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Don Dorsey interview – Career (transcription)

Below is the transcribed interview of the Don Dorsey interview regarding IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth at Epcot. To hear the interview and view related content, please visit www.mouseclubhouse.com/interview-don-dorsey

SCOTT WOLF: This is Scott Wolf and this Mouse Clubhouse conversation is with Don Dorsey. Don is a musician, director, producer, and audio engineer whose work for Disney includes everything from musical performances and arrangements to sound design and complete show design and direction for several Disney parks.

I personally first became familiar with Don when I saw him on the Disney Channel in a show about the Main Street Electrical Parade. Don was demonstrating how he performed much of the music in the actual parade soundtrack. It wasn’t until a few years later that I made the connection that it was the same Don Dorsey who arranged and performed a synthesized classical CD I already had in my collection called Bachbusters. His CD was number one on the Billboard classical charts for 14 weeks in 1986 and his second CD, Beethoven or Bust was number one for 24 weeks in 1988.

In this conversation from 2009, Don talks about his start with Disney and working with people like Jack Wagner and Bob Jani, and his involvement in the bicentennial America on Parade.

Because I didn’t originally intend for this conversation to be heard by the public, and I was already familiar with those names, I didn’t ask Don to elaborate for people who may not know. Now that you’ll be hearing this audio, I want to give you a little more detail, so I’m sitting here with Don right now.

First and foremost, who was Jack Wagner?

DON DORSEY: Jack Wagner’s probably best known as the voice of Disneyland. For many years, Jack was heard doing all of the in-park announcements, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, please keep your hands and arms inside the various ride and attraction vehicles. Also, the voice of the Disneyland train announcements. For a long time, the voice of the ticket booths. And Jack was the audio producer for everything the entertainment division created. He was also my mentor. He persuaded Bob Jani to hire me as his personal assistant, and I worked directly with Jack at his home studio for many years.

SW: Right, and you also mentioned Bob Jani in the conversation we’re going to hear.

DD: Bob Jani was the vice president of entertainment at Disneyland and Walt Disney World, up to 1978. He created the Electrical Water Pageant, America on Parade, the Main Street Electrical Parade and later went on to form his own production company and become president of Radio City Music Hall Productions.

SW: I know you mention America on Parade in the conversation, can you set the stage about that parade for people who may not be familiar with it?

DD: America on Parade was one of the largest parades Disney ever produced up until Fantillusion for Tokyo Disneyland. It replaced all parades at Disneyland for 1975 and 1976 while we were celebrating the bicentennial, America’s bicentennial.

There was a special overture tune for America on Parade, written by the Sherman Brothers, called “The Glorious Fourth,” and that played as an overture before the parade arrived. The rest of the America on Parade music was me and Sadie Mae. Sadie Mae was a mechanical musical instrument that we call a band organ. It has flutes and pipes and drums and whistles and plays itself from basically large player piano rolls.

SW: Yeah, that’s very cool. And one last thing, before we get to the conversation. You briefly mention Jack’s announcement for the Electrical Parade. Is that the one that had the electronic voice?

DD: Yes, that’s the one. In thousands of sparkling lights and electrosynthemagnetic musical sounds.

SW: Well, thanks, Don! Now, here’s my conversation with Don Dorsey from 2009.

DD: When I got out of high school, I bought the Minimoog with money from my mother and just started learning it inside out and doing recordings at home, and I had a four track recorder and I would do multiple parts and mix them together and then overdub that and so on. So I was teaching myself multitrack recording and learning about recording.

Because I had a synthesizer all my friends from high school who had bands were very interested in that. So if they were going to go in the studio and make a demo tape, then I would come in and bring my synthesizer and add the synthesizer tracks to their demo tape, and sort of produce the session, work with them in the studio because I had more recording experience.

I worked out of this one studio in Santa Ana called United Audio. The engineer there was Bob Stone. Bob Stone was sort of a mentor in that as he was engineering I would ask a lot of questions and he would teach me. So as I did more and more recording sessions there and got to know the engineering a little better, and got to know Bob a little better and he saw that I was interested and capable, we got to be friends. At some point, and I don’t remember what the session or occasion was, but at some point he got called out of the room on a phone call and he was gone for a long, long time, and the musicians who were paying by the hour were getting antsy, and I just said, “Well, I know how to press record,” so I moved over into Bob’s chair, and I pressed record and I’m flying the session. Then, when Bob came back I said, “Here you go,” and he said, “No, no, you’re okay.” Then he sat and coached me from the producer’s chair and I was engineering.

So I had this engineering background and as I worked with more and more friend groups and so on, I would buy – the studio time I think was 75 dollars an hour or something. The studio wasn’t doing very well. As I was needing more and more studio time, and people were tied up for money, I would go to him and I would say, “If I pay you cash for 10 hours, can I get a discount?” And so we had this ongoing thing, I would buy in bulk the studio time, which would keep his studio busy and he would have cash. So I got some great deals on studio time, so I was able to find projects that I wanted to record and since I could now engineer, I didn’t have to have the engineer there, he didn’t have to pay the engineer, so it worked for him, it worked for me. So I brought people in and we produced demo tapes and stuff and I got more engineering jobs and so on.
Meanwhile, I was going to Cal State Fullerton, in the music department, I was a music major at the time and I was doing music copying and transcribing and stuff. Jose Feliciano opened a studio in Orange, on Tustin Avenue, and somebody said, “Oh, he’s got the studio, we should really go check it out. So we went down there, we opened the door and walked in, and it’s a big, empty, professional studio and finally we found the control room door and walked in.

There was a guy in there, his name was Bobby Thomas, and he was the engineer. And we started talking to him and he found out I had the synthesizer and he said, “Oh, why don’t you bring it to the studio,” so I brought it to the studio and we ended up staying up all night and recording a track of a piece that I had written. He played drums. What happened was he said, “Let’s record something,” and he set up the machine and everything and he went out and set up the drums and I stayed in the control room and played bass on the synthesizer to his drums and we just sort of laid down a rhythm thing and then he came back and we did overdubs and overdubs and overdubs, and that was how we got to be friends.

Somehow a connection was made, I’m very fuzzy on how this happened, between me and the Moog company. They had a local sales rep in L.A. and Orange County areas I guess, or southern California area or something. And maybe I contacted them with the idea of doing demos and making some money. That’s probably what happened is I sought them out and I said, “I’ve got a machine, can I work for you guys?” give demonstrations or whatever and they said yes, we’ll set you up with some schools and you can go give demonstrations.

