Each month, Disney fans and D23 Members send us dozens of questions for Disney Legend and Chief Archivist Emeritus, Dave Smith. To get your answers, check back every couple weeks—we’ll be publishing more of our beloved Disney Legend’s answers to your questions about Disney history!
Q: When was the first year that the icicle lights were displayed on Cinderella Castle?
Julie, Orlando, Florida
A: The icicle lights were added on Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World in 2007, and they have been a great success ever since. They had actually debuted earlier on Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant at Disneyland Paris.
Q: I’ve heard many stories about how wonderful and great Walt was, but I’ve also heard of him being a perfectionist. Do you know if Walt was ever difficult to work with?
Avi, Irvine, California
A: Yes, Walt was a perfectionist, and that did indeed make him difficult for some artists to work with. (I always laugh at a statement Walt himself made regarding Fantasia:“I always thought I was the perfectionist until I met Stokowski.”) The impression I get is that you needed to know how to work with Walt. For example, he didn’t like to be reminded of things he was supposed to have said before. He didn’t like being told that something he wanted could not be done. And he didn’t like to be told how much something would cost.
Q: Ages ago, in the mists of time, before I was born in fact, Disney made available to the public through Art Corner, lithographic art type cells on Masonite hardboard, which I have about a dozen of, and I just wanted to ask what this process is called, specifically because I am always on the search for more to add to my collection. These days, the same art process is still used at many Disney sites, and decorates the Main Street, U.S.A. Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln attraction.
Matthew, Stanton, California
A: I believe you are referring to dye transfer prints—high-quality color prints that do not fade.
Q: I’m doing my history day project on how Walt Disney’s animation was a turning point for animation. I would like to know what you think is the most significant thing he did for animation.
Griffin, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina
A: There were in fact a number of significant things—some of the more important were sending his artists back to school to learn how to draw better, emphasizing realism in animation especially when it came to animal action in Bambi and later films, pioneering the use of Technicolor in animation, bringing personality to his characters, emphasizing story development, and helping create the multiplane camera and the Xerox process for transferring drawings to cels.
Q: Knowing my love of all things Disney and especially the little Orange Bird (my first souvenir being the drink container when I was five), my nine-year-old daughter happened upon a two-inch-tall figurine of him here locally. She was with her grandmother at the time and insisted on being allowed to purchase him for me. Is there anything you can tell me about this figurine, as I have not been able to find anything online about merchandise of him such as this. It has the “Walt Disney Prod.” stamp on the bottom of his feet. It’s invaluable to me because of it being given with so much love from my daughter, but I thought it would be neat to tell her what she found. Thanks for any help!
Mary, Havana, Florida
A: Your particular figurine is not familiar to me, but with that particular copyright notice, it would date between 1971 and 1987, the years that the Florida Citrus Growers sponsored the Sunshine Pavilion at the Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom. During that period, Orange Bird merchandise could be found at various citrus stands off the Florida highways.
Q: I know you started working at Disney around 1970. Did you ever get to meet Roy O. Disney?
Victor, Chicago, Illinois
A: Yes, Roy O. Disney was one of the executives who signed off on hiring me, and for that I am most grateful. I enjoyed working with Roy very much. He was a very modest, grandfatherly-like gentleman who to me never really seemed comfortable as the head of a large company. One thing he did was to ask me to work, on my own time, on the Disney genealogy; that gave me some one-on-one time with him, and made me admire him even more.
Q: I am trying to find more info on the Disney movie Bride of Boogedy and specifically a prop used in that movie. They refer to a “super duper supernatural third eye.” I was wondering if anyone had any idea what it looked like, and what it might have said. I know that the movie was on TV with no video release ever made possible. Would you have any info as to where those props ended up or if anyone had a clear picture of the prop?
Andrew, Miami, Florida
A: In the script when they mentioned the “third eye,” the characters Mr. Davis, Corwin, and Ahri plastered gag fake eyes to their foreheads. They said that the Lucifer Fall Festival was the only carnival with a “super duper supernatural third eye.”
Q: As someone who hasn’t written a question to you in a long time, I finally have a good one for you. Who did the voice of the parrot in the cartoon Mickey’s Parrot (1938)? Was it Clarence Nash?
Nic, Columbus, Ohio
A: Two separate voice actors have been credited with the voice of the parrot: Leon M. Leon and Ernie Stanton.
Q: Has Walt Disney’s Operation Undersea ever been released on DVD? Being a fan of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, I would love to watch this episode.
Robert, Ontario, California
A: No, this Emmy Award-winning television show has never been released on DVD or videocassette.
Q: Did Roy Fitzell ever do any choreography for Disney films? I thought he had but I haven’t been able to find any information online.
