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WDW Radio # 665.2 – Former Imagineer Tom K. Morris: His Career And The Future Of The Disney Parks Experience

Former Walt Disney Imagineering creative Tom K. Morris continues his discussion of the origins of Journey Into Imagination, and how it influenced the evolution of interaction, immersion, and personalization of attractions. He also discusses his work in Disneyland Paris, Tomorrowland in Disneyland, Space Mountain, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, DisneyQuest, Cars Land, and as executive producer for Hong Kong Disneyland. We also explore the fascinating future of the Disney theme park experience.

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Click Here To Read The Full Podcast Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Lou Mongello: I think one of the most continuously intriguing things about the pavilion was exactly what we were talking about was the image works upstairs was I think the first and maybe even still to this day, the best example of the words that are, that are used all the time now, but interaction immersion and personalization for the guests, which was clearly almost ahead of its time, because people didn't know what to do, but it is where we even now are going with the theme park experience.

The technology might be different, but I think it was so advanced for its time giving people that type of post-show experience that was not necessarily a retail.

[00:00:47] Tom K. Morris: And it ended up being a very good learning experience and kind of lab for all the future interactives, Joe Garlington, who I believe is a genius.

And is the best person still on this planet who conceives these interactive activities. He did not do most of those or any of the ones in the image works. He may have worked on magic palette, but he has a very keen knowledge of. Guests, what guest's behavior is with respect to interactives and when something is too challenging or, you know, not intuitive and what people's patience level or toleration of certain things.

And so he, I think learned, you know, he also examined all of those interactives and asked himself in his team, how could we make those better, you know, going forward, which they would need to do for wonders of life and for you know, other pavilions and other exhibits and CommuniCore, and then

[00:01:53] Lou Mongello: it had more of a, of a learning education, serious tone to it then than the fun that the imagination of a millionaire.

[00:02:00] Tom K. Morris: Right. Right. And some of the things that made CommuniCore suffered from. Intuition problem. And some didn't, some were amazingly easy to figure out. And so you know, there were naysayers, I believe, as I recall initially, about interactivity that people will abuse and vandalize and not understand, get frustrated and break.

And so there was a camp that was like, you know, waiting to go ah-ha I told you so, and another camp that was like, no, this is the, you know, one of the avenues that we need to explore going ahead in the future. And. And so it was all figured out, you know, eventually so you know, the Imagineering now has a very good team that was led for a long time by Joe Garlington, he's retired now.

But they, I think his knowledge about you know, about guests, guests, behavior vis-a-vis interactives has been that tribal knowledge has been handed down now.

[00:03:04] Lou Mongello: Tom. I could literally, like, there's so much that I, I mean, we could say on the imagining the imagination pavilion all day and maybe someday we'll come back and revisit it as

[00:03:14] Tom K. Morris: it goes. We should, after I go through, after I jogged my memory and go through those files, which have been sitting in a, in a file cabinet in my garage for years, and I have not, you know, I just tell myself if I go there, then I'm going to be there for days that other

[00:03:31] Lou Mongello: sound you hear is people screaming of offering to volunteer, to help to say, and they can,

[00:03:36] Tom K. Morris: you know, a qualified archivist is absolutely invited to come over and, and document it and go through it and index it and do all the things, a qualified archivist.

We do. Yeah.

[00:03:49] Lou Mongello: I, you laugh. I'm sure. I'm sure we'll get an email at some point. I got, I don't, I don't want to gloss over any part of your career, but if I have my timeline. Again, Tony Baxter clearly loves Tom Morris. And what he does, he invites you to head up fantasy land over in Euro Disneyland, Disneyland, Paris,

[00:04:10] Tom K. Morris: and seven years later.


[00:04:12] Lou Mongello: Led the team for, I'm not going to try and give the French pronunciation for sleeping beauty castle. There was

[00:04:19] Tom K. Morris: yeah. Chateau Dayla bell of Waldorf, mom. That one. Yeah. I don't know how much Tony Baxter loved Tom Morris. He was very argue. Like I was very arguing argumentative and challenging, but maybe he liked that.

And you know, eventually we would always come to an agreement and no, I think, you know, I think I was pretty good, but there were times when I was obnoxious yeah, well, in, in between Paris and imagination, that was splash mountain, which I guess we talked about. And then also several assignments down at Disneyland working locally at the office there.

Oh, you

[00:04:53] Lou Mongello: that the Mickey star traders, right. You worked on Mickey star traders.

[00:04:55] Tom K. Morris: I did, I did the neon Mickeys and also the facade for star tours and that graphic. Here's another one where, you know, I'm going to, I'm going to whine a little bit and pout, which is that beautiful star wars marquee, which, you know, I spent a few days working on the, you know, designing it, coming up with what would look good, what would be eye catching and and unique.

And, but it was a geometric nightmare. And I must have made seven or eight of them until I finally came up with that one. And then I never thought about it for years. Later, you know, years and years, and then one day I'm in line in the cafeteria because the line was going out the door for some reason, and there's a case, a showcase next to it.

And it's got an award that was given by the graphic association of America or something. Whatever the academy awards for graphics it's called. And it was for that marquee. And it was given to the graphic team, which, you know, they certainly deserve credit for that, but I was not mentioned or part of it.

So he who has the last thumbprint on something, I guess, is the one who gets the prize and that, you know, it's an occupational hazard and I let it just kind of roll off my back most of the time. But sometimes there's one that gets my CRA that's one.

[00:06:23] Lou Mongello: And you do have your hand prints on so many, excuse me, individual attractions, both domestically and overseas.

The audio for space, mountain rock and rollercoaster, Disney quest, radiator Springs racers. I mentioned overseas, you were executive producer over in you were a show producer over in Hong Kong Disneyland.

[00:06:50] Tom K. Morris: I was the, my title then was executive producer and I was in charge of the creative development for the magic kingdom park there.

And and Tim Delaney was also an executive producer who had tomorrow land and he did a fantastic job with it. In fact, I think, you know, in many ways that might be the best. Tomorrow land, you know, that's been done since tomorrow and 67. It didn't seem like

[00:07:20] Lou Mongello: they sort of took the best out of different parts and then put it into

[00:07:22] Tom K. Morris: Hong Kong.

Well, that has a little bit more continuity. The one in Hong Kong I'm talking about. The one in Paris is more of a collection of visions of the future over time. And the one in Hong Kong is more of a fantasy, but it's based on space travel. So everything is aerodynamic. Everything looks like it could have flown in or could fly away.

So there was a consistent or a continuity, I guess. I mean, there, you know, there were. Structures, but it had a visual continuity to it and at night became spectacular with all of the neon. And then I had basically the rest of the park and it was also a challenging project, you know, because of the, this was during the era where we're not doing any more theme parts, except we're going to do just this one.

And so about, into a tiny space. Yeah, which we did and, and everything in it was beautiful. You know, everyone did an incredible job. There is no thing that I had to like wince and go, oh, that thing, you know it all came out beautiful. It's just, you know, we all would've liked to have had more and it was a frustrating, it was frustrating because we all knew it had to be bigger and had to have more in it.

But that, wasn't the thinking, you know, from on high. I mean, even from a higher level than imaginary, it wasn't imaginary. You said, gee, let's make a small park. Same with the Paris, the second gate, you know, we didn't raise our hands and say, gee, we'd like to, you know, do a half day park unless you charge half price and then it's okay.

But those were the, those were the challenging days.

[00:09:01] Lou Mongello: Well, and I think it's part of the reason why, and I didn't, again, we can spend an individual show talking about each of these places, but part of the reason why I wanted to make sure I mentioned space, mountain rock, and roller coaster, quest cars, land Disneyland, Paris, and Hong Kong is your career and your, your I'm using air quotes for area of expertise.

The spans such a wide spectrum. You aren't just the guy who does, you're known for this thing. You have touched on everything from the whimsical and elegance of the sleeping beauty castle, who's French name. I still can not pronounce to know some of the other projects that we worked on. And I think it's just a fascinating 30,000 foot view of your career as a whole, that no matter where you were placed.

And I think that was that, that what Tony Baxter and others probably saw in you was that we can put him anywhere and he will adapt and be able to bring his expertise to whatever project

[00:10:06] Tom K. Morris: he's working. Yeah. And the most fun for me was the, the few times I got to play in the special effects sandbox. And you know, it's kind of interesting, cause like I think this was down at Disneyland.

I was always interested in special effects. Right. I mean, if you're a Disney nerd and you're interested in working at Imagineering and you're naturally interested in special effects. And so I would spend a lot of time. In the special effects department, just loitering, you know, and hanging out with the guys and talking to them and just having fun, watching them, having fun.

And I

[00:10:39] Lou Mongello: assume being a sponge.

[00:10:41] Tom K. Morris: Yeah. And I had an opportunity. I may have done some things on, I, you know, I worked very closely on imagination with each of the special effects people, but particularly in the rotating turntable, I think Jim molder was probably the effects guy working on that with all the different projectors and the timing cause those projectors and all of those effects were stationary in the center of the turntable, which didn't move.

It's like a lifesaver, you know and in the center it was, it didn't really. And that's where all the projectors were that were projecting the background against the rear projection screen in each one of those scenes on the turntable. And so I would work with him, you know, at night. And actually I did some of the art for that.

The clouds, which were taught to me by Walt Paraguay had how to stylistically design clouds. And I'll never forget that little tutorial. And so I ended up doing most of the clouds in the entire pavilion because I had been taught by the master. So I worked in. Gosh, there were other, I know there were other places in the pavilion where I was working close very closely with the effects people, but then I got to actually design some effects.

One of them was the re-entry tunnel in space mountain, which never worked, was not timed. Right. And it's funny, what was controlling it back then was a drum that rotated with electric eyes on it. That it was essentially like a music box turning, you know, with all the little prongs on it, but it was done with a piece of acetate that had black squares on it that would, that would trigger the, the electric light to turn on a fluorescent light.

That was in that reentry tunnel, which came on too late. And didn't give you the sense of spinning that it was supposed to do. Actually it originally mechanically rotated and they shut that off shortly after the ride open. So now it was just kind of a dumb effect. So I was going to try to say that this is now in you know, 84, probably 1984.

So the attractions are open for seven years with this,

[00:12:53] Lou Mongello: That was a Georgia McGuinness effect, right? It wasn't didn't do, it

[00:12:56] Tom K. Morris: was, it was a George McGinnis effect, but that mechanically, I don't know why they had to shut it off, but there was some reason that it kept breaking or something. And so what we had to do rather than rely on the mechanical cage to rotate, we had to make the light.

Rotate, you know, in sequence. And so that was my job was to program that, and it was programmed via this, a piece of acetate that would wrap around a drum with these lights. And again, it ended up being kind of a simple thing, a very though, you know, like you had to really pay attention to what you were doing and concentrate.

And I probably came up with, in fact, I think I did come up with three different programs for it. So I guess the drum was big enough to handle the three programs. And so it helped, you know, it wasn't as good as what's there now, and that's for sure what's there now is spectacular a spectacular ending to that attraction, but this was the best we could do with what was already there.

And so I did that. I recalled doing similar things, you know, to that you know, working with, with Kind of music box technology, if you will rotating drums and doing programming that way. And I know, I think there were a few other times where I got to kind of play in the playground in the sandbox there.

[00:14:21] Lou Mongello: And I think that's one of the things, not just about your career, but Imagineering as a whole. And so often if somebody says, oh, I want to be an Imagineer. They, they often mistakenly think, well, if I'm an Imagineer, it means I do this. And they don't realize that there's 150 or so different disciplines, obviously what you tried to dip your toe in as my, and your, your

[00:14:43] Tom K. Morris: graphics, graphics, and color design.

And, you know, sometimes the help was appreciated and sometimes it wasn't. So, you know, Kind of infiltrate these little pockets because I wanted to, that's the only reason I guess, or I felt I could do it. You know, I started doing providing background music for, I did for fantasy land in Paris. I selected every track.

