You've heard Jim Korkis' secret stories of Walt Disney World. Then you heard more of Jim Korkis' secret stories of Walt Disney World. Now, with the neighbors gone home and the kids asleep, Jim has a special treat: other secret stories of Walt Disney World. Gather round.
You know what's more fun than finding Hidden Mickeys at Walt Disney World? Reading secret stories about Walt Disney World. And no one knows more Disney secrets than Jim Korkis. Just when it seems like the secrets well is dry, the often imitated, never duplicated Korkis hits a gusher:
Each story is short enough to read whenever you have a spare moment that needs Disney in it. That's, like, every spare moment, so pace yourself...
Part 1: The Walt Disney World Parks
Magic Kingdom: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Magic Kingdom: Liberty Tree
Magic Kingdom: Princess Fairytale Hall
Magic Kingdom: Kugel Ball
Magic Kingdom: Disney Coat of Arms
Magic Kingdom: The Pirates’ Redhead
Magic Kingdom: Parades
Magic Kingdom: Skipper Canteen
Magic Kingdom: Books in Skipper Canteen
Magic Kingdom: Sunshine Tree Terrace
Epcot: Leapfrog Fountain
Epcot: The Land Mosaic
Epcot: Turtle Talk
Epcot: World Showcase Trees
Epcot: The Royal Sommerhus
Epcot: Mariachi Cobre
Epcot: Revisiting Italy
Epcot: Canada’s Totem Poles
Hollywood Studios: Toy Story Land
Hollywood Studios: Toy Story Midway Mania!
Hollywood Studios: Catalina Eddie’s
Hollywood Studios: Voyage of the Little Mermaid
Hollywood Studios: Sci-Fi Dine-In Films
Hollywood Studios: Indiana Jones Adventure Outpost
Hollywood Studios: ABC Studio Commissary
Hollywood Studios: Birth of Fantasmic!
Animal Kingdom: Pandora: World of Avatar
Animal Kingdom: Pandora Field Guide
Animal Kingdom: Na’vi Shaman of Songs
Animal Kingdom: Classic Art Influences
Animal Kingdom: The Bugs are Tough
Animal Kingdom: Africa the Theme Park
Animal Kingdom: Safari Village
Animal Kingdom: Animal Births at DAK
Part 2: The Walt Disney World Resorts
Polynesian Village: Polynesian Village Luau Show
Polynesian Village: Auntie Kau’i
Polynesian Village: Dole Whip
Wilderness Lodge: Native American Culture
Wilderness Lodge: Copper Creek Villas and Cabins
Grand Floridian: Lane Graves Memorial
Fort Wilderness: Alligator Attack
Old Key West: Conch Flats
Coronado Springs: The Legacy of Juan Francisco
All-Star Movies: Icons
Part 3: The Rest of Walt Disney World
Disney Springs: The Story of Disney Springs
Disney Springs: D-Luxe Burger
Disney Springs: Blaze Pizza
Disney Springs: The Ganachery
Disney Springs: Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire
Typhoon Lagoon: Miss Adventure Falls
Disney Roads: Entrance Gateways
Golf Courses: Winter Summerland
Golf Courses: Fantasia Gardens
Golf Courses: Fantasia Gardens 18 Hole Verses
Part 4: The Rest of the Story
Men Who Made WDW: Owen Pope
Men Who Made WDW: Herb Ryman
Men Who Made WDW: Tony Baxter
Men Who Made WDW: Yale Gracey
Women Who Made WDW: Joyce Carlson
Things That Never Were: Beastly Kingdom
Things That Never Were: Cypress Point Lodge
Things That Never Were: Venezuela Pavilion
Things That Never Were: Meet the World
Things That Never Were: New Fantasyland 2009
Things That Never Were: Lake Buena Vista Monorail
Things That Never Were: Rolly Crump Epcot Projects
WDW History: I’m Going to Walt Disney World!
WDW History: The Ducks of Walt Disney World
WDW History: The Love Bug
WDW History: Florida’s Real Love Bugs
WDW History: Society of Explorers and Adventurers
WDW History: Garner Holt Productions
WDW History: Birnbaum’s Walt Disney World
WDW History: Smellitzer
WDW History: Epcot Film
Things That Disappeared: Walt Disney World Speedway
Things That Disappeared: Flights of Wonder
Things That Disappeared: Walt’s Bust
Things That Disappeared: Film Production at Disney-MGM Studios
Things That Disappeared: Ear Force One
Things That Disappeared: LiMOUSEine
Things That Disappeared: Astuter Computer Revue
Appendix: Roadside Florida Before WDW
When I began to write this series of books about stories of Walt Disney World, my intent was to share little-known information that wasn’t appearing anywhere else.
