Rolly Crump dies: Disney designer helped outline Disneyland

Animator-turned-theme park designer Rolly Crump, who was instrumental within the design of early Disneyland, died Sunday in his Carlsbad dwelling, the place he had been in hospice care, stated his son Christopher. Crump was 93.

Crump obtained his large break on the Walt Disney Co. in 1952, when he was 22.

Those on the animation studio appreciated to remind him that he was an oddball. “A diamond in the rough,” as Crump as soon as proudly stated he was labeled by a superior. Crump would later chortle, recalling — with swagger — that he was as soon as advised, “What you showed us was the worst portfolio of anyone ever hired in animation.”

Crump would go on to grow to be probably the most vital artists to work for the Walt Disney Co.

It’s a Small World, the Enchanted Tiki Room and the Haunted Mansion are only a few of the tasks Crump would contribute to as soon as he joined Walt Disney Imagineering, referred to as WED Enterprises (for Walter Elias Disney) in 1959. With Imagineering, the division of the corporate that oversees Disney theme parks, Crump‘s designs would help define the look of Disneyland. The Anaheim park has been replicated in Florida and around the world and remains the backbone of Disney’s empire. .

Like all the core early stylists of what would grow to be the nice American theme park, Crump had by no means constructed a theme park earlier than Disneyland. “Everything was so goddamn naive,” Crump as soon as stated, alluding to the truth that he carved the tikis of the Enchanted Tiki Room with plastic forks from the Disney commissary. The tikis nonetheless stand within the park right this moment, and Crump’s designs — tiki gods and goddesses corresponding to Pele, a fireplace goddess, and Hina Kaluua, a mistress of rain — proceed to form and affect tropical artwork.

The Disneyland Hotel’s wildly standard bar Trader Sam’s is steeped within the Crump affect. It was designed in his imaginative and prescient of tiki tradition, which was based mostly on weeks of analysis aided by anthropologist Katharine Luomala’s e-book “Voices on the Wind.” And to at the present time, Crump is heralded as co-leading what would grow to be Disneyland’s biggest model of Tomorrowland, a kind of mod imaginative and prescient of future-past that opened in 1967.

Crump lacked a university diploma, and his highschool portfolio was untamed when he joined Disney’s animation division. His freewheeling, cartoonish drawings had been more healthy for a tattoo parlor than the mature works the esteemed animation home was looking for to create.

Although his animation credit — “Peter Pan,” “Lady and the Tramp,” “Sleeping Beauty” and “101 Dalmatians” — embody a few of the medium’s foundational texts, Crump wasn’t a star within the division. He labored primarily as an assistant to animation grasp Eric Larson and will spend the higher a part of a yr on laborious however tough duties corresponding to drawing the versatile dots on Dalmatians.

Yet his putting private type, a brash use of colour and a zest for the counterculture, to not point out a gutsy, decided drive, served Crump effectively. While in animation, the Alhambra-born artist surrounded himself with small however private artwork tasks — outlandishly painted rocks with beatnik-era slang and mini propellers and mobiles. Crump hung the latter within the animation division’s library, the place he sneaked in what he referred to as his “dopers,” that’s, artwork that humorously celebrated medication within the type of Beat era barroom posters (“Be a man who dreams for himself,” learn a portray cheerleading opium).

Rolly Crump at his Carlsbad dwelling at age 88.

(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Crump continued to work on eccentric Pop artwork all through his profession at Disney. A comic book strip-inspired 1967 poster for the psychedelic rock group the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band belongs to the gathering of New York’s Museum of Modern Art. His love affair with music was deeply current in his artwork, be it his bouyant portraits of jazz artist Josephine Baker, which had been heavy on curves and ovals, like musical notes in flux, or the packaging he designed for Ernie Ball’s guitar strings. On such designs Crump’s exuberant line work and use of colour feels free and unfastened, the illustrative equal of jazz improvisation.

“He had a way of doing outrageous art,” says retired Disney theme park designer Bob Gurr, identified for conceptualizing a lot of Disneyland’s journey autos, together with the unique monorail. Gurr, 91, stated he met Crump when the 2 had been engaged on minor refurbishments within the Fifties for Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disneyland, with Crump touching up a few of the small crimson devils within the closing scenes. Gurr instantly grew to become a fan of Crump’s artwork and right this moment owns a few of Crump’s unique “dopers.”

