King Daddy of Weird: An Interview with Legendary Imagineer Rolly CrumpFrank Matijevich
This past weekend, in celebration of the release of the very first comic in the new Disney Kingdoms line: Seekers of the Weird #1, Beach Ball Comics in Anaheim, CA hosted some of the comic’s creators. Making a very rare public appearance was Rolly Crump — and I was lucky enough to be able to interview him at the event.
For those of you unfamiliar with Rolly Crump, he started his career at Disney as an artist and animator in 1952 and eventually moved to WED Enterprises, where he was the original Imagineer that worked with Walt himself to create such Disney attractions the Haunted Mansion and The Enchanted Tiki Room. So what’s Rolly’s connection to this new comic? Rolly envisioned a walk-through attraction that would connect with the Haunted Mansion called the Museum of the Weird. It was to contain strange objects from another world: a world of mysticism and the occult. After seeing some of the images originally drawn by Rolly in the 60’s, it gave me the impression that Rolly blended what we love about Disney with inspiration from the Hammer Films of the time. Sadly, Walt passed before the Museum could be completed and the idea was shelved. Now, in comic book form, we get to travel into this world envisioned by Rolly.
What makes Rolly unique is not only did he have the opportunity to work with the original Disney Dad (Walt), but his own son Chris began his career as a Disney Imagineer in 1988 and has worked on such attractions as the Little Mermaid and a bug’s land at Disneyland’s California Adventure. I wondered if Walt, who is often praised for his dedication as a parent, inspired him as a parent.
“The thing I loved about Walt,” says Crump, “was that he was like a father [to me, and the others he worked with.] He was always interested in what you were doing. He’d always come up and ask what you were doing, where have you been, what you liked, what you enjoyed most. He was very low key — always talked on your level; never above you or below you. He always talked at your level. So he inspired me to be very much the same. I was always very interested in what my kids wanted or what they were doing. I always supported them.”
I went on to ask Crump how he felt about his son Chris following in his footsteps and becoming an Imagineer, and how he challenged and nurtured his son’s creativity when he was growing up.
“Well first of all, [Chris] used to buy these models and put them together. And I was really quite taken by the fact that he was very good with his hands and built these beautiful models. And as time went on he wanted new models that were more challenging to him. So I was able to finance those models for him so he could grow. The little guy was just incredible. He himself was a lot like me. He kept reaching out wanting to do more than what he had to get to the next level.
“Looking back at my life, [I was lucky in] having a mother that supported me as an artist. I still have pictures that I drew when I was three years old that my mom kept. So I think she is inspiration for parents to do the same thing — to pass it on to other kids.”
And how does he feel handing over Museum of the Weird that he and Walt originally created together to a new team of writers and artists to create Seekers of the Weird in comic book format?
“I think it’s great, I love it. I really do feel that the people taking it now are taking it to the next two or three levels. That’s their world. They’ve accepted what I did and entered into their world. Now it’s theirs and I think their doing a beautiful job. I couldn’t think it could be done better than what they did.”