It was my belief that these tales might help people better understand and appreciate the “Most Magical Place on Earth” as it was once advertised.
It never occurred to me how quickly the book would transform from an entertaining guide book to an ancient history book. Things at Walt Disney World have changed so rapidly even within just the past few years that well-beloved things we all thought would be there forever are now gone and forgotten.
In addition, things that we never previously imagined, from a land devoted to Star Wars to a gondola transportation system connecting locations on property, are now a significant part of the resort.
As this book goes to press, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is being completely transformed not just physically but thematically from what it was when it first opened, and plans are in the works to completely transform Epcot within the next few years as well.
Despite the fact that Walt Disney World contains four theme parks, two water parks, a downtown shopping area, and over two dozen resort hotels, among other things, very little has been documented about this vacation destination as it approaches its half-century anniversary.
What makes any Disney theme park unique from other entertainment venues is that it is not only a physical experience but an emotional one. Shared memories with friends and family over the years truly do create magical moments that deeply touch both the mind and the heart. Some of those memories are the result of the elaborate storytelling that makes it all an immersive experience.
For many people reading this book, Walt Disney World (not Disneyland) was their first visit to a Disney theme park and it was an overwhelming experience that forever defined their impressions of what a theme park was.
A Disney theme park transports guests from the worries and cares of the everyday world into a realm of optimism and happiness. Disney’s famous attention to detail guarantees that guests will discover something new, even on the most familiar attractions, every time they visit.
It is no secret that Disney theme parks are renowned for being safe, clean, and friendly, but there are also many things in plain sight that guests miss as they eagerly race through the park. Things are so seamless and authentic that they almost become invisible because they just seem “right” and would actually be more noticeable if they weren’t there. Imagineers made conscious decisions about not only the stories to tell but how they were to be told.
This is the fourth in a series of books that will hopefully enhance a visit to Walt Disney World by revealing those stories of why things are the way they are. The intent is not to destroy the magic but to take a brief glimpse behind the curtain to help people be more appreciative and aware of how some of the magic is done.
From fall 1995 to spring 2009, I worked at WDW in a variety of roles in Entertainment, Animation, Disney Institute, Disney University, Guest Relations, College and International Programs, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Design Group, Yellow Shoes Marketing, and elsewhere, gathering and recording these stories.
In addition, I had the opportunity to interview some of the Imagineers connected with WDW. Many of those individuals have passed on and I felt an obligation to share their stories as well as all the other information with those who love Walt Disney World.
Jim Korkis is an internationally respected Disney historian who has written hundreds of articles about all things Disney for over three decades. He is also an award-winning teacher, a professional actor and magician, and the author of several books.
Korkis grew up in Glendale, California, right next to Burbank, the home of the Disney studios. As a teenager, Korkis got a chance to meet the Disney animators and Imagineers who lived nearby, and began writing about them for local newspapers.
In 1995, he relocated to Orlando, Florida, where he portrayed the character Prospector Pat in Frontierland at the Magic Kingdom, and Merlin the Magician for the Sword in the Stone ceremony in Fantasyland.
In 1996, Korkis became a full-time animation instructor at the Disney Institute teaching all of their animation classes, as well as those on animation history and improvisational acting techniques. As the Disney Institute re-organized, Jim joined Disney Adult Discoveries, the group that researched, wrote, and facilitated backstage tours and programs for Disney guests and Disneyana conventions.
Eventually, Korkis moved to Epcot as a Coordinator for the College and International Programs, and then as a Coordinator for the Epcot Disney Learning Center. He researched, wrote, and facilitated over two hundred different presentations on Disney history for Cast Members and for such Disney corporate clients as Feld Entertainment, Kodak, Blue Cross, Toys “R” Us, and Military Sales.
Korkis has also been the off-camera announcer for the syndicated television series Secrets of the Animal Kingdom; has written articles for several Disney publications, including Disney Adventures, Disney Files (DVC), Sketches, and Disney Insider; and has worked on many different special projects for the Disney Company.
In 2004, Disney awarded Jim Korkis its prestigious Partners in Excellence award.
If you have a question for Jim Korkis that you would like to see answered here, please get in touch and let us know what's on your mind.
I was about 15 when I interviewed Jack Hannah with my little tape recorder and school notebook with questions printed neatly in ink. I learned to develop a very good memory because often when the tape recorder was running, people would freeze up. So, I sometimes turned off the tape recorder and just took notes which I later verified with the person. I always gave them a chance to review what they had said and make any changes. I lost a lot of great stories, although I still have them in my files for future generations, but gained a lot of trust.
