Words may not fully describe designer and Imagineer Rolly Crump. So to get a handle on this spirited, multi-talented Disney designer, think: Leonardo DiVinci’s Universal Man.
A true “original,” even among Imagineers, Rolly drew forth genius in others. Disney Concept Designer John Horny observed, “Rolly has a knack for bringing out the best in others. Trusting their talent, he encourages artists to push their creativity to the limits. It’s a rare creative person who can let others run with the ball.” Show writer Jim Steinmeyer added, “The idea is king with Rolly. It doesn’t have to be his vision, as long as it works.”
Born Roland Fargo Crump on February 27, 1930, in Alhambra, California, Rolly took a pay cut as a “dipper” in a ceramic factory to join The Walt Disney Studios in 1952.
To help pay bills, he built sewer manholes on weekends. He served as an in-between artist and, later, assistant animator, contributing to Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, Sleeping Beauty, and others.
In 1959, he joined show design at WED Enterprises, now known as Walt Disney Imagineering. There, he became one of Walt’s key designers for some of Disneyland’s groundbreaking new attractions and shops, including the Haunted Mansion, Enchanted Tiki Room, and Adventureland Bazaar.
Rolly served as a key designer on the Disney attractions featured at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair, including it’s a small world, for which he designed the Tower of the Four Winds marquee. When the attraction moved to Disneyland in 1966, Rolly designed the larger-than-life animated clock at its entrance, which sends puppet children on parade with each quarter-hour gong.
After contributing to the initial design of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Florida, and developing story and set designs for NBC’s Disney on Parade in 1970, Rolly left the Company to consult on projects including Busch Gardens in Florida and California, the ABC Wildlife Preserve in Maryland, and Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey Circus World in Florida, among others.
He returned in 1976 to contribute to EPCOT Center, serving as project designer for The Land and the Wonders of Life pavilions. He also participated in master planning for an expansion of Disneyland until 1981, when he again departed to lead design on a proposed Cousteau Ocean Center in Norfolk, Virginia, and to launch his own firm, the Mariposa Design Group, developing an array of themed projects around the world, including an international celebration for the country of Oman.
In 1992, Rolly returned to Imagineering as executive designer, redesigning and refurbishing The Land and Innoventions at Epcot Center. Rolly “retired” from The Walt Disney Company in 1996, but continued to work on a number of creative projects. He released his autobiography, It’s Kind of a Cute Story, in 2012.