Inside the Whimsy Works

Inside the Whimsy Works: My Life with Walt Disney Productions

JIMMY JOHNSON
Greg Ehrbar
Didier Ghez
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 176
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2tvn31
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  • Book Info
    Inside the Whimsy Works
    Book Description:

    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 ofSnow White and the Seven Dwarfsto 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.

    eISBN: 978-1-62674-004-4
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. FOREWORD
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Grey Johnson

    WALT DISNEY NEEDED BOY SCOUTS. LOTS OF BOY SCOUTS FOR THE final scenes ofFollow 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 trustworthy during the casting call. And I’ll never know whether I just looked more trustworthy than the rest, or that my father had something to do with the fact that I was one of four boys chosen for the Color Guard.

    We spent a chaotic day on...

  4. EDITORS’ INTRODUCTION
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    Greg Ehrbar

    IN 1975, ONLY A HANDFUL OF BOOKS HAD BEEN WRITTEN ABOUT THE Walt Disney Studios, unlike the ounteous 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 film-by-film examination in hisThe Disney Filmswas first bestowed upon eager enthusiasts, as wasThe Art of Walt Disney, an affirmation of creative vision and power by Christopher Finch. In 1968, Richard Schickel’s blisteringThe Disney Versioninitiated a series of books aspiring to chip away at the popular image of...

  5. AUTHOR’S INTRODUCTION (1975)
    (pp. xvii-1)
    Jimmy Johnson

    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 films and in the development of amusement parks. Roy was cautious and conservative, the complete businessman. He was nine years Walt’s senior and yet he idolized his younger brother, realizing very early in their lives Walt’s daring creativity.

    Their business partnership began in 1923 in the rear of a building on...

  6. 1 HALCYON DAYS AT HYPERION
    (pp. 3-17)

    IN DECEMBER 1937, WALT DISNEY’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 than a diary. Diaries were kept in little locked leather books by lovesick females.)

    “January 9, 1938. Everyone is calling Walt Disney a genius these days. Ever since his first full-length feature,Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,came out the praises have been ringing. He deserves them. I believeSnow...

  7. 2 WORLD WAR II
    (pp. 19-23)

    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 prompted my chronicle to turn to poetry and prophesy. (See page 175 for the complete poem, “A World at War.”)

    Yet after the shock of that first weekend, the sinking of theAthenia,...

  8. 3 BACK TO THE STUDIO
    (pp. 25-37)

    BY THE TIME I RETURNED TO THE WALT DISNEY 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 at The Walt Disney Studios again in February. How this came about is another strange quirk of fate. I paid a visit to the studio even though I had no intention of working there again. Nevertheless, as one of the first draftees, I...

  9. 4 THE PERILOUS POSTWAR YEARS
    (pp. 39-45)

    TO STEP BACK A FEW YEARS, 1946 WAS ONE OF THE BIGGEST BOX-Office years the motion picture industry had ever enjoyed. Samuel Goldwyn’sThe 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 hadAnna and the King of SiamandThe Razor’s Edge. MGM hadThe YearlingandThe Harvey Girls. Columbia hadThe Jolson Story. From Rank in England cameBlithe SpiritandThe Seventh Veil. Every studio had great pictures and the money came rolling in. Every studio but Walt...

  10. 5 DISNEY PUBLICATIONS
    (pp. 47-55)

    “WALT DISNEY PUB” HAD ALWAYS BEEN CONSIDERED A PART OF DISNEY 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.

    Very early in the game, Walt and Roy Disney learned that The Walt Disney Studios’ characters like Mickey Mouse and all the others had just as great appeal internationally as they did domestically. In 1930 they appointed Bill Levy as their London merchandising representative, only five months after George Borgfeldt had become their first...

  11. 6 MUSIC PUBLISHING AND HOW DAVY CROCKETT TURNED IT AROUND
    (pp. 57-71)

    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 away to one of the major music publishers in order to realize the full potential.

    The major music publishers made a great mystery of the music business, and most songwriters felt that they needed the know-how of the publisher in order to adequately promote their songs. Not so...

  12. 7 WE TAKE THE PLUNGE INTO THE PERILOUS RECORD BUSINESS
    (pp. 73-95)

    IN 1955, THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE WALT DISNEY STUDIOS and ABC-Paramount was very close. The Sunday nightDisneylandshow 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. It was yet another of Walt and Roy’s ablest practices of using one thing to sell another.

    TheMickey Mouse Clubwas initially on ABC TV as a one-hour, five-day-a-week show. The ratings were excellent from the beginning. Twenty-six weeks of shows were produced and then repeated. The show went into its second...

  13. 8 DISNEYLAND PARK SPRINGS FROM AN ORANGE GROVE
    (pp. 97-103)

    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, our people had found the two, now in their late twenties, and brought them together for the television news broadcast. Strangely and perhaps as a sign of the times, neither of the two has married. While Walt always said that Disneyland Park was for everybody, most people associate it with children. If the young people...

  14. 9 BUOYANT DAYS AT BURBANK
    (pp. 105-113)

    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, much of them new to us.

    It wasn’t simply the avalanche of television—Disneyland Park was a part of it too. It was open and successful, but Walt wasn’t satisfied—he wanted new attractions. He needed more ride capacity to properly handle the enormous crowds. From Walt on down, everybody...

  15. 10 MUSIC AND MARY POPPINS
    (pp. 115-133)

    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 ofMary Poppinsthan any other live-action film from his studio. ThePoppinsstory began before Walt had even acquired the motion picture rights in the property. It began with the music.

    Walt Disney was not a musician. Sometimes, in fact, I felt that he was a little in awe of musicians who spoke and wrote a language he did not understand. Yet music was an integral part of his films, from the very...

  16. 11 WALT AND ROY AND THE RIGHT WAVELENGTH
    (pp. 135-143)

    WHAT WERE WALT AND ROY DI SNEY 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 but drank in moderation. They both admired beautiful women, but were completely one-hundred-percent loyal to their wives. They were family men who cherished their children.

    Walt and Roy had tremendous loyalty toward the people who worked for them long and served them well, and this carried over to...

  17. 12 WALT DISNEY’S ONE WORLD
    (pp. 145-159)

    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 that it was truly “Walt Disney’s one world.”

    I doubt that the creations of any other modern man have had as profound an effect worldwide as Walt’s with Mickey Mouse and all the other characters. It says something for his essential humanity and is a hopeful, unifying factor for this tired old world....

  18. 13 ROY COMPLETES WALT DISNEY’S DREAM
    (pp. 161-174)

    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 guests would see only the atmosphere of the Park itself. They were to be completely immersed in the world of fantasy Walt created.

    He had vastly underestimated what a people magnet he had built. People need hotel and motel rooms to...

  19. A WORLD AT WAR
    (pp. 175-177)
    James A. Johnson
  20. EPILOGUE
    (pp. 179-180)
    Greg Ehrbar

    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, not moving forward creatively. Group decisions second-guessed “what Walt would have done.”

    Jimmy passed away in 1976. The record division he founded fell into several new hands, releasing sparse new product until the late 1970s, whenMickey Mouse Discoand Disneyland/Vista recordings...

  21. NOTES
    (pp. 181-184)
  22. INDEX
    (pp. 185-196)