Saturday, October 8, 2011
D&M Archives : Grand Interview of WDI Imagineer Pat Burke - Edited Version with new pictures and stories !
Pat Burke began his career at Walt Disney Imagineering in 1972 and worked literally on all Disney theme parks since then. If DLP Frontierland is so well themed it's thanks to the phenomenal work that Pat did to find authentic artifacts all around America. Pat also worked on Tokyo Disney Sea and many other attractions. It's with great pleasure that Disney and more give to Pat Burke today a fully deserved tribute with this fantastic grand interview.
Alain Littaye: Pat, can you tell us when you began your career at Walt Disney Imagineering and what you did before?
Pat Burke: I started at WED in 1972, just after Walt Disney World had opened and I had graduated from the University Of Northridge in Fine Arts. I was having a one man graduate art show, and somebody from Disney's WED Enterprises heard about it and came to take a look. I had classic as well as contemporary 2 dimensional art, photos, prints, ceramics, and sculptures in plastics, as well as electronic activated sculptures that worked with music. WED was looking for people who could work with a wide range of materials, as well as sketch and paint. From age 8 to 17, I had taken private art lessons in most mediums from an instructor from Chinaurd Institute in Los Angeles. I did everthing but music in his classes that helped prepare me for a college Art major. Art education was my minor and believe that helped me later when working in the field for Disney.) I had a call from Bob Mallard in WED's personnel department, and he asked if I would like to come in for a job interview at WED. I replied excitedly yes. I had always loved Disneyland, but really didn't know such a place as WED existed, but quickly learned about them. I first brought all my slides and sketches to my interview with Bob Sewell. They had been busy getting the annual Dafca Art Show completed, so I had waited about a month after WED called me to come in. Bob seemed very interested and asked if I could bring in the actual artwork he selected, and I said I could. Another month later I came for my second interview with the artwork he had asked to see. I think he wanted to make sure I had done what was in the photos. That's what I learned many years later. I had been in touch with Bob over the last few years before he passed away, and one day asked him why he hired me. He replied that I came from a family of Construction, Engineering, Builders, and Farmers, and with that knowledge and background, he thought I would be very useful to the company's future. They were adding on to Walt Disney World as well as Disneyland, at that time. Malcolm Cobb, Bob's assistant called me and told me I could have the job if I wanted. My father asked me to ask the pay rate, as he was sitting next to me. Malcolm replied $3.15 an hour. My father responded and said with a college degree? Malcolm said that's all he could offer, although most in the department had no college degree. He said they would be upset if I came in for more. So I gave up my Dad's $5.30 an hour job offer and went to work for WED. Malcolm years later, told me my problem was I came in too low in salary, and I reminded him of our entry conversation.
A.L: What were your first assignments at WDI?
P.B: My first assignment at WED was the Disneyland Walt Disney Story, followed by Walt Disney World's models of the Contemporary Hotel additional capacity, New Orleans Square which was a lot of fun with Artist Collin Campbell, Golf Resort, and Pirates of the Caribbean. That was very helpful when years later in 82, I worked on all the sets and props for the new Tokyo Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean at the famous TOHO Studio where Godzilla was made among other monster movies of the 50's. Rodan and Mothra were a few. Their costumes were all hanging by their heads in the TOHO Monster room. The 3rd TDL Pirates was a combination of Disneyland's and Walt Disney World's show. Disney Paint Master Steve Borrowitz, helped in the teaching of finishes and ageing to the TOHO Artisans. Among the larger sets, we had to build 7 boats for the show and actually floated them in Tokyo Bay to make sure they were weighted properly and would float and sit right in the variouse scenes. We got some surprised looks from the local fisherman, when they saw the Jolly Roger flying on one sail boat. In doing all the Jungle Cruise props as well, we had to build the outriggers also. That would not be my last ship building experience for Disney and TDL. 18 years later on TDS, the 700plus foot SS Columbia required my help. Back to 1974, The GE Carousel of Progress rehab, and the America Sings attraction that would replace it were my first actual in depth attractions with set designing, building, and props. I had a space in the Model Shop where sculptor Claes Oldenburg had occupied. That's when he was funded by Disney to create his Inflatable Mickey Mouse Hat that never was. The company finally decided it wasn't in there interest to sponsor such a project and Claes moved out. He did go on to create his famous POP Art icon, the inflatable water bottle, for The Art and Technology Show at the Los Angeles Art Museum. I got to see it with my college Sculpture professor and say hello, as all the artist were present. That was a loss for the company I felt. Look what Andy Warhol did for Campbell's Soup's. I remember when we removed the Carousel of Progress's modern set, as it was outdated since its 1964 Worlds Fair opening. After they removed any animation mechanisms, we took all the 60's gutted appliances to the dump as they were of no use. No one thought about Disney collectibles much then and E Bay was a long ways off. GE was our sponsor at that time, and we were to replace them with new GE units. All the people at the dump thought we were getting rid of some great items in the stove, icebox, washers etc..., and they could re-use them. Little did they know, as they hauled them away. The first Space Mountain for Florida started in 74/75, and it was fun to work with George McGinnis on that and Disneyland's that followed. The Space station scene for Disney World had a pottery studio scene and an office scene. Roger Shook, the head prop master, was having trouble finding pottery and modern Kinetic sculptures for both scenes that Art Director John Hench liked. I told him about some of my work I had done at home, and he wanted to see it. He showed it to John Hench and he loved it. So for a $25.00 signed release, they rented my pottery and sculptures for the filming for the 2 scenes that were to be in the Space Mountain pre show. That was a great feeling to have your own work in a Disney show, and to get a pat from head Art Director John Hench. John had also remarked favorably about the space pods I did for the preshow as well, which led to my Steve Jobs work. Bob Sewell, my manager, said they were not given to often. Later on, John did mention in his "Designing Disney" book about the Disneyland Indy Q line I had worked on, being the Best example of what a Disney Q line should be like. That was a great satisfaction. I remember in 73 or 74 at that time, we had to remove the Monsanto attraction and the model of the "City of the Future" from Disneyland. We had to cut up and destroy all those great little Plexiglas's buildings. Small World was being built for WDW and we rehabbed DL's at that same time. Making the toys and props was a big change from models. Some of the figures still had Styrofoam heads from the 64 Worlds Fair, and we upgraded to the WDW vinyl skinned heads. As a joke, I waited for Joyce to take her dinner break and then slipped one of the heads over mine as they had a zipper in the back side. That was a squeeze for sure, and I had to leave it half open in back. I crawled under Joyce's desk, hiding my body and put my head on a shelf with 6 others she was painting. On her return she started mixing the lip paint and eyeing us all to see who needed what. In my best Small World voice, I squeaked out "Paint me, Paint me". She was so surprised, I started to laugh and gave it away. She commenced jabbing me with her broom and calling me Small World Eyes which stuck for many years. Joyce Carlson was the all time master of Small World and I adopted her as my Fairy Godmother, being one of the new kids on the block at WED.
We experienced the first energy crisis about this time and WED went from about 480 to 150 people. That was the first Black Friday as we called them. I did go to work for FOG, or Architect Frank O Gehry in Santa Monica, and worked on the first outdoor amphitheater in Concord California. That was an interesting time for him as he was getting involved with all the POP Artist's which interested me. His cardboard furniture was Hot, and the Smithsonian had commissioned some of it for their museum. I was called back to WED within 2 weeks, and Bob told me they had overreacted and I could come back to work. I did after about 1 month, but kept working for Frank at night until I was sure they would not overreact again. I later met Frank Gehry again on EDL where I was working, and where he had designed some of the exterior courtyard in the foodcourt. His Disney Music Hall was a great accomplishment from the old days, and reminded me of that amphitheater of 1974.
We worked on the third Small World for Tokyo Disneyland in 82/83. Marc Davis was busy developing his Western River Ride and a model with all the great western buildings and figures was being constructed in the model shop. I would love to have worked on that. Tony Baxter was also creating his Big Thunder concept model for WDW at about that time. I was so excited about all these western themed attractions being created. I can't forget Fort Wilderness and Pioneer Hall in about 1974 and 75. That was my first chance to work with Architect Dick Kline, and my start towards Fronteirland and all 4 Big Thunders with Tony Baxter and Skip Lange.
