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Ape Pen Publishing

Bob Gurr, Disney ride designer extraordinaire, will be the subject of a roast this June

 

By Chuck Schmidt | schmidt@siadvance.com 

Carlene Thie, the driving force behind Ape Pen Publishing and a number of Disneyland print and video retrospectives -- many featuring the stunning photographs taken by her grandfather, Mell Kilpatrick, showing Disneyland under construction -- has put together a number of events over the years to celebrate the career of Bob Gurr.

"Bob is one of the nicest people you could ever be around," Carlene said of the legendary Disney ride designer. "He doesn't judge you, he loves everyone and everybody loves him. I love hearing his stories. When I'm hanging around with Bob, you get to here all his great stories."

All those great stories -- and then some -- will be on display June 13 when Carlene will host a roast for the man who has an incredible and well-respected resume of theme park attraction accomplishments.

The roast will take place in the Holiday Inn, 1240 S. Walnut St., Anaheim, Calif., 92802. The MC for the night is scheduled to be John Eaden of Disneyland Golden Horseshoe fame. The cast of roasters will include Marty Sklar, Garner Holt, Christopher Crump, Eric Johnston and Jeff Heimbuch.

As per Mr. Gurr's request, the night will have a 1950s theme.

And what does the gregarious Gurr have to say about the roast?

"Carlene has done so many events in my 'honor,' I told her I'd rather sit on the sidelines and find out what a mean, nasty nut I really am!

"Of course, I'd enjoy any made-up fantasies, too!"

 

Disneyland Primeval ...

A pre-Eisner photo history of Walt Disneys unreal world

By NATHAN CALLAHAN 

 

A woman gently rubbing crocodile noses. Jimmy Durante schnozzing an Indian tribe. Seahorses strung from a wire. The Andrews Sisters brandishing revolvers. A man with a six-foot octopus on his shoulder. In Mell Kilpatrick's collection of 1950s Disneyland photographs, Orange County's past is more surreal than a soft watch descending a staircase.

Kilpatrick worked 80 hours per week as a photographer for both the Santa Ana Register and the Orange County Coroner's office. In his first collection of photos, published posthumously, Car Crashes & Other Sad Stories (Taschen, 2000), the focus was on high-speed black-and-white night shots of dashboard decapitations and suicides. Now, his granddaughter Carlene Thie (rhymes with "say") has self-published a three-volume collection of Kilpatrick's black-and-white Disneyland photos—from backstage workers in restricted areas to celebrity set-up shots.

When Kilpatrick died in 1962, most of his collection went into storage. "These photos and negatives sat in his darkroom for more than 30 years," Thie says. "That darkroom got so hot it's amazing that none of them were destroyed. One day, my grandmother said, 'Take what you want.' So I did."

On a whim, Thie put one photo—Walt at the opening of the Alice and Wonderland ride—on eBay. The response was more inspiring than a caterpillar's hooka. "I was amazed at how many Disney fanatics there are," she says.

Members of the National Fantasy Fan Club convinced her that Kilpatrick's photos deserved to be bound. Volume one, Disney Under Construction, rolled off the presses in April.

The collection opens with one of the earliest aerial shots of the Magic Kingdom on record. Dirt berms and a few lonesome structures rise from the soil where 12,000 orange trees once stood. "My grandfather would stand on the wings of an airplane to take the aerial shots," Thie says.

The images document Disneyland deconstructed, the assembled frames reading like surrealistic haiku: "Fantasyland ride tracks." "Castle spires ready to be placed." "Jungle Cruise hippo ready for water." "Moonliner being craned into place." There are photos of painters masking and spraying Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. The now-extinct Matterhorn-adjacent submarine ride 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea undergoes a final inspection. Scaffolding encircles Sleeping Beauty's half-finished castle. Carpenters frame the Main Street clock tower. The hull of the Mark Twain riverboat sits at Todd Shipyards in San Pedro.

With the success of volume one, Thie published another. Volume two—Disney's Early Years—showcases the park's christening. Mammoth TV cameras on forklifts rehearse for opening day, tracking stagecoaches by a freshly cloned Fort Apache. Tribal dancers kick it live at the Indian Village. Pack mules snake up Rainbow Ridge. But the marquee shot from volume two features an archetypal tired dad—shoe off to massage his foot—pulled by a coonskin-capped 6-year-old boy into a future of hyperactive entertainment.

Two volumes of Kilpatrick didn't satiate the Disney fanatics. Three months after she published volume one, Thie released volume three. The emphasis this time was on publicity shots. Donna Reed poses stiffly near a train. A Navajo dignitary blesses the Grand Canyon Diorama. Fess Parker—whose acting career peaked while playing Disney's "King of the Wild Frontier" Davy Crockett—presents the key to Disneyland to Vice President Richard Milhouse Nixon with Pat and the girls in tow. Foreshadowing Eric Clapton's 5 o'clock shadow, Parker, now a Santa Barbara hotelier and vintner, sports facial hair that, for years after, remained a Disneyland sin among mere cast members.

Kilpatrick's photos of Richfield Oil's Autopia, Trans-World Airline's Rocket to the Moon, Bell Telephone's Theater and Frito-Lay's Casa de Fritos certify Disney's role in launching the current era of corporate collusion responsible for Kodak's Academy Award Theater, Suzuki's Heisman Trophy and Edison Field.

