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WDW Radio # 661 – Interview with Former Imagineer Tom K. Morris

Former creative with Walt Disney Imagineering Tom K. Morris joins me this week to discuss his remarkable journey to and with Walt Disney Imagineering. Tom shares details of how and why he visited Walt Disney World on opening day in 1971… by himself… at the age of 12, and what Disney did to make the day even more special. We also discuss Tom’s work at Disneyland, and at Imagineering, including working with Claude Coats, World of Motion, working with Tony Baxter on Splash Mountain and much more!

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Thanks to Tom K. Morris for joining me this week. Follow Tom on Twitter @TomKMorris

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Click Here To Read The Full Podcast Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Lou Mongello: While we all know, and I think understand that it does in fact, take people to make the dreams a reality. There are some times it's so many names behind the scenes who design and create the magic. We know love and. And today I'm joined by someone who very appropriately. And I think in many ways fits the bill of being both a dreamer and a doer and someone who never let anything get in his way of what he wanted and literally, and figuratively, where he wanted to go.

It's a tease for what is to come. And he is somebody filled with sparks of imagination, including some sparks of imagination that he brought to literal life. He is a former Imagineer Tom K Morris, and Tom, I want to welcome you to the.

[00:00:47] Tom K. Morris: Thank you very much. It's great. Being here. I

[00:00:50] Lou Mongello: have I have been following you and your work for some time on social and I guess unknowingly in the parks for many, many years.

But we got a chance to meet and chat a little bit during Walt Disney world, very hot by the way, 50th anniversary. And I'll share a link to a video of that interview in the show notes and in the group. So I'm really excited to spend some time chatting with you today especially because I love your story and that's where I want to start.

I'm a sucker for origin stories and yours is fascinating to me on a number of levels, but, but take me back, take us back to young Tom Morris. The kid who is a Disney fan, and even before you stepped foot into a Disney park were a fan of what you saw on screen with animation.

[00:01:42] Tom K. Morris: I think that's true. I think well I think my earliest Disney memories to be honest are Disneyland.

I mean, I can remember a trip that we took probably in 1962 and I was just, you know, just on this earth two or three years old. And and I remember, you know, parts of that trip very vividly. And apparently we would go every year, every 4th of July. So. You know, my memories of that go way back.

And, and I guess besides the park, it would probably be the reruns of the Mickey mouse club that would be on TV. And if we were really lucky, we would, you know, get to see an animated feature in the theater or a Disney film in the theater. And but the first one that I really remember well is Mary Poppins.

And that had a big effect on me that was such a magical film with, you know, just everything going for it. You know, I wanted to be in that film. I wanted to go to the places that they went, you know, I wanted to go to London and and it kind of sparked an early interest in travel and in England and London.

And so those are kind of. You know, early memories but they kind of ramp up when my dad gets a summer job at Disneyland cause he was a high school teacher and many, many high school teachers in the area and the local area of Disneyland would would get a seasonal job at Disneyland and work there when school was out of session.

And so in the spring of 1967, my dad started as a ride operator at Disneyland on the pirates of the Caribbean, which had just opened. And so my dad being an art teacher and also taught theater craft at the high school would often tell me about some of the tricks. I hadn't even gone on the ride yet, but he would tell me like, you know, some of the things that were accomplished, you know, from a theatrical standpoint.

And I thought that was very interesting. And when I finally went on it, I was blown away just really, until I changed, I want before that I wanted to be an animator, but or at least my interest in animation was developing at that time, probably parallel with suddenly, you know, my dad told me about this organization called wed and what they did, and I think I sent them a I think I sent them a suggestion letter at the end of 1967.

I think. We had gone to see jungle book. And there was a film that was with it called Charlie, the lonesome Cougar. And there was a flume, a log flume in it. And I thought I had the brilliant original, never before thought of idea of a log flume ride. And I remember sending in that my suggestion, my very detailed suggestion about how you would meet Paul Bunyan and all of this.

And but this was before any log ride was ever announced at Knott's Berry farm. So I really did think it was, you know, a new idea. But there had been, I guess there was already a couple back east and I never got a reply.

It might be in there. It might be in some files somewhere,

[00:04:55] Lou Mongello: flew rod in Disneyland.

[00:04:56] Tom K. Morris: So that's true. You know, the credit for it. Sometimes I don't think of the, a coincidence is like that. You know, how things circle back? I probably, it probably didn't even occur to me at the time that I was doing. Splash mountain that you know, that I had done that.

[00:05:11] Lou Mongello: So is there some seed that is planted in you very early on? Like, this is what I think I want to do. I'm so fascinated by not just what I see on stage, but what is probably going on backstage at this is what I want to eventually create.

[00:05:27] Tom K. Morris: Yeah. You know, I had kind of four parallel interests, which were animation film in general architecture and imaginary sharing if you will.

But Imagineering was kind of low on the totem pole because. How many imaginaries are there, you know, in the world? And my impression was there were a couple of hundred, which was probably correct at that time. And and you know, it would be very, very difficult and who knows, Walt Disney just died. And so maybe, you know, it's something that's not going to be around much longer.

So I, you know, I think in those formative early formative years say grade school I think it was focused on animation at the time, and I didn't want to be an animator. I wanted to be a background artist, a layout artist, or, or somehow be the creator, the director, the writer of the production and not necessarily the animator.

[00:06:26] Lou Mongello: So I, I I'm, I am anxious to get to what I think is the most fascinating part, really of not just your story, but really what is still your childhood, because before you even maybe say, this is where I want to go. You said, this is where I want to go and play because in October of 1971, Walt Disney world is opening.

If I'm doing the math correctly, you're about 12 years old and nothing was going to get in the way a little Tom Morris, going to Walt Disney world.

[00:07:01] Tom K. Morris: No. You know it's a story I kind of put out of my head for, you know, 30 or 40 years. And now I try to reconstruct parts of it are very vivid and then other parts are like, well, how did I get from B to C?

I can tell you what sparked the notion was that I had recently come across some old souvenir guides of Disneyland and I was interested in, you know, Disneyland history and, and Disneyland in general. And but I had come across some of these old died books that went back into ancient times.

This would be like 15 years earlier, right. You know, in the fifties and the sixties. And it was like, this is a different Disneyland in some places, you know, tomorrow land look how funky that is. Look how you can see the telephone poles and the freeway, you know, from inside the park and look at these, you know, kind of funny idea, you know, the Frito boy and all of these things that were just Kind of surprising to me.

And and I just like, God, I'd love to go back in time, you know, to old Disneyland. And I had a handful of other friends that were also very interested in Disneyland, not quite as fanatically as I was, but they were, they were pretty interested in it too. So we oh, and I should kind of back up a little bit.

Walt Disney world in Southern California was kind of in the same rumor mill as the haunted mansion was like, is it, are they really gonna ever open this thing? They're you know, having problems. So they've decided not to open it. And those were the kinds of rumors, secondhand rumors. Cause there were a lot of Disney high profile Disney people who lived in the area, you know where I grew up in orange county.