Of the, of background music that you hear in the areas and in the restaurants, and then did the same for the studio in Paris, the second gate again, music not

[00:15:23] Lou Mongello: being necessarily a primary, no title, a job description. Oh,

[00:15:28] Tom K. Morris: I think the only discipline, I never, I never obnoxiously infiltrated was landscape.

But I would always be very close with the landscape people and I loved it, you know, and I loved going around with bill Evans. I mean, bill Evans, he didn't have to ask, he'd grab you by the collar and he'd walk you around and just start talking about, you know, what are we going to do? How are we going to do this?

He should rethink this. And that was, you know, he was one of the greatest mentors at imaginary. He was so hands-on and so assertive about being a, a, a mentor. And you didn't have to ask. And I was, I was afraid to ask others sometimes, cause it's like, you know, am I too fan boy, I don't want to be fan boy.

You know? But, and I don't want to bother, you know, these people in many cases, they're already retired, but they're still showing up. And so I didn't take advantage of it the way probably I should have. But bill was fantastic and I, you know, I didn't need to really get into the lamp. You know, arena because everyone was doing such a great job.

Not that the other people weren't doing a great job at it. It's just like, there's, you know, I don't have an opportunity to come in and, and do something, you know, sometimes I'd sit there just to plan that's

[00:16:46] Lou Mongello: right. There's only so much time for you to learn to do and work and, and, and whatnot. And again, in 40 plus years at Imagineering, obviously there's no, you can't ask the unfair, what is your favorite this, but do you have, when you look back on your career, do you have one end or the other, a fondest memory, or even maybe an accomplishment that you personally are most proud of?

[00:17:15] Tom K. Morris: Well, the castle I'm personally most proud of. And I think that is you know, probably my greatest accomplishment. That means you have to come back and we

[00:17:23] Lou Mongello: have to talk solely about the castle.

[00:17:25] Tom K. Morris: Then I can do that. And of course it was like everything, a collaboration. But on the exterior, the look of the castle, as you see it, as you walk around was something that I micromanaged.

Whereas the inside the interior less. So, you know all the interior, there was, I think two or three interior designers who all did a fantastic job and skip, laying everything that he touched, you know, it was particularly the Dragon's layer. It was golden, you know, So, you know, there wasn't really a need for me to get that involved on the inside of it.

I would approve things, but I wasn't designing anything maybe a little bit here and there, but the exterior is really where I kind of became bullheaded. But you know, I think that is the, that whole Paris experience is the greatest experience. It was frustrating. It was wonderful. It was eyeopening, educational, freezing cold in January, you know, the cold wet drizzly wind out there on the site was horrific.

But, you know, you'd always go inside, do a warm fireplace and, you know, lunch and all of that was great, you know, and it was a fantastic team. So it's hard to, it is hard, you know, to say really, I think, I, I guess it's turning out that. Greatest accomplishment where the neon Mickey's on star traders.

It was a thing that had not been inside of my head as a memory for years, until, you know, I kind of settled back in the United States, after all the travel, all the international travel. And I think it was after the tomorrow land redo in 98. Sometime after that, probably after the year 2000, I walked, I was walking through Disneyland kind of you know, get reacquainted with Disneyland.

And I thought there, there's no way those neon Mickeys are still there. And they were, I was happy to see they were still there. I had forgotten about them. And so that was kind of nice. But now I guess they've got like a whole fan club of their own people have tattoos.

[00:19:34] Lou Mongello: And in your twenties, as we were talking to a.

I wonder if you ever think there's a fan club for something that, that you have made you think about your legacy at all and what, what the legacy it is that you hope to leave behind as, as history and fans look back on your work and your time at Imagineering?

[00:19:54] Tom K. Morris: Well, I, I'm very focused on for the, at the moment, my legacy being, not the, the creative things that I, you know, worked on as much as how do I impart the knowledge that I learned.

And by the way, I made a lot of mistakes, you know? And there were a lot of things I would totally do differently. And a lot of behaviors I would you know, do differently. So that's what I hoping to leave. You know, future Imagineers with is, is what I learned about. The Imagineers before me and how they worked and then what ha what I learned while I was there by those Imagineers and how I could have, you know, how I you know, basically my experience good and bad, and how people can learn from that as to what I hope, because after this book that I'm doing now, or books, book, series, I don't know what it's going to be still.

Then what I hope to do is kind of the Imagineering version of the art of animation or the illusion of life, more, more of the illusion of life, where it is a serious look at tricks of the trade, as well as, you know, w what are the pitfalls? You know, what are the traps? What are the No, w w what are the, what are the behaviors that you can easily fall into that aren't helpful?

So if I get to that point, that that's what I hope to do. I do a little bit of it when I'm asked to speak at a class, you know USC or UCLA or wherever I have a presentation, but I want to take that presentation and explode it out, you know, into if it's even doable. And so, you know, I don't know how much of it Disney would approve.

You know, it's in a way it's, it's the alchemy, you know, it's an exposing the alchemy, but I'm not sure that it's, that it's alchemy that's understood within that. It's completely understood within the company now. And I fear that a lot of. And it always kind of boils down to try to think, simply try to do it as simple as possible.

And remember that, you know, people's attention, isn't going to be focused everywhere visually and also orally you can't over tell a story in a theme park, you know, as much that can be done implicitly as possible is, is really the way to go. I mean, you tell the story through, through the guest stall to of how everything is put together.

And if you find yourself writing a very wordy introduction to a show, for example you're going to lose the audience and spend more money. You know, if there's an area where. You know, it's kind of like a bell curve, I guess, you know, you can spend too little and it looks cheap. You can spend the right amount and nowhere to cut corners and where to pour it on.

And then you could also end up spending money to make the product less appealing. And those are the kind of warning signs or kinds of, you know, traffic signals, I guess that I want to. Be able to convey to a future Imagineers and or people going into the business in general, because there's a general, there's the general I guess it's just like, you know, literature, right?

There's, there's a tendency to overwrite. There's a tendency to get, you know, over flowery. There's a, you know, and what you're taught is to be as pithy as possible and get the idea across, I mean, I, I still go back to the to that little handbook that we were given in English class in, gosh, I think it was not even a college.

I think it was in high school and I just forgot the name of it, but it's a, it's a kind of a standard English, you know, do's and don'ts how to write a memo, how to write a letter. Gosh, why can't I remember it, right. I have a copy of it somewhere anyway. You know, how do you get the most out of, so how do you optimize your project?

Get the most out of it without spending too much, or what's the right amount to spend, to get the best bang for the buck.

[00:24:10] Lou Mongello: And if somebody was, and this is all like, this is gold, this is great stuff. But if somebody was to come up to you, Tom, and say, I want to do what you've done, I want to be an Imagineer.

What is, what would be the one simplest piece of practical advice? You can give somebody whether they're high school, college, or even later on in life who wants to sort of get into Imagineering? What would be a piece of advice you think you could give


[00:24:35] Tom K. Morris: It's the hardest thing to answer? Kind of simply, but certainly basic, basic.

Class and basic sketching, you know, quick sketching. It doesn't have to be beautiful. That's the thing. I mean, I, some of the imagine, you know, you can be a renderer like her Bryman, but you're probably not going to get to design as many things. If you become a really good illustrator, because they're going to rely on you to create the beautiful marketing art you'll be able to design more and do more things if you're just a really good, quick sketch artist now, by the way her Brian one was both, but you know, being able to and bill Martin was one of the Imagineers who I would say he was.

Yeah, you never see very rarely do you see any of his art, but he was really fast and good and clear, and the design was beautiful, you know, the design was right. And and they were kind of, you know, almost cartoonish, you know, he didn't spend a lot of time rendering, shade and shadow. So I would say that's one and then read a lot of, you know certainly film.

I mean, I took film classes both in high school and in college. And that thinking really helped in the back of my head somewhere, it came out, you know, on the job about, about composing scenes and creating focus and kind of a 1, 2, 3 priority. What's the number one thing. What's the secondary thing.

What's the tertiary thing. And so, so film theater. A little bit of theater and and sketch and quick sketching, and then an understanding of how the machines work. So an understanding of attractions, how, you know, the, the, all of the intimate relationships between T HRC, dispatch, interval, vehicle speed, vehicle spacing, minimum turning radius, sight lines, the reveal moment, the conceal moment, all of these things come from a very fine observation and repetitive observation going on the attractions.

And then if you're a ride operator, you see it from a direct. Perspective and I would get bored. This was even before I was a ride operator, selling balloons in the middle of the day, no one bought balloons and yet you're standing there. You were there for basically the beginning of the day and the end of the day.

And then in the middle of the day, sometimes he'd just be standing there. And so you had to think of something. And so I would observe, like on the matter horn, you know, I, I would count how many. Bob sleds are on that track, you know, cause they were all different colors. So you could tell, Hey, here comes the orange and black one.

So that would tell you what the cycle was and then how many cars are in there. You know, how many, how many vehicles between that? So, you know, it'd be 12 or 13 and what's the interval. And so you just start doing all that math, simple math in your head, and then it's like, oh, they have so many vehicles and it's it's this cycle time.

So the average speed is this. And you know, I don't know what the top speed or the slow, slow speed is, but you can derive an average from that. So I would just, you know, do that because there was nothing else to do sometimes.

[00:27:57] Lou Mongello: Well, and what's great is that even if somebody has this idea, They can, I mean, there's so much valuable content and information that they could just start going down that path, just buy stuff that's available online, but I want to come full circle, Tom, because you started off as a fan.

I have to believe you are still a fan. What for you taking. Imagine you're Tom out of the equation. What attraction for you? Do you just personally love or enjoy the most to ride, to

[00:28:29] Tom K. Morris: experience pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland? You know, cause that was kind of the eyeopening moment. The first time I went on it, which was the summer of 67 and then trying to figure it out in my head, you know, how it was laid out and how the scenes were kind of folded on top of each other and underneath one another.

And then, you know researching the evolution of that from its idea from its conception. And how it kind of came about and how it was all squished into that small space. And it still is, to me, it's still intriguing as I go through it. It's like, I, you know, where is the blue Bayou kitchen relative to where I am right now?

I think it was just stuff in the middle of it. I call them vortexes. There's like, you know, there's one point in that attraction that within like 25 or 30 feet of that point that you're at, maybe, you know, I'm going to say, it's like the bottom of the upper ramp. You're only 25 feet away from the down ramp from the saloon scene of the skeletons down below of the blue, by you restaurant of the blue by you kitchen of Laffite landing of all these different places.

And you think of them, God, there. You know, and you can imagine how it all squeezes together, especially if you walk the utility door that, that squeezes in between all of that, that's the first utility door, by the way. And that was built in, and it was intended to be a, there was intended to be a Utilidor there in 62 when they dug the basement.

And then when they ended up building the attraction on the other side of the berm, they kind of rejiggered that Utilidor, but it's still, you know, so it opened that Utilidor in new Orleans square opened in 66 and the intention for it goes back to 62. To have a Utilidor where trucks can come in and make their deliveries and employees can walk through.

And there's a bunch of back of house facilities, essentially underground and under the ride and over the ride it's in, in between it's sandwiched in between, it's like on a mezzanine between the two levels of the attraction. And for years I couldn't figure out, you know, cause there was a, there used to be an employee cafeteria in there and I would go in there just to try to figure in my head, where is the downright, but this makes no sense that we should be in the middle of the down ramp right now, sitting here and eventually.

Once I got ahold of all the plans and everything,

[00:31:02] Lou Mongello: but now next time we all ride, we're going to be thinking the same thing or there'll be looking around at not the show scenes, but trying to figure out what is exactly. Yeah.

[00:31:11] Tom K. Morris: Well, like other nerds that are kind of in the same boat. Pardon the pun. Think that when they go through the jail, pass the jail and then there's this low area kind of a low ceiling.

Suddenly they all say, yeah, that's where the train track is. And it's like, no, the train track is 24, 26 feet above us. Right now, what you're seeing is the bottom of the utility room. It's the bottom. So people are walking through there in the middle of the scene and there used to be a Trey conveyor because Walt was so fascinated, you know, with any kind of new technology.

And this was going to be, this was going to be the book that I was going to write, but then I went down the other rabbit holes and he was so, you know, into the technology. So the Utilidor was part of this, but so was this new fangled Trey vayar, that's not the official name. And I think it's the name that bill Cantrell gave it the, the Trayvon layer, which was a conveyance system for the dining trays, for the cafe, for the cafes above, there were three restaurants that required trays and dishes to be cleaned.

And so there was a little. I never ride, but it was only for trays and dishes. There was another ride in new Orleans square until about 10 years ago. It went through there, it went you know, from the upper level then down, you know, into the kitchen and someone in the kitchen would pick up the trays and I'd go back up to the blue by you.

And then we'd go through the middle of doc arsenal scene at the end of the ride and fill the Utilidor and then back up to the cafeterias. And that was like fascinating to me when I discovered that that, I mean, I knew that I saw that tray thing all the time. You could see it in the Utilidor in the middle of the Utilidor up on the ceiling.

And it's like, I don't want to get too close. Trey thing AP on this. I mean, even now

[00:33:00] Lou Mongello: it's incredible. Especially knowing that it was built in the sixties to be able to sort of, like you said, full things in,

[00:33:08] Tom K. Morris: and it was the second one, the first one was at the Plaza in and you know, I don't know that one might still be there.

I don't know. Or maybe they'd shut them off by now, but yeah, the other thing, there were a whole bunch of things he, he he'd learn. Well, it would learn these things after he had taken a trip somewhere and maybe these had to do with the world's fair. I don't know. You know, maybe he saw this at the world's fair.

And also. The radiant heating that would go under a dining outdoor dining area. So that was installed in two or three locations at Disneyland. And I understand those don't go anymore, but they did at one point, maybe they didn't, you know, in California, how much do you need the radiant heat in January?

Maybe. So but you know, that was another thing he was very interested in and everything, you know, he was so curious and he learned, oh, I was gonna say there was also a shopping center. I don't think it's there anymore. Or it's been totally redone up in Palo Alto maybe or San Mateo. And it wa it had a food court in it that had it at central underground kids.

And that's probably where you saw the dish failures and some of these other, you know, innovations. And so I know that they took a trip up there to look at this, the setup of a centralized kitchen and and then different food outlet, nothing

[00:34:32] Lou Mongello: wrong with taking a little bit of inspiration from wherever it may be.

And that was incredibly impressive then as it, as it, I think it still sounds now, but what do you think right now is the most impressive thing Disney has recently done or is currently doing

[00:34:53] Tom K. Morris: well? I love the avatar land. I probably like the land more than the attractions. I'm not a simulator guy so much.

I mean, they're okay. I like real, you know, real ride throughs, but that land is so beautiful and immersive in so many things to look at and same with Galaxy's edge for that matter. And it's kind of in the same boat in some ways. And of course the rise of the resistance is a spectacular, impressive attraction, probably the most impressive attraction that Disney has ever done.

But you know gosh, there's a lot. I went on Nikki's railway recently and loved that and cars land is impressive. I'm too close to that though. So it's hard to I know there's something, you know, I mean, it's like, I'm always, you know, just baffled like how we top ourselves Disney tops themselves continuously.

And I mean, I love animal kingdom really. I mean, all of animal kingdom to me is kind of like the best new park that's been done aside from from a castle park. I really love it. I just love, it's kind of the same thing. It's the, it's the place-making and the exploration that you know, that you embark on in that park.

So there's just a lot of things, a lot of, a lot of great, you know, the Ratatouille attraction is great and I'm really looking forward. I didn't get a chance to dine in the space ship restaurant, but looking forward to that. And I don't know, there's always something new I'm I have not been to Shanghai.

Since it was constructed, I was, I was there on the site before construction began, but haven't had a chance to get out there since it's open. So I understand pirates of course is amazing. There's no trick

[00:36:36] Lou Mongello: conveyors, but it

[00:36:38] Tom K. Morris: will probably a mystic manner. You know, it was another one that's really, you know, hit it out of the ballpark.

So five, I dunno. I mean, I love, I love just the fine tuning of it's a small world. You know, it used to be an, almost an embarrassing attraction at one point in its lifespan where, you know, I can understand how some executive might've said, okay, this is tired and now it's time for it to go because the, you know, it just had.