“He did these really sexy girls in very exotic sketching — pen and ink type stuff. You just looked at something and knew Rolly drew it. That’s just the way it was.”

A mock travel poster reads, "Fly Heroin Airlines."

One of Rolly Crump’s so-called “dopers.”

(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Crump’s artwork possessed a larger-than-life whimsy and circus-like loudness, and it caught the attention of Walt Disney, who plucked Crump from animation and someday assigned him what would grow to be arguably probably the most recognizable clock in Southern California. The timepiece is the anchor of the facade of Disneyland’s It’s a Small World. Crump dreamed up a design, impressed by the artwork of Mary Blair, that was filled with motion — numbers that seemed caught mid-twist, and a face product of sun-like circles that was frozen with a delirious grin.

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When Crump confirmed the design to his boss, Dick Irvine, it was marked for reassignment. Crump, nonetheless, went straight to the highest. “I showed the clock to Walt and Walt said, ‘That’s good.’ Dick said, ‘It doesn’t have that European flavor.’ … Walt looked Dick straight in the eye and said, ‘I like it the way it is.’ The old man backed me on so damn many things.”

His artwork was undoubtedly bizarre, but solely Sleeping Beauty Castle extra immediately says Disneyland than the It’s a Small World facade. Whereas the park’s centerpiece is regal and fairly, the It’s a Small World sculpture is childlike and in possession of a wild fragility.

Rolly Crump beside a colorful mockup of the It's A Small World clock tower.

Rolly Crump at his dwelling with the unique mannequin he made in 1965 of the clock tower for the It’s A Small World journey at Disneyland.

(Eduardo Contreras / San Diego Union-Tribune)

“He’s all risk,” stated Doris Hardoon, who was recruited by Crump within the late ’70s for growth of Walt Disney World’s Epcot, the place the 2 labored on the creation of the Land Pavilion. “That’s his style. The way he thinks, the way dresses, the way he talks and the way worked with all of us.”

Former Imagineer Tom Morris, who retired in 2016 after greater than 35 years with Imagineering, referred to as Crump “one of the greats.” “I would mimic his artwork as a kid, not even knowing there was a Rolly Crump,” Morris as soon as advised The Times. “There was just something I liked about the line work and the design of the tikis and the stage in Tomorrowland or parts of the Small World facade. I would just doodle those, and then later I found out Rolly was the guy who did all that, and I was like, ‘He was a god.’”

According to his son, Crump was a beatnik with a popularity as a insurgent among the many Disney fold. He was identified to brag, as an example, about driving his Porsche round Disneyland’s Fantasyland when he served as Disneyland’s artwork director, certainly one of many roles throughout his quite a few stints with the corporate. He was additionally a fierce believer in theme parks as locations of dwelling artwork.

To the vocally blunt Crump — who was identified, particularly later in life, to ship his friends bristling together with his critiques — theme parks belonged to the artists who designed them reasonably than the businesses that stewarded them. “Disneyland freaking hugs you and kisses you,” Crump declared in a 2018 interview with The Times in reference to the truth that the park was designed closely by artists steeped within the artwork of animation, leading to a handmade attraction that he feared was steadily being misplaced to time.

A photo from the personal collection of Rolly Crump shows him discussing the facade for It’s a Small World with Walt Disney.
A photograph from the non-public assortment of Rolly Crump exhibits him discussing the facade for It’s a Small World with Walt Disney.

(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Crump’s conflicted feelings solely intensified within the years main as much as the opening of Florida’s Walt Disney World in 1971, which he labored on regardless of some misgivings.

“It had no feeling of Disney,” Crump says of Florida’s Magic Kingdom, noting it lacked the non-public contact of animators skilled in a hand-drawn craft. “It was a lot of good architectural pieces, but I looked at that and thought to myself, ‘What the hell is going on here?’ Disneyland has charm.”

Crump fought for Disneyland to retain a handcrafted high quality. He was a no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is artist who was offended on the suggestion that others can be offended by his critiques. Crump, as an example, loved a detailed relationship with Blair, the artist who designed the dolls for It’s a Small World and whose type knowledgeable the majority of the inside of the attraction. An achieved watercolorist and muralist, Blair, like Crump, was handpicked by Disney to transition out of animation and into theme park design.