These books are de rigueur for hardcore Disney disciples. For us cynics, the three volumes offer a rare view of the development of what is arguably the late 20th century's most venerated tract of land.

 

And now for something really different:

Disney Legend Bob Gurr gets thrown under the bus

 

 

 

By Chuck Schmidt | schmidt@siadvance.com 

Bob Gurr is known for designing just about anything that moves on wheels in Disney theme parks worldwide ... miniature cars, fire trucks, omnibuses, antique cars, monorails, parking lot trams and railroad cars.

On Saturday night, June 13, Gurr's friends and former colleagues decided to give him a different perspective when it comes to rolling stock -- they threw him under the bus ... in a loving, respectful, fun-filled way!

On the eve of anniversary of the debut of the Disneyland monorail in 1959 [which also happened to be the anniversary of the day Gurr and his trusty sidekick - none other than Walt Disney - "kidnapped" the vice president of the United States during the monorail's inaugural trip around the park] Gurr was "roasted" at a laugh-filled love fest thrown by Carlene Thie and Ape Pen Publishing.

The sold-out event brought together some of the leading names in the world of theme park attractions and design, among them John Eaden [of Disneyland Golden Horseshoe fame], Marty Sklar, Garner Holt, Christopher Crump, Eric Johnston, Jeff Heimbuch and Michael Broggie.

When we first contacted Gurr about his roast, he had this to say: 

"Carlene has done so many events in my 'honor,' I told her I'd rather sit on the sidelines and find out what a mean, nasty nut I really am!

"Of course, I'd enjoy any made-up fantasies, too!"

Gurr has a long and impressive list of theme park attraction designs, the majority of which were created for Disney theme parks. He also played a key role in the development of Disney's breakthrough Audio-Animatronics technology.

Marty Sklar, Gurr's long-time colleague and friend, offered his own unique take on the special evening:

"There was a lot of love in the air at the Bob Gurr Roast [June 13] in Anaheim, California - and some of it even came from the six "roasters," who also poked holes in every Gurrini foible.

"The 150 of so Disney fans loved every poke at and pun about the Disney Legend - everything from the free-loading and publicity-seeking to the myths verified [despite the fact he designed Disney monorails and "anything that moved," he was not an engineer].

"Garner Holt, who builds three-dimensional animated figures for theme parks, wowed the audience with many versions of Bob's purported misshapen designs for the figure of Abraham Lincoln ... and I shared two years of email exchanges with Bob. [Sample: Bob's definition of his new 'career,' acting in commercials: "Acting - explaining stuff you know nothing about!'

"It was a glass more than half full - especially with the endless supply of Bob's favorite drink, The Gurrtini."

Carlene Thie: Keeping her grandfather's legacy alive through his classic Disney photos

By Chuck Schmidt

 

She’s never worked a day for the Walt Disney Company, but make no mistake — Carlene Thie is Disney royalty.

Carlene’s Disney roots run deep, much like California’s legendary sequoias, back to the mid-1950s, when her grandfather began a years-long working relationship with Walt Disney himself. And her Disney pedigree has continued right up until today, thanks to her dedication to keeping her grandfather’s legacy alive.

When the acreage between Katella Avenue, Ball Street, Harbor Boulevard and West Street in Anaheim was in the process of being transformed from lush orange groves into Disneyland, the world’s first theme park, Walt invited one of southern California’s most well-known news photographers to record the development of his Magic Kingdom.

That photographer was Mell Kilpatrick, who captured just about every phase of the project with his trusty “weegee” camera, even though photographing destruction, not construction, was his forte.

Kilpatrick “worked relentlessly to capture on film Walt Disney’s dream,” explains his granddaughter Carlene. “He climbed atop scaffolding, crawled into tunnels, even hung out of a light plane 5,000 feet above Disneyland to snap the perfect shot.”

Kilpatrick was a well-known figure in and around Anaheim during the 1950s. His weegee camera — a cumbersome, box-shaped device with a large flash bulb attached to the side — was more known for taking photos of deadly fires, gory crime scenes and horrific car accidents as chief photographer for the Santa Ana Register than it was for snapping shots of a more sedate, if hectic construction site.

But when Walt invited Kilpatrick to take photos of Disneyland — literally from the time the orange trees were leveled in 1954 to opening day about a year later — he was more than willing to lend his photographic expertise, becoming the park’s the main chronicler in the process.

Thus began a relationship between Disney and the Kilpatrick family that has lasted for decades and is still going strong today, thanks in large part to Carlene Thie and her Ape Pen Publishing Company.

 

 

 

 

 

Carlene Thie has made it her business to preserve precious Disney memories

 

By Chuck Schmidt | schmidt@siadvance.com 

Carlene Thie considers herself blessed.

“God has really blessed me a lot,” she says with a contented sigh. “I’ve met a lot of really nice people.”

Most of those “really nice people” have one common denominator: The term “Disney legend” is always used as a prefix to their names. They are some of the most beloved castmembers to have ever worn Disney name badges.

Carlene Thie considers them good friends. The feeling is mutual.

 

Over the years, she’s developed special friendships with them all — Bob Gurr, X Atencio, Wally Boag, Blaine Gibson, Rolly Crump, Alice Davis, Harriet Burns, to name a few.

