Interview: Don Dorsey (IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth at Epcot)

interview-don-dorsey-mcDon Dorsey is a musician, director, producer, and audio engineer whose work for Disney includes everything from musical performances and arrangements to sound design to complete show design and direction for several Disney parks.

Don started his long-lasting relationship with Disney in 1975 and for the first 17 years served as the main audio recording and post-production engineer for the Entertainment Division of the Disneyland Park, manning console knobs and faders for recording sessions with Mickey and his cohorts, and for musical groups which ran the gamut from bagpipes, steel drums and accordion to marching band, 100-voice choir and symphony orchestra. His electronic arrangements and performances for Disney’s original Main Street Electrical Parade have been heard by hundreds of millions of Disney Park guests.

With the opening of Epcot in 1982, Don began creating and directing nighttime spectaculars for the World Showcase Lagoon beginning with A New World Fantasy and moving on to Laserphonic Fantasy, IllumiNations, and most recently Reflections of Earth. Other nighttime shows created and directed by Don include “Sorcery in the Sky” for Disney Studios Florida, and “Starlight Magic” for Tokyo Disneyland.

As of 2015, Don is in his 41st year of consulting to Disney and works mostly behind the scenes coordinating sound and music for Creative Entertainment at the Disneyland Resort.

I sat down with Don in 2009 to find out more about the creation of “Reflections of Earth.” I hope you enjoy hearing his interview! And don’t miss the photos below.  As always, I’ve also included the Audio Index below. (Transcription available here)


IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth
Gavin Greenaway (left) and Don Dorsey (right) during a recording session of IlluminNations: Reflections of Earth at Abbey Road studios
Don Dorsey programming the fire on the barges for Reflections of Earth
Bernie Durgin (pyro coordinator), Eric Tucker (pyro designer) and Don Dorsey prepare for nighttime effects testing in China.
Bernie Durgin (pyro coordinator), Eric Tucker (pyro designer) and Don Dorsey prepare for nighttime effects testing in China.
The original styrofoam model of the Earth for the video globe in IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth
The original styrofoam model of the Earth for the video globe in IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth
A frame out of the video that wraps around the video globe in Reflections of Earth
A frame out of the video that wraps around the video globe in Reflections of Earth
The Reflections of Earth globe in the daytime
A scene on the video globe during a presentation of IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth

Don Dorsey is a music director, whose work, amongst other things, includes the Main Street Electrical Parade, America on Parade, Reflections of Earth, Fantasmic!, and Sorcery in the Sky


1:49 The beginnings of Reflections of Earth; Air launch fireworks technology; Don came onboard as creative director of the show; Computer chip for firework shells; Benefits of the air launch technology; Mickey ears fireworks; Shooting star effect

7:36 Creating a production for the Millennium; Early ideas; The Millennium lagoon show comes together; The story of Earth

13:46 The music of Reflections of Earth; Hans Zimmer out-Gavin Greenaway in; Hearing the music for the first time; Creating the moment human beings appear on the planet; A hockey game was the inspiration for the opening of the music; future uses of the music; “Promise” (with music from the Epcot parade “Tapestry of Nations” and “We Go On”; Gavin wins an Emmy for the music; Don wrote the lyrics for “We Go On”

25:16 Opening narration featuring Jim Cummings; The show’s lighting cue when the lights go out, and the opening lighting cue for the Main Street Electrical Parade

27:58 More about music; Don wrote the lyrics for “We Go On”; the inspiration for “We Go On”

32:46 The video globe in Reflections of Earth; The thought of Spaceship Earth being covered with LEDs; Challenges with the globe; Fire effects and inferno barge; Programming the fire using a Midi keyboard

37:59 Producing the video on the globe; The process of creating the video and a graphic simulation; Determining how to display the various video “continents”; Creating a model of the Earth and engineering it

43:38 he movements and limitations of the fountains; Color coordination of fountains, fireworks and smoke

47:24 The lasers; The safety aspect of the lasers are regulated by the government; Achieving unique colors with lasers

48:32 The show officially premiered on October 1, 2000 and was expected to remain for ten years; Don’s feelings about the show

Interview: Scott Weinger (Voice of Aladdin)

Scott Weinger is a television actor and writer, probably best known for his role as Steve Hale on the TV series “Full House.” Although he wasn’t seen onscreen, another of his most famous roles was providing the voice of the title character in Disney’s animated feature, “Aladdin.”