I know I did a couple of those, but through knowing that representative of Moog, Jack Wagner also knew him and after Paul Beaver passed away, Jack asked this guy, “Do you know anybody else who knows how to program a Moog synthesizer, or has one?” He said, “Yeah, there’s this guy in Fullerton, his name is Don.” I got a call from Jack and he said, “I hear you’ve got a Moog synthesizer and we want to rent it for a project we’re doing at Disneyland.” And all they needed it for was to do a click track, but they wanted to rent it from me to do that and then in exchange, Jack gave me some recording tape. We had a swap kind of a deal. But we got to talking and he got to hear some of the stuff that I had been doing, but that was kind of like a one shot deal.

Then in 1973 – I think it was ’73, it might be ’74, I had my Minimoog and I had been writing half time shows for my high school marching band while I was in college. I’m doing all these odd jobs to earn money, I’m doing lead sheets for Jose Feliciano, I’m writing children’s musicals for Nancy Ebsen (Buddy Ebsen’s wife), I’m producing bands in the studio and repackaging studio time, I’m learning engineering. I’m all over the map.

SW: You were a teenager?

DD: Yeah, 18, 19, 20.

We did two seasons of halftime shows for my high school marching band. What I did was I took popular commercial tunes, you know, from TV commercials, and orchestrated them for the band and then they did a halftime show of commercial tunes. Those were the first orchestrations that I ever did, that was kind of my learning ground for that. I studied it in college but we didn’t have practical ways to do it other than exercises for the class, so I was doing it on the outside to learn about that.

So we had two great seasons of that, the third season, I came back and I said, “I want to do a halftime show with a synthesizer in it,” and the music director kind of looked funny and said, “How do we do that?” Wires, and amplifiers, and cables on the field, and you can’t march. I said, “I don’t know, we’ll figure that out.” He said, “I don’t know, maybe, maybe not. Maybe that’s not for us.” But I had the bug and so I went to Fullerton College, which was at that time called Fullerton Junior College, they had a marching band, and I had known their band director because he was the assistant conductor for the Orange County Youth Philharmonic that I played tympani in. I said, “I’ve got this idea, why don’t we do this synthesizer thing,” and he said, “You know what, the whole field thing is complicated, but if you would like to do one of our regular concerts, as like a guest soloist, that’s a cool idea and we would do that.”

So they commissioned me to write an arrangement for the concert band and synthesizer solo, which I did, and I chose a piece by Emerson, Lake & Palmer called “Abaddon’s Bolero,” which was basically, it was a lead line melody over increasing rhythm. It’s like a bolero. But it was something that because Moog’s at that time, you could play one note at a time, it was doable with the gear. So I called up this Moog rep and I borrowed a second synthesizer which was a bigger one with patch cables and everything, and we did the concert. While I was playing one instrument, I was setting up the program on the other one for the next verse and then I would play this one while I was reprogramming this one so that we could keep going. So I actually had two synthesizers going.

I don’t know if Jack read in the newspaper about that on his own or if I called him or sent him a clipping or something, but he came to that concert, and it was after that concert when he said, “I think we may have a job for you.” Then I didn’t hear from him again for a long time. It was late ’74 when he called and said, “We’ve got this America on Parade thing coming up, would you be interested in doing the synthesizer work on that?” And that eventually came to be and I got five dollars and hour, went to Jack’s house, set up the synthesizers in his dining room. The 16 track recorder was brought in and we did all of the stuff there. In addition, to overlaying the synthesizer on the band organ, I had to do other things.

For the track “Dearie” there had to be tap dancing, so I said, “I know what tap dancing sounds like,” we got some tap shoes and I just faked it with my hands, and later when that track hit the street, we had people comment, “Who’s the dancing? It sounds pretty cool.” I thought, “Oh, we fooled them!” But I played banjo, the sailing ship was the piano bench from my mom’s house that creaked and we brought it in and I squeezed it until it creaked just right, and we slowed it down so it made this old creaky wood ship sound. We were doing lots of inventing musical sonic storytelling in Jack’s dining room, and having a blast.

SW: It was a band organ initially…

DD: Yes, the idea was always to combine the authentic traditional band organ sound with new electronic sound and create what Bob Jani called “The Great American Music Box.” When Bob said, “That’s what I want,” that’s when Jack said, “Oh, I know the guy,” and they got me to do that.

SW: Had the band organ already been recorded?

DD: When he first contacted me, I don’t know if it had or not, but there was a while… I started in January of ’75, and I believe that they recorded the band organ in October or November in Nashville. The “books,” the punched music for those arrangements, Jim Christensen did the arrangements, basically a sketch arrangement, sent it over to Belgium, where the guy who creates the arrangement for that machine and punches the books lives. Then they send back the books. The books meet up with the machine in Nashville. They played them and recorded them.

SW: When you say “punches,” it’s like a music box?

DD: It’s like a piano roll except it’s on cardboard so it flip flops. It folds back and forth to create a stack, which is why they call it a book. It’s a big, heavy book. It’s about 15 inches tall and about five or six inches wide, and then depending on the length of the arrangement it could be anywhere from an inch to a couple inches thick. And it just feeds into the machine and comes out the other end and stacks itself back up.

SW: The band organ had the drums, and…

DD: It had the drums, and the bells and the horns and the snare and all those things. They sent the guy in Belgium a description of “here are the things on this machine and the ranges that it has, here’s the tune we want, here’s our idea for the structure of the arrangement, the baseline and the chords and all that.” And then he did what he does, which is orchestrate for band organ, create the thing, and send it back.

Nowadays, the music director would go and work with him in great detail. In those days, it was like, well, there’s one guy who does this so I guess we’ll just send him what we want and we’ll get what we get. It was really quite primitive. And one of the arrangements that we got back, I don’t remember off the top of my head which song it was, but there was one song where he had done like four choruses in a row and there was no verse. And so Jim Christensen was like, “We have to create a verse somehow,” so I said, “I can synthesize the band organ, I can fake enough of the band organ sound, so let’s just splice in some blank tape between the choruses and then I’ll record over the whole thing and then we’ll have that piece. So that’s what we did, and this was two inch tape, so these are big splices that we’re making. But, what I did was we got the tempo and then I recorded blank tape with clicks on it so we could count the beats, and then counted off as many beats as we needed, and cut it there and spliced it in, made up fake band organ sounds and duplicated it as best as we could.

The story’s kind of jumping around a little bit with the Moog guy and all that. Fullerton College actually had me come back a second year and reprise the performance and it may have been the second performance that Jack saw, I don’t recall, because I didn’t keep a journal in those days. I didn’t start keeping a journal until ’85, and it has been so good to have since then. I wish I had it for my early days.

So that’s how Jack and I got hooked up, but during the process of America on Parade, going back to the engineering part of this, at some point we had all this stuff recorded and Jack said, “Bob wants to hear it, we want to play it on the street on a mock-up of the sound system to hear what it sounds like. We need to go the studio and mix this,” and I said, “Oh! I’ve got a studio that I work at, I can get you cheap studio time, and I can engineer it,” and he goes, “Oh! Okay!” So we trundled down to United Audio and we did the mixes and we went back to Main Street and played them on Main Street for Bob and Bob said, “These are great! These are fine!” So Jack said, “Well, I guess you’re the engineer!”

