feature Inside Out but I guess that would have meant investing in other things as well under that dome.
Me: Jim, I just had a scary thought... but it's a serious question. If for some crazy reason Donald Trump becomes President, do you think Disney will add him to the Hall of Presidents? That have to have a plan, right?
Jim: The challenge with the Hall of Presidents is that Blaine Gibson who sculpted all of the presidents except Obama passed away July 2015 at the age of 97. His protégé, Valerie Edwards is the daughter of Disney animator George Edwards, who worked on projects like the Disney animated feature film Sleeping Beauty (1959). She was the sculptor responsible for the figures of Captain Jack Sparrow and Hector Barbossa for the rehab of the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction in 2006. She was mentored by Imagineer John Hench for 17 years and had a background in science, as well as art. She was the sculptor for Obama with Blaine available for consultation. She was laid off from Disney in 2010 after 21 years of working for Imagineering. In 2013, the Disney Company outsourced ALL its audio animatronics to Garner Holt. So whatever the outcome of the upcoming election, Disney will include the new president but it will be outsourced to Garner Holt. An interesting question is whether just a new figure will be included or whether Disney decides to do what it has traditionally done which is have a figure that gives a short speech.
Me: Alright, before we talk about your book, I have to mention Todd James Pierce's book "Three Years in Wonderland" which you referred me to. Todd will be a guest on the Phile, as his book will be the next one in the Book Club. Is there anything surprising about that book that you didn't know?
Jim: I recommend the book as a "Twilight Zone" perspective of the building of Disneyland. C.V. Wood was expunged entirely from Disney history. Whenever I tried to talk about his significant contribution to the park including being the one who brought in the lessees (now known as operating participants), people would clam up or just describe him as a con man. Wood went on to build Freedomland in New York and help create Six Flags Over Texas among many accomplishments. He and Walt never saw eye-to-eye on how to do things and Walt always felt Woody took too much credit. Wood didn’t think it was a good idea to bring a circus to Disneyland. Think of Wood as Professor Harold Hill from Music Man. Very charming, a good heart but the ends justify the means and there were some shady things going on. Since so little is known about him, every page had a new revelation although I knew about him taking kickbacks from some of the smaller lessees, handing out favors to some of his friends (which is why there was an Intimate Apparel Shop on Main Street) and promising things he had no intention of keeping to get land for Disneyland. I never knew the full story of his setting on fire the house that he promised to keep for a family because it was located in the area of the proposed parking lot for the insurance money… and then his cronies first set the wrong house on fire instead after too much beer. No, you won’t hear these stories in official Disneyland histories.
Me: Were you aware of C.V. Woody? I am sure you were. That was a stupid question.
Jim: Again, I knew of Wood in general but not all the details that Todd uncovered. Wood would constantly “re-invent” himself like lying about his college background. Again, a charming Texas con man. Disneyland would never have opened in July 1955 without him. He was the vice president and general manager of Disneyland and was the public face of the park in the beginning like when Vice President Nixon was given the key to Disneyland by Fess Parker.
Me: Alright, let's talk about your book "How To Be a Disney Historian." Jim, you're giving away your secrets. Do you really want more Disney historians out there?
Jim: I want GOOD historians out there. I want historians who know how to go about doing it right and coming up with something besides the same old stories. When I worked for WDW, I would constantly get requests from people about how they or some relative could be a Disney animator or Imagineer. It never occurred to them if I had that type of power, I would have gotten myself one of those jobs. Today, with all the websites, podcasts and more, I get requests about how do I find my information or who can they interview, etc. When I started being a Disney historian in 1980, everyone was inventing this stuff out of thin air. I lived in Los Angeles so I knew people like Leonard Maltin and we were struggling because there was no Internet or eBay. You made phone calls, went into dusty corners of libraries, checked public records, relied on luck and friends. None of us is getting any younger, so I thought it was time to share with others how it all started, things we did that are still useful today, and more importantly reinforce the ethical standards we all worked under. Today, too many people are just cut and pasting from other people without giving credit in the hopes they will never get caught and be perceived as an expert. There is a lot of “junk Disney history” out there and some people can’t tell the difference.
