Disney Park fans had a nostalgia overload this weekend at the D23 EXPO during the awesome Imagineering 60 Years of Disneyland panel. Moderated by Leslie Iwerks granddaughter of Disney Legend Ub Iwerks, the evening was split up into two piecesL “newbies” vs. “old school” Imagineers.

Working with Walt

The first half of the panel,”Working with Walt” featured three Marty Sklar, Orlando Ferrante, and Richard Sherman. Here are some highlights from the first half of the panel.

  • Marty Sklar was 21 years old and had never worked when he had to present the concept of Disneyland News to Walt Disney.
  • Sklar says 1959 is probably the most important year in Disneyland’s history with the Monorail, Matterhorn and Submarine voyage opening.
  • Cast Members entered WED by passing through the model shop so everybody knew what was going on. If they didn’t like something or thought they could improve on something, they could pass a note along.
  • Marty Sklar said Walt was the world’s best casting director, he knew his people.
  • Harriet Burns was one of Walt’s favorites because she could “sling one” back with the rest of the boys.
  • Sklar said Walt would just go and sit with Harriet and decompress.
  • Richard Sherman said Walt never made you feel too good. “He kept you on your toes.”
  • Sherman said it’s a Small World was originally supposed to feature the national anthems of each country represented but it didn’t work.
  • The Sherman Brothers wrote two versions of it’s a small world, the first one they thought was too simple, but that’s the one Walt loved and what we hear today.
  • Orlando Ferrante said, Disney stripped all of their World’s Fair attractions of all animatronics as soon as the fair was over to avoid theft.
  • Ferrante said some of the lessons learned from the World’s Fair was how to move thousands of people per hour thru rides at the World’s Fair informed the future of Disneyland.
  • Sklar said Mr Lincoln kept having “spasms” when he was initially installed at Disneyland and it was eventually linked to passing Monorails and faulty electrical.
  • Ferrante: “After Walt passed away it was amazing to see the leadership Walt had left behind.”
  • Sherman said, Walt’s greatest gift was his great love for people and his desire to make them happy.

Continuing the Legacy

After a brief swap out of panelists, Leslie Iwerks previewed a short clip of her upcoming documentary on Walt Disney Imagineering before bringing out the second half of Imagineers.

The next hour, “Continuing the Legacy” feautred current Imagineers talking about the future of Imagineering at the Disney Parks. Tony Baxter, Kim Irvine, Kevin Rafferty, Charita Carter, and Steve Davison joined Leslie on the stage.

  • Tony Baxter said he grew up right next to Disneyland, and would ask his mom for money to go to mini golf but instead he would sneak to Disneyland.
  • Kim Irvine said she was a “Disney Brat” since her mom was an Imagineer.
  • Baxter also notes his mentor Imagineer Claude Coats that let him try and learn together.
  • Steve Davison says he was always an “entertainment kid” that always wanted to be in shows.
  • Kevin Rafferty says his first memory is a cardboard cutout of Casey Jr Circus Train on his wall when he was a baby.
  • Rafferty originally wanted to be a Disney animator but was inspired to pursue a job at WDI after working at the Plaza Inn at Disneyland
  • Baxter says seeing his model for Big Thunder Mountain turn into a real attraction in the park was life changing for him.
  • Charita Carter became an accountant and her office was across the street from Imagineering and she walked across the street and applied for a job.
  • Carter was recently involved in the new Mara projections at Indiana Jones Adventure
  • Kim Irvine mentored with John Hench when she started working at Imagineering.
  • Davison says the most transformative thing for him at Disney has been working on Disneyland’s fireworks shows. It changed how the world did fireworks with telling a story.
  • Baxter says the park will need to thrill people, be transportive, and connect with guests emotionally.
  • Rafferty says he hopes Disneyland will always be a place where friends and family can come together.
  • Carter says the park will need to continue to have innovative new experiences