I’m basically all prepared now - all but a few interviews. But as I email, call and DM all of these wonderful people, I can’t help but think about the people I wish I had the chance to talk to. Marty Sklar, Dave Smith, Mary Blair, Blaine Gibson, Dianne Disney Miller, and of course Walt.
Walt, being THE Walt Disney, has that charm that you see in the Disneyland TV show, but he also has his other side. The thinker, the creative, the genius. He’s one of those people who has accomplished so much, that you wouldn’t know where to start. So perhaps it’s a good thing I haven’t met him.
There are few people in the world who had so many passion projects (Walt would call them ‘dreams’, a term that fits better with the Disney brand). There are even less people who can say that most, if not, all of their passion projects had been magnificent successes. Synchronised sound (Steamboat Willie, 1928), the first animated feature film (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 1939) and the combination of animation and live-action (The Three Caballeros, 1945), to name just a few of his ‘dreams’. The biggest ones, however, are in tourism and urban planning. Disneyland, the first of these bigger projects, was Walt’s take on the amusement park. It was to be a park that was themed to varying genres of stories and times in American history. Fantasyland, Adventureland, Frontierland and Main Street USA. It introduced the idea of a ‘theme park’ into the mainstream. A themed area, with intricate attention to detail to fully immerse the consumer (or ‘guest’) into these stories.
That’s what this project is all about. ‘Stories’. In a moving media age where immersion is king, the executives, mostly based on the outskirts of LA, are not looking further than Anaheim. It’s that immersion I fell in love with in 2016.
This isn’t my first Disney trip; I’ve been to Disney parks at varying points throughout my life. My first visit was to Disneyland Paris when I was 5, my second to Walt Disney World when I was 8, then back to Walt Disney World when I was 18 (2016) and to Disneyland Paris last year.
If you’re stumbling onto this project, then – Hi. I’m Hamish. I’m a Film undergraduate at Falmouth University in the UK. My tutors didn’t want me to write this project, but I’ve managed to swindle them into allowing it. The actual project is my dissertation, or ‘thesis’ for you American types. This project is a thank you to all the people who got me to this point. In a few weeks, I fly off to LAX. There’s a lot of exciting things planned on this trip. First, Disneyland.
I can assure you that this is for academic and creative reasons. Besides, my disability doesn’t allow me to go on 75% of the rides at the resort anyway. I’m currently scheduled to be at Disneyland Resort for 5 days, though this might increase depending on what I discover. There’s a lot I want to see; fireworks, World of Color, and Fantasmic. But I arrive just after Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens. The land is set to take Disney’s techniques to the next level and set the standard for themed entertainment for the next decade. Immersion is at the heart of everything, which is why it’s right up my alley. Next is the Walt Disney Studios.
If I could go and tell 10 year old me that he would be going to the Walt Disney Studio lot. He wouldn’t believe it. There is so much history there and I get to go and look at the Walt Disney Archives. For the thesis, it helps me establish key context, but for this project, it lets me gush at how awestruck I am at seeing items that have had a tremendous impact on my life.
Finally, I have interviews planned with Disney Animators, Imagineers and historians, some of these interviews will be published in full, here.
I’m sure more things will crop up before I go. But for now, I’ll see you in Hollywood.
Hamish - 06/05/2019