 

She keeps her most precious memories of these legendary Disney castmembers in a special autograph book.

“I have this book and every time I meet one of the Disney legends, I have them sign it,” she says proudly. “One time I asked Blaine Gibson for his autograph and he says, ‘Can I keep the book and send it back to you?’ Of course, I said yes.

“He actually drew a head of me with him carving it like he would have done a bust of somebody out of clay. I thought that was so cool. I felt so honored.”

 

She’s even unwittingly asked for an autograph from a legend, even though she already had his signature in her book.

“I had Wally (Boag) sign it one time, I think it was at the Golden Horseshoe,” Carlene said. “But this shows you how sharp these guys are. Years later, I saw Wally again and I said, ‘Wally, could you sign this please?’

Car Crash Fetish ...

The art of Orange County Register

News & Disneyland photographer Mell Kilpatrick

 

 

By NATHAN CALLAHAN

During the 1950s, Kilpatrick cruised the two-lane roads of neo-natal Orange County with his police-band radio and Speed Graphic camera, looking for crashes to capture on film. In the formative years of Southern California's car culture, his beat was the aftermath of highway tragedy. Reflections of bent metal, dead bodies and broken glass, Kilpatrick's photos, like Byzantine crucifixion panels, bring us face to face with our mortality. Tempted to turn away, we stare with wary fascination. His frames, frozen in time, suggest that if the crucifixion points to the blessing of forgiveness, the crash points to the blessing of circumstance.

The story of Mell Kilpatrick is about circumstance. If he were alive today, he might say life is a series of unexpected turns that prove we can never foresee how we'll be remembered.

Kilpatrick was born in Arcola, Illinois, in 1902. An only child, he helped with the heavy lifting at the age of 10, when his family moved to Idaho in a covered wagon. They settled in the city of Windor, where his father, James Henry, opened a slaughterhouse. Mell wasn't prepared for a life of meat and cleavers—at least not yet. He married, studied coronet and dreamed of playing in a dance band. In 1928, determined to find a job as a musician, he moved to Southern California with his wife, Katherine. There, he landed a job playing the local circuit —from the Dianna Ballroom to the Balboa Pavilion. All the while, he helped raise a family of five. Life was good.

Then Kilpatrick's fortunes changed forever, re-routed by a case of bad oral hygiene. Flossing might have led Kilpatrick down a different road, but in 1947, periodontal disease prompted the removal of all his teeth. It was the kiss of death for a professional horn player. By 1948, the dentured Kilpatrick found himself commuting from his Santa Ana home to his new job as projectionist at the West Coast, Laguna and Balboa Theaters. He threaded reels of The Big Sleep Notorious, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Detour and DOA. Film noir heroes, subjects of a dark destiny, stood 20 feet tall on the screen as he watched. The car was a part of movie language, a symbol of escape, climax and danger.

The lesson of noir wasn't lost on Kilpatrick. In late 1948, down on his luck and with no relevant experience, he picked up a camera on a friend's suggestion and began shooting. It wasn't like playing coronet, but photography was a paying gig.

At first, he photographed evidence for insurance companies, accidents for the Highway Patrol. They were modern-day memento mori—stark, black-and-white documents of unexpected death. Hard-boiled and methodical, Kilpatrick surveyed each wreck and pointed his camera inside. He framed the decapitated body. Click. He framed the twisted front seat and the shattered skull. Click. He framed the contorted hand reaching like a paraplegic David through the shattered window toward the gathered crowd outside.

.                                                                                           * * *

Kilpatrick was a student of the Gawk Effect. One day, the legend goes, he appeared unannounced at the Santa Ana Register with an envelope of death scenes in his hand. They made him a staff photographer.

Kilpatrick worked an 80-hour week to make a living wage. On call day and night, his phone number was at the top of every Orange County law enforcement and fire department call list, including the coroner's office.

In the darkroom, he wore a blue technician's coat and carefully placed each negative in an envelope with a title: Wreck—Chapman and Tustin Fatality—Grand and La Habra Fatality—Crystal Cove. Wreck—Los Alamitos. Fatality—Harbor Boulevard.

 

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One of a Kind Pages from Disney Legend Bob Gurr Book

"Design Just For Fun" Avaliable through Ape Pen Publishing.

 

By Chuck Schmidt

 

Ape Pen Publishing, the folks who brought Disney legend Bob Gurr’s “Design Just for Fun” book to life, is offering a unique way to further enjoy the seminal work.

Ape Pen is making available “limited edition and one-of-a-kind — signed by Bob Gurr — proof pages” for purchase.

Each page — a work of art unto itself — features a special design, using one of the original proof pages from Gurr’s “Design Just for Fun” book.

What’s a proof page, you ask?

 

According to Ape Pen, it’s “a trial proof printed from type that has been made up in page form, usually after corrections have been made, but before plates are made. There was only one set made of each page from Bob Gurr’s book. If you have a page you want made, contact us.”

So, if Page 62 strikes your fancy, just contact Ape Pen and they’ll get the process rolling.

"Each page would be framed and designed as a one-of-a kind piece," said Carlene Thie of Ape Pen. "I try to make each one unique and captivating to the eye." Prices vary with each piece, Ms. Thie added.