Crump spoke to The Times in 2018 about, amongst many matters, the creation of It’s a Small World. Still an imposing broad shouldered determine in his then late-’80s, Crump was emphatic. “I had Mary’s sketches in a book and gave them to the model shop,” he stated. “I said, ‘Whatever you design, make sure they look like these drawings.’ I was given the job of supervising It’s a Small World. I knew it was only going to work if everything looked like Mary Blair. As far as I was concerned, this is a Mary Blair ride. So off we went. The rest is history.”

Rolly Crump's portrait of his friend, Mary Blair.

Rolly Crump’s portrait of his buddy, Mary Blair.

(Rolly Crump / Courtesy of Christopher Crump)

It was Crump’s fearlessnessthat allowed him to get pleasure from a detailed relationship with Disney, in accordance with those that knew him. “They read each other so well,” stated Gurr. “Behind their backs, a lot of people were upset. They said, ‘Walt likes Rolly best.’ We heard that all the time. Rolly never acted like he was kowtowing to the boss. He was himself around Walt, and I think Walt picked up on people who are very honest and not trying to play games. The two of them are so direct. A lot of other employees would try to be on their best behavior and try to get Walt’s attention, and Rolly just didn’t do any of that.”

An instance: Before It’s a Small World landed at Disneyland, it was a part of the 1964 World’s Fair, and Crump created a putting architectural piece he referred to as the Tower of the Four Winds to accompany it. A collection of mobiles — intertwined and overlapping — with a flaming solar in its heart, the tower was modernist but approachably harmless. Crump wasn’t proud of the ultimate design, which needed to be re-interpreted to face up to climate situations. “It had been so over-engineered,” stated Crump. “It was fat looking. Walt said, ‘What do you think, Rolly? I said, ‘I think it’s a piece of crap.’”

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Crump was born on Feb. 27, 1930, in Alhambra, however, as documented in his autobiography, “It’s Kind of a Cute Story,” written with creator Jeff Heimbuch, Crump spent a lot of his childhood shifting round, dwelling at varied factors in Redlands, Eagle Rock and Santa Monica. Depression-era monetary realities, in addition to alcohol, took a toll on his guardian’s marriage, and Crump was raised largely by his mom, Candice Elizabeth Ivie, who at one level labored as a secretary for twentieth Century Fox. His daydreams had been fueled by Disney’s “Silly Symphony” cartoons, along with different shorts of the time, in addition to the artwork of his grandmother, who was skilled on the Art Institute of Chicago.

One of Rolly Crump's original paintings.

One of Rolly Crump’s unique work.

(Rolly Crump / Courtesy of Christopher Crump)

Crump’s love affair with Disney started at an early age. “I was three year’s old,” he advised The Times. “My dad took me to see ‘The Three Little Pigs.’ He knew the projectionist so we got to go up into the projection booth. All that stuff stuck in my head. I don’t know if I was familiar with Disney at that time, but I immediately fell in love with Disney. I wanted to work for Disney. I wanted to draw and just be at Disney. I didn’t even know what animation was. I didn’t have a clue, and when they hired me, I don’t know why they hired me. I didn’t know where they were going to put me. All I knew is I wanted to work for Disney.”

He would get his want, becoming a member of Disney’s animation home in 1952. Crump married his first of three wives, Leona Deiman, three years prior in 1949 and had a younger daughter to help. Thus, he fought tirelessly to keep up his job, as his animator’s wage didn’t pay the household payments. Crump, on evenings and weekends, would tackle an assortment of labor, from dipping at a ceramics manufacturing unit to creating manhole covers, however all of the whereas he would proceed to attract, typically even satirizing his personal exhaustion in comedian type.

“He’s very, very, very whimsical, and had a great sense of humor,” stated retired Imagineer Steve Kirk, who labored with Crump on The Land, and was instrumental within the creation of Epcot mascot Figment in addition to the event of Tokyo’s DisneySea. “He had a tongue-in-cheek attitude about things. If you look at what he did for the Haunted Mansion, it’s just brilliant. I had a portfolio of his sketches that I looked at for inspiration.”