We kept some of those first mixes, and then as we produced more stuff, then I was just the mix guy, and that whole parade was wrapped up and I helped them master the phonograph record. We went to record “The Glorious Fourth,” and I didn’t engineer that, but I was there, observing.

SW: And that was not the band organ, that was the song that was played before…

DD: That was part of the intro. Yes. And I got to play the “whoopee” whistle. It was at Warner Bros. that we recorded the orchestra, in the big scoring stage, and recorded the whole band and I got to play the “whoopee” whistle. I don’t know if it didn’t come out during the original recording or what, but I got to overdub it. They brought in vocalists and we mixed that then I went back to Jack’s and helped him with the production of it because there was narration and there was band organ music under it and there was “The Glorious Fourth” song. It was like seven and a half minutes or 7:35, something like that, and it was supposed to play to end at each zone as the parade arrived. So there was this timing issue which nobody had really thought much about yet, when the parade was going to launch.

So we finished all of the material for America on Parade, and my job was done. You know, great, thank you, we’ve got our soundtrack, we’ve got everything produced. And I thought, this is the biggest thing I’ve ever done, I want to see it open. And the opening was going to be in Florida, Walt Disney World. So I asked Jack, I said, you know, “Could I go?” and he said, “Well, as long as you pay your own way. If you want you can stay with me, and you can like be my assistant and drive me around, in fact you can go two days early and hand carry the master tapes because I’ve got things to do and that will save me two days.” So I bought myself a plane ticket to Florida and carried the master tapes down there. Showed up and Tom Durrell who was the chief audio engineer took me to Studio D and showed me that, and got the master tapes from me and all that.

During the week or two weeks of rehearsal and staging I was driving Jack around and following Bob Jani and watching how parades were produced and what happened at a rehearsal and coordinating all this stuff, and just soaking it all up.

After that whole experience and the parade opened, I flew home, but Jack and Bob flew back together and Jack told Bob he wanted to hire me full time as his assistant, and Bob said okay. So they gave me a contract and it was my job to report to Jack’s house every day at ten in the morning and work with Jack until he said we were done, which was usually about four, with an hour off for lunch, an hour and a half off for lunch, to work with him producing tapes, and seguing music and editing stuff and running errands to Bob’s office and back.

SW: What types of things were you working?

DD: Editing character voice tracks, editing announcements, he did a lot of character voices for the studio back then, we did the fireworks show music tracks…

One of the other things we did in Florida on that first trip actually was, and this is also before Jack got there, I’d forgotten about this, but one of the things he was supposed to do in Florida was to art direct a photography session for the Steel Drum Band for an album cover, because Jack was trying to produce albums that the park could sell. And I got there and we set up the drums and everything and I’m kind of like art directing the photography of the cover until Jack got there.

There’s also a great memory in a production meeting at Bob’s townhouse after rehearsal, and this is like two in the morning, or three in the morning or something. Bob was always so clean and proper and he had a white suit for Florida and white shoes and he was just always impeccably dressed. Mister polite, Mister organized, and there was the production team of ten or twelve people we were sitting around in his townhouse having a meeting and he got up at one point and said, “I baked a cherry pie!” And he goes to the kitchen which is right there and he tries to pull the pie out of the oven and actually flips and goes face down on the floor and it splatters all over his white suit and we’re all just like, “Oh no! This can’t have happened to Bob! How horrible!” And we’re kind of waiting to see what he does and he just kind of looks at it and goes, “I’ll deal with that tomorrow.” Came back and sat down and pretended like it never happened.

I was doing everything that Jack was doing, and he was teaching me editing and when do you leave a breath in, when do you take it out, pacing, how do you deal with presentations for executives, basically just being his right hand guy. And then when there was a recording session, I got to engineer it.

SW: He put a lot of trust in you, he just got of found you in a college.

DD: Well, he found me, but the whole America on Parade process took six months, you know, and we were working together every day for six months. He saw my musical aptitude, he saw my technical aptitude, he saw that I was willing to learn and to learn from him, you know. I brought knowledge to his realm that he didn’t have, the whole technical thing, you know, how do you align a tape machine, I don’t know that he had ever aligned his tape machines with a test tape, so I was able to say let’s get a test tape, let’s make sure your machines are clean, demagnitized, everything sounds good. I brought him another level of expertise to his production facility and he brought his experience and knowledge to mine. So in that respect it was a great time of learning and being able to contribute and help.

Because I was his guy, I was in big meetings with top people, seeing it all, learning it all, because when we left the meeting we had to go do what it was that was there, and if Jack had other stuff he had to be doing I could be editing music while he was recording announcements. If errands had to be run, I could be running errands while he was doing stuff, so he was more productive because I was available.

We did slide shows for the studio for marketing, it was not all glorious parade big stuff, it was a lot of daily things. Sometimes we were actually physically making announcement cartridges, cutting the tape loop and stuffing it in the plastic box and sending it off to the park, all out of his house.

SW: So you’re next big thing would be Electrical Parade?
DD: Actually, it was the Electrical Water Pageant.

SW: Yeah, how did that come to be?

DD: There was a company called E-mu, that brought a big synthesizer down to Disneyland to give a demonstration, and I think Sonny Anderson brought them in. We got a bunch of the music department and entertainment people together and they gave a demo of this big synthesizer. Of course, I was fascinated and everybody else was, “Oh, that’s cool.” Synthesizers were still relatively new and strange and here was this big box with a lot of patch holes on it.

I got to talking to the guys who built it. There was a tour going out on the road and I don’t know exactly how this idea came up, but the idea came up that maybe instead of sending a band with the tour, we can prerecord the music on the tour. And then from there it got to the point, well, “Could you do it all on this synthesizer?”

SW: A tour for like maybe promoting an upcoming film?

DD: Promoting an event or something. I think it was Space Mountain opening. Maybe that’s why the idea of the synthesizer seemed…

SW: That would make sense. It could sound spacey, futuristic.

DD: Yeah, that kind of sounds like it makes sense. So we made a deal with these guys to let me take that synthesizer home so that I could record this tour, and I did, and I have pictures of me with it in my house, and I recorded the tour.

Meanwhile, we found out that the musicians union, if you’re not taking live musicians on a tour, you have to pay as if you were taking live musicians on a tour. So I ended up making a lot of money by recording this track in my house and then everywhere they performed I got a check. So things were looking good for me, and then the Electrical Water Pageant came up, and Bob Jani said, “Have Don do that,” and so Jim and I worked it out, Jim wrote a theme or two and I did the synthesizer stuff and we recorded it in Jack’s dining room, just like that.

