(Pictured above to the right, Harrison Price)
Research economist Harrison “Buzz” Price helped Walt Disney hand pick the optimum locations for Disneyland in 1953 and Walt Disney World in 1963, among other projects. And over time, he became one of Walt’s most trusted advisors.
A month prior to his death in 1966, Walt personally appointed Buzz to care for one of his most prized projects, the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) in Valencia. CalArts was to be a unique educational concept that would “cross fertilize” disciplines in art, design, music, dance, film, video, and theater.
More than 30 years after its 1971 opening, Buzz remained a dedicated trustee of CalArts. He said at the time, “I have never thought of leaving the school.”
Born in Oregon City, Oregon, on May 17, 1921, Buzz moved with his family to San Diego, California, in 1930. He graduated as an engineer from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena in 1942. He took a job as a sales engineer in South America and returned to the United States three years later to attend Stanford University, where he received his Masters in Business Administration in 1951.
Buzz went on to join the Stanford Research Institute, where he was contracted by Walt and Roy O. Disney to determine the economic feasibility of and the best location for a new project, Disneyland. As Buzz recalled, “I asked Walt if he had a bias about its location. Did he have any thoughts about where he thought it ought to be. He said, ‘Absolutely not. You tell me where the best location is.’”
After concentrating on Orange County, Buzz analyzed ten potential sites in that metropolitan area. Considerations included population, accessibility, climate factors, and more. Ultimately, Buzz, Walt, and Roy selected 160 acres of orange grove in Anaheim, near the new Santa Ana Freeway, as the ideal location for Disneyland.
This land purchase marked the Company’s first exercise in sophisticated location analysis and acquisition. Disneyland launched as the best-attended park in the world with about four million in attendance during its first year. Its attendance grew steadily over the next 37 years, at a compound rate of four percent, according to Buzz.
Walt respected Buzz’s talent and encouraged him to form his own firm, offering a three-year contract for research time. So, in 1958, he founded Economics Research Associates (ERA) and conducted studies for Walt Disney World and Epcot Center near Orlando, Florida. He also conducted evaluating studies for CalArts and for Walt’s proposed Mineral King project, a unique Swiss-themed ski resort that would be located near Sequoia National Park in California. Walt’s premature death, however, marked the end of the project.
In all, Buzz conducted over 150 project studies for The Walt Disney Company, including site selection and feasibility for Tokyo Disneyland. His numerous non-Disney projects include master planning eight world’s fairs, including Seattle and San Antonio; site and economic feasibility studies for Six Flags theme parks and Sea World parks; and planning studies for winter resorts, including Vail in Colorado.
Buzz received a lifetime achievement award from the Themed Entertainment Association in 1994; the award was subsequently re-named “The Buzz Price Thea Award” in his honor. In 2003, Buzz authored his autobiography, Walt’s Revolution by the Numbers, published by Ripley’s Entertainment, which tells how Walt and Roy approached strategic planning issues and the impact of their innovation in the attraction field.
Buzz Price passed away on August 15, 2010, in Pomona, California.