Me: There's not many of you Disney historians, right?
Jim: Again, there is no organization or test to take to grant someone the right to call themselves a Disney historian. Anybody can call themselves that title. I am the one who coined the term in the 1980s. I tell people it is a “gift word." Only others can call you that based on your work. However, there are maybe two dozen or so historians about Disney who are alive today (John Culhane and Robin Allan passed away recently) and have been writing for decades, doing original research, and can be trusted for their accuracy. If you see something with a name like Jim Fanning, JB Kaufman, Paula Sigman Lowery, Becky Cline and others then you know you can trust it. Fortunately, I was able to get many of them to contribute to the book to let others see how they got started and what they learned over the years. No sense in reinventing the wheel. Everyone who appears in the book is internationally respected and have been for DECADES but some haven’t always received the recognition they have deserved so the book introduces readers to these folks and the books they have done.
Me: You had some of them (including Todd) write chapters. Was this a fun book to put together?
Jim: It was like herding cats and every single one of them felt they were completely unworthy to share anything. They all felt they were still learning themselves. I had to set some clear limits and keep encouraging that they did have something of value to share. Getting in the contributions was amazing because it showed me things I had never taught of doing as well as reminding me of things I had forgotten and reinforcing that some of the things I do.
Me: Did everybody you asked to write for it say yes?
Jim: Unfortunately, for a number of reasons from family issues, deadline problems on projects and other things, I wasn’t able to get five folks I really wanted to include like John Canemaker and David Gerstein who still offered their best wishes. Everyone thought it was an oddball idea for a book but I was able to convince them that just as they may have studied "How to Draw Mickey Mouse" books in their youth, others were desperate for a book on how to start to be a Disney historian especially if they lived out in the boondooks somewhere in Iowa or North Dakota rather than Los Angeles or Orlando. How do you start if Ward Kimball is dead and can’t talk to you or the Disney Archives has locked its door to all outside researchers or you never visited Walt Disney World in 1971?
Me: Leonard Maltin the film critic wrote the introduction. How did you approach him? Do you know Leonard?
Jim: I am proud to say that Leonard has been a good friend for decades. He is just as engaging and knowledgeable as you see him on television and he has a genuine passion for Disney. He wrote the introduction for the very first book I wrote “The Encyclopedia of Cartoon Superstars” with my friend and former writing partner John Cawley. Leonard loved this final book on how to do Disney history so much that he plugged it on his website. Again, he was finally convinced that this might help someone like he was get started and find their way.
Me: So, what was the thought you had when you came up with this book idea?
Jim: Fortunately, I have written some good selling and popular books for my publisher so he was willing to give me some slack as long as I kept the costs down (eg. page count, no artwork on the cover so don’t pay an artist, etc.) He also felt this might be a valuable but niche book to help out future authors for Theme Park Press and that having such prestigious contributors was great. My approach was “Okay, what did I need to learn and what have I learned and what do I still need to learn?” I often write things because I want to read about them and nobody else has tried writing them. Maybe this will encourage some people to write about those things.
Me: Do you think in twenty years or so they'll be more historians out there talking Disney?