 

He also played a major role in the development of Audio-Animatronics and the Omnimover ride system, among many other achievements.

Most of the pages in “Design Just For Fun” feature rare photos as well as Gurr’s own hand drawings of attractions in the early stages of development, which makes this offering of one-of-a-kind proof pages so intriguing.

Perhaps the most powerful piece being offered is the Abraham Lincoln collection, which is truly a magnificent work of art.

 

The frame is large, measuring 5 feet x 25 inches, and includes the five pages from the book detailing the evolution of the breakthrough Lincoln Audio-Animatronics figure for the state of Illinois pavilion at the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair.

All five pages are signed by Gurr. Also included in the frame are two original 1967 Disneyland tickets to Disneyland’s Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln show, as well as a Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln sign.

"I don't think anyone has ever done this (putting together individual page proofs of a book as works of art)," Ms. Thie said. "I will only sell them framed and matted. I try to do each one with something vintage, unique, something that makes it stand out ... if at all possible."

And as Ape Pen says on its website, “Once its gone, its gone!”

 

For more information, go to www.apepenpublishing.com.

 

 

Disneyland monorail Designer .. Disney Legend Bob Gurr

 
Disneyland's Viewliner Story
Written by Designer and Disney Legend Bob Gurr
 
 
 
 
Disney Legend Bob Gurr shares his story about how
Walt wants a miniature railroad added to DisneylandThe area northeast of Fantasyland was just a big dusty bare spot after the 1956 circus was removed from Disneyland. Walt needed to fill this space with something quick and simple. Adding Autopia Jr. and a small river connected to Fantasyland and a small railroad was the plan. Walt thought a small Streamline train starting from Tomorrowland would work fine.General Motors ran their experimental streamlined Aerotrain between Los Angeles and Las Vegas for a while in 1956. I thought it was the slickest looking thing on rails. I made a quick rendering of a streamline train based on the GM Aerotrain. If you are gonna steal, steal from the best! Walt liked it.On February 1, 1957, I made the first construction drawing No. 3513-051-1 Proposed Coach Exterior. By February 20th, I’d finished the sixteen production drawings which were provided to Johnny Giltch of Standard Carriage Works on Bandini Boulevard in Vernon, a city just east of Los Angeles. Standard was contracted to build the train coaches while the Studio Machine Shop would build the two locomotives.In designing the Omnibus, Autopia and antique cars, I used simple steel structural shapes and flat metal panels. But the streamline train was going to have a lot of light weight monocoque construction. Standard built lots of garbage trucks and had racks filled with all kinds of steel strips called “press broken” sections. These could be bent into curved parts called “carlines,” which could be covered with corrugated aluminum skins to look just like the California Zephyr. A local company, A.J. Bayer, could supply us with almost any press broken section I wanted. I was in design heaven with this new knowledge!On February 22nd, I started the surface development drawings for the Locomotive compound curved sheet metal parts. Now, I was getting deeper into vehicle manufacturing since I needed short-run, non-tooled, compound-curved aluminum parts. I knew how race car bodies were built, having seen their parts formed by hand on shaping rolls at California Metal Shaping in downtown Los Angeles. They directed me to Mike Scott, builder of the body for the 1956 Indy 500 race winner. We gave the job of making the Locomotive body skins to Mike.Between February 26th and April 19th, I drew the major drawings needed to build the locomotive, while draftsmen Tim O’neill and Chuck Schrader made additional detail drawings. In those days, we never had time to engineer and completely document 100 percent of everything like later on. We made lots of small sketches on the fly on the shop floor for the guys building everything. I’d never engineered a gasoline-engine locomotive before, and the shop folks had never built one either. Walt wanted it and we were doing it. That’s how we all learned a new trade.The hardest part of a vehicle to build is the cowl, windshield, front doors, and door opening body structure. I went to the local wrecking yard and picked out a couple of smashed 1954 Oldsmobiles to design into the locomotive. Since I needed to make the locomotive narrower than a car, the Olds was perfect. ~ Bob Gurr

