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Disneyland's Designers Celebrate the Park's 60th Birthday, at the D23 Expo

August 14, 2015, 10:36 PM · Some of the creative leaders who designed Disneyland — and others who expanded and enhanced it — reflected upon their work during a two-hour "Imagineering 60 Years of Disneyland" panel at the 2015 D23 Expo in Anaheim.

Moderator Leslie Iwerks, with Marty Sklar, Orlando Ferrante, and Richard Sherman
Moderator Leslie Iwerks, with Marty Sklar, Orlando Ferrante, and Richard Sherman. A photo of many of the original Imagineers, including Herb Ryman, Marc Davis, Mary Blair, Blaine Gibson, X Atencio, and Yale Gracey, is on the screen behind them.

In the first hour, "Working with Walt," Disney Legends Marty Sklar, Orlando Ferrante, and Richard Sherman joined moderator Leslie Iwerks, granddaughter of Walt's partner Ub Iwerks. Here are some highlights:

Marty Sklar: "I had been hired to do a tabloid newspaper that would be sold for 10 cents on Main Street, so my first visit to Disneyland was my first day at work, a month before Disneyland opened. ...I couldn't understand why Walt Disney had time for this little thing I was doing - this little detail that was going to be sold for 10 cents on Main Street and in the chaos that any park being completed is. The last few weeks are really chaotic. You're trying to get all these details done... and it took me a long time to understand why Walt had time for this. And when I finally did, everything clicked for me, because I realized that, for Walt, Main Street was a real place. He was telling a story about the 1890s, the turn of the [20th] century, and the details, right down to every town at that time has a real newspaper that was sold, and that was part of the details in the storytelling. Once that became clear to me, I understood the business."

Orlando Ferrante, a former USC football player and teammate of future Disney CEO Ron Miller (who was also the husband of Walt's daughter, Diane Disney Miller) said that he started with the company when was traded from the Chargers to the Buffalo Bills, and decided he didn't want to move away from Southern California. So he took up Ron's offer of a job and he went to work moving the Enchanted Tiki Room from the Studios and installing it at Disneyland.

A coupe years later, Ferrante was assigned a larger moving job - taking Disney's attractions from the 1964 New York Fair and bringing them to Anaheim.

"We didn't want anyone back there to go home with souvenirs, so as soon as the last show was over with, we had a couple of trucks lined up and we stripped all the animation, all the dolls out of Small World, all the figures out of General Electric [the Carousel of Progress], took Lincoln out - he was the first one that came out - then we had them all in the trucks. ...The dinosaurs [from the Ford pavilion] were a little too big, but we had all the rest of the animation in a truck and it rolled out the next morning."

Ferrante revealed that the cavemen in the Ford exhibit ended up becoming pirates in Disneyland's new Pirates of the Caribbean ride. And the dinosaurs eventually make the trip, too, ending up in the Primeval World display on the Disneyland Railroad.

Wide Load

Richard Sherman, on writing the theme song to "It's a Small World": "Bob [Richard's brother, the late Robert Sherman] and I were the troubleshooters. The Imagineers had come up with this incredible tribute to the children of the world... and the dolls were rigged to sing the national anthems of their countries. On paper, that's a brilliant idea. ...in actuality, it was a cacophony. It was terrible. It was a mess. ...Walt was not very happy. He said, 'you guys are going to write me a song that's gonna explain all this. It's the small children of the world, the hope for the future. Write something like that, but don't get preachy on it.'"

Kim Irvine, Tony Baxter, Charita Carter, Steve Davison, and Kevin Rafferty
Kim Irvine, Tony Baxter, Charita Carter, Steve Davison, and Kevin Rafferty

In the second hour, "Continuing the Legacy," Imagineers Kim Irvine, Tony Baxter, Charita Carter, Steve Davison, and Kevin Rafferty joined Sklar and Iwerks on the stage.

I will be transcribing some of their best comments tonight. In the meantime, enjoy some of our previous coverage and conversations with these leading Disney Imagineers.

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