While the Water Pageant was going on, and the Electrical Parade was going to be coming back, I wanted to do the Electrical Parade. So I was working at home, figuring out what I wanted to do to it, just playing and doing tracks and demos and stuff for myself and got the idea to do this opening, and created the whole opening fanfare idea, and then brought that to Jack and Jim and Bob and said, “Here’s some stuff I’ve done, what do you think?” And they liked it and they said, “That’s great! You do that, too!” So, now I’m the guy and we set everything up, I think we still had stuff set up from the Water Pageant in Jack’s dining room so I just continued on and did the Electrical Parade tracks at that point.

SW: Had that ever been done, as far as having an introduction that was timed with the loop so it perfectly goes in to it?

DD: No. I invented that.

SW: Really?

DD: Yeah, it’s become, it’s a Disney signature. We call that the opening window, because in the music loop, the main loop is continuous music, the opening has a little bit of the same music so that you can switch without knowing and then it’s silent, and then you have the beginning. So you “open the window” when it’s silent and then you hear the beginning and it loops around and then you make a switch to the thing which matches perfectly but you don’t hear it because it matches perfectly. That’s what I invented, and to this day that’s how we do things.

SW: Was the parade changed, other than the additions of your music?

DD: Yes, because some of the things that had been 2D were made into 3D. There was actually quite a bit of 3D in the first parade. People like to think the first parade was all 2D.

SW: Right, that it was just a big, flat parade.

DD: No, it wasn’t. The Blue Fairy was 3D, and the Chinese Dragon was this big 3D thing that went down the street. And I think Small World was very similar both before and after. Because there isn’t good footage of the entire parade, it’s hard to tell exactly. But, generally that’s the distinction that people try to make is, well, it was 2D and it became 3D. It actually just became more efficient in terms of the battery power and fewer cables.

SW: What were the new tracks that you did?

DD: The year it came back, the opening, Blue Fairy, Alice in Wonderland was new, Cinderella was old, Dumbo was old, Pete’s Dragon was new. Was Pete’s Dragon that first year? Yeah, that was ’77. Small World was old, and Patriotic Finale was old. All things considered, there wasn’t a whole pile of new stuff, but the way that I had redone the underliner gave it a new peppy, punchy sound, and the opening created a whole different mindset to it.

SW: And closing as well?

DD: The closing came later because the closing… we didn’t need a closing until we did the Orange Bowl halftime, and we needed an ending.

SW: It used to just fade out?

DD: Yeah. I think the Orange Bowl halftime was January ’78. They were going to take all these floats to the Orange Bowl and it was a Pete’s Dragon/Florida/Electrical Parade promotion. And there were clips from the film, one showing Alice falling down the rabbit hole, so I had to do a little synthesized intro that led into the Alice music and then I had to do a tag for Alice that ended it. But these were straight through linear pieces of music, there was no looping or anything involved. You start a cue and you play it and it ends. But I had to kind of match sounds so we could edit in to what we already had. We did main Electrical Parade theme, and then we did the Alice section, and then it was a big Pete’s Dragon thing that had to go on for three or four minutes. So I had to create an opening for Pete’s Dragon and then I had to create three variations on the loop that kept building so that it could be long enough. Then I had to create an ending for Pete’s Dragon, and then I think the closing was just a fanfare standalone piece to button the show, and then Bob later said, “Take the ending of the main Blue Fairy thing, that just ends and wraps up, and now tack this fanfare on the back and let’s use that in the park.” So that became not just an end stop but an end fanfare thing to bring the lights back on. So that’s when we put that in, and the very first year that the parade came back, Jack’s voice was not synthesized. It was just his announcement. Then Battlestar Galactica came on TV, and I said, “Oh, I’d like to do that for the voice.” So then we got the vocoder and I think it was ’78 or ’79 when we added the vocoder voice, which everybody thinks has been there from day one, but it actually wasn’t.

SW: It wasn’t even there from day one of the new version.

DD: No, it was added. It just seemed like the right thing to do.

SW: Was it his original announcement before that?

DD: It was the same words. Yes. And it’s interesting that that particular verbiage turned out to be so musical.

Interview: Don Dorsey (Career in Disney Audio)

Don Dorsey and Sadie Mae, the band organ heard in America on Parade (1976)
Don Dorsey and Sadie Mae, the band organ heard in America on Parade (1976)

Enjoy these Electrical Parade facts and other Disney entertainment history!

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Don 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.

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)

Don Dorsey with his E-MU Synth (1977)
Don Dorsey with his E-MU Synth (1977)
Don Dorsey and his Minimoog (1972)
Don Dorsey and his Minimoog (1972)
Don Dorsey recording "tap dancing" sounds for America on Parade soundtrack (1975)
Don Dorsey recording “tap dancing” sounds for America on Parade soundtrack (1975)
Bob Jani stands on Main Street in Disneyland to hear the America on Parade soundtrack mix (1975)
Bob Jani stands on Main Street in Disneyland to hear the America on Parade soundtrack mix (1975)
Recording the Electrical Water Pageant at Jack Wagner's home studio (1977)
Recording the Electrical Water Pageant at Jack Wagner’s home studio (1977)

 

AUDIO INDEX

1:36 Jack Wagner, the “voice of Disneyland,” and audio producer, and Don’s mentor; Bob Jani, the vice president of entertainment at Disneyland and Walt Disney World, creator of the Main Street Electrical Parade, Electrical Water Pageant and America on Parade among others

2:42 America on Parade, one of Disney’s largest parades, produced for America’s bicentennial; the Sherman Brothers’ song “The Glorious Fourth” was the overture for America on Parade; Sadie Mae, the band organ used for the America on Parade soundtrack

3:48 Don’s musical beginnings

8:12 Meeting Jack Wagner, and getting a one time for Disneyland; Being rediscovered by Jack Wagner while performing on his synthesizer for a concert; Being asked to do synthesizer work on the America on Parade soundtrack and performing banjo and various sound effects in Jack’s home dining room studio

13:33 The unique soundtrack of America on Parade, deemed “the Great American Music Box” by Bob Jani and the music of the Sadie Mae band organ; recording “The Glorious Fourth” parade overture

19:04 Following America on Parade, going to Florida and becoming Jack Wagner’s assistant; Working with Jack at his house each day; A funny Bob Jani memory when Bob gets cherry pie on his white suit

22:38 Learning from Jack Wagner

24:50 The Electrical Water Pageant; the E-MU synthesizer; the Main Street Electrical Parade returns after a hiatus during America on Parade; Don creates new music for the Electrical Parade; the beginning of Disneyland parade introductions – the opening window; the opening fanfare for the Main Street Electrical Parade