Disneyland's Autopia Car Story

Written by: Disney Designer of the Autopia Car

and Disney Legend Bob Gurr

Small A Call to the Studio / Autopia ChassisIt all started with cars. Some folks on my paper route in 1944 always had neat cars. A few years later, one of the kids that lived there was in our same car club, the “Road Burners.” Name was Dave Iwerks. We went hunting and fishing together. His dad had a short first name, Ub. After I returned in 1953 from a year designing cars in Detroit, I was a regular visitor at the Iwerks home. Ub was a quiet guy; showed me his tiny shop with many beautifully crafted guns, gave me rides in his latest sporty car.In late summer 1954, the Los Angeles Times ran a story about a new amusement park, complete with a beautiful painting of what was to come. Wow. Neat idea. Sure would like to design something there. The Iwerks put on traditional Sunday dinners, Mr. and Mrs. Iwerks, sons Dave and Don. I was sometimes invited. Ub Iwerks would show home movies of the latest happenings at the Walt Disney Productions Studio in Burbank, California, just a few miles from their Van Nuys home. One day Ub described a little car running around on the studio backlot…no body on it, just a bare chassis.While visiting Art Center School, my alma mater before going to Detroit, shortly after Ub’s little car story, I was asked if I did outside work in addition my regular industrial design job. I really didn’t, but I said yes. A few days later I was instructed to meet someone at the Walt Disney Productions Studio. On the drive out to the Studio, I wondered…do you suppose the little car needs a body designed?…would this be for that new amusement park? Walt’s chief park designer, Dick Irvine, met me at the gate, then ushered me into the famous Studio. They needed a car body designer….bingo!Dick introduced me to some business folks, then showed me the little bare car chassis. It had been built by Johnny Hartman in his shop up in nearby Montrose, California. A welded steel frame, pivoting front axle, rear axle assembly, and a hot ten horsepower engine from the latest scooter-bike craze, the Mustang Colt. Just simple as could be, but bare naked. I took some dimensions, then went home to sketch some body ideas. During the next two weeks, I returned every Saturday with a series of sketches for Dick Irvine to look at. Among the business folks working with Dick was the Studio Machine Shop Manager, Roger Broggie.On a following Saturday I received a call at (ye gads) 7:00 a.m. “Do you draft?” “Yes.” “Grab your tools and get over here.” Silence, dial tone. Roger Broggie was waiting for me. Nearby the little bare car slowly collected four guys with their feet on each tire, discussing what was to be done. One guy, slightly rumpled with a Roy Rogers wooden bullet belt, had his foot on one tire. I thought he was the father of one of the night guards. They called him “Walt.” You don’t suppose? Yep, Walt Disney. No formal introduction, just get to work. Walt was collecting a lot of new folks on the Studio Lot. We were all gonna design Disneyland. ~ Bob Gurr

Disney Legend Bob Gurr and the

Disneyland 1959 Monorail Story.

Written by: Bob Gurr

 

 

 

 

First Monorail operating in America at Disneyland, with Vice President Nixon attending

The hectic days in the summer of 1959, as we were getting the Monorail ready for its grand opening are well described in the Fall 2001 Issue No. 36 of the E-Ticket Magazine. Some interesting events occurred during and just after this opening:

The first Monorail Train, the red one, had been assembled on the beam way just two weeks prior to dedication day. Testing had resulted in daily failures followed by all-night fabrication of improved parts. But the Monorail did not make an actual trouble free lap around the track until the night before Walt was to introduce his new Monorail System to the world on live TV. Thus, we had no time to train the newly hired Monorail drivers. So the wardrobe department made me a Monorail driver’s uniform during the night shift, then fitted me up in it the morning of dedication day. I was now to be a Disneyland ride operator!

I had parked the Monorail in the Tomorrowland Station to be prepared to drive it out of the station after the ribbon cutting ceremony for the live TV cameras. Even if the Monorail broke down just out of view, the world-wide audience would think Walt had his new toy up and running at last.

In mid morning the day was already very hot and uncomfortable. Walt and Art Linkletter showed up with an entourage including the Vice President of the United States, Richard Nixon, along with his family. Walt wanted to show Nixon the inside of the Monorail cab. We turned on the 600-volt DC power so I could get the air conditioning to cool down the cab. In a few minutes, Walt had us all in the cab. Now Walt could get very twinkly-eyed and excited when he was showing off something new, and he told everyone about his dream for modern transportation in America. And he had it right now in Disneyland, and wanted to show it off.

Walt described how he always drove the steam locomotives on special occasions, but that he “let Bobby drive the modern trains.” Whereupon Walt said “lets go.” Oh no! This thing had only made one good lap and I was saving it for TV later in the day. But drive I did. When we passed over the Submarine ride waterfalls, Nixon let out a four letter exclamation(all the White House Secret Service Officers were left back on the Monorail station platform). Walt and I had kidnapped the Vice President of The United States!

I was so relieved when I got back to the station. But Nixon’s two daughters wanted to go around again. My heart sank and I remember little of the second lap. I had visions of the Monorail catching on fire over the Submarine Lagoon before we had a chance to develop our rescue procedures—burning up Walt and his guests!

As I slowed going through the station, the Secret Service guys were running towards the Monorail to get in and guard their targetcharge. But I drove on through and they tried to run with it to jump in. Nixon roared with laughter. This was not the least bit funny to me! Anyway, when we finally stopped after the second time around, exiting by the down ramp, Nixon looked back up after we left the Monorail and roared again. All the Secret Service guys were sitting in the train. And these guys were paid to guard the palace? ~ Bob Gurr

Large Heading

The happiest suite on earth?

 

Walt Disney’s office has been restored to how it was in 1966, the year of his death.

 

BY CHAD GARLAND

 

   Stepping into Suite 3H at the original animation building at the Walt Disney Studios lot in Burbank is like slipping back in time a half-century to take a peek at Walt’s office as it was in 1966, the year of the entertainment company founder’s death.

   Disney used the third-floor office from 1940, when the animation building opened, until his death. It was closed for a few years before archivist Dave Smith inventoried it, then it was used by his successors at the helm of the studio until the early 1990s. The suite was then occupied by producers — including, most recently, “Desperate Housewives” creator Marc Cherry.

   After Cherry moved out, Disney Chairman and Chief Executive Robert Iger gave the go-ahead for “what we’ve been dreaming of for years,” said Becky Cline, Walt Disney archives director: a return to the way the office was in the late 1960s.

   Using old photos as a guide, archivists faithfully restored the space this year as part of the studio’s 75th anniversary in Burbank, using original items cataloged by Smith or reproductions of the few items lost to time or too sensitive to display.