When he was formally dropped at WED in 1959, Crump was assigned to work on a never-built “Wizard of the Oz” space earlier than being assigned the Haunted Mansion, working intently with phantasm nice Yale Gracey to develop preliminary concepts for the attraction. Many of the flowery designs Crump and Gracey labored on didn’t make it into the ultimate product, as in 1959 the Mansion was nonetheless regarded as a walk-through attraction reasonably than one with a journey automobile, the Gurr-designed “doombuggies.”

Rolly Crump, left, shows Walt Disney, right, and a Disney ambassador some of his haunted attraction designs

Rolly Crump, left, exhibits Walt Disney, proper, and a Disney ambassador a few of his haunted attraction designs for Disneyland on the TV present “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color.”

(Courtesy of Disney Enterprises)

And but, utilizing glass, lighting and a tub, Gracey and Crump created as near an origin story as one can discover for the Mansion.

“The story was [that] the person who lived in there had been an old sea captain,” Crump advised The Times in 2015. “He had killed his wife, bricked her up in the wall. Then he died at sea.

“The way Yale and I came up with it is that every now and again the ghost of the sea captain would come back and appear in his room. We did this illusion where he had the old slicker hat and coat, like he had been out in the ocean. We had him staged and reflected in the glass. He was standing in a shower. The water was coming down over the top of him and it was coming over the floor. It was a beautiful, beautiful illusion. Then we had her appear behind the brick wall, and she comes out screaming and attacks the sea captain. Then they both disappear.

“Thatwould have been one of the best illusions we could have ever shown,” Crump continued. Except it didn’t work if it wanted to be repeated each few seconds. Still, Crump had a hand in the long run outcome, as his designs impressed the menacing, wild-eyed wallpaper, interpreted by artist Tania Norris, that graces the Mansion.

Other Crump designs — a speaking chair, a cauldron in a fire, demented, tarot-inspired flags and a melting candle man — stay a part of Disney lore even when they didn’t make the completed product. For a time, the Haunted Mansion was going to incorporate a so-called “Museum of the Weird,” which Crump was going to helm. But the concept, stated former Imagineering leaders, died when Walt Disney died in 1966. Still, Crump stated a few of his preliminary work, was redrawn by different Imagineers — together with an especially early move on the famed stretching room portraits, which had been in the end exquisitely crafted by Marc Davis.

“Yale came up with the idea of the stretch room because we had to build the Mansion outside the park,” Crump stated. “In order to get over there, you had to take an elevator down to a lower level to get underneath the railroad tracks. Yale had developed the stretch room and I did some of the original concept paintings for the room. Marc Davis came in and said, ‘I hope you don’t mind, Rolly, but I’m going to re-do the drawings because I don’t think what you did is any good.’ I laughed. I figured he’d do a better job and he wasn’t afraid to let me know that.”

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Kirk stated a few of Crump’s Mansion designs had been “maybe too edgy.” “I used to keep a file of Disney characters for all the classics — style sheets,” Kirk stated. “Rolly didn’t crib off of those. When he was designing something, it was all Rolly. It was all out of his head.”

Crump himself usually spoke of the ability of Disneyland’s enchantment, crediting it to the concept that a core group of artists had been continually constructing off of every others designs reasonably than merely cribbing off established movie and tv creations. “I think the secret to Disneyland is that there are so many different designers that it became a wonderful melting pot of styles,” Crump stated, as quoted in Jeff Kurti’s e-book, “Walt Disney’s Imagineering Legends.” “If you really look at that group within WED, and in Disneyland, you’ll see an incredible team. Walt seemed to know how to get the correct group of people together.”

One of the original frogs from the Rolly Crump designed ride Knott's Bear-y Tales

One of the unique frogs from the Rolly Crump designed journey Knott’s Bear-y Tales at Knott’s Berry Farm. The park in 2021 resurrected the attraction as a video game-like animated romp.

(Todd Martens / Los Angeles Times)

Crump left Disney within the ‘70s to start his own design firm and contributed to other theme parks, including Knott’s Berry Farm. His Knott’s Bear-y Tales opened in July 1975, and it represents a themed leisure period when “intellectual property” wasn’t a advertising buzz phrase and a trippy journey may overflow with hand-crafted dolls created from a single haphazard sketch. Knott’s Bear-y Tales, with its sly fox promoting “Weird Juice” (it can “make you feel weird!”) and its steampunk-inspired Chug-a-Chug piemaking meeting line, represented Crump’s whimsical-meets-beatnik-meets rock ’n’ roll character at its boldest.

