Publicist Edward “Eddie” Meck “wrote the book” on how to introduce new Disney theme park attractions. A self-proclaimed “soft sell,” Eddie never pressed for—or manufactured—news stories during his career, especially where Disneyland was concerned. “If you have a good product,” he said, “it’s easy to get the message across. No gimmicks. Just truth and honesty. The greatest product is right here. Walt Disney.”
From the beginning, when he joined Disneyland just months prior to its 1955 opening, Eddie believed the Park would sell itself. As he recalled:
Two months after the park opened, I told Walt that I didn’t see how he could plant stories [in the press] about Disneyland. It’s too fantastic and too hard to describe. So I told him we should bring the press here and let the park sell itself.”
Eddie was born in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, in 1899. At age 20, he took a job working on the night inspection crew for the Pathe Company in Chicago. Before long, he was offered a chance to work in publicity and promotion and, in 1922, headed west to work on the Pathe publicity staff. There, he promoted everything from Harold Lloyd comedies to the Perils of Pauline serials.
He joined Columbia in the early 1930s, where he promoted award-winning Frank Capra comedies including It Happened One Night, with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town with Gary Cooper. In 1950, ‘51, and ‘54, the Motion Picture Herald honored Eddie for excellence in the “field of exploitation.”
After almost 30 years in the movie industry, Walt Disney hired the folksy publicist to promote his new and untried theme park. Not only was Eddie the architect of the first Disneyland press event, giving journalists firsthand exposure to the delights of the Magic Kingdom, but he was also instrumental in the 1971 opening of Walt Disney World in Florida. His innate sense of enthusiasm was infectious, and legendary in the press and promotions fields.
As news columnist Joan Winchell wrote, “Eddie is a complete enigma to us [newspaper reporters]. How the heck can you light up like a Christmas tree 365 days and nights of the year raving about the very same thing? But Eddie does, claiming that every day [with Disney] is different.”
Diminutive in stature, Eddie was often described by his friends in the press as if he, himself, was a Disney character. San Francisco columnist Herb Caen once wrote that Eddie Meck was “no relation to Mecky Mouse.”
After nearly 20 years with The Walt Disney Company, Eddie Meck passed away in 1973.