Jim: History is happening every day. When Dave Smith, another good friend, started the Disney Archives he told me he just couldn’t keep up. Besides trying to catalog and find the things of the past, new things were coming in every single day, including the days he was out. There will certainly be the need for more historians to document things. With all the added franchises, Disney historians today need to know about ABC, ESPN, Marvel, Muppets, Avatar and so many others in addition to animation, comic books, music, theme parks, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Vacation Club, resorts and I could go on and on. Every day, some piece of information or some person who was involved in all of those different areas is being forgotten or lost. I have been doing this for over thirty years and every day I still find something new, even about Walt. Walt did so many things in so many different areas and some of them he did quietly without fanfare. I could do research for another thirty years and still not even find a fraction of the information that has been lost. Here’s a couple of things I never knew but uncovered for my new book about Disneyland in 1955: Club 55er Marion Schawacha told me, “I worked at Coke Corner and I can remember seeing Walt in the early morning in the Arcade. He’d come by and always order a plain hot dog and get a box of popcorn and then just go and sit outside and watch.” Club 55er Joyce Belanger told me, “I can still see Walt strolling through the Park. He didn't talk down to the children. He'd bend down so they could talk to him at their level. Kids always came up to talk to him. He'd pose for pictures and always had time for them. And they loved him. They'd follow him all over the Park. He was like the Pied Piper and wherever he went, the kids followed. He had a very child-like quality about him and never seemed to tire of the Park.” Imagineer Sam McKim put fake scalps by the teepees at the Indian Village in Frontierland and Walt told him to remove them because that was not an accurate depiction of Native Americans. After the television show on July 17th, 1955 finished filming, Walt met actors Fess Parker and Buddy Ebsen up in his apartment above the Fire House on Main Street for a drink and encouraged them to slide down the fire pole which they did.
Me: How often do you hear a so-called historian or read something they wrote and the facts were wrong?
Jim: Every day. As I said, too much stuff is cut and pasted from other places so the same old incorrect things get reprinted all the time. I get upset when people “borrow” directly from me word-for-word and don’t give me credit but I get equally upset when they do credit me but misquote me. Some one recently said, “Jim Korkis told me that in his hospital bed, Walt used his favorite pointer to poke holes in the ceiling tile for where he wanted things at Epcot to be.” No, I said, “Walt pointed WITH HIS FINGER to indicate to his older brother Roy where he wanted certain things on the Florida property located.”
Me: Do you correct them?
Jim: Sometimes you just can’t. They believe it or think I am an idiot and don’t know the true story. A Guest Relations hostess giving a tour at the Magic Kingdom proudly pointed to the train station and said, “That’s where Walt had an apartment so he could look out over the park." I was with friends and at a break I pulled her aside and said, “Walt died in December 1966. Work on the train station didn’t start until January 1971” and she smiled in a condescending manner and pointed out that her script had been checked by… somebody. How many people think that what she said was true because, after all, she was a Guest Relations hostess doing an official tour. Often, if I think the person is sincere, I will say, “You know I never heard it that way. This is the way I heard it…” And if they are smart, they go check without being embarrassed. I don’t want to show off. I have been wrong. For decades, I thought Walt never wore a “Vote for Goldwater” pin when he got the highest honor in the United States for a civilian at a ceremony with President Johnson who was a Democrat running against Goldwater. It was obviously an urban myth. Michael Barrier found information three years ago that it was indeed true. It was a very small button and under Walt’s lapel and he flashed it playfully so just Johnson could see and Johnson never said anything. New information is always being discovered but when that same hostess said “When Roy Disney gave the dedication speech on October first…” that is just wrong. The dedication was three weeks later and so was the speech. Even Dave Smith told me how helpless he felt in these situations but that you should always try to do the best you can to make corrections.
Me: I was at the airport a few weeks ago and this family was talking about Magic Bands and how they work and they were getting all their facts wrong. I was like ugh! But I didn't correct them. Do you often correct people in these situations or just let them talk? Preserve the magic. Haha.
Jim: As a former Cast Member, you want to be aggressively friendly. If someone is struggling with a map, you don’t wait for them to ask for directions. You go up to them and say, “Can I help you find something?” It sometimes depends upon my mood, the amount of time I have, whether the people look like they would welcome help, whether I am really confident in my information, whatever. Listen, with all the changes, even I don’t know any more all the things Magic Bands do.
Me: So, who did you get to help you write this book, Jim? Fortunately, everyone who I brought into contributing to this book were people I have known personally for years. We’ve helped each other on projects. We respect each other. So there is a chapter by Dave Smith about how he started the Disney Archives and things to be carefully of when stating information, a chapter by Michael Barrier on how Disney is trying to change history into a sanitized “approved narrative” that may be untrue, Brian Sibley who has written so many Disney books and books about all Peter Jackson’s Tolkien film about how to properly interview people and what to do when the interviewee gets the facts wrong, etc. Besides myself, you will find chapters by Michael Barrier, Alberto Becattini, Jerry Beck, Greg Ehrbar, Jim Fanning, Sam Gennawey, Didier Ghez, J.B. Kaufman, Jeff Kurtti, David Lesjak, Todd James Pierce, Russell Schroeder, Brian Sibley, Paula Sigman Lowery, Dave R. Smith and Werner Weiss. Remember these are not the Ten Commandments. These are merely some suggestions and guidelines based on personal experience.
