Monday, August 29, 2011

Joan Loves Walt

Yes, there actually is a Joan Crawford & Walt Disney connection, as this 1955 photo & publicity blurb prove:

HOLLYWOOD, Feb. 13—ALL THIS AND MAYBE OSCARS, TOO—Walt Disney, a perennial winner of Academy awards, gets a kiss from Joan Crawford after his pictures were nominated for Oscars in six different categories last night. He's got chances to win for best art direction of a color production, best documentary feature, best film editing, best cartoon, best use of special effete, and best two-reel short.

From the site, Legendary Joan Crawford:

In 1963, Walt Disney and his studio were designing three pavilions for the upcoming 1964-1965 New York World's Fair—the Ford Motor Company, General Electric and the State of Illinois had all commissioned Disney to create World's Fair attractions for them. Meanwhile, the Pepsi company wanted to be a presence at the Fair, but after several design firms had failed to impress the executives with their presentations, they found themselves with no viable ideas for a Pepsi pavilion. It was now less than a year before the opening of the Fair, and they had nothing.

Joan was on the board of directors (in fact I think that in 1963 she was President or Chairperson), and at this point she decided to take action herself. She knew that the Disney studio was designing three pavilions for the Fair, and it was at her suggestion that Pepsi finally approached Disney.

[NOTE: Over on Mouseplanet, staff writer Wade Sampson added this information about small world, Joan Crawford, and Walt: "Pepsi executives went to California in February 1963 and met with Disneyland’s construction boss, Admiral Joe “Can Do” Fowler who had to sadly inform the executives that Disney “couldn’t do” the project since it was less than a year before the fair opening and that Disney was experiencing challenges with all the innovative things they were working on for the other three pavilions and needed to focus all their resources on those projects.

When Walt found out, he was incensed. According to one Disney executive, Walt said, “I’ll make those decisions. Tell Pepsi I’ll do it!” So on February 15, 1963, Walt agreed to do a “Planning Design Feasibility Study” for the pavilion."]

Walt quickly assembled a creative team to tackle the project, and in short order they came up with the now-legendary concept of a boat ride around the world, with the children of the world singing the ride's theme song in their respective native languages. They made the presentation to the Pepsi board, but once again the powers-that-be were unimpressed and once again they were going to derail the concept. [according to Sampson, "Supposedly, one executive disdainfully complained, 'Why do we need this Mickey Mouse thing?'"]

Joan had heard enough. She stood up, and in her inimitable Crawford fashion she declared to everyone in the room, "We are going to do this!!!" And needless to say, they did!

After the Fair—and It's A Small World—opened in 1964, it and the other Disney attractions were among the most popular at the Fair. Joan loved the ride and often donated her time and PR efforts in the post-show refreshment area, helping to serve complimentary snacks and Pepsi to groups of underprivileged children.

After the Fair closed, It's A Small World was transferred to Disneyland, where it remains to this day. How deliciously ironic that what many think is the most famous unfit mother was also the person most responsible for the existence of the ultimate tribute to the world's children!

Here's a shot from the Fair, showing the Pepsi sponsorship which was dropped when the attraction moved to Disneyland:

See more vintage & current Disneyland photos at my regular website.


TokyoMagic! said...

I know I've heard some audio clips with Joan Crawford doing promos for the fair, but now I couldn't tell you where I heard them. It might have been on one of those "extinct attractions" discs.

I wonder if Bette Davis ever came to visit Joan at the Pepsi refreshment area or the VIP lounge?

Anonymous said...

I LOVE the very real twinkle in Walt's eye!
That grin says, 'I can't believe Joan Crawford is kissing me!'