Former Walt Disney Imagineer and theme park historian Christopher Merritt described in 2021 the journey’s grand finale to The Times: “In the middle of the room, there’s a big balloon coming from the ceiling where the Bear-y Family are going up and down, and there’s music, there’s Dr. Fox selling his Weird Juice, there’s puppets and there’s a frog jumping contest. There’s musicians, there’s a rabbit who’s walking on wire, there’s jugglers. It’s too much. It’s sensory overload.”

Crump’s affect could be seen in Knott’s Bear-y Tales: Return to the Fair, which opened in 2021. The newer journey is an lovely, video-game like animated romp with cartoon critters and many pies — a respectful and nostalgic 2021 endeavor that livens up the park by celebrating its historical past.

Crump cemented his irreverent, unconventional type as a boss whereas engaged on the unique Knott’s Berry Tales. When Crump was requested what it was wish to be on his design workforce for Bear-y Tales, he began speaking about booze, particularly giving it to his workers to unleash their creativity.

A photograph showing the original Bear-y Tales ride at Knott's Berry farm, circa 1985.

{A photograph} displaying the unique Bear-y Tales journey at Knott’s Berry farm, circa 1985.

(OC Archives)

“I had this one kid who came from Disney, and he was a close friend of mine,” stated Crump. “He loved beer. So I gave him his own office, and I would bring him as many six packs as he wanted. I turned him loose. The stuff he came up with was absolutely incredible. Oh, God, that was fun. We were doing this by the seat of our pants.”

Crump returned to Disney and labored on varied ideas for Walt Disney World’s Epcot, maybe most notably serving to to supervise The Land Pavilion. But the place Crump went, tales observe, and his former friends usually cite his cheeky workplace at Imagineering’s mannequin store. “He had always the funnest looking little spot — highly decorated,” stated Gurr. “He had a medieval market umbrella, decorated with funky art.”

“He was so much fun; his work space tented with Middle Eastern bedspreads, belting out jazz on his hi-fi and cooking his lunch on a hibachi,” stated Disneyland’s present artwork director Kim Irvine, who says she labored with Crump on a number of Walt Disney World tasks, together with that resort’s It’s a Small World and Enchanted Tiki Room. “We loved being part of it all.”

Irvine stated Crump’s affect continues to affect the Disney parks, particularly Disneyland, noting that because the Walt Disney Co. grew to become extra world in its theme park pursuits, Crump helped type “a WED design group that would stay focused on Disneyland.”

“What an amazing designer, director and mentor he was,” Irvine remembers. “We all learned so much from him on our weekly walks through the park. After Rolly left, the team lived on to what is now a group of 40 and thriving. Several of us went to visit Rolly a couple years ago, to get his input on a project we were pursuing for Haunted Mansion. He was full of stories and ideas and gave us priceless advice.”

Hardoon, who was instrumental within the growth of the fort at Shanghai Disneyland and the just lately remade fort at Hong Kong Disneyland, stated Crump is the most important affect on her work. “I wouldn’t say I adopted his look, but it was transformative for me,” Hardoon stated. “He does a lot of line work, and he puts color. That’s my thing, too. It started making my brain think. He’s not a primary color guy. His color sense is close to my color sense. It’s not muddy.”

In 2004, Crump was initiated as a Disney “legend.” At first, he trashed the envelope, believing the corporate honor had grow to be extra about superstar reasonably than saluting those that have formed Disney historical past.

But he went, largely on the urging of his son and late Imagineering government Marty Sklar. And then he proceeded to choke up onstage when he was offered with a window on Disneyland’s Main Street. Gurr was filming the second, and laughed at recalling the day.

“In the course of discussing Walt Disney, he called him ‘brush mouth,’ because Walt had a mustache. It’s all in good heart. There’s no maliciousness. , “Rolly had an openness and an honesty that I seldom saw in anybody I ever worked with in any organization,” Gurr stated. “That’s a Rolly characteristic … He and I think Mary Blair were two of Walt’s favorite artists.”

Crump is survived by his spouse, Marie Tocci, and his kids Christopher, Roxana, Theresa together with his first spouse, Leona Deiman. Crump has three grandchildren.