Me: Did you ever argue facts and stuff with these people?
Jim: Oh, yes. Not so much arguing facts but arguing the proper interpretation and connection of those facts. We are all passionate so it can get heated, but fortunately, so far, there have never been any hard feelings but often some new insights result. It is great fun talking with such highly opinionated and knowledgeable folks. While I enjoy talking with everyone who is interested in Disney, some conversations are not as stimulating as these are. I always end up smarter.
Me: So, how long did it take for this book be put together?
Jim: Roughly a year which is pretty quick but then again, one third of the book was actually written by other people so I only had to worry about two-thirds and keeping an eye on everyone else. Haha. The only disadvantage was I had to put other book projects “on hold” to finish this book.
Me: Alright, so, with Disney historians, do each of you have your own specialty? I think yours is everything with Disney attached to it and then some. Haha.
Jim: Actually, I am unique as a Disney historian because my interests and expertise lie in so many different areas. I have a background in entertainment as a performer, writer, director and producer so I can understand actors, how shows are put together, how a film is put together, etc. I have a background as an artist and in animation so I can understand how animation is actually done (as opposed to all those confusing handouts), why the line of action is so important in a character, drawing through the shape and other things. I have a background about Walt, especially due to my friendship with the late Diane Disney Miller and people who actually worked with Walt. So I bring a lot of things to the party. It helps in my understanding and how to explain it to others. For the book, I chose people who have specific areas of expertise which is much more common. So Jerry Beck and Michael Barrier can talk about animation, Greg Ehrbar and Russell Schroder can talk about music, Alberto Becatinni can talk about comic books and Europe, Werner Weiss and Sam Gennawey can talk about theme parks, Jeff Kurtti and JB Kaufman can talk about Walt, etc. Their insights are important for everyone but for those with a particular interest, they can get some specific help.
Me: So, what's next for you, Jim? Any new books you are working on?
Jim: As I mentioned the Disneyland book is coming out this summer and then this fall, another installment of the "Vault of Walt" series. This will be volume five. People really seem to like these short stories. So, please, all go to themeparkpress.com and amazon.com to buy these books and check what new ones are available. Right now, I am turning out two to three books a year… primarily because I have all this information from over three decades so I take that material and update it, expand it, edit it, etc. but also do more original research because I now have access to things I didn’t back in the good old days.
Me: Last time you were here I asked you what you were doing ten years ago as this is the Phile's both anniversary. So, this time I'll ask you what is the highlight of the last ten years.
Jim: Winning the Partners in Excellence Award that was given to only the top five percent at WDW. They still laid me off a few years later and they discontinued the award around the same time but at that moment ten years ago it was amazing. Unfortunately, my mom had passed away the previous year and my dad just two months before the presentation so it was bittersweet. It still stands on my desk with Walt pointing directly at me as I type these words. I consider it an inspiration to do the best I can and to always provide more value to the readers.
Me: I won the award as well, in 2009 which is the last year they did that. Thanks so much for being back here on the Phile. You are truly one of my favorite guests. Come back again soon.
Jim: Always enjoy talking about Disney and these are certainly out-of-the-ordinary questions. Happy to be back anytime, maybe this summer to talk more about Disneyland 1955. Please buy my books. That’s what pays my bills and allows me to write new books!
Me: Of course!
That about does it for this entry of the Phile. Thanks to my guest Jim Korkis. The Phile will be back a week from Sunday with musician Froomador. Spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye. Tooting is the best!
Not if it pleases me. No, you can't stop me, not if it pleases me. - Graham Parker