And that could be the, the origin of a lot of these rumors, you know, through, via that the game of telephone, a bad translation from person to person. Yeah. I eat later. You know, so that's how the haunted mansion rumors started. And, you know, there were some other rumors, but one of the rumors was, they're not doing Disneyworld.

They're not going to do it. You know, Walt died and it was just, you know, too big of an idea. And so I kind of went, you know, according to that notion for quite a while and tell. You know, the, the news that it was actually opening in 1971, October 71 finally came around, which probably wasn't until late 1970 or early 1971.

And the the actual kind of confirmation of that came when that look magazine, came out with Mickey mouse on the cover, which was, you know, I think in the spring of 71, and it actually had photos of parts of the park that were already finished, like main street and the haunted mansion. And I just got this wild idea, like, well, why not go?

You know, if I can never go back in time to Disneyland on opening day, I can. There's one more chance. One more chance. And and so my other friends thought that was a good idea, too. So we were all kind of planning on going out there, you know, for a couple of days. And, and, you know, we could all spring together and get a room at, cause we had a brochure, I think know one of us had written in.

And so we got a pamphlet that said, you know, $23 for the contemporary hotel or 25, if you want to a tower room. And it's like, yeah, let's bring forward and get a tower room and all this. And I wrote a letter to them. I still have the reply somewhere. Basically, you know requesting a room for that weekend.

And they said well, we'd like to accommodate you, but you have to be with an adult. Which makes sense. And it's maybe a good thing. I didn't sign up for that room at the contemporary, because as you probably know, the contemporary wasn't ready on October 1st. So eventually my other friends kind of backed out of it as they realized kind of how far-fetched the scheme was.

And my neither of my parents were interested in doing this. It was a school day, a Friday, I think, you know, and my dad didn't want to take off from work and do that. And, but I had been saving my money on my paper route, you know, and I had saved up enough for a round trip ticket. Now how, and when the ticket was, Bob is something that is, has escaped my memory.

But I do remember like, just as this seemed like there was something that wasn't going to happen. I was a paper boy in my own neighborhood. And I was collecting money for my, my paper, the daily pilot, orange county, daily pilot. And there was a fellow on my paper route named Jack Sayers. And he was the vice president of lessee relations and industry sales for Disneyland.

And I think I kind of knew that but I didn't know he was involved in Walt Disney world, but he had a big Timex clock face. As a table and his patio, you know, that I'd walked past it's a ring, his doorbell, you know, to collect for the paper. And he said, oh yeah, they used to be on the train station.

You know, so I knew he was, had something to do with Disneyland. Anyway. When I was collecting papers, it was probably in September, sometime early September collecting money from him. I went to the door and he said, oh, please put a vacation stop between, you know, September between yeah, September 30th and October 5th, because I'm going to be away.

You know, for that week. And I said, well, I'll tell my substitute, cause I'm going to be away too. And he said, well, where are you going? I said, I'm going to Disney world in Florida. And he goes, that's where I'm going. So he quickly made arrangements for me to be taken care of when I got, when I arrived out there.

And I, and I'm pretty certain, he must've had a conversation with my mom and dad about how I would be taken care of when I got there to not worry. And that I'll be in good hands. But the thing was that at that point I hadn't agreed or I hadn't made the plan to stay over. It was just to go out there and come back.

And my mom and dad called my uncle who lived at the time in Atlanta and they agreed to take me, you know I would fly from Orlando that evening to Atlanta and spend the weekend with my aunt and uncle. And that all sounded like a good plan. So you know, I had relatives on the other quickly at the other end of this crazy journey.

But yeah.

[00:13:41] Lou Mongello: Ready to go on your own? Like you had no, prior I was, I probably would

[00:13:46] Tom K. Morris: have backed out if, you know, if I, if there wasn't anyone there out there to, you know, take care of this. And so so I, and I think I was just about, at that point, you know, like probably when I said, oh, I'm going out there to, I already in my head told myself I'm not really going out there.

So cause I don't think, you know, I don't think I knew that he had anything to do with Walt Disney world. You know, I just knew that, oh, he's someone important at Disneyland and And then, you know, it kind of, ironically, I did not meet with him out there cause Jack was his reason for being out there besides being out there for the opening was to finish the deal with Eastern airlines and get it signed for if you had wings.

So he was wining and dining, the Eastern airlines people I found out, you know, 45 years later. That's why I didn't see him out. That that's why he wasn't at the dinner that night. So yeah, I did that. And when I got to the airport on September 30th, it was a red eye flight out out to Orlando. So that I'd arrived there.

First thing in the morning on a Delta flight, I suddenly got scared, you know, like, oh, okay. I got to really go through with us. And I had never been on a plane before. And so suddenly, you know, the scale of the idea, you know, hit me and and, and the gods, you know, the gods had been angered slightly by my insulins.

And so I, this flight it was to Atlanta and then switch off from Atlanta, Orlando, but from LA to Atlanta flying over. Texas. And in that area, Louisiana, terrible, terrible storm, terrible turbulence lightning. And you know, the stewardess is, as they were called, the back then were frightened too. I could see it on their faces.

I mean, we were really, you know, doing a wild Bronco ride through the sky and I was scared to death. I was certain, it was God getting back at me nightmare at 30,000 feet. Right. Exactly, exactly. And then, you know, I must've been tired by the time I got, you know, I didn't really sleep. So I got out there, but I don't remember being tired.

I just, I think that accounts for some of the, the memory lapse, you know, like, I can't remember. I can just barely remember the ride from the airport to Disney world in that it just seemed like it took forever and that it was in the middle of nowhere and it was trees, trees, trees, trees, and I'd still like to find out, you know, there, there's a way to find out who that was, but I haven't found it out yet.

Who took me, there was in a white, a white Walt Disney world truck. Someone picked me up there. And then when I arrived there, there was a VIP hostess waiting for me. And and then the adventure began.

[00:16:32] Lou Mongello: Yeah. And, and not only was the airport wasn't even MCO back then, you know what? The, just the small little airport that it was different, but as well as Orlando, there certainly wasn't a lot built up.

But even Walt Disney world, I think a lot of people, Tom don't realize that opening day. 1971 is not what we would expect it to be like in 2021, where there is just a massive people. Wall-to-wall for the most part. I mean, tell me, I want you to share your memories obviously, but the park itself was not very crowded that opening day, right?


[00:17:06] Tom K. Morris: no, no. The whole place wasn't crowded. You know, the, the I was driven right up to the TTC where I, someone took a photo of me and the VIT guide, and we hopped on the monorail and went first to the Polynesian hotel where I was to be interrogated by the press in a little room that was off the lobby on the first floor.

And I don't know how long I was in there, but I was just get me out and get me to the magic kingdom,

[00:17:35] Lou Mongello: Disney, leverage this into a PR opportunity for themselves.

[00:17:39] Tom K. Morris: And I guess. Probably Charlie Ridgeway. I thought it was a fellow named Bob Jackson, but in, in my unrelated research years later, I was to find out that I think he was he left the company shortly before Disney world open, but he was somehow in touch with me.

Cause I think I had some letters from him or something. So it must've been Charlie Ridgeway who was taking care of me once I was in there. And I just remember microphones and cameras and I would go from one spot to another in this, in this very, you know plain room. It was basically I think just a backstage break area and and finally docked to get out of there and got to go back onto the monorail with the VIP hostess.