Next I worked with Dick on River Country which I believe was the first themed water park with trestle supported slides that I know of. I remember the problem with trying to figure out the slide and it's supporting trestles. The mountain was terraced so I built the model from a flat plain above out of fiberglass sections I molded and modeled off rubber hose layed in position of the plan. They were a lot like snake skins. I joined the sections and then worked out the towers. In a dark room, I sprayed photographic emulsion on the terraced model and then projected the plan onto it with an overhead projector under a red light from 20 feet. I then rolled on the developer like a photograph, and then the fix. Something I learned from famous Pop Art, L.A. Renegade member, Photographer Jerry McMillan in college.( He and actor Dennis Hopper are current members among other POP artists from the 60's. I just went to a recent showing of Jerry's work at the Norton Simon.) That was a great experiment and made it very easy to lay out the course of the slide and for Rock Work Legend Fred Joerger to do his River Country Rockwork. WDW VP Dick Nunis was our slide tester, and let us know which corners needed to be higher so you didn't fly over the edge like I heard he did. Of course River Country led to other Disney World water parks and many on the outside. I'm sorry to hear that its closed now. I went on to work with Dick Kline for his next 30 plus years through DL, WDW, EDL, TDL, and TDS. I would tell people I went to the school of D'Kline, when they asked. I always liked the TV show MacGyver, as it was a lot like that in the model shop, as you were always called upon to be fixing things with a piece of wire or a rubber band by our manager. My best fix was when Sharon Disney asked me to reglue a paper collage she had, that had been given to her father Walt, by Salvador Dali. It was unframed and was coming apart from age. Malcolm Cobb ordered a frame for it and I put it back together after taking a photo. Layer by layer I reglued it, and was carefull to get the Dali signature back in the right place. Many years later in 1991 on a flight to Paris for EDL, I sat next to John Hench. I told John about the collage repair story, and learned all about Dali being his European roomate, and bringing him back to the US and to the studio to work on Fanatasia and other projects. I asked John if he would write in my opening day Fantasia Program. He said "What do you want me to write?" I replied to write on a part he worked on. He said " Will, I worked on it all!". So I asked him to write where ever he wanted. After about 2 weeks I was called up to pick up my program and thanked him. That is a Disney Treasure. On another day, Legend Harriet Burns had referred me to another Legend Bill Cottrell, Walt's brother in law, on another fix project. Bill started with the company in 1929 I believe, and was regarded as Walt's right hand man by Mark Davis, as he was intrusted to help get Disneyland opened in 55. He was actually the first president of WED and in 1964 went on to manage the Disney family interests in Retlaw, the name which came long before Harpo. Bill had a French Marble 2 faced travel clock that Walt had given to him, and Harriet thought I might get it running again with my interest in clocks ( I did work on the design of the first Pinnocho Dark Ride in 82 for DL because of my love of the story, characters, and the clocks ). I wasn't used to something so delicate, and had to tell him I couldnt fix it. He told me to keep it anyway, that maybe someday I could. That led me to going over to his house, across from Harriet, to fix his larger clocks. Most just needed adjustments for time, strike, or speed and oiling the bushings. That was always fun as Bill liked to show all his bronze Disney statues that Walt or the company had given him. His house was like a museum, with everything in it's place. On leaving he would always open the coat closet by the front door and hand me a bottle of Silverado wine from the Disney family vineyard for my coming over. That was my pleasure. Afterwards I was so close to the WED hangout, the Italian restaurant Barones, which was just around the corner from Bill and Harriet, I had to stop in. As a boy I visited there with my family when it was The Tick Toc Restaurant because of all it's clocks on the walls. I would usally meet rockwork legend Fred Joerger and my manager Malcolm Cobb for a pizza. They would have the "Fred Special" and I would order a 1/3 "Harriet Special". Fred and Malcolm loved the pepporoni, sausage and mushroom. Harriet had the same except she had the eggplant instead of the pepporoni and convinced me to try it. You can still order either today in their new location. Cheers, and bon appetite!
The picture above is a 1970 photo of my girlfriend and me at Disneyland's 1970 Grad Night Party in front of the simulated Kaiser Aluminum enterance to Tomorrowland. The panels were actually fiberglass made by WED Enterprises and date back to the 1967 New Tomorrowland Opening, and are still there today. We made our first visit to the Haunted Mansion which had opened in 1969, and I was hooked even more so. 2 years later I started working at WED Enterprises Inc., and 12 years later I would be building the Haunted Mansion at Tokyo Disneyland.
A.L: When you entered WDI, Walt had already passed away, but did you had the luck to meet him before he died?
P.B: Yes, I got to shake Walt's hand in the 66 Rose Parade when he was Grand Marshall, just before his death that following December. My family was sitting on a corner that the parade went around. It was our first Rose Parade to visit, but this was a Special one with Walt. A lot of floats slowed down to make that corner. Walt's Lincoln convertible stopped in front of us and so we ran up to the car and shook his outreached hand. I think some Magic rubbed off that day. That was 6 years before I started at WED.
At WED one of my first jobs was to work on the Walt Disney story, where I had to touch up the full size photo cutouts of Walt. That was a very interesting Image Adjustment for both of us.
A.L: You worked on the originals versions of Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain, didn’t you?
P.B: Yes, Tony Baxter asked me in 1985, to design the DL Splash Mountain Load and Unload building after he was unhappy with what the architect had done. I used a "Song of the South" theme, which was completed before and you can see the concept in a rendering. I used river rock in the footings and massive chimney as it would sit near Rivers of America, and I wanted to employ native elements of Southern architecture where "Song of The South" took place. Notice the columns on the main load building. Because of the animal friendly attraction, I included the bird house copula's and Brear Rabbit being chased by the Bear on the weather vane. Bruce Gordon was great about having that made. I think later on Toon Town took that direction. Props were low on the totem pole with a small budget, so I didn't get involved in that much. I made one trip to the Rose Bowl and found some great items for it. I did donate a large wooden water wheel mechanism for the hill that I found while hunting down Big Thunder props for TDL. I later used this river rock application and mine tailing's that would have been pulled out of the mine, and post and beam construction from this and the earlier 79 DL and WDW 80 Big Thunders on the 87 TDL and 92 DLP Big Thunder load buildings, while working with those WDI Architects Dick Kline and Abe Quibin. Abe and I would go on to work on the DLP ACP Fort Wilderness interior architecture and show.
About Big Thunder an early rendering of BTM was slated for WDW and it was supposed to be the first BTM for 1979. However, we were asked to stop the WDW design model and switch to DL's Big Thunder which became finally the first in 1979. Because Big Thunder was to be next to DL's Fantasyland, Tony Baxter wanted a more fanciful rockwork. Bryce Canyon was selected as inspiration for the DL rockwork style throughout, while Monument Valley has been used for the other 3 BTM as in this rendering. Skip Lange did a Great job sculpting and rendering the model. This Big Thunder employed over 100 tons of colorful mine tailing's I found in the Mojave Desert, that were used to create the themed rock retaining walls along the guests pathways (Apple Dumpling Gang was filmed at the mine the rock tailings came from) We also shipped about 100 tons to WDW to do the same treatment. We did keep some of the Natures Wonderland Rockwork for our DL Big Thunder. You can see it on the back side of the mountain near the Fantasyland back entrance. Of course many of the critters moved over to Big Thunder after the earth shaken stopped.
Disneyland Big Thunder, was the first attraction in 1979 to have that Rusty feeling ( Rusty 1, was my call sign at EDL). In fact head painter/ager Bob Jolly, tried some rusty runs and washes on a wall near Big Thunder as a sample of our new aged look, that had been rejected for the Haunted Mansion earlier by Walt. Some maintenance people came upon it after hours, and not to upset Walt's spirit, immediately sent a crew out to repaint it clean of any objectionable defiance's. We did get to hang out the laundry on latter Big Thunders for the Billy goat, with ringing bell collar, to play with...
We did also a logo for a bronze steam compressor head in the DL Big Thunder load building in 1978. BTM in a circle was read as TWB which stood for Tony Wayne Baxter, Big Thunders Creator. It read Big Thunder Iron Works. I believe it is used on each engine on their boilers as well. As you come up the last stair to enter the DL load building, you will see the belt driven compressor right ahead of you which separates Lt and Rt loading lanes. The dispatch office is just behind the compressor. I used the BTM/TYB logo in casting the head plate on the compressor. Trouble is sometimes operations will put a trash can in front of it, blocking your view of Tony Wayne Baxter's signature in bronze. I think we have told them the story so that they will try and keep it in view.
