Monday, July 22, 2013

Herb Ryman and Family Memories

Awhile back, inspired by my 2000th Post Extravaganza Series, Daveland reader Mike Joyce was kind enough to send me a number of great family photos and memories. Here they are in his own words:

My parents have had several times crossed paths with Disney and Disneyland. Way back in the 20’s, my mother and grandparents lived on Evans Street in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles (see first photo). Just down the street were the Hyperion Studios and two blocks from the two homes built by Walt and Roy Disney. My mother used to tell how she and other kids in the neighborhood were periodically rounded up to watch samples of the cartoons being made at the Hyperion Studio. My French grandmother, Madeleine Baker, was an opera singer and an Assisting Teacher for Guido Caselotti (see photo below).

Grandmother used to tell me that she was involved with coaching Caselotti’s daughter, Adriana, who did the voice and singing for "Snow White."

In the Forties my mother, Vivian went to work at Twentieth Century-Fox as the executive secretary for the head of the Art Department – Richard Day at that time, and then later for Lyle Wheeler. The Fox Art Department is where she became life long friends with Herb Ryman, Marvin Davis, and John DeCuir. It was also during this time that she married my father Robert Joyce (he being of Irish descent, their marriage was much approved by director John Ford!). Both Vivian and Bob are pictured on the cover of this April 1950 Magazine:

Dad’s own family had a varied and interesting history with Los Angeles, being in part with the Department of Water and Power, Boulder Dam, and William Mulholland (a lot of “Chinatown” realities there).

I was born in the early 50’s and grew up in an atmosphere where my parents had many gatherings with the old Art Department crowd. There is a story that Marvin Davis was trying to explain just what he was working on for Disney.  Our family legend states that my mother gave him an old grocery bag, on which he drew a plan of what Disneyland was going to be. My Dad thought he was crazy – especially a Trip to the Moon. The sketch on the bag remained in a drawer (so I was told) but I believe it was in reality placed in the old circular file. It has never seen the light of day since. I had to be about 4 or 5 years old - too young to realize what my folks were throwing away. Boy do I wish I had that bag now.

Another interesting side note is that when my Father was the Director of the Community Analysis Bureau for the City of Los Angeles, he hired Buzz Price of the Stanford Research Institute to help design the early community models for my Dad and his City Staff who were developing techniques to use main frame computers for City Planning.

NOTE: Harrison "Buzz" Price was the man who scouted the location for Disneyland in Anaheim and WDW in Orlando.

Herbie Ryman was a great friend of the family and enthusiastic about everything. I can remember going to his home studio and he would show off his Emmett Kelly paintings and work, like the illustrations for a book, "The Tontine."   My mother even talked him out of a watercolor he had done of the old Fox back lot, where he and my mother would picnic. Herbie also discussed at length about someone or some company that was hiring him to create the Tivoli Gardens here. Sometime in the early 60's WED Enterprises moved into a larger facility (I want to say it was previously owned by Max Factor) and that the former tenant had made cosmetics and perfume - or that is what I remember, since Herbie liked to relate how pleasant the halls smelled.

Going to Disneyland was always a big yearly event for my sister and me. Around 1965, Herb Ryman invited my family to meet him at Disneyland. Over the years the events of that day have become a bit blurred, but I remember Herbie picking us up and driving us into the backstage areas. We visited the stable areas and went into a big building filled with Stagecoaches and Conestoga wagons. I remember Herb saying they never threw anything out. We toured the wardrobe areas and then entered the back of the Opera House, through the auditorium for Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. I seem to remember that Lincoln was not operating yet. I vaguely remember the stage was set, but the show had not been opened.  I also remember that the last time I had been in that building was when the sets for Babes in Toyland were on display. Finally, we arrived on Main Street. Herb showed us the Flower Mart on Center Street, which he really liked.

Then we went up to the Castle to pose for a picture.

I have another shot of us in Adventureland.

Herb talked about the upcoming Pirates of the Caribbean and he picked up a copy of the Tenth Anniversary of Disneyland book, where he autographed the painting he did for the Blue Bayou Lagoon.

The book Herbie signed showed only a painting of Mr. Lincoln since it was printed for the 10th year anniversary (Mr. Lincoln didn't open until July 1965). Bits and pieces of Tea Cups and other rides that day float through the grey matter of my brain.

From about 1959 to 1962, my best friend and I compiled a book detailing the attractions. Basically it was a cross between an outline and a story breakdown. It showed the length of the attraction, its ticket value, and was also a list of every sight and experience of each ride. Together with pictures and paper souvenir items, it became a way of reliving a trip to Disneyland. Well, sometime in 1963, my mother showed my copy of the book to Marvin Davis, who was taken by it and asked if he could show Walt what we had done. A few weeks later the book was returned to me with a letter and autographed picture. I never got to have a face to face meeting with Walt Disney, but I can't help but think how my interest in Disneyland propelled me into the film industry.

Much of my life has been influenced by that visit with Herb Ryman and the other old Fox Art Department guys. In 1974, I managed to get a job at Fox as a clerk and by 1989 I had rose to the position of Senior VP of Worldwide Production for Twentieth Century Fox’s feature division. From there I branched out into independent Feature and TV producing. In reflection I really believe that the history and influences of my family and their friends  ultimately lead me into the career that I have had. 

Thanks a million, Mike! I know the readers will appreciate your great contribution here.

See more vintage & current Disneyland photos on my Disneyland web pages.


K. Martinez said...

Mike Joyce - Thanks for sharing your personal story and photos. It was a very enjoyable read.

Herb Ryman was such a favorite Disneyland artist of mine that I pre-ordered his book "A Brush with Disney". I was pleased that it also contained his artwork outside of Disney. One of my favorite Disney books.

Anonymous said...

A great story. Thanks for sharing! KS

Major Pepperidge said...

Wow, neat. And that signed letter from Walt, holy smokes.

Anonymous said...

Very nice post, thanks to the donor for sharing those pics. I love the backstories. Have always heard that Hollywood was a small town, this proves the point again.


Todd J. Pierce said...

Super cool post, Dave!