Bracken, Salt Lake City, Utah
A: I did not find Fitzell credited on a Disney film.
Q: I am a student researcher studying depictions of Chief Sitting Bull in film, and I’m very interested in any information the Disney Archives could provide about the Disney production Tonka (1958). Are there any production notes or other information that might help me to analyze this production?
Michael, Valencia, California
A: The Walt Disney Archives is not open to researchers from outside the company, but it has no story research files for Tonka (1958). The film had a screenplay by Lewis R. Foster and Lillie Hayward (who must have kept their own research files), based on the book Comanche by David Appel.
Q: Erdman Penner married my great aunt. I have sketches and original drawings from Lady and the Tramp. We’re trying to find out where to sell these things.
Summar, Henderson, Nevada
A: Penner was a storyman at the Disney Studio from 1935 to 1956. To sell any memorabilia of his, you might try a dealer who handles such material, such as Howard Lowery (HowardLowery.com).
Q: Why was the Hatbox Ghost removed from the Haunted Mansion ride, and where is it now?
Avi, Irvine, California
A: Supposedly the special effect never worked well enough. His current location has never come to light, which means that most likely he was destroyed. There is a website about him: TheHatBoxGhost.com.
Q: To date, what is the most expensive Disney park attraction to create?
Joseph, Nevada City, California
A: Disney does not release cost figures for its attractions. Besides, since many were created years ago when the dollar had different value, it would be really hard to tell.
Q: When did Mickey lose his tail, and when did they bring it back?
John, Conway, South Carolina
A: He has always had it; it is just inside his pants.
Q: I’m inquiring about a short black-and-white film believed to be drawn by Walt Disney. It was given to my friend in the 1930s. He was a longtime employee at Disney, as an artist. The title is Mickey Mouse and the Road Race. I can’t find any reference to this short. Any information you could give would be greatly appreciated.
Vita, Deltona, Florida
A: This is probably a new title given to a segment of a Disney cartoon, which was released for home viewing on 8 mm and 16 mm by Hollywood Film Enterprises. It would not have been drawn by Walt and has little or no collector value.
Q: I have a 10 1/2 x 14 framed and matted photo of Walt Disney in a doorway with the shadow of Mickey on the wall. I can’t seem to find any information on it. Can you help?
Jeff, Loma Linda, California
A: We really do not have any information on this famous photograph, other than the fact that it was taken in the mid-1930s to be used as a publicity photo.
Q: I am a huge fan and truly enjoy reading anything about Disney’s history. I actually have a question regarding the filming of The Absent-Minded Professor. I have read a few things stating that the University of Nevada, Reno (or an area nearby) was used as a filming location. I was wondering if you have any specific details about this; I have not been able to find much.
Veronica, Reno, Nevada
A: The only college-related filming, other than interiors done at the Disney Studio, which I could find in the production materials, was at Pomona College in California.
Q: Where did the idea for Wreck-It Ralph come from, and were there early versions of the story that were rejected?
Daniel, Bergenfield, New Jersey
A: There are a couple websites that have recent interviews with the director, Rich Moore, which discuss the origin of the story. You can see them here and here. One early working title was Reboot Ralph.
Q: I’m doing some research on my Cy Young essay for Didier Ghez. And to get some accurate info, I was curious if you know in which scenes his name appears in the animator drafts. His last animation was for the Disney feature, Bambi, but he was not credited. I was curious if you knew some particular scenes he did that credit his name in the draft—even though he was an effects animator?
Steven, Horsham, England
A: Cy Young’s only mention on the animation draft for Bambi is sequence 12.1, scene 37.3 (ducks on pond take off).
Q: I heard in 2008 that there was a screening event at Newport Beach Film Festival that included the cartoons How to Hook Up Your Home Theater, One by One, Destino, The Little Matchgirl, and Runaway Brain. Do you know if Disney has any plans to show these in the future, and are any of these available on home video?
Ryan, Huntingtown, Maryland
A: How to Hook Up Your Home Theater was released on DVD on Have a Laugh, Vol. 1 in 2010. One by One is on the 2004 DVD of The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride (Special Edition). Destino is on the Blu-ray version of Fantasia and Fantasia/2000, released in 2010. The Little Matchgirl is on the 2006 platinum edition DVD of The Little Mermaid. Runaway Brain is on the 2004 Walt Disney Treasures DVD: Mickey Mouse in Living Color, Vol. 2.