Scott Weinger


2:13 Working on the Disney Studios lot as a writer for ABC shows

3:14 Auditioning for Aladdin

4:30 Working with Robin Williams

5:45 Favorite memory of working on Aladdin

Interview: Alan Menken (Tangled; Beauty and the Beast; Aladdin)

Alan Menken is an Academy Award winning composer who has written the music for films including The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and Tangled, amongst many others.

Alan Menken with poster for “Tangled”

1:03 Working on Tangled

3:32 Working with different lyricists; Aladdin stage version with outtake songs; the original intent of the Aladdin movie

5:40 Alan’s input in the music and working with the film’s writer

6:22 Alan’s favorite Disney memories which includes memories from Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast

Interview: Disneyland’s Opening Day

Sleeping Beauty Castle 60th

I hope you enjoy these excerpts from interviews I did with people who were at Disneyland on its opening day on July 17, 1955.
Don’t miss any of my interviews. Send an email and let me know you want to be on my email list!


1:26 Harriet Burns, of the Imagineering model shop, talks about having to be at various positions in Disneyland on its opening day; Crowds and counterfeit tickets and heat; Melting asphalt; The day before Disneyland opened there was a gap in Tomorrowland; The Disney staff’s thoughts about Disneyland

4:41 Cubby O’Brien was a very young boy debuting as a Mickey Mouse Club Mouseketeer at the opening day of Disneyland

6:19 Mouseketeer Sherry Alberoni Van Meter won a prize to attend Disneyland on its opening day; Serving ice cream for Walt Disney

8:25 Bobby Burgess danced with the other Mouseketeers on Disneyland’s opening day and it was hot; Disneyland parade; A special memory of riding the Skyway a few years later

10:31 Sculptor Blaine Gibson attended Disneyland’s opening with his wife; The heat; Blaine’s assistant Jack Ferges did not have a good experience

12:10 Marketing guru and president of Disneyland, Jack Lindquist was at the park on opening day as a guest of Kelvinator; Crowds and heat; Tickets had different times on them but the guests didn’t leave; Jack’s five year old son had an experience on the Canal Boats attraction; Eddie Meck was the publicity person for Disneyland; Jack knew Eddie Meck since he was a kid; Eddie Meck helped turn upset members of the press into fans of Disneyland

16:43 Miriam Nelson choreographed the performances for Disneyland’s opening day; Choosing a white knight and black knight for the opening of the drawbridge of Sleeping Beauty castle; Dancers got lost; New Orleans dance problems; Little boy tap dancer was not at his spot; The characters at the opening of Fantasyland; Frontierland was supposed to have cement for dancers who danced to “Bang! Went Old Betsy”; Walt Disney

Interview: Blaine Gibson (Haunted Mansion; Pirates; If You Had Wings)

by Scott Wolf

Blaine Gibson at the Walt Disney Studios, 1993
Blaine Gibson at the
Walt Disney Studios, 1993

Blaine Gibson began his Disney career as an inbetweener on a Pluto cartoon short film “Bone Trouble,” and then on “Fantasia” and “Pinocchio” and as an assistant animator on“Bambi.” Blaine eventually began sculpting for Disney, creating the pirates in Pirates of the Caribbean, ghosts in the Haunted Mansion, Abraham Lincoln for Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, all the president before Barrack Obama for Hall of Presidents in the Magic Kingdom, Mark Twain and others for the American Adventure in Epcot, and much more. Blaine also sculpted the Partners statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse in Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom.

1:52 The Haunted Mansion; Developing three dimension characters from Marc Davis’ drawings

3:18 The inverted concavity busts whose eyes seem to follow you; Sculptor George Snowden and Yale Gracey, special effects wizard; Working on Disneyland and animating; the first Mickey Mouse head

6:35 Yale Gracey and the technique to create multiple sea gulls from Blaine’s animation for the If You Had Wings attraction in the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World

8:30 Sculpting the head for Leota Toombs (the Imagineer who appears in the crystal ball in the Haunted Mansion) and a problem with the materials used to capture her life mask

10:13 Basing his sculptures on people – a worker at Disney Studios had a great head


Interview: Jeff Hoffman (The Disney Legends Awards)

Enjoy this slide show of photos of the Disney Legends Awards!
Listen to the interview directly under the photos.

Jeff Hoffman
Jeff Hoffman was responsible for the Disney Legends Awards for more than two decades
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Jeff Hoffman’s began his Disney career selling merchandise at Disneyland shop and ultimately becoming vice president of Disney Worldwide Outreach. He was largely responsible for the Disney Legends Awards for more than two decades.