While working on my first WED Enterprises Big Thunder, the crate on the picture above came to be. I was at Disneyland from WED Enterprises doing my first field installlation. In the queue line, I had designed several of it's architectural elements in the water tower and flumes and the spur track with crane where the Walking Beam engine sits that Big Thunder Creator Tony Baxter found at the Disney Studio. Disney WED Rockwork Legend Fred Joerger and Field Art Director Bob Jolly decided to put my name on this crate that would be suspeneded from my crane I was building. Bob said "Hey burke, where do you want your crate mailed to?" I laughed and said, "The assay office!" It's always been hanging there waiting to be delivered to Rainbow Ridge's Big Thunder Assay Office.
The picture below, taken in 1977, shows the model of a crane I designed for Big Thunder at Walt Disney World, but ended up at Disneyland's first Big Thunder instead. It can be seen in front of the town of Rainbow Ridge. It has also been used at Tokyo Disneyland and Paris Disneyland by the Big Thunder Mine dock.
On the next picture, shot in 1979, I am standing in front of the Walt Disney World new Big Thunder Load building that was in progress. We had just installed the old 2 stamp mill in front that I had located and had to partially rebuild after over100 years of use and neglect. The wood flywheel and crank assembly that would trip the mills hammers is lying on the ground. In the 1880s you could hear bays of these stamps mills running from miles away.A vertical gas engine is standing just behind the mill to run it by a flat leather belt. Today it would be over 130 years old. "It's Old but it will hold!".
As Walt Disney World new Big Thunder was getting ready for it's Grand Opening in 1980, Disney Legend Charles Ridgway wanted to come out for a publicity photo shoot for the press event and ask some questions. When he asked me about the most unusual item at Big Thunder, I had to show him my Ball Mill seen in the photo below.
The mill was only 1 of 3 ever made, and the last one in existence. After I had tracked it down from rumors and secured it for our 2nd Big Thunder. I started getting calls about sightings of it,and even a newspaper article 4 years after it was in Big Thunders Mining Camp. The large steel ball in the center weighed about 1 ton and rolled inside a hollowed out track in the round mill. It was powered by a large flat belt coupled to a steam engine behind it. The mill rolled on 4 wheels at it's base, and ore was loaded in from the side for crushing, and would tumble out as it turned. Florida's Big Thunder was supposed to be the first one but was shifted to 2nd place when Disneyland requested one. We used to get calls from Legend Dick Nunis from his office on that one, as the rockwork was going up. Charles really new how to promote a Disney show and I need to get his book.
One day, I remember I was trying to find out why River Country was being closed ? In doing so I found out about the 2 live steam engines that had been part of Fort Wilderness and enjoyed by the guests for a $1.00 a ride. When we were doing EDL, they were unused and sitting and I thought we could get them for EDL’s Thunder Mesa for a similar ride/tour or just a prop. WDW said no and then they used them for Ticket Booths on Pleasure Island until they sold them to some collectors!
I remember I was glad that Michael Eisner and Frank Wells liked the DLP Big Thunder version and I enjoyed Frank Wells comments. I was able to fly over to Paris with him in the company jet right before the Desert Storm operation started, which is a whole other story.
A.L: Pat, talking about DLP’s Big Thunder, someone told me that when the park opened, an audio-animatronic was located at the entrance of the third lift, before the “dynamite explosion”?
P.B: Originally, at the base of the mine on the right in a tunnel, we had a voice yelling "Fire in the hole!" with a light blast depicting a dynamite blast. But no AA figure. A figure was too expensive and was never conceived except in voice. I did propose doing a figure we had Disney Sculptor Blaine Gibson do for the earlier Big Thunders. It was of a prospector pulling his loaded mule off the track. Loaded with barrels of blasting powder and crates of dynamite, the mule would finally sit up as the train approached with a big tug from the prospector on his reins. Again because of cost and other issues, it was not completed. Maybe for the 5th Big Thunder, I will bring it up.
Below, a series of pictures of of DLP Frontierland theming. These real artifacts are now forever in DLP and create the magic of Thunder Mesa, thanks to Pat Burke search all over the U.S in 16 states, East and West. He found the artifacts and then recreated their former environments for Thunder Mesa.
Some of the pictures below are coming from the excellent web site Ravenswood Manor, a gold mine of informations about Frontierland Big thunder Mountain and Phantom Manor.
Above: Lavinia Rose's Black Smith. This was to be across the street in Big Thunder Mining Company's property, but the scene for this area was cancelled. Tony Baxter asked me to move it out of its scheduled location, and I put it across the street with the Minneapolis Traction Engine that I also moved to compliment the scene.
Above: One of the Thunder Mesa's original vertical Mineshafts. Rumored as air vent shaft to tie into Mercantile shaft, leading to Big Thunder Island.
Above: Two pictures of Huntington Mill with horse drawn steam engine. BTM CreatorTony Baxter was worried this smoke stack would block the view of the Butte and asked Skip to have me take it out of the scene. I told Skip not to worry that the smoke stack could fold down as it did when traveling on the road. I folded it down into its yoke and all was fine as shown in this photo documentation. I also had to design the reentry building in the background so as not to block the Butte view as well. That was a fun roofline to work with. There were only 3 of these mills produced, and I located 2 of them to salvage 1 for Thunder Mesa.
Above: Big Thunder Entrance sign and height gear. This was developed to have the gear be as tall as the smallest guest on the attraction. It had to be set several times in concrete as operations decided the ultimate requirement from the finished pavement which changed several times..
Above: Steam Powered Cement Mixer. Executive VP Marty Sklar passed down a letter to me addressed toWDI, from a museum in England, that wished to purchase this steam powered rarity for a special wing they had on steam power. I replied to them by phone that it was part of the show and could not be sold. They asked if I knew of another that might be for sale? I had to tell them no I didn't. I did not have the heart to tell them I made it up from parts.
Above: Other Mining artifacts located near the Steam Powered Cement Mixer.
Above: Big Thunder Mining Company Main Operations Building
Upper floor: A. Foreman's Check in Office, B. Overhead powered Tool Bay,
C. 3 dommed steam powered water pump station feeding overhead flumes to water wheel, D. Head frame, main shaft elevator cage, and operational steam winch, E. Stamp mill, feeder and crushing platform.
Lower Floor: A. Mechanical Ore Chutes and train loading, B. BTM Main Dispatch office for departing and arriving trains.
Above: Upper floor tool bay. These were all steam driven by an overhead line shaft with belt pulleys.
Above: BTM Unload area/lower floor
This was a great scene to develope with the real mine mechanical mine chute doors. What a job finding and hauling those all the way to Thunder Mesa!
Above: CrossRoads detail with mine car loading ramp.
Above: Mill Landing, one of the most photographed scene in the park by DLP guests.
Above: Big Thunder Mountain Upper Mill Building and Head frame.
Above: Two mine cars with Big Thunder main Butte in background. In creating these vignettes, I always consider the Director Alfred Hitchcock ins an outs and keeping the Butte in focus in the end.
Above: Big Thunder Mining Companys signal light and steam whistle. Largest exterior made light in the park, used to warn river boats of the approaching bend and rocky curve ahead, and to signal the BTM Foreman Big Jack to clear the Gin Pole Boom for load and unloading at the Ball Mill Dock.
Above: Ball Mill Dock with rotating Gin Pole. Part of the Ball Mill Loading Dock. Ball Mill Landing with Big Thunder Mountain and Snow Shed in background. It's always necessary to work with the new foilage and great to see it years later as they all fuge together.
Above: Mercantile interiors
My first store to develope. All the props had to be above merchandizing, so I built a 2nd story to house the elevator cage's steam winch and boiler. This vertical elevator shaft led to a horizontal shaft that went under the river and out to Big Thunder Island. Some of the propietors mineral gatherings from the BTM Mines can be seen on the upper shelves of the store. He wanted to make sure his staff did not sell them off while he was out "Fishing" for more!
A.L: There is also this famous “Thunder Bird God” painted on the outside of Big Thunder...
P.B: In 1977, I asked Big Thunder Mountain concept designer Tony Baxter, if I could come up with some actual lore for the mountain from research, as I had grown up around the silver and gold mines in the Mojave desert in California. He said fine and go ahead. The Thunder Bird God was found in an actual Research book on Indian legends. When the miners invaded the Indians sacred mountain and removed its wealth, the Thunder Bird God would clap its wings, and cause the mountain to shake causing mine cave-ins as in lift 3. The Indians would then board over the miners shaft and cover it with mud and brush as if they had never been there. A lot of vertical shafts got this treatment and bikers 100 years later fell to their death from the weight of the bikes on the old covered boards. I saw one of these bikes after a 40 foot drop.
Above and below: Minneapolis Traction Engine at DLP.