28:33 Updates to the Main Street Electrical Parade, including soundtrack and more dimensional units and new units; the parade became more efficient in terms of battery power and less cables; the history of the closing music of the Electrical Parade, which originated at the Orange Bowl halftime show in 1978; how Battlestar Gallactica inspired the original introduction dialogue sound

Interview: Larry Billman (Pioneer of Disney live entertainment)

Larry Billman wrote and/or director hundreds of Disney live productions worldwide
Larry Billman wrote and/or director hundreds of Disney live productions worldwide

Larry Billman began his career as a performer on stage, screen and television before becoming a Writer/Director of Disney Resort live entertainment worldwide. For over 40 years he was involved in the production of hundreds of live shows at Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. Among those shows, Larry wrote the Hoop de Doo Revue, one of the longest running dinner shows in American history. That show debuted in 1974, and as of 2016, the show continues to delight audiences at the Fort Wilderness Resort in Walt Disney World. A few of his other credits include  the Disney Character Director of Disney on Ice, Director of Entertainment at Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea, and VP of Entertainment at Walt Disney World, to name a few. (See more photos and Audio Index below)

 

Larry Billman, (top left) with the cast of the Disneyland version of the Mickey Mouse Club, which led to the 1977 revised television edition
Larry Billman, (top left) with the cast of the Disneyland version of the Mickey Mouse Club, which led to the 1977 revised television edition

 

Larry Billman, as he appeared in the 1963 Disney movie, "Miracle of the White Stallions"
Larry Billman, as he appeared in the 1963 Disney movie, “Miracle of the White Stallions”
Larry Billman (left) and John Anello (right) working on the unique "Fun with Music" educational Disneyland show
Larry Billman (left) and John Anello (right) working on the unique “Fun with Music” educational Disneyland show

AUDIO INDEX

2:14 Larry Billman appeared in the 1963 Disney film “Miracle of the White Stallions”

6:13 After being a choreographer on the traveling Disney on Parade, Larry was hired by Bob Jani at Disneyland Entertainment; More on the history the 1969 Disney on Parade; Larry was assigned to work with the circus performers; Working with circus legend Barbette; A Disney on Parade mishap with a dancer

14:56 Became a writer/director for a Disneyland revue in Tomorrowland, originally called “See America First,” which included original Mouseketeer Sherry Alberoni and Teri Garr. Music was written by Tom Adair and Paul Suter; The show’s title was changed to “Show Me America”; “Show Me America” was updated for Walt Disney World

20:26 Big name stars returned to Disneyland after “Show Me America” and Larry Billman and Barnette Ricci developed an opening number called “The Great American Music Machine” which featured a giant jukebox; There was later an opening with a pinball machine and later another show called “The Great Rock Circus”

23:20 Disneyland director of entertainment Bob Jani’s philosophy on Disneyland parades

25:30 The little-known “Fun with Music” educational show at Disneyland

26:47 Wrote and directed the All American College Singers shows which led to writing the Hoop de Doo Revue; The college program was supposed to run for six weeks

30:04 Bob Jani wanted Mickey Mouse Club-style kids at Disneyland; The Mickey Mouse Club stage show at Disneyland which led to the 1977 television version; The performers from the new television version performed at Disneyland

33:16 Japan Airlines worked with Disney to do a show called “Come to America” to encourage Japanese people to visit America, particularly Disneyland; The 1978 show toured to audiences of as many as 3,000; Did a second Japan Airlines tour in 1981 to announce the upcoming Tokyo Disneyland; Moved to Japan until 1985 and was the creative producer

35:40 Returning to America Larry’s job at Disney was not waiting for him; Prior to being in Japan, Larry worked with Irvin and Kenneth Feld on Disney on Ice; A little bit about Irvin; Larry helped shape Disney on Ice as it is today, rather than just having ice skaters and then a Disney act; Approached Kenneth about doing the Circus Fantasy marketing promotion at Disneyland; Larry went to work for Kenneth Feld on Ringling Bros./Barnum & Bailey circus, writing many of the shows

39:29 Invited to work on Tokyo DisneySea, what Larry enjoyed the most, working with Walt Disney Imagineering on the design of the park; Became the director of entertainment for Tokyo DisneySea

Interview: X Atencio (Working in animation and writing for Disneyland and Disney World)

X Atencio with a replica of the Jolly Roger that he provides the voice for and wrote the dialogue for
X Atencio with a replica of the Jolly Roger that he provides the voice for and wrote the dialogue for

X Atencio began his Disney career in 1938 in animation, working as an assistant animator on “Pinocchio.” He went on to write dialogue for attractions such as the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Submarine Voyage in Disneyland and El Rio del Tiempo in Epcot, among others. X also wrote songs for many of the attractions he worked on including “Grim Grinning Ghosts” for the Haunted Mansion and “Yo Ho (A Pirates Life for Me)” for Pirates of the Caribbean. (Also, see more photos below.)

 

X Atencio stands by the tombstone tribute to him that used to reside outside the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland, but is now in his home backyard
X Atencio stands by the tombstone tribute to him that used to reside outside the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland, but is now in his home backyard
Disneyland vice president Norm Doerges, a boy from the audience, Pirates designers Marc Davis and X Atencio for the 25th anniversary of the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction in 1992
Disneyland vice president Norm Doerges, a boy from the audience, Pirates designers Marc Davis and X Atencio for the 25th anniversary of the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction in 1992

AUDIO INDEX
3:30 X’s start in Disney animation; attended Chouinard Art Institute; got a job at Disney in 1938 as an assistant animation to Woolie Reitherman, working on the Monstro scenes for “Pinocchio;” Worked on “Bongo” and then was drafted and went into the Signal Corps

14:01 Returning to the Disney Studios; Worked with Wooly Reitherman again, as an assistant animator on various shorts; did story sketch, storyboards on films; Working with Bill Justice on the “I’m No Fool” animated series of shorts, featuring Jiminy Cricket; Worked with Ward Kimball on the “pointy nose character” films, including the Academy Award-winning “Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom”

16:51 Returning to work with Bill Justice working on stop-motion films such as “Noah’s Ark,” and a “Symposium on Popular Songs” and opening titles for films like “The Parent Trap” and “The Shaggy Dog” and the “Spoonful of Sugar” nursery scene in “Mary Poppins”; About stop-motion animation, a very tedious job

19:12 Working on the never-completed animated short on doodles with storyman Larry Clemmons; Called into Walt’s office to move over to WED (now known as Walt Disney Imagineering); Worked in the model shop with Claude Coats on the Primeval World diorama for the Disneyland Railroad;

21:29 Was asked by Walt to write the script for “Pirates of the Caribbean”; Walt had an uncanny ability to find talent in people; Worked on the auction scene first, and read books and the “Treasure Island” film to get inspiration for the pirate jargon

23:20 Becoming the voice of the Jolly Roger talking skull and crossbones; Also had a line in the auction scene on the bridge saying “Six bottles of rum!”; Writing “Yo Ho (A Pirates Life For Me)”; People perceiving graphic lyrics in the song; Used a thesaurus to come up with lyrics

26:55 Writing for rides is different than a fixed audience; Writing the script for Submarine Voyage attraction; The Haunted Mansion lobby dialogue; No storyline in the attractions, stories didn’t lend themselves to rides; The raven in the “Haunted Mansion” was going to be the original attraction narrator; X is heard in the spiel when the “Haunted Mansion” ride stops and in the coffin saying “Let me out of here?”