1:15 The start of the Disney Legends Awards; the first Disney Legend ceremony, Fred MacMurray

6:52 The original committee to choose the Disney Legends; Choosing the term “Disney Legend”

11:43 Continuing the Disney Legends Awards after the Fred MacMurray ceremony; choosing the next Disney Legends; Walt’s “nine old men” honored; Ward Kimball’s “six-fingered” handprints

18:06 Annette Funicello’s handprints in the rain; the Sherman Brothers’ handprints mishap

21:09 The Disney Legends Award statuette; Award sculptor and designer Andrea Favilli; a large scale Award sculpture and the Legends Plaza; the 75th anniversary of The Walt Disney Company; Roy E. Disney’s award

It’s a Small World grand opening on this day in ’66

It's a Small World, 2015 photo
It’s a Small World, 2015 photo

Did you know that “it’s a small world” had it’s grand opening at Disneyland on this day in 1966? The ceremonies were complete with doves and countless helium filled balloons being released in the air. (This was before it was determined that releasing balloons may have negative environmental impacts.) Also, children of the world brought water from their native countries to pour into the ride’s moat. To keep with the international theme, Walt Disney spoke via telephone/loud speaker to 1966 Disneyland Ambassador Connie Swanson, who was in Skansen, Switzerland. Although today, Connie probably would appear via internet on a big screen, in the ’60s, the reception was far from what we can receive today. Connie told me, “I could hear Walt saying, ‘There’s some difficulty, we can’t get it through,’ and I thought, oh dear, here I am in Stockholm with the press and this Minister of Communications’ and the line just is going down, so I read my script as I was asked to do.” Despite any technical difficulties, the grand opening ceremonies were a success and “it’s a small world” continues to be a favorite Disneyland attraction 49 years later.

Interview: Jack Gladish (His career; Walt Disney; Disneyland and World’s Fair attractions)

Jack works on a caveman for Disney's Magic Skyway attraction for the World's Fair, working Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, and a 2014 visit to Walt Disney World
Jack works on a caveman for Disney’s Magic Skyway attraction for the World’s Fair, working Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, and a 2014 visit to Walt Disney World

Jack Gladish worked as an engineer, responsible for submarines, dinosaurs, railroad locomotives and much more. Attractions include the “Carousel of Progress,” “Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room” and much more.  During his career he headed the plastics and fiberglass shops at the MAPO department of Walt Disney Imagineering.

:56 How he got his start with Disney in the late ‘50s; Precision camera machinist, including work on the multi-plane camera; Mary Poppins’ robin for “Spoonful of Sugar”

3:06 Audio Animatronics; Abraham Lincoln’s head, including tongue, smile and expressions; Programming the movements;

9:50 The atmosphere at WED; Walt Disney; Walt making money

14:00 Roger Broggie; Troubleshooting at Disneyland; skins for Jungle Cruise animals; problem with zebra stripes

18:02 Railroad locomotives and submarines for the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World; how we became stationed permanently in Florida

21:12 World’s Fair; Primeval World; Carousel of Progress

The World According to Goofy parade at Disneyland, 1992

The World According to Goofy parade at Disneyland , 1992
The World According to Goofy parade at Disneyland , 1992

Goofy was celebrated throughout Disney in 1992, including The World According to Goofy parade at Disneyland. Above are a few of the photos I took of the parade. The lavish parade represented Goofy in various settings including the Italian “Renais-sauce,” “Egyptian Daze” and running for president of the United States. I’d vote for him!

Interview: Wally Boag (Golden Horseshoe Revue; Tiki Room; Absent-Minded Professor)

Enjoy this slide show of photos of Wally Boag!
Listen to the interview directly under the photos.

Wally Boag
Wally Boag at home
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Wally Boag starred in Disneyland’s Golden Horseshoe Revue stage show from 1955 to 1982. During that time, some of his other contributions include appearing in some of Walt Disney’s movies, entertaining the troops in Iceland, performing in a Walt Disney stage show at Radio City Music Hall, writing Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room attraction and providing the voice of that show’s emcee macaw, Jose.


2:35 His start in showbiz

9:26 Donald Novis; Golden Horseshoe Revue audition for Walt Disney

11:59 Fulton Burley; writing Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room; under contract with MGM; bring Fulton to the Horseshoe

14:03 History of “spitting out teeth” as Pecos Bill

16:33 More about the Tiki Room and writing for WED (now known as Walt Disney Imagineering); the Tiki Room in Tokyo Disneyland; the barker bird in Disneyland; his involvement in the Haunted Mansion

19:43 Stunt double for Fred MacMurray in the Absent-Minded Professor

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