Top speed was 4 MPH and ran on wood, with a chain dricen clutch and steering mechanism. Saved from over 100 destroyed back in 1909 steel salvage drive for WW1. Inspired by the 1971 Robert Altman film, "McCabe & Mrs Miller", it was used by the Big Thunder Mining Company tro bring supplies to the mine and go where no train could.
Each Big Thunder got more research and more artifacts as a result. EDL's would be hard to beat on the 5th Big Thunder. Robert Altman's "McCabe and Mrs Miller" was a major influence for me on EDL Big Thunder. I loved the old steam powered Case traction Engine in the movie that hauled all the supplies and sporting women to the small town like Thunder Mesa. So we have the Minneapolis Traction Engine in Thunder Mesa, that I actually got to drive several times under steam. It could still run today and would be fun to start up, just to blow it's steam whistle. I will talk about it more in the book. By the way, is the old windmill turning at the ranch? It does work and we had it running for the opening.
Above, the Windmill with Wood Water Wagon at DLP.
I have done all 4 Big Thunders, 4 Indy attractions, 3 Jungle Cruises, 2 Pirates,....HKDL had no Frontierland so I worked on it overall, but mainly on the Mainstreet. It’s too bad the new Frontierland for there was just canceled, or was it? That would be great to work on but I dont think they will have a Big Thunder!
Above, HKDL future Grizzly Trail. This new land will be HKDL "Frontierland" and was announced recently, after the recording of this interview.
A.L: Phantom Manor graveyard theming is remarkable, and there is a story about the four tombs of the Bear, the trapper, the squirrel and the lion.
P.B: Yes, one day someone asked me what killed the Bear, after he ate the trapper. Well, here is the story.....As far as I remember, in Frontierland’s story line the squirrel was a pet of the Lucky Nugget owner. When she went to feed him in the morning, she found out the stray old lion had eaten her bushy tailed friend. So in anger, she sent out her trapper friend - who was also a prospector of Gold in Thunder Mesa, (and always carried a vile of mercury for his gold separation from the quartz) - to kill the lion that same morning.
After he had come upon and killed the lion up on Thunder Mountain, the hungry old bear came out that night from the Indian burial cave, at waters edge and into the trappers camp site, and made a meal of him and the remains of the slayed lion. The Bear was not as picky as the trapper, and ingested the mercury as well. Unlike the God of Mercury, this did eventually stop the Bear after a long slow 20 years. Thunder Mountain prospectors found the remains of the prospector, and notified the Lucky Nugget owner, who put on a befitting burial with markers at the Phantom Manor Grave site. The story was always a point of unresolved interest in the Lucky Nugget for the next 20 years, until the old bear wandered into town and died at the Crossroads hub. Injested mercury poisoning, was not too well known at that time. Luckily that tuff old muley bear was put to rest and not eaten at the Cowboy Cookout.
I remember also I was requested by Tony Baxter to write the story's behind the Thunder Mesa family buried in the mansion cemetery, based on our lore and legend. We were getting a lot of letters forwarded to us at WDI Glendale asking questions about the different Phantom Manor headstones and their occupants, and what they meant. These were all sent to Tony Baxter, and I believe to Marty Sklar, head Executive Vice President. Tony suggested I write the stories that would explain all answers to the questions, since I was a pretty good story teller I've been told, and had come up with a lot of the Big Thunder Lore over 4 generations or editions of the attraction. I had also previously done all the stories with photos, for the various Thunder Mesa Americana icons, that was to be made into a booklet to be passed out to the Thunder Mesa operators. These were done before the park opened in 92. As I completed the Phantom Manor stories, I sent a copy to Tony, Marty and Show Producer Jeff for their review and approval. All concurred and loved them.
Did you know we almost had a Phantom Manor Carriage Barn? This was to provide covered Q to the guests entering the Manor and waiting in the long expected line. I had quite a line up of vintage wagons located for this which would have been perfect, including a white pumkin shaped childrens hearse. Looked like Cinderella's coach. Sorry that has never materialized and that's another story.
Above: Thunder Mesa Shipping Company at Frontierland depot
A.L: At DLP, you also worked on Frontierland Depot’s theming .
P.B: Yes. With the train station coming up for production and in design, I was fortunate to meet a life time collector of train memorabilia. He even had a red caboose that John Wayne had starred on. Stuck away in all his sheds were many elements in various stages of disrepair. That's always the fun part for me, like an Erector Set, collecting all the pieces and manufacturing the missing ones that will make the Thunder Mesa Train Station so unique from the other parks. Where else do they have a vintage "No Spitting on The Landing" cast iron sign, or a mechanically chain operated mail bag signal, or the semaphore to signal the train to stop for passengers. Boy was that a tough one to revive. I remember the night we set it in place and the foot of the Crane, pressed down and broke the main waterline feeding the park. Like a geyser, rocks and mud blew 80 feet in the air covering me and my crew. The local firetrucks came as well as park security. I think they actually laughed at our appearance before shutting the water off. The semaphore would not slide down it's mating base shaft, so I had my Irish crew lead Sticks, grease the shaft, and it then went right together. What a night.
Above: Mail Bag sign and water tower, Thunder Mesa Shipping Company Depot, and the semaphore.
A.L: You know that a Splash Mountain attraction is always envisioned for the future in that area of the park. If one day they build it, Frontierland Depot will be moved 100 meters on the right from where it is right now.
P.B: I often mentioned to WDI friends that, as Jeff Burke had wanted, maybe a Matterhorn type logging ride might be a better choice for Frontierland, like Knott's Berry Farm has. Bud Hurlbut, it's creator, was actually invited by Tony Baxter to come over to Disneyland and see our first Big Thunder and all it's mining artifacts in progress. Bud went back and added mining props to his ride as we had done first. That was a great compliment to us. A Logging ride would compliment Big Thunder as both supported each other in Fronteirland History. They went hand in hand. Mining gold payed for the logging flumes and saw mills, and the logs provided timbers for the mine shoring and mill buildings. As DLP’s Big Thunder is the best of the 4 in all ways, it would be great to build a true logging themed attraction tied to Thunder Mesa Lore.
Above, a view of Frontierland Geyser area covered by snow last winter. Geyser Mountain would have been built behind.
A.L: There was also this famous “Geyser Mountain” project that never was...
P.B: Did you ever see Tony's Discovery Bay model for installing on DL's Rivers of America and the land behind big Thunder? It even included my mine theming done on the Tower Of Terror internal structure to look like an 1880 Head Frame that would tie into Thunder, with dropping elavator cages. This was done around 2000.
I had proposed the same Mine Head Frame for DLP back in 2001 just before the 9/11 big hit. It was to go where the Geyser area is back of the track. I had designed a cross over next to the tunnel, that was very Victorian to complement the Manor and the rivited steel construction to compliment Big Thunder as well as the train.
I only had about 1 week to come up with the exterior architecture for the proposed new PDL Geyser attraction. I believe Show Producer Jeff Burke had worked on some concept work for the interior of the show. I had fun remembering all the themed mining buildings I had been through in my travels, and replicated them for this attraction that would have complemented Thunder Mesa as well as Paris. Like the Eiffel Tower of the same period, this head frame would have been constructed all of steel and rivets. PDL's water table was best suited for this addition as well. I had a central rivited spiral stack, that went from the mine below to the top of the head frame. This was to help release built up natural pressure from the earth below. That would be something to be seen from Thunder Mesa.
I remember talks about vehicles that you would load on possibly that could move around maybe like TDL's Pooh vehicles, that might take different paths or mine tunnels. I know the Geyser version I worked on, had to have the deep water table as PDL has in order to have the vertical shaft, as the cages would stop at different stations as Tower does. In Tower it's floors, and in Geyser it would be levels, as in a mine. I envisioned a pre show much like Thunder, going into a series of themed buildings and seeing the mechanics that ran the tower elevators, and all the necessary equipment. A boiler room to capture the natural steam pressure from the earth below, that would be transferred to the various stations like steam powered winches and motors and pumps. Even steam powered motors driving the electrical generators to create the lighting as I did in DL's Indy attraction. Of course the lights would also fluctuate with sudden increases in natural pressure, which would cause pipes to seep steam, and the creaking groaning noises of hardware being stressed. Very Jules Verne!