And I think that's where I began to get, well, actually the first moment of kind of like, wow, I was walking into the lobby from the second floor at the contemporary hotel. Which was such a, wow. You know, the, the fragrance of the orchids just hit me in the face. And it was such a beautiful, beautiful lobby.

And unlike anything that

[00:18:46] Lou Mongello: you saw certainly out in, in Disneyland,

[00:18:49] Tom K. Morris: right? Right. Oh, incidentally, too. When we were at this TTC station at the very beginning, I remember looking off at the contemporary and it's like, oh, are we, if we get to go there. Right. And it's like, no, it's not finished. And I could see the cranes were still up.

And in fact, it's in my photographs, the, you know, the cranes, they were still, I don't know if they were putting, still putting rooms in, but they were still working on the upper areas of the hotel. So finally we get on the monorail to the magic kingdom and the ride over to the magic kingdom was extremely impressive to me because that's, I think the first time I really got a true sense of the scale.

So, you know, it's one thing to see on a map. And be told it's, you know, much bigger than Disneyland and all of that, but then when you see it for yourself and all the berms, and as far as the eye can see no intrusions or anything it was, it was extremely impressive,

[00:19:42] Lou Mongello: right? Cause unlike, especially the early days in Disneyland, that was not very much the case, but just, if you can briefly talk about that day, both your, the memories of your, obviously the opposite comparisons that you were probably making to Disneyland, as well as some of the, the special privileges that you were afforded as, as being, because you really were sort of a guest at that point.

Right. And I don't mean like a regular day guests. You were like a guest of.

[00:20:12] Tom K. Morris: Yeah, it was great. Well, so when we got to the magic kingdom, which was around 11 o'clock, I did notice like, where are all the people they had said that because I knew that there were all these rumors about a crush of people and you know, even, even as I was on my way out there from the airport, which must've been seven or eight around eight o'clock in the morning, there was still like chatter about, you know, our, our.

Is there a backup, is there, you know, on the freeway, are we getting crushed? There was kind of unknown. It was ambiguous as to what, as to what was going on. But I was told that they were expecting a big crowd and so by the time we got there, you know, I couldn't see any crowded, the TTC. And they had said that they had already had the first family in and you know, a parade for them.

And I kind of felt, oh, shoot, missed it. You know? But we got into the magic kingdom and I was taken over to the city hall and transferred to another caretaker, if you will. So the VIP hostess took me over there and I was met by a woman named Joanne Monica. Who was Jack, one of Jack Linquist assistants or secretaries.

And she would be my escort for the rest of the day. And I don't remember now it was funny. Someone recently asked me, well, did you sign the VIP or did you sign the guest book when you were in there? And I'm like, probably, but that's a good, you know, I could have, if I had thought about a year ago, I could have tracked it down because I tracked down ed Satos.

I had someone at the archives tracked down and it was easy to do at, at Satos signature, in the preview center, yest book from that prior summer. So then we were on our way and I think there may have been another interview or two there at city hall. And finally we were on our way. And so my impressions were you know, main street in general felt the same to me.

But when we got to. The hub close to the hub. I could see this, you know, the big monolith, so tomorrow land, and that was really cool looking. And so that was the first like, wow, this is different. And an impressive, you know, I thought it was really neat. I took a picture. I also took a picture of construction that was going on behind what would be the circle vision building, which I didn't know until later, because I thought, well, that would be too early for it to be if you had wings know.

So it's probably like I remember there was a cast CAF cafeteria back there, so maybe it was for that. But I learned later it was for, if you add wings, they had already started the box and they hadn't yet signed the deal with Eastern apparently. But you couldn't go into tomorrow land. It was closed.

None of the shows were ready except for the Skyway station. So later on, you know, I'll talk about that. But so we walked around the hub there, but the first place I wanted to go was Liberty square, because that was one of those elusive things. Like the haunted mansion that appears on a Disneyland map.

And never opens, never comes to be, it's always in the future. And finally, there's a Liberty square that I get to go into. So we went over to Liberty square and walked through that and made a beeline for the haunted mansion, because that was my favorite attraction at Disneyland. And and my first special privilege was because there was no one.

There, we were the only ones in that foyer and in the stretching room they let me take flash pictures, but now I only have three roles. So I had to choose very wisely. So I ended up, I think only taking two or three shots in the haunted mansion, one inside the stretching rooms and one of the singing bus.

And I think there was another one in there somewhere.

[00:24:01] Lou Mongello: It's so funny, you're living every person's dream to be in the mansion by yourself and taking pictures. And I think people can't relate to the fact of what do you mean? You only have three rolls of film. It was a consideration you had to sort of take into account.

[00:24:15] Tom K. Morris: Yeah, and it very well could have been, you know, two rolls of film. And I bought a third, which would have been GAF, which accounts for, well, actually it probably was all GAF. I probably bought all the film there and which accounts for why the pictures lost their color over time. And and, and I'm looking for the negatives desperately looking for the negatives.

There's only one more place that they could be, and I'll know by the end of the year. But I was able to restore most of those photos, fairly decently, and I think I posted the best of them on Twitter. So. I can't remember exactly the order of things, but I know soon after that we went into holiday presidents.

You know, there were the other must see things where the hall of presidents that Mickey mouse review the country, bear Jan Berry. And so I think we well, we hit the Khalid presidents of country bear Jamboree pretty quickly after that. And I was impressed

[00:25:15] Lou Mongello: with the hall of presidents was an E ticket attraction.

Like it was a big deal,

[00:25:19] Tom K. Morris: so it was country bear. And and I just want my one note about the holiday presidents was, you know, I was impressed and everything, but I thought that film was awfully long at the beginning. And I was a little bit worried. I was a little bit worried and I didn't have the appreciation for the craft behind it, you know, that I do now.

But I was a little bit worried there for a minute that this whole thing is going to be a movie. We're not, you know, and then we'll see a movie of the presidents, but, you know, cause I'm trying to figure out, well, you know, does this theater rotate or what ha when do we see the presidents? Do they come up from that orchestra pit that was out there in front, but then the screens went up, which was really cool.

I really liked that. And and so that was the hall of presidents experience. And then we did country bearer and I was impressed with that and oh, by the way, I, you know, I can remember. The fragrances and aromas, if you will, of these locations, you know, that that holler president is smelled like new carpet and country bear Jamboree smelled like the wood and also smelled like the brass that had just, you know, the brass railing in there that had just been polished in the morning.

There's all that the smell of newness, if you will, everywhere in the park including, you know, the freshly laid asphalt and some areas in it on my Twitter posts, you'll see in frontier land and in Liberty square, how they had just slurred the night before there's no footprints or anything, and they didn't finish it in Liberty square.

So there's a, you can see the division of where the new slurry was applied the night before. Cause it's bright red, it's bright brick red, and then the kind of more, you know faded below it next to it. And so I was making all these weird little mental notes, also the smell of mulch. Because they had, you know, it was new planting.

