The employees of a company with a history as long and illustrious as Disney have plenty of stories to tell. I’ve read dozens of books on Disney history, including biographies of key figures in the company, and I thought I had heard everything. I discovered just how wrong I was when I began reading It’s Kind Of A Cute Story, the memoir of animator and Imagineer Rolly Crump (also available for Kindle for only $4.99).
Roland Fargo Crump was born in in Alhambra, CA in 1930. He began drawing at an early age and soon discovered his artistic talent. Crump’s only formal training consisted of high school art classes and six Saturdays at an art institute, but his dream was to work for Disney. In 1952 that dream came true, though he had to take a severe pay cut and a second job on the weekends. Crump toiled in animation for seven years until a display of his mobiles and propellers went on display at the company’s library, catching Walt Disney’s attention.
Walt moved him to WED – later Imagineering – where Crump worked on the 1964-65 Worlds Fair pavilions and attractions like It’s A Small World, the Haunted Mansion, and the Enchanted Tiki Room at Disneyland. He went on to work on projects at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and Epcot. In all, he spent over 40 years at Disney, and after he left Disney, he worked for a number of different theme parks and other clients before retiring.
In It’s Kind Of A Cute Story, Crump tells his story as only he can. His narration is completely first person, and he writes as though he’s telling the stories directly to the reader. He relates each episode of his life and career warts and all – including some profanity and a few off-color stories.
Crump doesn’t shrink away from the conflicts he encountered throughout his long career. At Disney, he worked under Dick Irvine, who didn’t know what to do with Crump’s unique style and often tried to hide his work from Walt. During work on Epcot, Crump clashed frequently – and loudly – with his mentor and friend John Hench. Outside of Disney, Crump tells how management vacillation and a fire allegedly set by union members nearly derailed his dark ride, and he shares how an architect bent on his own design deep sixed his work with the Cousteau Foundation.
Crump goes into great detail to describe his contributions to the attractions he worked on – even the ideas that failed to make the final product. He beams with pride at his work on the Museum of the Weird portion of the Haunted Mansion, ideas that Walt eventually scuttled. He shared his experiences working with the late Mary Blair on It’s A Small World and tells of how he undertook the task of moving the attraction from the New York World’s Fair to Disneyland. He spends an entire chapter detailing just what Walt Disney meant to him.
It’s Kind Of A Cute Story is a fast-paced read, and Crump’s storytelling voice is unique and irresistible. He makes the fascinating characters at Disney and other organizations come to life, and he paints indelible pictures of the scenarios he encountered over the years. He shares a gracious amount of photos and artwork from his childhood days all the way to the present as well. If you’re like me and believe you’ve discovered all there is to hear and read about Disney – especially the history of the theme parks – you owe it to yourself to check out Rolly Crump’s book.