31:01 Adding Captain Jack Sparrow to the “Pirates of the Caribbean” attraction and other changes; Translating the dialogue for Tokyo Disneyland

33:45 Writing the dialogue and song for El Rio del Tiempo in Epcot, “It’s Fun to Be Free” for World of Motion in Epcot, and “If You Had Wings” for the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World

35:57 Remembering the day Walt Disney died, the type of person Walt was, and the first time X met Walt

Interview: Stan Jolley (Art director of Disneyland, Disney films and TV)

Stan Jolley at his "Ichpa-Mayapan," which means "exclusive estate"
Stan Jolley at his “Ichpa-Mayapan,” which means “exclusive estate”

Stan Jolley was a Hollywood producer, director, art director, production designer who had a lot to do not only with Disney, but with the very beginnings of Disneyland! His Disney film work included everything from “Zorro” to “Old Yeller” to “Elfego Baco” and “Toby Tyler.” He was the art director of the Academy-Award nominated animated featurette “Donald in Mathmagic Land.”

His large list of non-Disney movie credits include “Caddyshack,” “Witness” and “Superman” and television credits include “Mr. Ed,” “MacGyver” and “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.” As the art director for the pilot episode of “Get Smart,” Stan designed the classic title sequence with the doors and phone booth, as well as iconic props such as the “cone of silence.”

In 2009, for my Mouse Clubhouse, Stan invited me to photograph his 22,000 square foot estate. It is part home, part museum. Beyond every corner was not only a part of either Hollywood or Disney history, but with remarkable views in every room. In fact most rooms had at least one mirror in it so that you’d be able to see the gorgeous surrounding scenery no matter what direction you are facing.

Please enjoy the photographic tour below of the home of Stan Jolley and be sure to listen to the audio of that is beneath some of the photos.

This clapboard is from one of the films that Stan directed, "Today's FBI"
This clapboard is from one of the films that Stan directed, “Today’s FBI”
The 7.7 million dollar estate was built and designed in the early '70s by Modernist Howard Lapham for socialite-sportswoman Maxine Cook. An admirer of Frank Lloyd Wright, Lapham focused on blending ancient Maya and modern design.
The 7.7 million dollar estate was built and designed in the early ’70s by Modernist Howard Lapham for socialite-sportswoman Maxine Cook. An admirer of Frank Lloyd Wright, Lapham focused on blending ancient Maya and modern design.

 

This view is the entrance of Stan's house
This view is the entrance of Stan’s house
This pathway which leads to the front door features beautifully aligned stonework columns. From this angle, it seemed like a perfect residence for the man who was the art director of Donald in Mathmagic Land. Just look at all the geometric shapes that can be recognized from this one angle! At the left, on the other side of the greenery is a tennis court nestled into the surrounding mountain scenery.
This pathway which leads to the front door features beautifully aligned stonework columns. From this angle, it seemed like a perfect residence for the man who was the art director of Donald in Mathmagic Land. Just look at all the geometric shapes that can be recognized from this one angle! At the left, on the other side of the greenery is a tennis court nestled into the surrounding mountain scenery.
Mayan calendar carved out of redwood
Mayan calendar carved out of redwood. Be sure to listen to the audio of Stan describing this artwork and the front doors to his house as pictured below.
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The front doors are 14 feet high, four inches thick, weigh 400 pounds apiece and are carved out of redwood
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The arrowhead-shaped pool offers a stunning view overlooking the Coachella Valley
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Stan sits on his couch, surrounded by the mountains. He would often bring a blanket outside and sleep on the couch to enjoy all the natural beauty
Stan stands beside a beautiful portrait of Natalie Wood as she appeared in the movie "Gypsy." Listen to the audio below for a fun story about it.
Stan stands beside a beautiful portrait of Natalie Wood as she appeared in the movie “Gypsy.” Listen to the audio below for a fun story about it.

 

Stan admires artwork from his friend, legendary Disney artist Herb Ryman. Be sure to listen to the audio below of Stan's start with Disney, thanks to Herb.
Stan admires artwork from his friend, legendary Disney artist Herb Ryman. Be sure to listen to the audio below of Stan’s start with Disney, thanks to Herb.
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Concept art of Tomorrowland for the opening of Disneyland
artwork reads "Restaurant between Main Street & True Life Adventure Land"
Concept art for what would become the Plaza Pavilion for the opening of Disneyland. Note the artwork reads “Restaurant between Main Street & True Life Adventure Land”
Concept art of Frontierland for the opening of Disneyland shows the "World's Longest Little Bar" next to the Golden Horseshoe. The Mile Long Bar would open in Bear Country in Disneyland in 1972, with mirrors on each side of the bar interior for the illusion of length
Concept art of Frontierland for the opening of Disneyland shows the “World’s Longest Little Bar” next to the Golden Horseshoe. The Mile Long Bar would open in Bear Country in Disneyland in 1972, with mirrors on each side of the bar interior for the illusion of length
Concept art of a South Western Street in Frontierland for the opening of Disneyland
Concept art of a South Western Street in Frontierland for the opening of Disneyland
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Stan had this and the following two images created to potentially adorn Donald Duck’s “office” in an episode of Walt Disney’s Wonderful of Color. Stan added various captions to each just for fun.

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Photos of Stan on the sets of various movies he worked on decorated one of his rooms, including this image. Henry Fonda (left), Stan Jolley (middle), and Fred MacMurray (right) on the set of the “The Swarm,” 1978
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This piece of original concept art for Disney’s “Elfego Baca” was created under the guidance of Stan, who was the art director.
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Construction on the $125,000 permanent Western Street took over three months to complete, and was the combined plans of three of Disney’s art directors, Stan Jolley, Marvin Davis, and Carroll Clark.
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As Stan’s caption reads, this was the “first shot of filming the new Western Street built for Elfego Baca.” Since Stan was the art director for the show, he was there on the set, seen at the bottom left of the photo. Later, when he was the art director of the feature film Toby Tyler, he was the first one to modify the street.
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Stan converted his six garages at the house into art galleries!
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This former garage featured props and artwork with a western theme, and images of Stan’s father, I. Stanford Jolley, who was a character actor, primarily in westerns, for over 43 years.
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This collage features Stan’s dad in many of his film roles. In 1948, the Milwaukee Journal wrote that “I. Stanford Jolley, veteran villain, has died 77 times in 109 movies by 40 different and ingenious methods.” He went on to appear in nearly 400 different films and television shows.
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This artwork was given to Stan for his birthday. It was drawn by legendary Disney artist T. Hee, accompanied by the signatures of many of Disney’s artists (image below). Marc Davis, Dick Humer, Ward Kimball, Bill Peet and Ken Anderson were amongst the group. Yes, the happy names T.Hee, Huemer and Jolley were all working together.