The main trouble was someone wanted to add it to WDW instead of DLP, but they didn't understand the water table issue. DL Pirates has the 2 drops because of a deeper water table. When we added Pirates to WDW in 1974 it could only have 1 drop do to the water table. TDL Pirates is based on half WDW and half DL and also only has 1 drop because of their low water table. Some before me envisioned the head Frame as wood in disrepair. I have done that on some of the Big Thunder trestles and a little in TDS Lost River Delta. As i've said, for DLP's Thunder Mesa, I always envisioned it in riveted constructed steel for the 1880's as the Eiffel Tower was created. This is how Mr Ravenswood would have built it, nothing but the best. This would also be better to maintain than wood. My grandfather the steel bridge maker would concur with that. It would be the mechanical elements that would fluctuate with the earths natural progression of events. Guests would be witness to many eerie and natural wonders of the caverns below. Another aspect of the "Geyser" attraction much like Eiffel Tower which the Ravenswoods may have visited would have been the panoramic view as you are carried upward for that last vision of Thunder Mesa through the erupting Geyser field in the foreground. This would have been the Best view of Thunder Island also from the multiple cages facing it. Guests on the ground would witness the enormous steam eruption that would lift the massive 2 tons pressure check valve ball, releasing the steam from caverns below. The cages are only open from the front, blocking your view of backstage, but guests will be aware of the vibration from the steam traveling throught the center heavy rivited twisted steel pipe at their side, right before and during the eruption of pressure.
A.L: You worked also on the Indiana Jones Adventure attraction at Disneyland. Tell us more about the first concept and Bryan Jowers famous rendering where we can see five attractions in the same painting.
P.B: Yes, Bryan Jowers did that rendering with both the mine car coaster and the transport vehicles ride in one attraction. Later, it was decided that DLP would get the mine car coaster ride part of the rendering and DL would get the transport vehicle part of the ride, which was the expensive part. Like separating to joined twins. I did work on both.
As you look at the rendering you can see all the individual elements that got carried out in 5 different attractions. You can see a Jungle Cruise boat and that was a part of the Jungle Cruise DL attraction that was added when we added Indiana Jones to DL in 95. The Jungle Cruise load building was redone . We also had to change the path of the DLJC river as it was affected by the new Temple and surrounding show. We redid the ruins scene in that area as well. I designed the loading dock that could relate to the Jungle boats and Indy. It had a wood steel banded water tank mounted on a bamboo support, reinforced tower. Below that, I had an old rivet boiler with fire box to purify water for the Indy Camp. A hand operated pump was used to pull water from the rivers to the boiler. The boiler would fill the tank above, which then feed to other water storage tanks within the camp. The flag staff and pennant on top were so Indy's plane would not hit it. This was all new show for the Jungle Cruise as well as Indy. The original Indiana Jones vehicle from the famous scene in the 1st movie can be seen from the Jungle boats where we parked it in the camp. There's a whole story on this truck which I got to drive as well as sleep in before and during installation.. The cork screw in the rendering was used in the DLP Temple attraction as you may have experienced. The suspended bridge as in the 2nd Indy movie, was used both at DL and the TDS Indiana Jones attraction. The newer TDS mine car coaster added next to Indy, employs some ideas from DLP and the sketch. I had done design work on all the Idol restoration scaffolding on this one. Now, you are understanding how much this drawing has been employed. I especially enjoyed doing the Indy office at DL, just as I thought Indy would have had it and saw an inspirational glimpse as he left his classroom in the first film, and went into his research office and lab. I also enjoyed coming up with the generator shed that would power all the Temple electrical lighting outside and inside up to the loading area. This shed is a structural open shed on movable skids as Indy slid it into place. Open wire mesh keeps most of the native animals out as well as giant pythons which Indy hates. So on it shelves you can see an assortment of preserved foods and research tools needed in the camp. There is also a real antique giant New House Bear Trap that Indy had Salla order to catch that big snake deep within the digs. Many times guests have tried to obtain that trap or offer to replace that old 1920 generator and hit or miss Fairbanks gas powered engine in the shed.
People love Indy queue line theming, and John Hench proclaimed in his book that DL's Indy queue Line was the best example of a true Disney attraction. For me, it was a new direction in another theme, which led to my work on Lost River Delta, TDS.
In 1994, while we were installing Indy at DL, the Jungle Cruise load building was also updated and got it's second floor which made it resemble, at last, more like the original concept.
I remember after Walt Disney World was opened in 1971 that a lot of the attraction designs started coming back to Disneyland. Working with Disney Legend Marc Davis on America Sings and Country Bear, I was also able to work on the Jungle Cruise's new storylines and sets. The 26 foot Python animated snake in a tree was assigned to me. I looked at how the Walt Disney World snake had been painted and thought it could be done better. Having owned snakes as a boy, but never one over 6 feet, this one really interested me. Doing research in the WED Enterprises Library was always a part of the fun. They could borrow from the Walt Disney Studio Library, and sometimes you got a book that Walt had checked out and signed the card or made notes in. I had a book on Irish Family names that he had last checked out.
When I finished the Python, Marc came by and loved it. My manager Bob Sewell requested John Hench and Marty Sklar to come down next as John usually gave the last word. It had been reported that I put my initials on the snake, and they wanted to see. John Hench got up at looked at the top of the Python which was out of guest view. He said "I see a lot of initials worked into the snakes pattern but not his!" I told him I put eveybody's intials on it that worked on the show except mine. Marty and John approved, and the photo's show it just after being installed. I hope they have feed him well over the years to keep his color up.
A.L: Talking about the Jungle Cruise, it seems that one of the first jungle cruise gorillas became Matterhorn’s abominable snowman...
P.B: Yes, the Matterhorn Abominable Snowman served as a Gorilla in his former job in the Jungle Cruise! I believe it was Steve Kirk, Mr TDS, who rethemed the Gorilla for his new job at Matterhorn, and then we added the interior with the new Ice Crystals with Legend and Matterhorn creator, Fred Joerger.
I was working with Mark Davis on upgrading the DL Jungle Cruise after WDW had opened with their improved show. Part of Mark's new show for DL included the Gorilla Camp with the tents, overturned jeep and the family of gorillas unpacking and turning the camp inside out. So, the older previous tenant Gorilla vacated the DLJC. Some time later,the Matterhorn was coming down to be upgraded while we were doing the new Big Thunder in 88/89. Some new reinforcement with steel was being added where the wood substructure was located in places. This wood substructure can be seen in the recent section of the Matterhorn you sent me. The new tandum Bobsleds were being added along with new track, and better brakes for the splash down. I tried to get an old vehicle to watch TV in but was told they had to be destroyed. It was also decided to put some show in the interior mostly for the Skyway buckets that passed through the Matterhorn more slowly. The Bobsleds of course at speed could see the new icy interiors and crystals about as well as the new Abominable snowman/alias Mr Gorilla that came out of retirement and put on a new suit!
I remember seeing a lot of Mark Davis sketches hanging in the halls at WED as you went to the cafeteria or Gold Coast as it was called. Several have lunch and talk with Mark sessions also allowed us to see such work, as he talked about what was and wasn't to be. Some of these characters made it in slightly different situations. For instance, when we did TDL's Pirates of Caribbean, we combined a lot of elements from WDW and DL. That was a big project for me.
With Walt Disney World celebrating it's 40th anniversary recently, I found these 2 pictures from Fort Wilderness in 1974. Pioneer Hall had opened and I was asked to work with WED Enterprises Architect Dick Kline on Fort Wilderness. That was my start on Fronteirland attractions and a long partnership with Dick going to Big Thunders. After Fort Wilderness, we started on Disney's first themed water park called River Country. Disney Legend Fred Joerger would do the boulder type river rockwork for it.
We had no computers yet and I was given a flat drawing of the proposed slides. Having had photography in College under Chinaurd's Jerry McMillan, I cut out the suggested elevations on the model pictured. I then rolled on film emulsion under a red light, and flashed a film of the flat 2 dimentional plan on it with an overhead projector. We quickly developed and fixed the film, yielding a 3 dimentional model to work with. I built the slides out of fiberglass just as the real ones would be, and figured out the themed wood tower heights needed for a marble to roll down them. Disney Legend Dick Nunis was our infield testor and would give daily calls on where banks needed a higher wall. I'm sorry to see River Country in it's present condition and hope that something good comes of it.
Above: a WDI rendering for the Lake Independence Ski Resort project in the 70's.
A.L: Back in the 70’s, you also worked on a very secret Disney project, the Lake Independence Ski Resort.
