On Sunday, July 17, 1955, William “Sully” Sullivan was tuned in to ABC-TV. “I watched the opening ceremonies for Disneyland. The following Saturday I went down and applied for a job. Monday I quit Northrop Aircraft, and Tuesday I reported to work as a ticket-taker at the Jungle Cruise.” Sully was 19 years old.
He progressed from ticket-taker to ride operator to operations supervisor at Disneyland, learning all aspects of the operation on the way. “I took a summer job, and I’ve been here ever since,” Sully said in an interview shortly before his retirement.
He was subsequently sent to Squaw Valley as a member of the operations team that assisted in the opening and operating of the Winter Olympics in 1960, where Disney was in charge of Pageantry. Sully then served as assistant manager for the Disney-designed attractions at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair.
“Walt was a really warm individual,” Sully remembered fondly. “He had a great sense of humor, and he loved people. He was an executive, but not what you perceive as an ‘executive.’ He was a real team guy.”
Sully participated in the operations management of a number of lavish Disney film premieres, including Mary Poppins at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and The Happiest Millionaire at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre. He relocated to Florida for the opening of Walt Disney World in 1971.
While in Florida, Sully served a stint as director of PICO (Project Installation and Coordination Office), coordinating operational design input and installation of owner-furnished equipment at Epcot Center, after which he was the director of Epcot Center operations. In 1987, he was named vice president of the Magic Kingdom, and was responsible for operation of the Park including attractions, merchandising, transportation, entertainment, ticket sales, guest relations, costuming, foods, custodial, maintenance, planned work, and horticulture.
Sully retired in 1993 after 38 years with Disney, and without a single regret. “If I had to do it all over,” he said, “I’d do it all again tomorrow.”