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Stan’s 1955 “Disneyland, Inc.” ID
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Cast & crew party for Zorro with art director Marvin Davis, actor Henry Calvin, Stan and actor Armor Goetten
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Stan with Robert Loggia, star of Elfego Baca
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Here is a Martian Wheat Field concept for Tomorrowland in Disneyland
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Concept art for Tomorrowland in Disneyland, this Metallic Screen Mural would feature fused colored plastic and special night lighting effects.
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Concept for the entrance to Tomorrowland in Disneyland, the rocket would actually be a giant sundial!
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Interestingly, this Disneyland Tomorrowland Entrance concept art is quite similar to Innoventions in the “new Tomorrowland” of 1998.
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This Disneyland concept artwork features the Tomorrowland entrance as it would appear with the iconic “Clock of the World.”
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Stan worked with Fred Joerger and Wathel Rogers of the Disney model shop, to develop the Storybook Land canal attraction. When the attraction first opened, there was no miniature scenery or buildings as there is now. In this image, they are determining the best scale and location for the new scenes.
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Stan stands with a cut out of Snow White’s cottage to determine the best scaling for the miniature building that still appears in the Storybook Land attraction.
Stan's ticket to the opening of Disneyland on July 17, 1955. Click below to hear why Stan did not attend the grand opening
Stan’s ticket to the opening of Disneyland on July 17, 1955. Click below to hear why Stan did not attend the grand opening
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This is the only photo Stan had on display of him with Walt Disney. Stan added his caption of what the conversation might have sounded like.

Interview: Lee Fugal (Disneyland’s “Golden Horseshoe Revue” entertainer)

Lee Fugal in the same 1965 Mustang he drove each day to Disneyland
Lee Fugal in the same 1965 Mustang he drove each day to Disneyland

Lee Fugal was the preshow entertainment for Disneyland’s historical “Golden Horseshoe Revue. ” He would play the piano, banjo, trumpet and trombone and even play some of those simultaneously. You can see Lee in action at his website athttp://www.leefugal.com (See more photos below.)

AUDIO INDEX
1:27 Lee’s start at Disneyland; Driving to California and used trumpet and trombone oil to fix the car; His Disneyland audition playing “Mary Poppins” music in 1965; Played banjo
3:10 Performing as the preshow for Disneyland’s “Golden Horseshoe Revue,” and then sitting in with the band for the show; Staying after a two-week trial; Tommy Walker, Disneyland’s director of entertainment
5:08 Lee’s preshow act, playing piano, two and three trumpets at once, banjo; About Wally Boag, Fulton Burley and Betty Taylor; Lee’s final performance festivities; The “Golden Horseshoe Revue” band Vince Rossi (piano), Sam Conti (trumpet) and Jerry King (drums); The “Calypso” sandwich at the Golden Horseshoe and Pepsi Cola; The singing waitresses
13:21 Performing for and meeting Liberace; Playing trumpet for Al Hirt; Mishaps during the show including when the power went out inside the Horseshoe
17:37 Lee playing the banjo in “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color” in an episode entitled “Disneyland Around the Seasons”

Lee Fugal in front of Disneyland's Golden Horseshoe
Lee Fugal in front of Disneyland’s Golden Horseshoe
Lee Fugal on banjo
Lee Fugal on banjo
Lee Fugal with the Gonzalez Trio at Disneyland (Roberto, Carmelita, Lee and Arturo)
Lee Fugal with the Gonzalez Trio at Disneyland
(Roberto, Carmelita, Lee and Arturo)

Don’t forget to visit Lee’s website www.leefugal.com!

Interview: Jack Lindquist (Opening of Disney World and more)

1994 Disney Legends Ceremony, after putting his handprints in cement
1994 Disney Legends Ceremony, after putting his handprints in cement

Jack Lindquist was involved in the opening of Walt Disney World, but he started as Disneyland’s first advertising manager, beginning in 1955. He continued with the company in marketing for Disneyland. Walt Disney World and international Disney resorts. His many accomplishments include the creation of the Disneyland Ambassador program, the creation of the Walt Disney Travel Company, the international waters ceremony for the opening of the it’s a small world attraction, Disney Dollars, and in 1990 Jack became the first president of Disneyland.

THE OPENING OF WALT DISNEY WORLD

AUDIO INDEX
1:34 The start of World Showcase at Epcot; Traveling around the world for World Showcase, meeting people like Imelda Marcos and the Shah of Iran
3:44 The opening of Walt Disney World; Contemporary Resort did not have landscaping yet; People did whatever it took – at Disney it didn’t matter if it was their job or not
5:22 “Opening a theme park is like an invasion”; Disney is a great “dangling carrot” – there’s always something else to sign on for
6:26 Jack’s work philosophies, never took the company or the job too seriously because the core of the business is making people happy… if you can’t have fun how can your guests have fun?

 

Interview: Jack Lindquist (Creation of the Walt Disney Travel Company)

During the Disney employee Christmas parties, you never knew who might be working or where they'd be. I took this photo in 1993 when Jack Lindquist was driving passengers on a Main Street vehicle. The party hadn't started and Jack was just sitting in the vehicle waiting. I was in, since I was also going to work on an attraction and I asked him for a ride. This was the first time I got to talk with Jack, being driven by him up and down Main Street in Disneyland.
During the Disney employee Christmas parties which were held at Disneyland, you never knew who might be working or where they’d be. I took this photo in 1993 when Jack Lindquist was driving passengers on a Main Street vehicle. The party hadn’t started and Jack was just sitting in the vehicle waiting. I was in, since I was also going to work on an attraction and I asked him for a ride. This was the first time I got to talk with Jack, being driven by him up and down Main Street in Disneyland.

Jack Lindquist came up with the idea for a Walt Disney Travel Company. He was Disneyland’s first advertising manager, beginning in 1955. He continued with the company in marketing for Disneyland. Walt Disney World and international Disney resorts. His many accomplishments include the creation of the Disneyland Ambassador program, the international waters ceremony for the opening of the it’s a small world attraction, Disney Dollars, and in 1990 Jack became the first president of Disneyland.