P.B: I remember in 1975, I was working on Disney's top secret Lake Independence Ski Resort. A followup ski resort to Walt's Mineral King which never happened. We were waiting to see if Gerald Ford or Jimmy Carter would get elected President in 76. Ford was a skier and Carter not. We needed the presidents support to help us fight the Sierra Club as our Governor Jerry Brown would not.That however changed after an encounter with his Girlfriend Linda Ronstadt. A bunch of us from WED were up a Mammoth Mountain skiing. I was waiting for my boss Malcolm Cobb to come up the chair lift. As he got off with this very petite pretty girl, he skied over to me and began his story about her. On the chair up she noticed his 20 year gold Mickey Mouse ring and asked if he liked Mickey or something? He told her about working for Disney for many years, and it being a service reward, and in fact began to talk about our ski resort project that our dumb Governor would not come out to see. She replied that he was a good friend of hers and she would talk to him about it. Malcolm had no idea who she was and thought she was a little touched to put it politely. We informed him after seeing her and hearing the story, that she was for real Linda Ronstadt. 2 weeks later WED got a call from the Governor's office, and Jerry Brown wanted to come and see the Ski Resort project. Working on the model, I was present when he came back to our secret room to look at it. I remembered his secret service agents were much taller than he was. We showed him that all the ski runs were through existing trails we had developed from overhead photos taken by infrared film from one of the Space Capsule flights. ( Astronaut Gorden Cooper came to work for us about this time as a Vice President and spokesman for our new Space Mountain Attractions at Disney world and then Disneyland.) We had actually added new trees, and all the architecture was tucked neatly into the environment with underground parking structures. The Cog Railroad would transport guests up the hill to a proposed revolving restaurant on top of the mountain. Even with all this,the Governor, who unlike his Friend Linda, was not a skier and would still not back our project which would mean fighting the Sierra Club. Of course Carter got nominated, and then Disney President Ron Miller, shelved the project to obscurity. So we know what an election can do or not do for Disney. Years later, i met Jerry Brown in Tokyo - while i was working on Tokyo Disneyland in 1982. he was walking with monks, his head shaved and apparently studying buddhism.
A.L: By the way, You also worked for Gene Warren who did the SFX in the famous 1960’s Time Machine movie.
P.B: Yes, I worked for Gene Warren at night while working for WED during the day in the 70's for a brief time. I had to make up the needed money to get by on from WED to repair my car. Gene got the special effects Academy Award for the "Time Machine" in the 60's. His son Gene Jr. got it for "Terminator" SFX. Small World.... Another reason why I love Jules Verne, although the Time Machine novel was written by Wells. Excelsior was their company name I remember. The pilot for Man From Atlantis was my main job, and I was able to do actual camera work as well as special effects lighting for an underwater landing strip for a submarine. The set was filmed wet for dry. That was actor Patrick Duffy's first job, chosen from a McDonald's commercial, long before he did Dallas as Bobby Ewing. The pilot developed into a TV series, but I had stopped by then. After working at WED all day and then riding my 10 speed Paramount from Burbank to Hollywood and back at 11pm was good exercise. The movie Black Sunday's FX's were also done at that time. We did a Nehi soda pop commercial with child actor Rodney Allan Whippy from Big Mac fame, that required us to pour 50 gallons of Nehi grape soda pop through a set of a little town where Rodney was sitting on a couch saying "I wish I was knee hi in Nehi!" That worked great but the soda pop went under the wall and into a Disco next store called the Bullshot. Never heard so much screaming before, and firetrucks came. Had a lot of purple grape Nehi to drink. Great experience to build on for my work at WED. Of course that was not my first brush with a Sci Fi legend. In college I studied under Irving Block, who created Robbie the Robot, and worked on several famous movies like "Forbidden Planet" which I heard Disney was involved with in the effects. He also among many, worked on the 1949 Alice In Wonderland movie doing special effects. I still have my animation project I did for him on which a film could be developed. Irving always said "You can't draw a figure until you understand what holds it up!" I used that when I worked on laying out the 1 inch model with simulated steel frame that held Big Thunder up for WDW and then the 1/2 inch DL model. The structural steel consultants were not quite sure how to do it from Big Thunder creator Tony Baxter's 1/4 inch model, until Skp Lange and I made a pass at it in a larger scale. They did give us spans and loads to go by. Skp would tell me where he was going to put rockwork and buttes, and I would work out the steel underneath that also had to miss track clearance envelopes within the mountains. Thank you Irving Block.
You may know that Tom Sherman - Mr Nautilus - bought the original Time Machine from the Big MGM auction of about 1971, for about $1500.00. I was there also. It was only missing it's bench which he had replaced and is in it's new owner's home. Tony Baxter has purchased a reproduction full size Time Machine for his home, as well as a working miniature as in the film. I have not seen the large one yet but he told me about it. My cousin worked on the new Time Machine movie, but even as great as that machine was, I still like the original. That is the movie that inspires me.
Talking about Tom Scherman, Tom did an incredible Nemo Film Pilot for a TV series. Tom have a screening at WED and showed a bunch of us Tony Team members, this Nemo Film Pilot several times. I'm thinking Tony was trying to show it to then Disney President Ron Miller, to do as a weekly TV Show. Can't say what happened there. Also, Tom's drawings are definitely pre-TDS and a major influence for that park. Tom told me he used to do napkin sketch in restaurants and trade them for his meals! He mentioned Kantor's Delicatessen in Hollywood, which was a hangout for people in the business. George MacGinnis recently reminded me of a fact or Harper Law, which Tom upheld. The Nautilus Hull was to be constructed from steel removed from sunken ships Nemo had sunk. Therefore the steel plating would be irregular and uneven and not perfect as some non Sherman models have depicted. Tom had explained that to me on his large scale model which I believe Tony still has. After the opening of TDS, I told Tony that he should be proud, as it was really his DL Discovery Bay, expanded. Steve Kirk had worked on this model with Tony, and carried the concept on to TDS as you have shown through Tom's expanded sketch's. Kind of like the Africa Pavilion concepts, which I worked on, which when expanded became the larger Animal Kingdom at WDW's EPCOT. While I was working on EDL expansion, I was able to help Tom out on finding some period metal castings, tools and twisted spoke valve handles, for his Nautilus that is now in DLP. In about 1985, Tom asked me to come to Legend Ward Kimbals house, where he was going to stage his giant Iron Man against Ward's full size live steam Engine. Quite a day. Ward had to get a special permit to start up his engine that day, which had not run in many years. I was made brakeman on top just behind the locomotive. Ward had not trimmed the oranges trees in many years that hung over the track. As we got rolling I got swatted with all these oranges and they bounced down into the locomotives cab where Ward was laughing. I believe Tom used dry ice to simulate his Iron Mans smoke which I believe came out his top hat. I got some great photos of Tom and Ward that day in their element.
With Harper Goff and Tom Sherman we used to go out to lunch at Viva's, when Harper was working with us on Epcot. Harper talked about all things Nemo and Dragnet, his TV show afterwards. Did you know Harper loved unique cars? He had a 57 Fairlane Retractable, front wheel Tornado, and a 69 Mustang Mach 1!
I remember telling Tom Scherman that I saw an Album cover in Japan in 82 that had the core drilling machine on the cover that he had visualized, and was later used at TDS. Tom should get more credit, really, for his contribution to TDS...
Above: a WDI rendering for Tokyo Disney Sea Lost River Delta.
A.L: On which land of Tokyo Disney Sea did you worked on?
P.B: On TDS, I worked on Lost River Delta doing overall architecture, bridges, sheds, docks, themed fencing etc... The team before me, had put together the drawing package on Cad, but the Oriental Land Company didn't approve it at first. Cad can be a little boring, so we hand drew everything again adding those special details and elements not found in Cad drawing. They loved it and approved it for the next phase. I had worked on Indy for Paris and Disneyland and worked on themeing in the exterior digs area. Eventually I would come back and work on the Indy coaster ride which was fun and made it my 4th Indy adventure. The vegetable stand was located on the dock but it's pilings and lower levels went down to the water. That is where I had a lot of fun with joinery from my Fronteirland knowledge. The drawings were literally sent to the field and duplicated, as I had engineered everything as I like to do. The aircraft hanger was to be modeled after the one in the movie "Rocket Man". I previously had flown to Santa Pollo air port while taking flying lessons (My father had a Cessna 140 that I worked the stick in at 6 years). That's where I got to meet Steve McQueen on 2 visits, and see his collection of cars, motorcycles, and toys. I remember seeing the actual hanger used in Rocket Man, and called up the airport to see if it was still there. It was. So I made a little trip there and photographed a lot of its details architecturally. I turned them over to the architect who was working on it for TDS.