 

Walt Disney’s office has been restored to how it was in 1966.

Mell Kilpatrick started his career as a news photographer began in 1948 and he eventually became the chief photographer for the Orange County Register - then called Santa Ana Register. Having already established a rapport with the local community Mell was the perfect guy to get the perfect angle. As one of Orange County’s best-known cameramen, he covered Orange County in every possible manner by air, on foot, by car, and even by boat. At first, he photographed evidence for insurance companies,the corners, as well accidents for the Highway Patrol; even carrying a police badge to access the crime scenes.. They were modern-day memento, black-and-white documents of death. Mell’s style so was unique,that it captured Walt Disney attention ...

Mell Kilpatrick Car Crashes & Other Sad Stories      Publisher: Taschen :          Jennifer Dumas

 

A sort of West Coast Weegee, crime photographer Mell Kilpatrick covered the death-and-destruction beat in the suburban Los Angeles region from the late '40s through his death in 1963, and in that time and place, death and destruction frequently involved automobiles. Thanks to post-war prosperity and the auto industry's fascination with big cars with powerful engines, more people were driving, and driving faster, than ever before, leading America into a golden age of automobile accidents. Kilpatrick was there, taking pictures for the Santa Ana Register that went more or less unseen for decades until unearthed by collector Jennifer Dumas. Dumas titles her introduction to this collection of Kilpatrick's work, mostly car crashes with a few murders and suicides thrown in for good measure, "Why We Look." Dumas never gets around to answering the question satisfactorily—even Plato couldn't, after all—but her compilation makes evident why we might look at Kilpatrick's photos. Morbid fascination plays a part, but there's horrific beauty in what he captures and the way he captures it. In one, a body, face down and covered by a blanket, is framed by his car and cheerful advertisements for a Mercury dealer and a car wash. In another, a teen sits dazed by his upside-down vehicle, still wearing James Dean clothes. It's the '50s America for which no one could be nostalgic, presented in black-and-white so bloodily beautiful that it's nearly impossible not to look.

 

 

A book looks back in time at images of

Disneyland under construction

 

It was a strange sight, a castle was being built in an Anaheim orange grove, and Mell Kilpatrick was there to photograph much of it.

Kilpatrick was both a freelance photographer, and eventually a staff, then chief photographer for the then Santa Ana Register. Because he had a portable darkroom, Walt Disney allowed him access to the construction site as long as Disney’s photographers could use Kilpatrick’s darkroom.

In those days, photographers for the Santa Ana Register retained ownership of the photos, and Kilpatrick’s granddaughter has published many of the ones showing Disneyland under construction, and others of the park through 1962, in a series of books.

 

The first three books are: “A Photographer’s Life with Disneyland Under Construction,” “Disney’s Early Years Through the Eye of a Photographer” and “Disney Years Seen Through a Photographer’s Lens.”

The first book contains many photographs of the various original buildings built for Disneyland’s opening day in 1955. Kilpatrick also took flight in an airplane upon occasion to photographer Walt Disney’s original Magic Kingdom from the air, both while under construction and in later years, as Disney allowed him access to the park, more than other outside photographers in those days.

People who are real Disney fans, will love thumbing through the books and looking at the rare black and white photos.

The books were compiled by his granddaughter, Carlene Thie, and are available at ApePublishing.com. The copyright to all the photos were passed down through the family to Thie. Kilpatrick died of a heart attack in 1962.

By Mark Eades with The Orange County Register

 

Mell KILPATRICK, “Car Crashes" Taschen 2000

 

During the 40’s and the 50’s in small towns in USA Mell Kilpatrick would listen to the radio on police frequencies, as well as he worked for the corners and the local police department  Mell would be called and rushed to accidents and taking some of the most grimly images. In the book "Car Crashes' you will see a wide collection of images Mell Kilpatrick took. Each page show tragedy of the times, some with amazing car images and some of the most remarkable photography of the times. 

Carlene Thie has made it her business to preserve precious Disney memories

 

By Chuck Schmidt.

“God has really blessed me a lot,” she says with a contented sigh. “I’ve met a lot of really nice people.”

Most of those “really nice people” have one common denominator: The term “Disney legend” is always used as a prefix to their names. They are some of the most beloved castmembers to have ever worn Disney name badges.

Carlene Thie considers them good friends. The feeling is mutual.

Over the years, she’s developed special friendships with them all — Bob Gurr, X Atencio, Wally Boag, Blaine Gibson, Rolly Crump, Alice Davis, Harriet Burns, to name a few.

She keeps her most precious memories of these legendary Disney castmembers in a special autograph book.

“I have this book and every time I meet one of the Disney legends, I have them sign it,” she says proudly. “One time I asked Blaine Gibson for his autograph and he says, ‘Can I keep the book and send it back to you?’ Of course, I said yes.

 

 

New Disneyland books and magazine offer different peeks at Disneyland's past

 

Jim Hill

 

Given the continuing uproar over Disneyland's "Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh" ride (After I posted that piece about this much maligned attraction at JHM last week, I received a record number of hate e-mails. So it's pretty clear that that column really struck a nerve with at least some of you folks), it's obvious that quite a number of you long for the good old days.

