Disney Legend Rolly Crump, Imagineer Behind Classic Attractions, Dies Age 93

Roland “Rolly” Crump, one of Walt Disney’s top designers during the creation of Disneyland who lent his unique artistic flair to beloved classic attractions, died Sunday, March 12. The news was shared on the Facebook page for his It’s Kind of a Cute Story chronicles today, noting that the 93-year-old Disney Legend “passed away peacefully at his home in Carlsbad, CA.”

Born February 27, 1930 in Alhambra, Calif., Crump wished to work for Walt Disney from a young age. In 1952, he joined the studio as an in-betweener and later animator on Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp and Sleeping Beauty, taking a pay cut from his job at a ceramics factory (in fact, he took a second job building sewer manholes to make ends meet).

rolly crump walt disney mice chat
Rolly Crump and Walt Disney with a model of the Tower of the Four Winds [Disney Archives]

By 1959, he was brought into the show design department at WED Enterprises — now known as Walt Disney Imagineering. Here he shone as a key designer on iconic attractions and shops, including the Enchanted Tiki Room, the Haunted Mansion (though many of his original concepts were dubbed “too weird” by Walt), Adventureland Bazaar, the mod 1967 update to Tomorrowland, and it’s a small world, which was featured at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair before moving to Disneyland in ’66. For the latter, Crump notably designed the modernist Tower of the Four Winds marquee and came up with the immediately recognizable cartoon clockface on the façade.

Enchanted Tiki Room concept art by Rolly Crump [Disney]
Enchanted Tiki Room concept art by Rolly Crump [Disney]

As well as polishing his self-described “diamond in the rough” creative edges, reaching his Disney dream gave Crump another gift: The nickname, courtesy of Walt himself who had trouble remembering the young artist’s name. Crump shared with D23:  “I started off as Roland, then I was ‘Owen’ for a while, and then I became ‘Orland,’ but of course, I would answer to anything he called me. But the crowning glory was when he called me ‘what’s his name.’”

According to friends and colleagues, Crump was a designer with the confidence to help other artists shine and the wisdom to see beyond his own creative vision to the bigger project picture. Concept designer John Horny once commented, “Rolly has a knack for bringing out the best in others. Trusting their talent, he encourages artists to push their creativity to the limits. It’s a rare creative person who can let others run with the ball.”

Crump also helped with the initial design for the Magic Kingdom at Disney World in Florida as well as story and set design for the NBC series Disney on Parade (1970). He then left the Mouse House to consult with other parks, including Busch Gardens in California and Florida, the Ringing Brothers & Barnum and Baily Circus World in Florida and the ABC Wildlife Preserve in Maryland.

Concept sketch for the Haunted Mansion by Rolly Crump [Disney]
Concept sketch for the Haunted Mansion by Rolly Crump [Disney]

He returned to the Imagineering department in 1976 to help create EPCOT Center, as the project designer for The Land and Wonders of Life pavilions. Crump then helped plan the evolution of the growing Disneyland park through to 1981, when he launched his Mariposa Design Group firm to develop theme parks around the world. He returned in 1992 as executive designer in charge of refurbishing EPCOT’s The Land and Innoventions attractions.

Rolly Crump [It's Kind of a Cute Story / Disney]
Rolly Crump [It’s Kind of a Cute Story / Disney]

Crump retired from The Walt Disney Company, on paper, in 1996, but continued to contribute over the years. He was inducted as a Disney Legend in 2004, and released the first installment of his autobiography, It’s Kind of a Cute Story, in 2012. The artist also featured in a retrospective at the Oceanside Museum of Art in 2017.

Crump is survived by his wife, Marie Tocci; children Christopher (who followed his father into Disney Imagineering), Roxana and Theresa; and three grandchildren.



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