As Lost River wound down, I moved over to American Waterfront with some of my team members where I got to detail out the 700 foot 1912, SS Columbia steam ship and all its nautical hardware and it's loading gantry. That was a lot of fun as I found an old steam winch and mechanical gears and designed 3 foot diameter wheels for the Gantry trucks, that were sand cast in Hiroshima. I actually had some wheel drawings for Carrol Shelby's 1965 427 Cobra, that Alex Kerr had made me copies of. He had worked for Shelby and Disney for many years. I wanted to design a correct S spoke wheel for the 1912 period and these Shelby drawings were a great help as will as 100 year old wood patterns I had located. They turned out great on the Gantry. I really wanted to surpass the detail of the Titanic from the movie, and feel we did. My grandfather graduated from Notre Dame in the 20's as a Structural Engineer, and went on to build hundreds of riveted steel bridges for the railroad in Minnesota. On my summers there as a boy, he would take me around and show me his different bridges and point out the details which I must have absorbed.
For American Waterfront, I had to develop the Columbia's entire hull riveting details, and had to relearn the different types of rivets and their usage. I believe there were over 2 million rivets in that ship. I had to develop over 24 sheets of decking design, joinery, and layout for the ship in teak that I found in Jakarta. My restored 1890's steam winch that was employed on the fore deck for simulated operation of the mast boom had an interesting experience. The OLC ship builder had to set the rigging for the mast and boom, but no crane could reach there. In a design meeting with them, I suggested using my old steam winch. They kind of laughed as they didn't think the old relic still worked. I showed them how to run it on compressed air and it did the job, brakes and all. They really enjoyed that experience. 12 different handrail types were developed for the ship as would have been correct for 1912 ship construction and deck class. I had over 40 research books on sunken ships of the era. So the Columbia has little bits of Aquitaine, Mauritania, Titanic, and other sleeping beauty's at the seas floor. I also worked on the second Steamer parked nearby to it. It's always a great challenge to work on something new that you have to learn every little detail about, and become an authority about in a short period.
The picture above is one of my favorite night time shots of the Tokyo Disney Seas 1912 SS Columbia. Over 700 feet long and 2 million rivets in the hull and above. Inspired by the Titanic, Queen Mary, Mauritania, and Aquitania and about 30 books on sunken ships. This shot shows off the downramps and spreader bar with Columbia cast into it. I had to argue that the spreader bar belonged to the Columbia and not the dock so it would have it's name on it. With Avitar coming on board, I watched James Cameron's Titanic movie again. When the team was designing the Columbia, we wanted it to be better than the Titanic in his movie. I was watching his Titanic float by and realized the hull was pretty flat. It didn't have all the hull plating joints and rivets that ours had that gave off little shadows and details, that make it look vintage and real. Thank you Disney WED Legend Orlando for being the BEST and helping to make the magic happen many times. I hope sometime that James Cameron can visit our Columbia and let us know what he thinks about it.
A.L: You worked also on the Tokyo Disneyland version of It’s a Small World, and thanks to this you had an incredible meeting with Japanese legendary director Akira Kurosawa...
P.B: Yes that was my 3rd Small World that I worked on. I had to go out in the country from Tokyo where a vendor was working on the Small World Clock Tower numbers and other sections that would later be assembled at the site if I approved them. We were driving out in the country and down an alley when we stopped at the vendors little manufacturing building. A man was sitting across the alley in his garage working on a project. I mentioned an interest in what he was doing and they told me he was a very famous movie director. After we reviewed all the Small World artwork being done in fiberglass and finished in gold glitter, we went across the alley and I was introduced to this older man. That's when I found out he was Akira Kurosawa, and I told him how much I loved his movies and the connection to our famous Western "Magnificent 7". I told him I had met Steve McQueen several times at his airplane hangar in Santa Pollo, and got to see all his toys, cars, bikes, and two Stearman airplanes. With my interpreter in between we talked about the new TDL that would open in 1983 and that I was working a lot at TOHO Studios on the show sets and props. I told him I also got to wear Richard Chamberlains Shogun outfit for a Halloween party through work. Shogun was made at TOHO. He thought that was very amusing, that I would be interested in that. Having seen the Shogun and Samurai warrior armor at TOHO's museum, we talked about some pieces he had in his garage. He asked about Small World, and I told him it was a "Classic" attraction that Walt had his hand on, and it represented children from all over the world in a united song. He thought it was good that we exchange our heritage as we were doing for the new Tokyo Disneyland in 83. The Japanese were very good at Fiberglass when we built TDL in 1983. Kurosawa was interested in the Small World Pieces as they were layed out on the garage floor. In closing I hoped that he would visit our new park and enjoy a new adventure for him. I wonder if he ever got to see it? I believe he lived until 1998, so he had plenty of time. That was the last time I got to see him.
Back in 1982 and 83, WED Enterprises was busy building it's first international park called Tokyo Disneyland in Japan, as well as EPCOT in Walt Disney World. The Africa Pavillion was cancelled, so I went to Japan to help with props and sets for about 13 attractions. Based mostly at TOHO Studios, I was called upon one day to visit the Monster Room where all the TOHO Monsters hung around. Godzilla the most famous of their family was having a new premier revival at the Ginza. I offered to help out with a teeth cleaning and gave him a ride to make up, as seen in the 2 photos. I heard he made a Big Splash at the opening.
While building Tokyo Disneyland back in 1982 and 83, the hour's in the field were long and the weekends short as was usually the case if you loved what you did and wanted it to show. While at TOHO Studios most of the time, I had little time to get a costume for our up and coming famouse Apartments 33 Halloween Party. The Toho Studio head found out about the party and asked me to come in on saturday after work to see him. I finished the day on Pirates of the Carribean, as we were building 7 ships for the attraction along with over 70 treasure chests and all the other props and antiques. I was brought over to his office and then taken to wardrobe. There they had me try on Richard Chamberlain's Shogun costume from the movie. Even the wood platform shoes fit. They would not allow me the sword however.
This picture was taken at the party with a friend from the site dressed as a Pineapple. 3 differnet girls said I had the costume on wrong that night and redressed me on the dance floor. That night I got out of the taxi in Roppongi and walked home getting a muster of comments. The TOHO artisans and management were very amused by my telling of the events.
On the picture above, Disneyland's King of Finishes Steve Borrowitz and me are standing next 2 of the 7 boats for the Tokyo Disneyland Pirate Ride and Blue Bayou. Left is the house boat and right is the shrimp boat. Between Pirates 7 boats and Jungle Cruises 3 out riggers, we had a good fleet going. We floated them in Tokyo Bay to be able to weight them down correctly for the show. The Pirate ship with flag flying got some audience on Fish Market day. Steve showed the TOHO Artisans how to paint with longer lasting products as well as age per the show needs. He really saved quite a few shows in the Finishes Arena at Tokyo Disneyland.
A.L: As we know, Michael Jackson was a big fan of Disneyland Paris and you met him once...
P.B: I actually met Michael twice at Disney. The first was on TDL Big Thunder. The second time I saw Michael Jackson and his kids, was at 2am on 1994 at DLP as we were working on the Fort expansion and they reopened the park for him that morning after closing. We were trying to hang the antlers over the gate opening, when the hydraulics on the fork lift broke and got red fluid over the new paving!! Operations Department was going crazy to clean it up and get the fork lift out before opening that morning. The antlers went up and Michael approved!
I remember I got a memo from Marty Sklar asking why they were so many antlers on the new fort roofs. I told him that was a sign of a great hunter, and all was fine. The other time was when I was at Tujunga outside working on all the TDL Big Thunder sets and mining artifacts. Michaels limo drove up as they were filming Captain EO next door. He got out and came over, looking throught the chain link fence. He asked me where all these "Great" things, were going? I told him the 3rd Big Thunder for Tokyo. He said he wished he had some for his property. That was before Never Never Land of course. I told him I would love to see the filming of the dance seen in EO, but found out later, that was the last day and I still had work to get out.
A.L: When Imagineering worked on the America Sings attraction, for the bicentennial celebrations, another unexpected celebrity came at WED...
P.B: Yes, Jackie Kennedy came through WED in the 70's while we were doing "America Sings"! Shirley Temple also came by as did many singing artists who would sing the songs of the show.
I don't know any particular reason for Jackie’s visit. We seemed to be having a lot of notable people coming through at that "America Sings" time. She was unaccompanied as was usual in her walk through. I think WED had such a mystique in the creative world in which she was interested, that perhaps she wanted to have a look on her own. I believe weeks later Caroline and John Jr came through, probably after her mothers download on what a Great place WED was. When John died, I suggested they dig out photos of his day at WED, but all who would have been involved were long layed off, and nothing happened. Michael Jackson was a frequent visitor but he was not as accessible. Marilyn McCoo of the 5Th Dimension, was looking over my shoulder one day while Burl Ives was loudly taking a tour. He is the voice of the eagle in America Sings. Marilyn was trying out for one of the shows songs I remember, as she asked me about a model I was working on. Beautiful woman! Shirley Temple was on the Disney board at the time she came through, and you know her connection to Walt and the Academy Award for Snow White she gave to him back in her child star days. Roots author Alex Hailey was the spokesman for our Africa Pavilion that I was working on with Ken Anderson..........it goes on.
A.L: Tell me a bit more about this Epcot’s Africa pavilion that never was.
P.B: Well, this Africa Pavilion was designed by Disney Legend Ken Anderson. there was a tree house, and when you went up in that tree house, it opened to a panoramic enclosed theater with an interior of a Jungle scene, with a huge rear projected screen of animals coming towards you. They developed over 100 animal scents that would be blown at you from these jungles inhabitants. Like Tigers in heat etc.. They went to Africa to film the footage, which I don't know what happened to that. Ken also did many sketches on his trips that he showed us for reference in designing the pavilion. Maybe Ken Anderson talked about this in his last book? They had purchased a lot of great African artifacts, that ended up at the WDW Adventurers Club. We had designed an African village with the grass huts which inspired the Animal Kingdom Architecture, as Disney Architect Ahmad Jafari worked on both. They also reappeared at HKDL in Adventureland. I remember when I put my model of the tree house on the Epcot model, and John Hench came out to look at it. He commented that it was just too big in scale with the other pavillions and everything else, and maybe needed its own park. I made several sizes of the tree, but in the end years later, it did get it's own park as the Tree of Life in Animal Kingdom.
A.L: At Epcot, you worked on the art-deco scene in the beloved Horizons attraction...
P.B: Yes, I worked with Disney Legend John Hench on the Art Deco scene. The man in that scene looks like a young John Hench, roommate of Salvador Dali in the 40's and brought him to work on Fantasia. That's what I was told and if you look well, you can't miss John’s scarf and mustache. He watched over this scene. We even had a model of the 1829 Paris Place de la Concorde Obelisque in the scene. I think it was placed on the Deco open wall shelf. I worked on the Suntanning machine in particular. Horizons was Great Show!
A.L: Another famous extinct attraction was Disneyland's Flying saucers.
P.B: I remember the Flying Saucers first appeared on the 1961 guide book, but cant say they were on books after that. I did not realize the saucers lasted until 66, when John Hench updated Tomorrowland to the New Tomorrowland in 67. Sharon Disney once told me Walt disliked the saucers because he dropped his favorite pair of sunglasses through the deck openings that lifted the saucers. I'm sure he had people going below to find them. Always a "WED Rumor" that they were locked away in a warehouse somewhere. But as with the original Bobsleds and Natures Wonderland Trains, they were ordered destroyed, while I did try to save some. One train and cars is still seen at Disneyland's Rivers of America. A second was reused at TDL's Big Thunder in 1987 by the load building. I tried to save a box car chassis to build a sleeping bed frame on that would sit on tracks at home. They had to be crushed however I was told. That would have been a great bed in California earthquakes, rocking back and forth on tracks.
I worked on the New Tomorrowland for 1977, when we opened the 2ND Space Mountain and then again on Tony Baxter’s Tomorrowland with the Orbitron which I made the model of in hardwood, based on the one you have at Disneyland Paris.
Above: Disney Legends Bob Gurr - inside the Lincoln - and John Hench walking along side of the car on track.
A.L: When one talks about Test Track, everybody think instantly to the Epcot attraction, but a long time ago the “Test Track” words had a different meaning at WDI...
P.B: Yes, The original Disney "Test Track" as it was called at WED, was used to test all the Ford Motor Vehicles that went around through the 1964/5 Disney World Fair exhibit. It was only 500 feet long but with a 10% slope duplicated all the curves of the Ford World’s Fair exhibit designed by WED!
Talking about the World’s Fair and the Ford attraction, the Ford Mustang debuted at the fair as a 64 1/2 intro. All the attraction cars had their drivetrains removed for the show, but guests could purchase the cars after the show closed and the drivetrains were put back in and made running again! The World's Fair Mustangs are highly sought after by collectors.
I got to be involved in the upgrading of It’s a Small World at DL and the Carousel of Progress in 1975/76 when we sent it on to Florida. I was sorry to see it leave Anaheim.
In 1979 while doing Disneyland's Big Thunder Installation, we put together a "WED WADER'S" team for the annual canoe races around the Tom Sawyer Island. Being already down there in the field, made it easy to get up earlier to practice. In the photo we are holding our trophy for winning the "Sprints" that day. I think this is the only WED or WDI team to have won an award in the event. Just found my WED and white team shirt with our logo on it.
PS Around 1998, I remember Disney Legend Marty Sklar was encouraging his WDI Imagineering team to enter the Disneyland canoe races as he thought they had never placed in the event. I pulled out my 1979 photo of the "WED WADER'S" and sent him a copy to show that we had won the Sprints. Marty replied, " Will enter again!"
Above: Disney Legend Marty Sklar
A.L: WDI - formerly WED Enterprises - now exist since more than 50 years, which means that Imagineerng had multiple generations of imagineers, the older being known as “Living Treasures” thanks to their inestimable experience...
P.B: That’s right. For instance, we can add Claude Coates name to the "First String Living Treasures" list we worked with, while in the "Second String WED Treasures". Tony Baxter always referred to them as the 1st and 2nd generation of WED artisans. In relation to God and Walt Disney, I always said the two generations can be divided by the terms BD and AD, or before Disney's death or after Disney's death. Claude Coats would be BD, and Tony and I would be AD, as we were hired after Walt's death, not that we didn't meet Walt before being hired. There are very few 2nd generation Treasures still working at WDI with the recent head hunting eliminations, which is a shame, as they worked with Walt's chosen people. The third and fourth generation will be missing them a lot. I remember when I started at WED how many senoir over 60 Treasures and Legends were working and contributing, and mentoring us. John Hench, Marty Sklar, and Orlando Ferrante were great mentors, and Marty was always there to give you support when you needed it.
Above: Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniac in 1976.
A.L: We’ve talked about Shirley Temple who was in the 70’s on the Disney board, but this week Steve Jobs, Apple C.E.O who was also on the Disney board of directors, passed away and i think you have an incredible story about him...
P.B: Yes. About 1975, at WED, I was building some props for the first Space Mountain for Florida. Some TV monitor type pods were part of my work done in plastics which I had studied in college. A friend who was an Industrial Designer, called me and asked if I could help him out on a project, and I said OK. I went to his house that night and he was asked to build the prototype industrial housing for this new computer and keyboard. I dont think any existed yet. The creator of the computer lived not to far away and was working out of his garage. My friend decided I knew what I was doing and left it with me while he went on vacation for a month. I spoke with the inventor over the phone while I was mocking up the housing on my free nights from WED. When completed everyone was happy with my work. I later found out it was to be called the Apple 2 and Steve Jobs was my man on the phone!
A.L: After all these years working at WDI, what are your best memories ?
P.B: Well Alain, you have heard but a few of them, with lots more in storage for the moment. It is always a great pleasure to work with the creative teams, vendors and international craftsman that we find in creating a park from start to finish. I love doing the research and developement of a themed period project, and getting to draw on the board in ink, as I learned from EDL from the French Architects. That gives me time to work out the elements in detail and put all the pieces together. On TDS I found I could draw in an etching style 3 times finer than a computer could scan. Disney Architect David Ott who worked on most of the park castles including PDL's, used to watch over my shoulder, and told me I was the only one that had his patience and he would pass his job on to me when he retired. That was a great complement that has always inspired me. Actor George Peppard in the TV series the "A Team" said it best on the end of each show, "I love it when a plan comes together!" That's how a new attraction or park opening feels.
A.L: Pat, thank you so much for all these wonderful memories!
Thanks to leave a comment or discuss this interview on D&M english forum on Mice Chat
Pictures: copyright Disney, Pat Burke collection, Alain Littaye, Ravenswood Manor, LIFE Magazine
Artwork: copyright Disney, Tom Scherman
Many thanks again to the Ravenswood Manor web site for some of the pictures posted in this article.
More infos on the Lake Independence Ski Resort project are available in Jim Hill's 2005 excellent article HERE.