Q: Hi Dave! Let me begin by saying thank you for sharing your wealth of knowledge with the world so we can all feel like a part of the Disney magic. I do have a question for you. I’m a hopeless romantic and huge Disney fan, and a friend told me once that the actors who play the voices of Mickey and Minnie are married in real life. Is this true? I know many voice actors have portrayed Mickey and Minnie, so I’m not certain if that was ever the case. Also, I know Mickey and Minnie were never actually married, but there is certainly a wealth of merchandise portraying their wedding. Why was that merchandise created if it was never a part of their stories? Are there plans to have them get married?
Krystina, Avondale, Arizona
A: Russi Taylor, who did the voice of Minnie Mouse, and Wayne Allwine, who did the voice of Mickey Mouse, were indeed married. Wayne, sadly, passed away in 2009, the year after he was named a Disney Legend. Russi is still active in voice recording.
Q: Back in the 1980s, Disneyland offered for purchase a lifetime pass for senior citizens. Is this true?
Donald, Huntington Beach, California
A: No, Disneyland has never offered a lifetime pass.
Q: Are Disney Dollars still in use? I discovered a few of them at my parents’ house while I was home over the holidays. They are still in a bank envelope that says, “Disney Dollars, Currency with Character.”
Liza Marie, Brooklyn, New York
A: Yes, Disney Dollars are still in use. In fact, there are some new ones recently released for 2013.
Q: When I was 14, I was a member of a song-and-dance troupe called The East End Kids. We traveled to France and performed at what was then called EuroDisney. This was in 1993. While I was home for the holidays visiting my parents, I found a certificate and a T-shirt I received from Disney with the title of “Journes Musicales Magiques” on it. Does Disney still sponsor these programs that help send teenagers to perform at their parks, both national and internationally, but are not technically employed by the Disney Company? We were an independent organization located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but contracted through Disney to perform abroad. It was an amazing experience for me and I was just curious.
Liza Marie, Brooklyn, New York
A: These popular programs are still going on—at the U.S. Disney parks, they are known as Magic Music Days.
Q: I have 16 mm film, A Walt Disney Production of How to Catch a Cold, print No. 372 Burbank, California. How many were made?
Craig, Dubuque, Iowa
A: That film, produced in 1951 (revised 1956), was widely distributed on 16 mm for showing in schools nationwide. We do not know an actual number of how many were made.
Q: What did Disney do with the old character costumes the performers would wear at the Disney parks?
Avi, Irvine, California
A: The Walt Disney Archives has some, and the costuming departments at the parks have saved some of their own costumes.
Q: As a Christmas gift, I received the 1995 Nickel Tour book. It states that the postcards discussed were put in chronological order mainly by the collection of Vernon Orr and then the 1979 checklist book. So, is the Orr collection still with us and where might it be? Does Disney Archives have as extensive a collection of cards?
Charles, Williamsburg, Virginia
A: I do not know what happened to the Orr collection. Both of the authors of the 1995 book—David Mumford and Bruce Gordon—have passed away. The Walt Disney Archives does have a very large collection of Disney park postcards. The Archives is not open to the public, but if you have specific questions, they can try to answer them for you.
Q: I remember seeing Patti Page at Disneyland, I believe it was in Tomorrowland. I believe in was the late 1960s. Do you know the exact date or any details?
Melissa, Yucaipa, California
A: We are aware of Patti Page visiting Disneyland on September 6, 1960, and again in the summer of 1968 when she was photographed with Goofy and Pluto. Click here.
Q: My husband has inherited Mickey and Minnie figurines. They have a Walt Disney and Made in Japan mark on the back of them. They look like the 1930s Mickey and Minnie and are made of porcelain bisque. My question, however, centers around what they are holding. Minnie has a brown book with a cross on it that gives the appearance of a bible, and Mickey is holding what seems to be an old bayonet style gun. Did Walt Disney produce these figurines? Thank you for your help.
Shelley, Butler, Georgia
A: Disney did not produce them. They were produced in Japan during the 1930s under a license granted by Disney to the George Borgfeldt Company of New York City. There were several hundred different figurines of Disney characters, primarily Mickey, Minnie, and Donald. The Minnie you have is actually holding a nurse’s kit, with Mickey holding a rifle with bayonet attached.
Q: What is your favorite exhibit at The Reagan Library: Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives? Having viewed Walt’s formal office from The Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, what was the object/area in his office you found most interesting, and why?
Norway, Manteca, California
A: I am always most pleased seeing on display the items that I found for the Archives’ collection, such as the handwritten letter from Ronald Reagan suggesting that a postage stamp be issued to honor Walt Disney. When I inventoried Walt’s offices at the Disney Studio, the one item that impressed me the most was the original script for Steamboat Willie, which he had stashed in his desk drawer.
