Inside the Whimsy Works
My Life with Walt Disney Productions
Publication Year: 2014
In this never-before-published memoir from the vaults of the Walt Disney Archives, Disney Legend Jimmy Johnson (1917-1976) takes you from his beginnings as a studio gofer during the days of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to the opening of Walt Disney World Resort. Johnson relates dozens of personal anecdotes with famous celebrities, beloved artists, and, of course, Walt and Roy Disney.
This book, also the story of how an empire-within-an-empire is born and nurtured, traces Johnson's innovations in merchandising, publishing, and direct marketing, to the formation of what is now Walt Disney Records. This fascinating biography explains how the records helped determine the course of Disney Theme Parks, television, and film through best-selling recordings by icons such as Annette Funicello, Fess Parker, Julie Andrews, Louis Armstrong, and Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra.
Through Jimmy Johnson's remarkable journey, the film, TV, and recording industries grow up together as changes in tastes and technologies shape the world, while the legacy of Disney is developed as well as carefully sustained for the generations who cherish its stories, characters, and music.
Published by: University Press of Mississippi
Title Page, Copyright
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Walt Disney needed Boy Scouts. Lots of Boy Scouts for the final scenes of Follow Me, Boys! starring Fred MacMurray, Vera Miles, Kurt Russell, and Lillian Gish. No studio employee with a son was exempt, and of course who wouldn’t want to be in The Movies? So we all stood tall and looked...
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In 1975, only a handful of books had been written about The Walt Disney Studios, unlike the bounteous feast of backstage books available in recent years. Walt Disney: An American Original, the “official” biography by Bob Thomas, was still a year away. Two years earlier, Leonard Maltin’s comprehensive...
Author's Introduction (1975)
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Walt and Roy Disney were one of the greatest brother acts in the entertainment business—or in any other business for that matter. They complemented each other in a most remarkable way. Walt was innovative, indeed radical, in his artistic ideas in the field of animation, later in live-action...
1. Halcyon Days at Hyperion
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In December 1937, Walt Di sney’s first feature-length cartoon, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, had its world premiere at the Carthay Circle Theater in Los Angeles. Shortly after the film opened, I went to see it and recorded the following in my chronicle. (I called it a “chronicle” rather...
2. World War II
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On the day in fall of 1939 when the war started in Europe, I wrote in my chronicle about hearing the news over a car radio. Steve Bosustow, then an assistant animator at The Walt Disney Studios at $35 per week, and I had a car pool from Santa Monica; Steve’s Cord one day and my Chevy the next. The strange and frightening events of that weekend...
3. Back to the Studio
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By the time I returned to The Walt Di sney Studios in 1946, the worst scars of the bitter strike were healed. However, there was never the same spirit about the place as there had been in the halcyon Hyperion days. I wasn’t officially mustered out of the Army until March of that year, but I began working...
4. The Perilous Postwar Years
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To step back a few years, 1946 was one of the biggest boxoffice years the motion picture industry had ever enjoyed. Samuel Goldwyn’s The Best Years of Our Lives, a story of returning veterans, was a huge financial success and walked off with six Oscars as well. 20th Century Fox had...
5. Disney Publications
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“Walt Disney Pub” had always been considered a part of Di sney Character Merchandising until Roy Disney divorced the two in 1950 and put me in charge of the Publications Division. I had inherited a worldwide publishing business that was a flourishing and highly profitable ancillary activity...
6. Music Publishing and How Davy Crockett Turned It Around
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Back in the early thirties, the biggest name in the popular music field was Irving Berlin. He wrote hit after hit, which he prudently placed in his own music publishing firm, Irving Berlin Music. Berlin was one of the first important songwriters to realize that he didn’t have to give his copyrights...
7. We Take the Plunge into the Perilous Record Business
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In 1955, the relationship between The Walt Di sney Studios and ABC-Paramount was very close. The Sunday night Disneyland show had been on ABC TV for a year and was very highly rated. As a part of that arrangement, ABC-Paramount had become a large investor in Disneyland Park...
8. Disneyland Park Springs from an Orange Grove
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Disneyland Park celebrated its twentieth anniversary on July 17, 1975. That evening on the television news, there were shots of Walt with a little boy and a little girl who had been designated as the first official guests of the park. In true P.R. fashion...
9. Buoyant Days at Burbank
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An organization, like an individual, has its ups and downs. The Walt Disney Studios was no exception. In the middle and late fifties, the atmosphere at the studio and at WED could best be described as feverish. There were just so many projects going on in so many different directions...
10. Music and Mary Poppins
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Mary Poppins was, far and away, the most personal live-action film Walt Disney ever made. He devoted more of his time and attention to the making of Mary Poppins than any other live-action film from his studio. The Poppins story began before Walt had even acquired the motion picture...
11. Walt and Roy and the Right Wavelength
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What were Walt and Roy Disney really like? They were a couple of extraordinary, ordinary, down-to-earth, middle-class Americans. They were similar in many respects. They both smoked: Walt cigarettes and Roy cigars. Roy’s wife Edna would sometimes banish him to their garden for his after-dinner cigar. They both liked their booze...
12. Walt Disney’s One World
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In my earlier career at the Whimsy Works, my chore of collecting press clippings in Publicity gave me some realization of the international appeal of Walt’s characters. But the full impact didn’t come until many years later, when international travels for the company brought home to me...
13. Roy Completes Walt Disney’s Dream
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Shortly after Disneyland Park was built, Walt said that there would never be another one. Two things changed his mind. The first was the gross peripheral development around the Park. In creating Disneyland Park, Walt tried to set it apart from the outside world of gasoline stations and freeways. He had a berm built around the Park so Disneyland...
A World at War (Fall 1939)
James A. Johnson
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By the time Jimmy Johnson wrote Inside the Whimsy Works in 1975, Walt and Roy O. Disney had passed, Tutti Camarata had moved on to other projects at his own Sunset Sound studios, and an era was coming to a close. The Walt Disney Studios was continuing with new films and theme park attractions, yet with few exceptions...
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Page Count: 176
Publication Year: 2014