I was very, very lucky. I was a kid, and it never occurred to me that when I saw their names in the end credits of the weekly Disney television show that I couldn't just find their names in the local phone book and call them up. Ninety percent of them were gracious, but there were about ten percent who thought it was a joke and that maybe one of their friends had put me up to phoning them.
It was like dominoes. Once I did one interview and the person was pleased, he put me in touch with others. After some of those interviews were published in my school paper and local newspapers, it gave me some greater credibility. Later, when they started to appear in magazines, I got even more opportunities.
JIM: You know, one of the proudest things for me about my books is that not a single factual error has been found.
To do my research, I start with all the interviews I've done over the past three decades, some of which are some available in the Walt's People series of books edited by Didier Ghezz. When necessary, I contact other Disney historians and authorities to fill in the gaps. And I have amassed a huge library of books, magazines, and documents.
When I moved from California to Florida, I brought with me over 20,000 pounds of Disney research material. The moving company that had just charged me a flat fee was shocked they had so severely underestimated the weight, and lost thousands of dollars. That was over fifteen years ago and the collection has only grown since that time.
About The Vault of Walt Series
JIM: I was fortunate to grow up in the Los Angeles area at a time when I had access to some of Walt’s original animators and Imagineers. They shared with me some wonderful stories. I wrote articles about their for various magazines and “fanzines” of the time. All of those publications are long gone and often difficult to find today.
As more and more of Walt’s “original cast” pass away, I realized that their stories had not been properly documented, and that unless I did something, they would be lost. Everyone always told me I should write a book telling these tales and finally I decided to do it.
JIM: She actually contacted me. Her son, Walter, loved the Disney history columns and articles I was writing and would send them to her. I was overwhelmed that she enjoyed them. She was appreciative that I tried to treat her dad fairly and not try to psycho-analyze why he did what he did.
She also liked that I revealed things she never knew about her father. As we talked and I told her I was doing the book, I asked if she would write the foreword. She agreed immediately and I had it within a week. She even invited me to go to the Disney Family Museum in San Francisco and give a presentation. She is an incredible woman.
JIM: Obviously, the ones about her dad were a big hit. She especially liked the chapter about Walt and his feelings toward religion. She told me that it accurately reflected how she saw her dad act.
JIM: That’s like asking a parent to pick their favorite child. I tried to put in all the stories I loved because I figured this might be the only book about Disney I would ever write.
One chapter that I have grown to love even more since it was first published is the one about Walt’s love of miniatures. I recently found more information about that subject, and then on the trip to Disney Family Museum, I was able to spend hours examining some of Walt’s collection up close.
About Who's Afraid of the Song of the South?
JIM: I wanted to read a “Making of the Song of the South” book, but nobody else was ever going to write it. I wanted to know the history behind the production, why Walt made certain choices, and as many behind-the-scenes tidbits that could be told. I didn’t want to read a sociological thesis on racism.
Fortunately, over the years I had interviewed some of the people involved in the production, had seen the film multiple times, and had gathered material from pressbooks to newspaper articles to radio shows of the era.
There are a lot of misconceptions about Song of the South. I wanted to get the facts in print and let people make up their own minds.
JIM: I thought I knew a lot after being actively involved in Disney history for over three decades, but writing this book showed me how little I really know.
For example, I learned that it was Clarence Nash, the voice of Donald Duck for decades, who did the whistling for Mr. Bluebird on Uncle Remus’ shoulder. I learned that Ward Kimball used to host meetings of UFO enthusiasts at his home. I learned that the Disney Company tried for years to make a John Carter of Mars feature. I learned that Walt himself tried to make a sequel to The Wizard of Oz. I learned that Disney operated a secret studio to make animated television commercials in the mid-1950s to raise money to build Disneyland. And so much more.
Even the most knowledgeable Disney fans will find new treasures of information on every page of this book.
JIM: Walt Disney was not racist. That is one of those urban myths which popped up long after Walt died, and so he was unable to defend himself.
In my book, I make it clear that Walt had no racist intent at all in making Song of the South. He merely wanted to share the famous Uncle Remus stories that he enjoyed as a child, and he treated the black cast with respect and generosity.
Many people don't realize that the events in the film take place after the Civil War, during the Reconstruction. So many offensive Hollywood films made at the same time as Song of the South, even one with little Shirley Temple, depicted the Old South during the Civil War in an unrealistic manner. Walt's film got lumped in with them, and he was a visible target for a much larger crusade.
With John Cawley: