Tuesday, February 18, 2014

My Afternoon with Marty Sklar, Disney Legend and Imagineering Ambassador



As I sit down to write this column, a million details are spinning through my head about my afternoon listening to Marty Sklar tell stories about Walt Disney, about my private moment chatting with him, and about his MUST-READ new book, “Dream It! Do It! My Half Century Creating Disney’s Magic Kingdoms.”  But, it all just keeps coming out as


Marty Sklar is one of the most influential people in the Disney Company.  He worked side-by-side with Walt until Walt’s passing.  He wrote the public statement that Walt’s brother, Roy, read after Walt died.  He is also the only person on the planet who has not only attended the opening day ceremony of every one of Disney’s 11 theme parks around the world, but also contributed to each park as well.  He has literally spent a lifetime creating magic for us all.

Walt Disney was one of the greatest storytellers of our time.  The Imagineers of Disney, like Marty, are not just designers, they are also storytellers.  Every attraction, resort, and restaurant at Disney has a (make-believe) story behind it.  So, in honor of both Walt Disney and Marty Sklar, I will just…tell you all a story of my day meeting Marty.

Everybody neat and pretty?  Then on with the show! –Mickey Mouse
“We don’t have time to stop at Starbucks!” I said.

My husband looked at me with a bewildered stare.  I’d never said that phrase before when we were on the way out the door to drive to Disney World from Jacksonville.

“We still have to pick-up Rob in St. Augustine, get through Orlando traffic, check-in at the resort, get over to Hollywood Studios, and navigate through the crowds to get to the Premiere Theater at the back of the park by 1:30.” I said in an urgent tone.

“And you plan to do all of that without caffeine?” He said with a slight smirk.

“I’m wearing my tiara.  I’ll be fine!”

Off we went.

Luckily, the drive was uneventful.  But it was slowwww.  I will never understand how St. Augustine is located an hour south of Jacksonville directly on the way to Disney World, but the drive from Jacksonville to Disney is 2 ½ hours and the drive to Disney from St. Augustine is still 2 ¼ hours.  It reminds me of the confusing word problems from 9th grade math class.  If a car leaves Jacksonville at 10 AM going 75 mph…
It’s a mystery.

Anyway, we arrived at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort at just around 1PM. (30 second pause to admire the early Christmas decorations in the lobby.)

Boardwalk Lobby  No chocolate display but still beautiful.
Boardwalk Lobby no chocolate display but still beautiful

Of course we had a super-friendly cast member at check-in who was eager to tell us EVERYTHING about the resort.  Well, at least until the printer stopped working and we couldn’t sign our check-in paperwork!  I stayed calm by telling myself to take deep breaths, channel the tiara, SMILE! We will get there. We will get there.

After almost 10 minutes of technical difficulties, I requested that we just come back later for the paperwork.

She responded with a smile, “Of course you can. Have a magical da…”

We smiled, waived, and headed downstairs and out of the building before she could finish.

“We really don’t have time to wait for the boat to Hollywood Studios.  It will take half an hour with the other resort stops.” I said.  “We will have to take the walkway.”

It really was a beautiful sunny day.  I’m not sure that this Pennsylvania girl will ever get used to bright Florida sunshine in November.  Unfortunately, we were rushing too much to take time to enjoy it.  We were on a mission to see Marty.

We arrived at the front gate of the park.  A quick stop at security bag-check, a swipe of the annual pass, and we were in the park.

“Ok guys, we just have to head back through the Streets of America and to the theater and…WAIT, What’s THAT??”

A classic car was slowly driving towards us down the street. “PARADE!!  Oh no!  We will never get through the crowd!”

The car went past us.  Nothing else was behind it.  It was just from a show that had ended.

Hollywood Studios Parade False Alarm
Hollywood Studios Parade False Alarm

“False Alarm,” Rob said.

We breathed a collective sigh and continued towards our destination.

“I could really go for a soft pretzel,” I said matter of factly.

They both looked at me.

“What?  I skipped breakfast.”

After a quick 90-second stop to grab a cinnamon cream cheese filled soft pretzel, we arrived at the theater entrance.  

As we moved towards the line of guests waiting to get into the theater, a cast member with a clipboard approached us.  The event was a reserved seating for Disney Vacation Club members (DVC).

“Name?” she asked.

“David,” my husband responded.

“It’s under my name,” I mumbled with a mouth full of pretzel.

“Last name?” the cast member asked.

“Ciscon,” said my husband.

“It’s under my name.  I’m hyphenated,” I said still trying to swallow the bite of pretzel.

“Party of 3?  Yes, here you are on the list.” she said.


We’re IN!

We got in line and waited just a minute until we were invited into the Premiere Theater.

Once inside, two Disney Ambassadors were greeting guests.  They were exceptionally friendly, tall, attractive men in very nice suits.  One went with us to our seats chatting the entire time until we got settled.


After several hours of rushing, we were finally here, a few minutes away from seeing one of the legends of Disney.

I looked around at the relatively small gathering for this DVC only event (about 150 people).  The crowds for his book signing events alone were huge.  I could tell already that this was destined to be one of my most magical moments at Disney.  The large screens in the theater displayed pictures of Marty’s new book.

Dream It! Do It! by Marty Sklar
Dream It! Do It! by Marty Sklar

It was just then that I realized it.  My lips, chin, and cheeks were coated in cinnamon sugar!  
Mental note: next time get the jalapeno cheese pretzel.

A few minutes later the program began.  The Disney Ambassadors introduced Ryan March, editor of Disney Files Magazine, a DVC publication.  Ryan then introduced a video clip of Marty telling us about Disney Imagineering.  I was actually surprised to learn that there are 140 different specialty fields within Disney Imagineering.

After the clip, Marty walked out on stage and took a seat.  The presentation was an interview style.  Ryan prompted Marty with questions about different events and Marty would continue.  He smiled and laughed with us as he told us stories of different behind the scenes adventures working with the Disney company.  He also shared some photos and video of things that I’ve never seen before.  We saw videos of Mike Douglas ‘serenading’ the Contemporary Resort, Bob Hope doing comedy at the opening day event for the Contemporary Resort,  and Richard Sherman (yes, of THE Disney songwriting masterminds Sherman Brothers) singing a variation of “Supercalafragalistic” written especially for Marty.  Everyone in the room was ear to ear smiles.

Marty Sklar Storytime
Marty Sklar Storytime

I won’t get into too many details about the stories that he told us during the event.  I don’t think that I could do them justice.  Plus, you MUST get his new book and I don’t want to spoil it!  But I will give you a few of the fascinating highlights of topics that he talked to us about.  Then go BUY the book!  You will love it!

*Opening Day of Disneyland in California, 1955.

Opening Day 1955 Disneyland, California
Opening Day 1955 Disneyland, California

*The Florida Project including a picture of Marty at the yellow ‘X” marking where Cinderella’s Castle stands in the Magic Kingdom.

Marty at the yellow X marking where Cinderella's Castle stands in Florida
Marty at the yellow X marking where Cinderella's Castle stands in Florida

*Mickey’s 10 Commandments.

The 10 Commandments
The 10 Commandments

*Marty’s additional 30 Commandments including my favorite; always send hand-written thank you notes.

Marty's additional Commandments including always send hand-written notes
Part of Marty's additional Commandments

*Introductions by both Ray Bradbury and Richard M. Sherman.
*Earlier I mentioned seeing a video of Richard Sherman singing to Marty during this event (clip will be posted to my Facebook page.)  If you are wondering about the modified words that Richard Sherman wrote for Marty to the tune of “Supercalafragalistic,” they are written out in his introduction in the book.

One thing that I noticed during this entire event was that Marty just “glowed.”  It could have been the theater lighting.  It could have been that he really enjoys Disney storytelling.  I don’t know.  But, it seemed rather fitting for a man who has left trails of pixie dust magic all over the world at 11 different Disney theme parks.

Marty Sklar
Marty Sklar

When the storytelling time was over, Marty was kind enough to sign books for us.  He also spent time actually talking to us.  It was nice to have a conversation with someone I’ve always admired for not only his creativity but his loyalty and devotion to his work.

Marty and me
Marty and me!

“Dream It! Do It! My Half Century Creating Disney’s Magic Kingdoms” by Marty Sklar is available online through Amazon.com.  It is also available at Disney parks and resorts (10% discount with DVC or AP if purchased on Disney property).

This is an exceptional book for anyone who enjoys reading about the history of the Walt Disney Company.  But, it is also a fantastic and inspirational read for anyone.
I’d like to thank Mr. Marty Sklar for taking a moment to have an actual personal conversation with me about growing up with Disney.  I’d also like to give my heart-felt gratitude for his support and encouragement to write this column about him and his new book.  I hope you realize what an inspiration you are.  Expect a handwritten note soon!

Thank you also to Disney Vacation Club (DVC) for providing this opportunity to meet with a Disney legend in such an intimate setting.  Also, to Disney Files Magazine and Ryan for sponsoring the event and making it so special for us all.

And last but not least, thank YOU dear readers for supporting my column and silly Disney princess tiara-wearing moments.  I love my extended Disney Family and you are ALL a part of it.  If you would like to chat about Marty’s book, this event, or anything else Disney, please feel free to contact me.

Have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving everyone

The Great Storyteller
The Great Storyteller

Twitter @PrincessPapers

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