So I lived in a new, in a neighborhood that was fairly, also fairly new. And they were also adding you know little neighborhoods to it. It was actually a cellular Greenbelt community which I did. And another thing I didn't find out till much later had a connection to Disney, but I remember that smell of the mulch and then, and the, and the sod.

And I'm like, this smells like, you know, this smells like home right here. It was, it was in frontier land and parts of the hub where it smelled like they had just put the mulch in arc, you know, and also places where they had just stained the railings, any wood railings or anything. So it was this very interesting and odd.

Combination of fresh either paint or stain or asphalt slurry mulch. And then in the case of the new carpet, when you went into into an interior and then the, that Polynesian hotel, which had had a little bit of that, but it was mixed in, you know, most powerfully with the orchid. Aroma. It's interesting how our

[00:28:11] Lou Mongello: olfactory senses are the ones that are most closely tied to memories right there.

You're talking about the things that you smell,

[00:28:17] Tom K. Morris: even more, the things that you saw works. I'll get some of those here and there over time. And I go, oh, that, you know, it'll take me back. And, and the Poly's still pretty much smells that way to this day. There's still that, that aroma minus the fresh freshly stained you know, wood work.

Why do I notice those things as a 12 year old? I don't know. And

[00:28:39] Lou Mongello: I think that's one thing that's intriguing about your story was not just that you're making suggestions that eventually come to pass for attractions, but the, the. The things that you notice, the things that you were taking in and the things that stuck with you so many years later, let's fast forward a little bit, because at some point you say, this is the place that I want to go, that I want to work.

And sometimes it's not what you know, but who, you know, right. Going, let's go back to your, you must have the best paper route in the world, because not only was someone like Jack Sayers and on your paper out, but you had people like Thoreau. Ravenscraft Ravenscroft on your, on your paper out, but you, once again, tap into Jack.

When you're looking to go from. Kim that's flying across country to visit Walt Disney world to kid that now wants to get a job at Walt Disney world. Just a couple of years later. I'm sorry. Disney land

[00:29:32] Tom K. Morris: years later, right? Yeah. And so you know, I just asked him kind of glibly or, you know, almost facetiously if there were any job openings at Disneyland.

And I think I had perhaps on a previous trip, seen some of the balloons sellers who certainly didn't look like they were 18 years old. So I might've mentioned, you know, like it looks like some of the balloon sellers might be younger. Oh yes, they are. You know, that's Nat Lewis and his operation. I can give them a call and see if he has any opening.

And he did it and he did. And oh, I can't believe I did that. You know, and this is just going into, you know, I'm in high school and you know, now I'm working there on weekends, right. Because you

[00:30:21] Lou Mongello: weren't actually old enough to be hired by a dislike. This was sort of your backdoor way in, right,

[00:30:27] Tom K. Morris: right. It was a, you know, it was a sneaky way to get free access into Disneyland.

So. And you know, there, so there were a handful of these mom and pop lessees that were still in the park and they hired at earlier ages. You know, some of them 17, some of them 15, 14, and of course the parades, you know have some roles in them that were for young kids, younger kids. So at the very tender age of 14, yeah.

I had a weekend job there and and you know, it w it turned out being a good idea, but, you know, I, it was another thing where I'm like going, oh my God, what have I gotten myself into? And I'm not going to quit the job after asking the vice president, you know, one of the key vice-presidents of the park, you know, if he'd help me out with that.

So, so I, you know, I forged ahead with it and You know, eventually you get little raises and little promotions. So after a year I'm like, well, you know, I might as well stick with this. And there were, you know, started to build space mountain, and it was right next to the balloon room. And so that, you know, it was interesting for me.

And so I guess, you know, I, my, I was able to kind of You know, w work through it, I guess. I mean, you know, some of the selling balloons was not always a lot of fun, but eventually I was moved into the balloon room where you blow up the balloons, you deliver the balloons and, and you're with your buddies in there.

So you're chatting the whole time. So you can, you know, you can chat and blow up balloons at the same time. And so that was a little. Easier, you know, to, to deal with although, I mean, I love being out in the park and everything, but you know, you'd get these crushes of people at the end of the day or after a parade.

And wow. You know, you ha you had guessed control. You were a one man guest control person. Sometimes what's your,

[00:32:16] Lou Mongello: your, your third-party lessee role turns eventually into a role working for the company you're doing foods. And then you're in Tomorrowland working in an operations. And you're now going from this kid that loved animation and layout art into, into a little more of a, of an expanded horizons of attention, where you're now thinking about things like drafting and architecture.

Tell the story about how you move in the late seventies from the theme parks into imagining.

[00:32:54] Tom K. Morris: It was kind of a, another unexpected happenstance, but what happened was around 1978, I believe they began to announce their seriousness about going ahead with the Epcot project at Walt Disney world and Tokyo Disneyland.

There had been, you know, they had been writing about it in the annual reports and it had been a thing that had been kind of brewing. But then it was becoming more and more apparent that they were going to go ahead with these two projects. And at Disneyland, I think they had already had this kind of career planning and placement program where they hire from within, you know, and and so you could submit your resume, but, but they moved it into a, kind of a higher gear when this happened in 1970, I think at the beginning of 1978.

And and you could submit your resume and you could submit your portfolio, and now they were kind of aggressively advertising it in the, in the company newsletters. And you know, that you, you know, we need so many hundred people to do all of this work and it's not just artists, you know, we need draftsman artists, accountants, schedulers, planners, project managers, yada yada, yada I need is the right

[00:34:07] Lou Mongello: word.

I mean, they're, they're basically their heading

[00:34:09] Tom K. Morris: at this point. Yeah. They're head hunting. And so I kind of like, well, what, what have I got to lose? I looked at it as a bookmark or a placeholder for when I get out of college maybe you know, I'll have a little bit. Headstart, because some people will have reviewed my portfolio and this portfolio was just the stuff that I had done in high school.

Cause this is my first year in college. I'm a freshman now at Cal state Fullerton. And I'm still indecisive about what I want to do. I'm taking film classes, I'm taking communications classes. I'm taking illustration classes. I think by this time I had, I had ruled out architecture, but I had taken three years of preliminary pre architecture.

If you will, three years of drafting, you know, in the last year of drafting is a preparation for architecture. And so I had a lot of work to show from that from those three years. And then some illustrations that I had started to do in high school. And and so those were really the only things that were in the resume and, you know, so I'm thinking, I'm thinking 1982, when I graduate, not you know, 1979.

So in 1979 or the end of 70 80, then it was, I mean, it wasn't long before I got a call and I wish I remembered how that all happened, but like I was probably called into a supervisor's office. And so I was probably like scared at first, like, why am I being called in? And then I was told that someone wants to talk to me about my resume.

And it was one of the, they had two headhunters, you know, two Disney employees, you know, they were with the company, but their jobs were effectively pet hunters. And remember it wasn't even just Epcot and Tokyo Disneyland. They were also looking for animators. And filmmakers to get the film program restarted at the studio.

So they were looking at everyone. I'm sure they that's how they got Randy Cartwright. Cause I remember he was a character. I would see him in the break areas all the time and he'd always be talking about animation and I was too shy. I was very introverted back then. So I never really, I may have had made a little small talk with him, but I never really, you know, same with John Lasseter, by the way.

I remember having lunch with him one time in the in-between the cafeteria there. And and I, you know, he was saying how he was going to Cal arts and I was just like listening rapid, you know just, you know, earnestly, listening to him and and he said, it's very hard to get into and NEMA NEMA and something like that.

You, you have to have, you know, taken life drawing to get in. He was talking about the pro you know, the animation program. And so anyway, that all that was happening and they were also, you know, they would have town halls, not just once a year, but it seemed like they'd have them a couple times a year where in the Lincoln theater.

And they would do it like four times a day. And they would take you through the company what's going on in the company, the rest of the company. And so they were showing, you know, all of these really cool sizzle reels for Epcot and Tokyo Disneyland and the studio and all of that. And it was starting to sound more and more intriguing.

And, you know, as an idea to, to work that maybe Imagineering. So the first year in college, I was indecisive. I was taking, you know, I was you know, taking all of the different things. I was interested in thinking I would eventually, you know, at the end of two years, I'll figure it out. And I'll transfer to UCLA or USC or wherever I needed to go, but I got this call and I talked to this guy, his name was Stan SOA, and he said we're going to need you, you know, do you build models?

I think that was the first thing he asked. Do you build models? I was like, well, that's something I've been wanting to see. To do. And I had met Tony Baxter, you know, like a year or two earlier. And he took me through his portfolio and his body of work and it's like, well, he does models. I, you know, I, I've never done a model before.

I didn't realize how easy it was. And so I know I don't do models and he's like, well, we really need people in the model shop. And it looks like you could do models. I'm like, yeah, yeah. Or somehow he got it in his head that, you know, I'd be good for doing models. And but he said you know, how about architecture and drafting?

I mean, you've got a great you know, some great examples here, clearly, you know how to do that. And I said, yeah I'm not interested in necessarily being a draftsman, you know, maybe something in the architectural design department. Which was a name I just made up at that moment. And but I, I was thinking why, you know, I wouldn't mind designing, designing buildings, you know, the, my that's what I did, that was some of what was in my portfolio.

And there was a breadth of styles, you know, there was, there was a half timber Bavarian building and a futuristic building and, you know, a contemporary building, all these different styles. So clearly, yeah, it was something that I could do. Anyway, Next thing. I know I'm interviewing at wed by George who was head of the show set design department.

And he's like, yeah, we could use it right away. And this was like November of 79. And so I started January. I thought, what the heck I'll do this? This will probably last a year. I'll do it for work experience. And who knows, you know, maybe I'll, I'll get to do something interesting as my my career description when I started was apprentice draftsman.

But, I mean, it's got to do some, you know, grant work for awhile

[00:39:59] Lou Mongello: to put the, you gotta put in some of those, those, oh, absolutely. But you're in the building, quote, unquote, you're sort of in the building with the people who were, you know, your sort of Imagineering heroes, right? You're in the same know in the same places as a ward Kimball on a Mark Davis and you add this and I love the fact that you knew who these people were.

Right. Sort of before, you know, now we sort of know them as legends, but at the time you are, you know, you're a fan of the work of cloth. You know who Claude coats is your fan of his work. And now you're in the building.

[00:40:32] Tom K. Morris: Right. And I'm still shy and introverted. So Tony introduced me to several of those folks and they were all, you know, very nice and everything, but I didn't know how much, you know, I didn't know if I was welcome to just go wandering into their offices and, you know, striking up a conversation.

So regrettably, I didn't do very much of that and I wish I had, but wandering around that building. Yeah. I mean, I, and I was also at what I call a friction point physically in the building I was at at the crossroads of the architecture, graphics and model shop on the first floor on a main artery. So I was like, my cubicle was at Hollywood and vine in the building.

And in show set design, that's the discipline where most of the input and most of the disciplines come together. That's where you look for all of the kind of conflicts. And you know, if there's an air conditioning dock that's running through the middle of the sets or so, I mean, that's where the engineers are going there.

The mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, show designers, art directors, they're all constantly in that space. And so I didn't know who people like Jack Martin Smith were, or Bob clout worthy, you know, later I find out that they're big Hollywood art directors who had directed these, you know, huge films and they were, they're just, you know, working on some aspect of the energy pavilion or some aspect of the world of motion.

And and they're all, you know, Walter Tyler was another one. And so in addition to the known, you know, the ones who I knew about like Mark Davis, Claude coats, et cetera, there were these other ones that were there specifically for Epcot who had come from the high ranks of film art direction.

[00:42:22] Lou Mongello: And that's, and that's what you were working on, right?

So you're working on things like world of motion and you're designing, you know, temples and pagodas and, and, and, you know, sort of call it one of the last scenes, the hot air balloons, and that maybe it doesn't make it, but you do capture the attention of Claude coats. You know, he sees some of the work that you're doing, and all of a sudden, the person who is your, your hero, maybe you were too shy to recognize is the, the, the, not just the quantity, but the quality of the work that you're doing.

[00:42:54] Tom K. Morris: I think so. I mean, I you know, I often wonder about how, how that all happened so quickly. And because, you know, I did the grunt work for two weeks and then I was, you know, actually designing things, you know, like phone booths and stuff like that for the land pavilion and then world of motion and then the scene for world of motion.

And I think it was Claude who requested it. Maybe Tony said, there's a guy, you know, who's pretty good. Who just started that you might want to have, take a look at it. I don't know how it happened. But it happened. And so, you know, I D I, I made this attempt to come up with a scene and the, what I had been given were a stack of color, Xeroxes of French hot air balloon.

That was it. That was my input because I guess the, the original idea was they were going to be projected on the, on a screen. And at some point they realized, well, there's more room in this space than we thought it's a big, it looks like a big empty room, so we're going to have to put something in there.

So I came up with this idea for the a hot air balloon, kinda gone loose heading in the direction of a steeple of a church steeple, you know, where it could get topped and, you know, so I had the French. Dude with the wig and and a goat burps goats in the basket and the, and the French guy had his hat and he's like waving, you know, kind of not realizing that the balloons about to hit the steeple and th those trying to warn them, you know, trying to, and so clod felt it was too complicated or not quick enough read.

But he liked the buildings that I designed. So the building stayed the balloon in that position stayed. I think, I think that people didn't and someone put a pig in it. And I don't know if that was Claude or mark. Mark Davis worked on the gags for that. I will someday I'll know the chronology of all this, but I think mark had already finished his consultant assignment on world of motion.

And so he wasn't in the mix that I know of, but then I heard that they did bring him back again for another small round. And that could have been where the pig was brought in, or it could have been

[00:45:12] Lou Mongello: inspired by your

[00:45:13] Tom K. Morris: ideas. It just don't know. I don't know. And you know that the pencil chicken scratches as someone referred them to as you know, I, I wish I was a better quick sketch artist.

I mean, I could do it if I spent a lot of time, I could actually do a really professional looking sketch, but this is like quick, quick, quick. And I'm not that person yet who cranks stuff out, you know, at high speed. And so they were kind of, you know well, they weren't so bad after I looked at him, you know, over all those years, but I was almost embarrassed in some ways.

I mean, like it's no one ever said, oh, those are really good. You know, that's a really good idea. I never got that. It was just like, well, you know, it was like a wall to like, that'll work, I guess. So, yeah, I guess so it never happened, you know, in those first couple of years, because I remember putting out a lot of sketches for journey into imagination for what the building might look like and nobody ever responded to any of them, you know, it was like, it was worse than someone saying that's not a very good sketch, you know, or it's a bad idea.

It's just like ignoring it.

[00:46:20] Lou Mongello: I'm at least going down the right path.

[00:46:22] Tom K. Morris: Yeah. You know, and I did one of them that, you know, it wasn't too far away from what they ended up with. It might've inspired Dan Busey to come up with the idea for the two silver halide crystals that he came up with. I had mine was like, basically like a diamond, you know, with Brock work around it as if it was the setting.

And and I, you know, I had that sketch for a long time and now I don't know where it is. Cause I'm stuff over time. When you go from office to office, to office, to office, it seems like, you know, you lose a folder every time somehow.

[00:46:56] Lou Mongello: I and there's a lot that I want to get into in about dream to imagination, but before sort of moving down to there, I want to just get a sense, you know, as we were talking, realizing that you're, you're at Imagineering when Epcot is really sort of coming together and Epcot as a whole, from the.

Whatever Walt had in his mind to what Imagineering and, and Disney decided to sort of, to make it be was so very different than anything Disney had done before. Can you give a sense of what the, the emotion, the feeling, the thought process was just sort of the overall feeling among the Imagineers of what you were creating for what would eventually be.

[00:47:42] Tom K. Morris: I think there was a lot of excitement and pride behind what we were doing. Cause we, you know, in some ways, many ways we felt like we were, you know, helping save the world. And so that sounds a little bit lofty, but I think that's really intriguing. Well, the leadership at the time, you know, when they would do these presentations and town halls and they were giving a lot of them, you know, as you know, they did a presentation, gave a presentation to president Carter and they would give these presentations to, you know consulates from around the world.

And they basically, you know what they were saying, if I could summarize the card, Walker had written this really nice piece about, you know, dreaming it dreamers and doers. And and he said, you know, it's basically, he was saying, it's the responsibility of this company after having learned. Over the decades, how to communicate with people, how to personally treat people, how to organize spaces and places and move people both physically and emotionally.

And and with all these environmental innovations that they had add incorporated into Walt Disney world and Disneyland things like people movers and the energy system that they had established and the trash removal system that they had established a magic kingdom, you know, the and the central energy plants, all of that stuff.

What he was saying was now, you know, we owe it to the world basically to put this in action. And if we don't. Who else in the world is prepared to do it. There's no other, you know, people don't trust companies, they don't trust the government. They don't trust academia at the time was true. And Disney is about the only name that is trusted out there.

So we owe it, you know, to Walt and to the world to do this project. So that was kind of the spirit

[00:49:45] Lou Mongello: of also I have to imagine puts an enormous amount of pressure on you individually and collectively as, as Imagineering.

[00:49:54] Tom K. Morris: Well, yes. You know, I tried to get that, you know, as much as I could into the imagination pavilion, and I remember, you know, there were many of us who kind of were cynical about the world of motion because we felt that there wasn't enough.

You know, here's what we're doing for tomorrow. They, there was this vague thing at the end of it, you know, that kind of city scape sort of thing. Yeah. They, weren't saying we're getting into electric cars and here's one that you can, you know, see or experience. So we were kind of like, that was kind of like the one that we kind of, you know, snubbed our noses out.

But other than that, we all felt that we were and by the way, I ended up loving. Well, the motion, you know, it was a lot of fun, but with the exception of that, I think we all felt that we were doing something that was really important, that that would impact young people as they go through it and, you know, might affect their career choices, which it ended up being very true.

And so there was, you know, there was a purpose, it was a project with a purpose. And it really, you know, it was a lot of fun. I mean, there was a little bit of that at Disneyland Paris too, you know, we're creating the most beautiful magic kingdom park, but Epcot was like, we're really doing something different here.

And, you know, we might change the world

[00:51:15] Lou Mongello: and you did. I mean, not to sort of, you know, it's not hyperbole to say that Epcot did change the world and. Certainly as somebody who was a kid going to Epcot in 1982, very much profoundly impacted people in meaningful ways that maybe you didn't even consider as you're sitting there at your drafting.

[00:51:36] Tom K. Morris: Yeah. And you know, years later I would find out, you know, certain people in the professions would say, you know, I was inspired to become an architect by going through journey into imagination that this chat Oppenheim the architect down in Miami. He does fantastic places and spaces that are all sustainable and environmentally friendly.

And you know, filmmakers, gosh, I can't pull them all out of the air right now, but I mean, I've, I've heard several examples, you know, astronauts, some of the younger astronauts who were inspired, you know, to get into science. So I think it did really have an impact in that way. And you know, and, and there are things that you can see in various communities from time to time and, and malls and public spaces where you can see, they're definitely borrowing from Epcot.


[00:52:26] Lou Mongello: I think that Walt would be proud because while we may not know what he may have had in his mind's eye, as he was staring up at the ceiling in those last days in the hospital, I think exactly what you said is probably what he wanted. He wanted it to have an impact on people how it was executed and what the pavilions and attractions looks like almost is less important than all impacted.

[00:52:52] Tom K. Morris: Oh, absolutely. And I think he really did have a passion for creating a an intelligently laid out community that didn't require or depend on the automobile, which could have been one of the reasons that, you know, in that day and age, it didn't go forward because they needed help from places and from companies like general motors and Ford.

But I, you know, I think what's lost on some people is that, you know, they'll say, well, you know, it probably, wasn't a practical idea and you know, how are you going to like, make sure everyone has the latest toaster and microwave. And it's like, it wasn't really. That you know, it wasn't about even the style of the building.

I own the building, you know, that would look out of date. Now it was about how you organize a town and how, how you have the, you know, higher density in the center and the lower density outside. And you still can have a car, but when you drive out of your garage, you drive down into an underground tunnel and get out.

The whole city is walkable from one end to the other and, or you can take a people mover, or you can take a monorail for greater distances. And you know, parts of that in pieces have been demonstrated across the nation, but it hasn't been demonstrated as an entire organism that include a monorail and a people mover at least.

At least not yet. Not yet. Yeah. I, you know, to me it seems doable. Forget all of the, you know, oh, you can't control what people are doing. If someone naked comes out on the balcony, you know, well, you can't do that now at the hotel. Right. So you know, I remember one of the things was, well, what if you go, you're on a monorail on your way to the park and you look inside, you know, you go by one of the apartment buildings and someone's smoking weed.

You know, that was one of the reasons for consideration you know, but, you know, go to Vegas and they, or actually, you know, it's in a small way, Americana here in Glendale, California is a little tiny Epcot where people are living above the community, you know, the public space below. And of course it, you know, it's very small and it doesn't you know, it doesn't have a monorail or people over it doesn't need one, but showing how you can integrate living spaces where people actually own their home and a family friendly environment that's appealing and is well taken care of.

They're not, you know mutually exclusive.

[00:55:26] Lou Mongello: Well, I think many of, some of the, at the time fanciful visions of what the future might be, what we were thinking in the fifties and early sixties are coming to fruition now. So it might just take a little bit longer to, to execute properly on what that vision was.

And Tom, one of the things I am most fascinated with as I think many people are, is the imagination pavilion specifically journey into imagination as a whole. And I think this is a fascinating, very deep rabbit hole that I would like to go down with you. Maybe we'll save this for a part two. So we can give imagination it's due because I know that you have stories.

That have never been shared before. And really, I think people have never heard before that I think are going to be very, very interesting, but let's stay a little bit in specifically Walt Disney world, because you do, you did work in Disneyland. We'll talk about eventually your, your work over in Paris as well, but in Walt Disney world you also worked on other classic attractions.

You worked on splash mountain, for example which I think is especially now interesting because of the upcoming changes. Talk a little bit about working with Tony on that attraction and specifically where your sort of quote unquote, handprints lie.

[00:56:48] Tom K. Morris: Right. My hand prints lie on the one at Disneyland where we built the first one and that all started back in 1984.

And, and before that, there had been some teams working on a, on a log ride ID. At the request of Dick Nunis who had been, you know, pushing wed WDI at the time to look into doing something that could go head to head with the one at Knott's Berry farm. But with Epcot and all these other things going on, it was always kind of a low priority.

But finally well, so after Epcot opened, there was a big layoff and I was certain I was going to go, I mean, it was, I was all getting ready to go back to school and but they kept me and Tony won. Tony was working on new tomorrow land ideas. So it was like always a thing that was kind of a constant you know, some kind of an update to tomorrow land.

And they had been talking to talking with George Lucas about some kind of a star wars involvement. So I was cooking up some plans for that, and that was kind of an on again, off again thing. Then. This log ride thing came up and then Tony was being pressured by Dick newness. And, and therefore, you know, others at WDI to come up with a log, right idea.

So he passed, I submitted

[00:58:02] Lou Mongello: this to you people 25 years ago.

[00:58:05] Tom K. Morris: I might've done that or I might've forgotten by then. It's funny, you know, he gets so busy sometimes that you don't have time to look back. Now I have plenty of time to look back and that's all I'm doing. And I'm having fun doing it, but so I, what I can't remember exactly is if at that point in time, it was.

He had already determined he wanted it to be based on song of the south. But I remember it was shortly thereafter. If not at the very beginning, it was shortly thereafter and we talked about it because, you know, we were looking at different themes and I think we may have, like for briefly, just, you know, for the sake of doing it looked at the rescuers, which was, you know, took place in the Bayou.

And and it seemed like, you know, it could be kind of fun with an Evan, rude, you know, kind of a theme or something, but there just wasn't enough in the film, you know, and, and particularly music and both Tony and I are big believers in the power of music, driving the story and driving the experience.

And so song of the south was the one that kept coming back because locationally, we knew that this was going to go somewhere on the west side and the two. You know spots where it looked like it could fit where between the pirates of the Caribbean and the haunted mansion behind it. Or just a little bit north of that north of where just tad north of where splash mountain would've gone.

We weren't looking at what was, was a skinny berm at the time where it ended up going. And so I was tasked with how to locate it, how to cite it and then lay it out. So I was focused on that. Initially as the story was kind of being bantered about and came up and there was, there were some kind of requirements that were thrown in, which was, it's gotta be longer than the one that Knott's Berry farm.

It's gotta be more thrilling than the one at Knott's Berry farm. It's got to have a higher drop than the one at Knott's Berry farm and more drops because knots had to, so that meant we had to do three. And so those were, those were kind of my metrics that they gave me and I was also helping kind of figure out, you know, what would make sense song wise and story-wise.

And so I remember thinking like dropping into how do you do would be kind of a neat, you know, sort of a thing. I didn't come up with most of the show scenes eventually, but I think I'd plotted out kind of, you know, just a basic, how do you do, you know and a laughing place, a moment. And and so I was doing these layouts, so it was behind, we were looking at this.

Between pirates and mansion behind the train station, it would have had a staircase, the grand staircase going up to it and you could take an elevator, a few were disabled. And it was kind of like a big, you know, kind of new Orleans. Style building up there that would entice you to go up there and and then we would have had to bridge over some infrastructure.

So this was the thing that didn't work there's sub electrical substations and water filtration and cooling units back there. So we would have had to either relocate those, which would have cost a lot of money or platform over them. And it started to open up some things like, well, now there's some visual intuitions that you can see from while you're up there.

And it was all, you know, you could design all of that away, but it was just starting to cost too much. And Tony didn't want to put it. In fact, there was some people were suggesting to put it in fantasy land in that meadow next to small world. And he really had his. Set on, I'm putting it in, in frontier land, new Orleans square.

And so, you know, we looked at a couple more sites, but they all had problems and Tony was ready to give up on it. As I recall, he was very discouraged when we got an estimate of that first location. And so then I was looking at an aerial photo, you know, that's a good thing to do from time to time because well, there's a story I won't even get into about the creation of Disneyland.

And when someone was looking at an aerial photo of Anaheim, how they finally came up with the final, final location for Disneyland. And it was because they saw something in an aerial photo that they weren't seeing on the ground. That's for another time, but I saw this little skinny piece of berm north of the haunted mansion that separated the haunted mansion area from bear country at the time.

And there was just the only thing, you know, they're kind of in the way was bathrooms. You know, there was a large bathroom building snuggle snuggled up along that berm. And I just started to take my toolkit, you know, of, of a log ride parts that I had developed. The metrics, you know, the, the rhino, the lifts, the drops, the turns and all of that.

And I wanted to see if I could lay out out on that berm. Cause like, well maybe if it's out behind haunted mansion, you know, it's Southern Georgia clay, you know, and then you've got new Orleans. And so I don't, you know, if, if we gave those Cyprus trees tall enough, it won't be too much of an intrusion on the haunted mansion.

And I remember Tony coming by at one point going, oh, good luck. And I somehow figured out a way to weave it under, over, you know, there's railroad tracks and the haunted mansion show building and a haunted mansion basement building in the, within the park on the train tracks, all these things that had had to just narrowly miss.

And somehow I got it to all fit. And and drop into the river and even create an opening for the trains to look into the last scene, which we didn't know yet what we were, we didn't know yet. We were going to put a big finale in there. That was Tony's great idea, but it was looking out into the area. So you can, I think you could see the logs dropping and everything and And it worked, it fit, you know, and we had some engineers look at it and yeah, it looks like, you know, there's a little bit of infrastructure impact, but not like in the other location that you had.

So we were kind of off and running. This is about the time that Michael Eisner is about to join. And Ron is on his way out. And Bruce Gordon and I took a trip out to Florida to Busch gardens in Tampa because that log ride what? So we were talking to arrow development at the time because they had built the one at Knottsberry fit, invented it based.

Basically they invented the log ride and they had built the first one at Astroworld or whatever it was called in Texas. And they had built what at Knott's Berry farm and a couple of others. And so they had, you know, they had their tool kit for a log ride was what they gave me. That's what I was working too.

And so they had suggested we go out to see this one at Busch gardens that had a dip drop on it. Drops. And then it comes back up and we went out there just to do that. And I loved it. And I don't know why Bruce didn't cause Bruce always likes more and more and you know, always want, likes it at 11 on the dial, but his recommendation was not to do it.

And my recommendation was to do it cause you could put it in the laughing place and it could be kind of funny. And Tony went with do it. So I did what was kind of a final layout for estimating and, you know, a preliminary art concept, schematic level drawing of it and to make sure it was accurate, they sent so Errol was, was a Was one of going to be one of several bidders.

They didn't want to promise arrow the job. So they brought in another person who had worked with arrow, but had formed his own company name. His name was Don new farmer and he was the water high, high draw Alec engineer for pirates of the Caribbean who engineered pirates of the Caribbean years earlier.

And, and basically invented the first log ride had laid out the winter Knott's Berry farm. So I had him side by side with me. It's kind of a story that I've heard Bob GERD tell about when he had to design the mater horn. And he didn't know trigonometry because what I didn't know was that there were all sorts of dynamics that I wasn't taking into consideration with my toolkit.

And so this guy, Don farm, Don new farmer sent me. Right away and basically did the important calculations that were needed for each individual drop. And also, you know, there's a weird thing with a gravity based water ride versus pirates or small world, which are being pushed by jets. But a log for them is gravity is water pulling the gravity and the log down.

So there's some different dynamics. And so I had a lot of scenes that were specked out. You're moving through them at four to five feet per second. And he said that won't work. It won't water, won't flow at four to five feet per second for a sustained amount of time. You have to either target it at two to three or seven and over like, that's like a weird booty thing, but, you know, so I incorporated all of those calculations in, and I think we worked side by side for a couple of weeks and I came up with the final, final track plan.

That was eventually I left the project. I was sent down to Disneyland to work on a whole bunch of different things. So this was my time to do the learning at the park. So I just finished up the preliminary ride layout and had laid out, helped lay out the scenes and, you know, had determined where some of the scenes would go.

And that's what they ended up using. Because I saw, I just saw the second pass at the layout yesterday at the van Eaton auction. I'm my God. That looks like something that looks really familiar. And I looked at it and go, well, it's 19, you know, 86. So it was right after I finished up on it. And or maybe sometime after I finished up on it, but it was essentially the same.

Trochlea, they took out one little corner of it you know, in a budget reduction moment, but it was still, you know, still ended up being a nice 11 minute, 11 or 12 minute attraction with three drops in it. And, you know, very highly, highly satisfying by the time they were building it. And and it opened, I was living in Paris, so I was never part of the, you know, the celebrations or the opening for that.

So I saw it know not until I came back from Paris.

[01:08:30] Lou Mongello: Well, I think it's an interesting time to talk about the splash mountain for a number of reasons. Let's go back for a second first, before we go forward, you know, you talked about how well you alluded to earlier the importance of, of music in the attractions and even things like pirates and haunted mansion, and it's a small world and how.

The ID, you know, we sort of know the story about the, the idea for what was originally was supposed to be the zippity river run. And now

we need to theme it after splash. And eventually, eventually there was a reconciliation of incorporating splash into the name, but not necessarily the Tom Hanks, Daryl Hannah movie, into the theme. And now, you know, we're as well, we're looking to sort of the next phase of the iteration of the attraction would, were we have to sort of reconcile our sense of nostalgia with a sense of changed.

But I think once again, music is going to play an important part in the decision to re theme because the music from princess and the frog is so strong and so powerful, I think lends itself to such a great storytelling vehicle, internet.

[01:09:45] Tom K. Morris: I actually agree. I mean, I think I think the music is great. The characters are great.

The style, the color, everything lends itself perfectly to a flume ride that takes place, you know, in the south near new Orleans. And I'm all for it personally. I mean, if we had that property back, then we certainly would have done it. If rescuers had had better musically may or probably would have done that because the big issue with song of the south was, has anyone seen the movie they're very familiar with the music and music, you know, had been used everywhere, you know, on commercials, advertisements throughout the park and parades.

And so there wasn't the issue with it then that there is now. And, you know, I respect people's. You have to respect people's opinions and feelings about, about that. Now whether the feelings are, are sincere or not, I don't know, but it certainly doesn't hurt to update it and, and tie it into a film that more people have seen and have more connection with the character.

[01:10:53] Lou Mongello: I agree. And as somebody who loves the film, he loves the setting of the film and certainly the music. I'm looking forward to what is to come next for Tom. I, there was so much that I told you there's so much that I want to chat with you about including rock and roller coaster and Disney quest cars land in Hong Kong.

Lots to talk about in Hong Kong and certainly journey into imagination. I would love if that's okay if we could. If I could invite you back again, I'm sure more about some of the amazing work that you've done that has continuing to entertain and delight guests, myself included.

[01:11:28] Tom K. Morris: Great. Yeah. Happy to do it.

Let's do it after the first of the year. Sounds

[01:11:32] Lou Mongello: good. In the meantime, if people want to follow you on social, I love so much of what you share. Can you tell people where is the best for them to follow you?

[01:11:42] Tom K. Morris: Well, I, I mostly on Twitter. Tom Kay Morris. I guess that's all it is right at. Tom came on us, same with Instagram and, you know, I, I'm not a heavy, heavy tweeter.

Sometimes I'll have a little flurry of tweets, but my My ammo for tweets is usually when I'm on hold on the phone or waiting in line for something, you know? And so I have a very informal system, if you will. And so, you know, sometimes I go days before I tweet and other times I just tweet something silly that I happened to, you know, seeing my photos scream.

So there's no rhyme or reason to it, but I try to make everything interesting. And not something that you've seen before. You

[01:12:23] Lou Mongello: are a great example of, of quality, not quantity. You might not, but every now and then it's important to turn on notifications because you will share something that a lot of us are Disney enthusiasts, nerds, whatever you want to call us have

[01:12:37] Tom K. Morris: often written.

Yeah, I've seen before and I'm really holding back, you know, because I'm doing, I'm working on. Book project that will probably come to fruition. And if it doesn't, it's still incredible, incredible research, but I'm not, you know privy to sharing most of that. Sometimes there's a little piece that I can share but I've got all my goodness.

I got some really good, you know, findings and everything. It's all good news. It's all good. No, there's nothing. That's like, oh, it's all. Just, you know, adds to the story that we thought at this point. We kind of think we've seen everything. We've heard everything, but no, there's so much more to this story.

Disney is the gift that keeps on giving.

[01:13:21] Lou Mongello: And you've always been a researcher, even on things that you weren't necessarily working on. We could spend days probably just talking about the Haunted Mansion, even though that wasn't necessarily your project.

So, Tom, thank you so very much for sharing your story. And so many of the great stories from the Disney parks I sincerely appreciate you. And as somebody who again, continues to enjoy. The the, the fruits of your work. I really do appreciate it.

[01:13:58] Tom K. Morris: Great. Well, thank you. Thank you for having me on. And I look forward to more!

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