You know, back when the Anaheim theme park was new? When Disneyland was still considered the crown jewel of the Disney Corporation? Which meant that the park was always kept in pristine condition

 

 

 

Mell Kilpatrick and the Invention of the Dashboard Camera

 

By Jim Linderman from Dull Tool Dim Bulb


The mounted dashboard camera, as we all know from “America’s most horrible ruckus” on the flat screen, is de rigueur today for every cop car. Sideswipes, weaving drunks, runaway crackheads…we see them all through the electronic eye of the police car windshield. But did you know the apparatus was invented by a Weegee like ambulance chaser named Mell Kilpatrick who took accident photos for Los Angeles Newspapers in the 1940s and 1950s?

Mell Kilpatrick was a self-taught master photographer with Weegee skill and fortitude. In fact, the precious few times his name is mentioned, Weegee’s often follows. Living in Orange County when it was literally a county of oranges, Mell was attracted to photography 

Mell Kilpatrick's picture books cast a nostalgic eye back on Disneyland's past

 

By Jim Hill

 

For seemingly months now, my good friend, Jeff Lange, has been hawking me about Carlene Thie's "Disneyland Under Construction" series. Almost every time that I've seen Jeff over the past year, these three soft-cover books -- featuring photographs that Thie's grandfather, Mell Kilpatrick, took while he was a staff photographer at the "Santa Ana Register" -- have come up in conversation.

"You've got to get these books, Jim," says Jeff. "They've got all of these killer images of Disneyland from the mid-1950s. Lots of construction shots of the park and its attractions. They'd make a great addition to your Disneyana library."

So -- while I was out in Southern California last week -- I dropped by the "Off the Page" shop in the Hollywood Pictures Backlot section of Disney's California Adventure theme park. And what to my wandering eye should appear on that store's shelves but copies of all three of Thie's "Disneyland Under Construction" books: "A Photographer's Life with Disney Under Construction," "Disney's Early Years Through the Eyes of a Photographer" and "Disney Years Seen Through a Photographer's Lens."

So -- following Lange's advice -- I purchased copies of all three books. Then after slipping from "Off the Page" into the lobby area of DCA's "Disney Animation" exhibit, I plopped myself down on the couch and perused Kilpatrick's pictures.

I'll say this much. My pal, Jeff, was right. Mell Kilpatrick's black and white photographs of Disneyland's early days really are exquisite. Based on the images that you'll find in this trio of books, it would appear that Mell had free access to the place from late 1954 right up until Kilpatrick's death in 1962.

Book Review: A Photographer’s Life with Disneyland Under Construction by Carlene Thie

By Geroge

 

A Photographers Life with Disneyland Under Construction by Carlene Thie. 70 pages. 2002.

This book is a wonderful addition to any Disneyland enthusiast’s collection. It is volume one of a three book series of photographs taken by Mell Kilpatrick. Mell was the chief photographer of the Santa Ana Register until his passing in 1962. His granddaughter, Carlene Thie, was given all of Mell’s photos and negatives by her grandmother, Mell’s widow. Carlene has published 5 books altogether and sells prints of the photos through the Ape Pen Publishing site.

 

Marvelous Mechanized Magic Kingdom Disney Event ...

 

The 1313 Club & Ape Pen Publishing event at the Disneyland Hotel. The event, "The Marvelous Mechanized Magic Kingdom" was to feature the talents and stories of many Disney Legends

 

Steven Orsinelli

 

About five or six months ago I received an e-mail from the 1313 Club & Ape Pen Publishing Informing me of an event to take place at the Disneyland Hotel. The event, "The Marvelous Mechanized Magic Kingdom" was to feature the talents and stories of current and former employees and imagineers as they worked for Walt over the years. The 1313 Club and Ape Pen are both are created and run by Carlene Thie, Carlene's family has been involved with Disneyland from the beginning since Walt Disney first broke ground for the original Disneyland park. Her Grandfather Mell Kilpatrick, was a freelance photographer who took photos of the first nine years of the parks construction and operation. Carlene's father, Blaine Sissel, was also part of the construction crew who helped in building the park, working on Sleeping Beauty's Castle and many other buildings there. Even her Grandmother worked at the park for nearly two decades in the bait shack on Tom Sawyers Island, the Model Department, and other locations in the park.

 

 

DISNEYLAND; Rising up from the Steam...

By Carlene Thie.

 

Keith Murdoch, the City Manager of Anaheim in 1955, tells the story of how in October of 1953 Anaheim was being considered as the location for a new theme park called “Disneyland.” The Stanford Research Institute (SRI), was hired by Disney to find a location for the proposed and set the criteria for the new Park. SRI determined the Park site would need to be approximately 160 acres and easily accessible from a freeway and Anaheim was the perfect match. With an abundance of land and a major highway running alongside (Interstate 5 which at that time was Interstate 101), Anaheim was the main focus of Walt Disney. After finding and abandoning a number of locations, a perfect site was found. Perfect until they ran into a ‘snag’, and Keith was the man to help untangle it.

When looking at the big map of Anaheim that was on his office wall, Keith noticed the chosen location for Disneyland had a road, Cerritos Street, which ran all the way from Harbor Boulevard, clear to the ocean - straight through the middle of the proposed Park. City streets had been closed for beneficial purposes, but the Disneyland property was still on unincorporated land. Keith started going through the law books and checking out the codes to find out how to close a street in an unincorporated territory. It might be some what of a challenge, yet it was possible.