Q: I grew up watching the MMC, and I am trying to find a copy of the segment entitled Karen in Cartoonland. Do you know if that is available on tape or DVD?
George, Anaheim, California
A: I do not find that any of the Karen in Cartoonland segments of the Mickey Mouse Club from 1956 have been released on videotape or DVD.
Q: I am one of several people working on a book about the history of the Connemara Pony in America. According to our records, Walt Disney was given a Connemara at the Dublin premiere of the movie Darby O’Gill and the Little People. I am trying to follow up on what happened to this pony. Was it imported to the U.S.? Did it become a member of the Disney family, etc.? No one in the American Connemara Pony Society seems to know and I stumbled upon your name while trying to find some other information about the pony via the Internet. Hope you can help. Thanks for your time.
Stephanie, Middletown, Ohio
A: Several years ago, Roy E. Disney gave me an article by Stanislaus Lynch, the man who obtained the pony for Walt in Ireland. He was a two-year-old silver gray colt, whose sire was Cill Ciarain and dam Knockranny Beauty. The colt was presented in the Round Room of the Lord Mayor of Dublin’s Mansion House in Dublin. According to Lynch’s November 1959 article, the colt was, by that time, at Disneyland. I found no further information.
Q: Regarding the Snow White Cottages on Griffith Park Blvd. in Los Feliz, designed by storybook architect Ben Sherwood, and built in 1931 near Disney’s Hyperion Studio… no doubt these nearby cottages served as visual references for the Dwarfs’ cottage in Disney’s Snow White (1937). But is it true that Walt Disney (or the Studio) leased these cottages for a time and used them as animator studios? Also, is it true that Claude and Evie Coats lived in one of the cottages? Much speculation and urban legends exist about these questions, but I’d love a definitive answer. Thank you, Dave.
Leslie, Los Angeles, California
A: The Studio never leased the cottages for offices, but some of the Disney artists—namely Ham Luske, Dick Lundy, Fred Moore, Herman Schultheis, and Lee Morehouse—rented living space there since the cottages were so close to the Hyperion Studio.
Q: I saw that one of the questions I asked you in the past made it into Disney Trivia from the Vault. I was wondering if I could send you the book for you to autograph for me.
Melanie, Northfield Center, Ohio
A: Sure, I’d be glad to. You can contact me via Facebook for details.
Q: If the official name of the company is The Walt Disney Company, why do copyright notices from 1996 onward say Disney Enterprises?
Richard, Hewlett, New York
A: Starting in 1996, Disney Enterprises was a new segment of the company, which licensed the Disney characters for merchandise, with their name used on merchandise copyright notices. Walt Disney Enterprises had originally been a company division back in the 1930s, which had a similar purpose, but the name had not been used for more than five decades.
Q: Why did Walt Disney World rename the Disney-MGM Studios to Disney’s Hollywood Studios?
Allison, San Francisco, California
A: Meg Crofton, Walt Disney World president, stated in a 2007 press release: “The new name reflects how the park has grown from representing the golden age of movies to a celebration of the new entertainment that today’s Hollywood has to offer—in music, television, movies, and theater.” The change was also made due to the ending of a licensing agreement with MGM Studios.
Q: My daughter was asking me about Donald Duck the other day. She was wondering why Huey, Dewey, and Louie live with him (sometimes) but not all the time. Are they his sister’s kids? Or a brother’s kids? Is there more of a story to it or not?
Pamela, North Bend, Washington
A: According to the 1938 cartoon, Donald’s Nephews, they were the offspring of his sister, Dumbella. In that cartoon, she sends them on a visit to their uncle.
Q: It struck me on my last visit to Walt Disney World that there is a heck of a lot of different music playing in the parks. How many distinctly different pieces of music are used by, let’s say Magic Kingdom and Disneyland?
Patrick, Phoenix, Arizona
A: There would be many hundreds. Music has always been an integral part of the Disney parks. Individual attractions have music, but there is also background and atmospheric music almost everywhere one goes—in shops, in restaurants, and throughout the various lands. Outdoors, speakers for the music are usually judiciously hidden—behind landscaping, in faux boulders, and in the architectural details of buildings.
Q: What is the name of Snow White’s prince and Cinderella’s prince? My son adores Prince Phillip from Sleeping Beauty, but I do not know the names of the other princes.
Jenny, Portland, Oregon
A: Snow White’s prince is simply referred to as The Prince. Despite many Internet postings, Disney does not use the name Ferdinand for the prince. In Cinderella, the prince is Prince Charming.
Q: Are we ever going to see the live-action film The Prince and the Pauper, starring Guy Williams on DVD??
Matthew, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
A: It has been on VHS (in the 1980s) and is available on Video on Demand.