 

THE CREATION OF THE WALT DISNEY TRAVEL COMPANY

AUDIO INDEX
1:32 The beginning of the Walt Disney Travel Company; Didn’t realize what was involved in a travel company, just moved forward
3:24 Finding a location for the new travel company at the Disneyland Hotel; Getting the offices ready
4:59 The success of the travel company

 

1994 Disney Legends Ceremony, after putting his handprints in cement
1994 Disney Legends Ceremony, after putting his handprints in cement

Interview: Sonny Anderson (His career as Disney’s longtime talent booker)

Disneyland/Disney world talent booker Sonny Anderson on Main Street
Disneyland/Disney world talent booker Sonny Anderson on Main Street

Sonny Anderson was a legendary award-winning talent booker in the music industry, and was much loved as the director of talent booking for Disneyland and Walt Disney World. He began his career with Disneyland playing drums in the Disneyland band in 1956.

AUDIO INDEX
1:07 Director of talent booking for Disneyland, Stan Freese, describes Sonny Anderson and recalls working with him

4:15 Sonny Anderson’s start with Disney; Played in band in Long Beach and was teaching percussion; He was asked to play on the Disneyland Band record album, and was offered a job; Starting performing at the Disneyland Hotel at night

7:32 Sonny was writing musical arrangements for the band; Disneyland director of entertainment Tommy Walker made Sonny a full-time arranger at Disneyland; His secretary, singer Kay Bell; Sonny’s started a rock band and performed with that band; The band was called the Spacemen and also the Mustangs; Dress code at Disneyland; Walt Disney said he wanted to build a new stage in Tomorrowland12:56 Stan Freese talks about the Tomorrowland Terrace stage, that Walt Disney told Sonny he would have built; Sonny had a talent at discovering up and coming bands; More about the Tomorrowland Terrace, the stage that rose up from the ground; Stan’s sons Josh Freese and Jason Freese performed at Tomorrowland Terrace

16:09 Stan talks about the Night of Joy at Disneyland; Sonny talks about coming up with the idea for Night of Joy; Dick Nunis was skeptical about it

18:03 Stan remembers The World Symphony Orchestra which was put together for and performed at the grand opening of Walt Disney World; Sonny talks about Bob Jani; Bob had unique ideas and came up with the idea for the World Symphony Orchestra

22:06 Bob Jani promoted Sonny to talent booker; Sonny sat in with a band and Bob told him he could not do that; Sonny grew a moustache, which was not allowed at Disneyland

25:20 Stan discuss Sonny Anderson’s musical arrangements; Bob Jani was a genius in live entertainment; Stan remembers his first Disneyland Band concert and a warning he received from Bob Jani about some out of place jewelry he was wearing

30:17 Sonny discusses the authentic talent for the World Showcase at Epcot; Had to go twice a year to each country; Was working at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World and the moved back to Florida full-time; Sonny wanted authentic talent; Hired authentic singers and dancers from Hawaii for the Walt Disney World show at the Polynesian; Sonny also hired authentic talent for Disneyland; Hired famous jazz musicians to perform on the Mark Twain Riverboat; Stan Freese continues talking about some of the musicians Sonny hired such as Teddy Buchner and Jewel Hall; Jack McVea and Ernie McLean became two of Disneyland’s Royal Street Bachelors jazz group

Disneyland Band Concert record album that Sonny was first hired for
Disneyland Band Concert record album that Sonny was first hired for
Sonny Anderson with Johnny Schmidt and Kay Bell
Sonny Anderson with Johnny Schmidt and Kay Bell
This ad for Disneyland Date Nites mentions Sonny's group Kay Bell and the Spacemen
This ad for Disneyland Date Nites mentions Sonny’s group Kay Bell and the Spacemen

Interview: Peter Marshall (Career and music; Hollywood Squares; Big Bands at Disneyland)

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Peter Marshall

Peter Marshall is a big band singer, television and radio host including “Hollywood Squares” and “Big Bands at Disneyland.” As an actor he’s appeared in both television and film, and in the feature film, “Annie,” he sings, “You’re Never Fully Dressed without a Smile.” He’s appeared in a number of stage musicals, such as The Music Man, La Cage aux Folles, and Skyscraper on Broadway. (Be sure to see all the photos below.)

AUDIO INDEX

1:56 Peter was an usher at the world famous Paramount at the age of 14. At the age of 15, Peter became a pageboy at NBC in the days of radio.

3:10 Peter wanted to be a singer and got a job in the early 1940s singing with Bob Chester and his orchestra at the Adams Theatre in Newark, New Jersey.

4:16 At 16 years old Peter went back to high school at his home in Huntington, West Virginia. Moved to California and was drafted and served in Italy during World War II, from 1944 to 1946. In the military, Peter became a disc jockey and program director of AES Naples (American Expeditionary Station). Peter would play “V discs” (victory discs).

9:45 After the war, Peter went to Florida and got a job in radio, had a 15 minute radio show where he talked and sang. It was called “Peter and the Wolf” with pianist Wolf Catlett. Peter mentions that he also sang in the military.

11:15 Peter went to New York and then California. Had a group called the Upstarts. He got a role in a show called “Tongue in Cheek.” Paired up with Tommy Noonan in a successful comedy act because Peter’s sister, actress Joanne Dru was dating Tommy Noonan’s brother. Peter teamed with Tommy Noonan to pay a dental bill. Opened at the Zambawanga and later at Billy Gray’s Band Box comedy club. Performed with Tommy Farrell for about four years. He then teamed back up with Tommy Noonan for two more years.

14:29 In 1961, Peter performed in Bye Bye Birdie with Chita Rivera, kicking off a string of theatrical performances including High Button Shoes, Anything Goes, Panama Hattie and Bye Bye Birdie in Las Vegas. He performed in New York in Skyscraper with Julie Harris and Charles Nelson Reilly.

14:50 Got his job doing Hollywood Squares, he thought it was a 13 week job and he hosted for 16 years. He needed a “straight man” who could work with comics. Continued to have an act in Las Vegas, opening for acts like the Mills Brothers, Joan Rivers, Bill Cosby and Jerry Lewis. He hosted the Peter Marshall Variety Show for two years. Peter did 35 commercials for Kelloggs, which led to hosting the Hollywood Squares.

18:15 At the start of the Disney Channel, Peter and Steve Allen did interviews with people who had done Disney films for Disney Channel interstitials. He then hosted “Big Bands at Disneyland,” which featured the great big bands and their leaders such as Count Basie, Woody Herman, Artie Shaw, Les Brown, Buddy Rich and Lionel Hampton.

 

Peter Marshall, singing
Peter Marshall, singing

 

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Peter hosting the television series “Big Bands at Disneyland” at Carnation Plaza Gardens

 

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Peter with the legendary Lionel Hampton in “Big Bands at Disneyland”

 

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1978 article announces Peter’s appearance in Walt Disney’s World’s “Top of the World” club