This week in Disney / Disneyland History

 

April 10th 1927

 

* 1927 : A rabbit was born! Today, Walt Disney delivers his first Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon, " Poor Papa," to Charles Mintz  a man who would later be instrumental in taking the character away from Walt - which of course spurred the creation of a certain mouse. Recently, new Disney CEO Bob Iger, retained the rights to Oswald brining him home, to the Disney family.

 

                                              The Month of May

                                            In Disneyland history

 

* 1928 - Walt Disney applies for a trademark for "Mickey Mouse" for the use in motion pictures.

 

* 1941 - Disney's Donald Duck cartoon A Good Time for a Disney is released.

 

* 1954 - Walt Disney's daughter Diane Disney marries USC football player Ron Miller in Montecito, California.

 

* 1981- Disney Legend Wally Boag guest stars on episode 520 of the television show , The Muppets Show.

 

* 1949- The Firehouse Five Plus Two began recording their first album.

 

* 1950- On May 7th, The first engine officially runs on the Carolwood Pacific Railroad - Walt Disney's backyard train               at his Carolwood Drive, in Holmby Hills California  The 2,615 feet of track included a 46 foot long trestle and                 a 90 foot long tunnel.

 

 

The End of the Road ...

The tortured metal & mangled limbs.

Mell Kilpatrick's car-crash photography takes a dark journey beyond the American highway.

 

By Brad Zellar

 

 

The captions assigned to Mell Kilpatrick's photographs in Car Crashes and Other Sad Stories (Taschen) are terse and terrible, models of emotional shorthand: Girl hit and killed. Man run over by a truck. Placentia Ave--decapitation. They are both ridiculously to-the-point, and pointless. Often enough they offer nothing but orientation--the names of streets, intersections, highways--beneath photographs that are nothing if not disorienting.

Mell Kilpatrick was a Southern California beat photographer in the Forties,Fifties, and Sixties a hard-boiled archetype of the camera ghoul, wired with an almost creepy singleness of purpose. Armed with a police-band radio and a Speed Graphic camera--much like his more famous East Coast contemporary, Weegee--Kilpatrick prowled the night streets and highways of Orange County in search of the sternest of images, calamitous still lifers snatched from scenes of all manner of tragedy. His peculiar specialty--his niche--was car crashes, and out of the booming car culture of postwar America he built the most accidental of careers, becoming in the process a sort of living embodiment of Vaughn, the kink protagonist of J.G. Ballard's novel of auto eroticism, Crash.

                                  This week in Disneyland's History

 

1954 – Disneyland construction starts in Anaheim Califorina . Blaine Sissel helped on the construction of Disneyland's              Main Street & Sleeping Beauty Castle. Mell Kilpatrick opened his darkroom up in Santa Ana California for                     Walt Disney to develop's  the first Images of Disneyland.

 

1955 – Disneyland opens July 17th with 18 attractions, at a cost of $17.5 million

 

1956 – By October, more than 5 million people have visited Disneyland. Plus the "D" ticket is introduced this year

 

1957 – By December, more than 10 million people have visited Disneyland.

             Sleeping Beauty Castle’s interior walkways open.

 

1958 – The first poster-sized, large souvenir map of Disneyland is released to the public

 

1959 – The "E" ticket is introduced this year. Never before were three attractions dedicated in one year, the opening of              the Matterhorn Bobsleds, Monorail & Submarines were dedicated on the same day July 1959

 

1961- Designer Bob Gurr helped in the creation of The Flying Saucers, which were added to Tomorrowland.

 

1963 – Disneyland introduces the world to audio-animatronic characters with the opening of the Enchanted Tiki Room.           

1967 – Pirates of the Caribbean makes its debut in New Orleans Square

All Over the Road

 

1955 Orange Country Register

News Photographer Mell Kilpatrick

Car-crash photography takes a dark journey beyond the American highway

 

By BRAD ZELLAR Thursday, Aug 24, 2000

 

Car Crash Photo by Mell Kilpatrick, 
The mangled limbs. The captions assigned to Mell Kilpatrick's photographs in Car Crashes and Other Sad Stories (Taschen) are just a few of the images. A terse and terrible models of emotional shorthand: girl hit and killed. Man run over by a truck. Placentia Ave.—decapitation.

They are both ridiculously to-the-point and pointless. Often enough, they offer nothing but orientation—the names of streets, intersections and highways—beneath photographs that are nothing if not disorienting.

Mell Kilpatrick was a Santa Ana—now Orange County—Register beat photographer in the 1940s,1950s, and 1960s a hard-boiled archetype of the camera ghoul, wired with an almost creepy singleness of purpose. Armed with a police-band radio and a Speed Graphic camera—much like his more famous East Coast contemporary, Weegee—Kilpatrick prowled the night streets and highways of Orange County in search of the sternest of images, calamitous still life's snatched from scenes of all manner of tragedy.

His peculiar specialty—his niche—was car crashes, and out of the booming car culture of postwar America, he built the most accidental of careers, becoming in the process a sort of living embodiment of Vaughn, the kinky protagonist of J.G. Ballard's novel of auto eroticism, Crash.