It had yellowed, you know, I mean, it had like oxidized, you know, that the sound wasn't that good, the lighting and everything. Now I'm talking, going way back. This is like in the eighties, you know, and maybe into the early nineties, but with each improvement that they've done, where they've improved the sound they've improved, the lighting they've gone in and freshened up the sets, added the Disney characters.

It is, you know, top, you know, it's top shelf and you get goosebumps when you go through it now. And you don't think in your head, I mean, as a, as a skeptical, I guess teenager, I was probably still a teenager or, you know, 21 or 22 and I'd go through it. And I'm like,

and it wasn't the music, you know, it was just that it had lost its sparkle, Brooklyn, and now it is really sparkly, you know? And, and the sound is so good and the lighting is so good. And I enjoyed working on two of them subsequently for the, the one in Paris and then the one in Hong Kong.

[00:38:24] Lou Mongello: So, all right. You know, I guess maybe final question for now, because I just enjoy talking with you so much. What do you think Tom is? What does the future look like for the Disney parks experience? I mean, You can take a macro micro view, whatever, but sort of looking down where do you think the next step in the evolution of the in park experience is going to be?

[00:38:51] Tom K. Morris: I don't know. It's, it's always been hard to predict, you know, what the next thing or what the next change or You know, if you asked me 20 years ago, it would be a different outcome. So it's very hard to predict, you know, and also just the health of the industry. It goes up and down just like everything like the car industry or any other industry, you know?

So there was that time in the nineties when we were never going to do another theme park again, and we were only going to do additions to existing parks and we were going to do these regional entertainment, things like Disney quest. And that was it. I mean, that was where we were all geared to. And then that didn't happen, you know, the regional entertainment and happened a little.

But not that big. And then we got back into theme parks again, and then they were kind of budget, theme parks, but now they're, you know, that's not so much an issue anymore. Now we're in the realm of IP. I don't know, in five or 10 years, if that's going to hold up to the degree that it's been integrated. I remember we wanted IP when I started, there was no ID that we could use because oh, you know, island at the top of the world is coming out and we're going to do an a tr oh, no, it didn't do well.

Tron is coming out. So we'll do it. No, that didn't do. And so it was one after the other. And when is the studio, then finally make something that we can. Work with conduit

[00:40:18] Lou Mongello: Commodore man was good. The next big,

[00:40:20] Tom K. Morris: The apple dumplings and they were kind of cute movies, but there was nothing to work with from an attraction standpoint.

So it's like, you know, we wanted it so badly. We looked at the rescuers briefly for the flume ride and went back to a film from the forties. So, you know, finally when little mermaid happened, that was kind of like, okay, you know, and when can we get little mermaid in the park? We planned it for Paris. We even put it on the map on that souvenir map, along with duty and the beast.

And those two never happened, but we were dying for IP. And now you could argue maybe it's a little too much. I don't know, time will tell. I hope we never, I hope we never stopped doing original concept. You know, I'm still using weed, the Royal, we I'm retired this

[00:41:11] Lou Mongello: man. Like we can say we, you know, I think that's one of the things that Tokyo Disney sea does so well are original IP and unique concepts or just overarching themes.

[00:41:21] Tom K. Morris: Yeah. Yeah. So special will always be room for both. I hope IP never goes away. I just think it, you know, I, I would love to see the percentage skew a little bit back towards some original things. So and we'll see, I, it's hard to predict, like I said, you know, it's, it's a lot of it is what the audience wants and, but then that's also difficult to gauge for, you know, really scientifically, you know, I, I think neuroscience will help in the future help gauge what People really want or what are they seeking?

What are they missing? What, what aren't they able to explain that they would like to see? You know, but they can't put it into words.

[00:42:06] Lou Mongello: It goes beyond even just the subject matter, being Ivy, IP versus non IP. What does, you know, AR AI, what do all of these different, new technologies that are coming out? How is that going to affect and possibly alter the course of the,

[00:42:25] Tom K. Morris: well, I think for fans, there'll be, I think, I mean, I haven't heard that there's any initiative to do this and it was something I brought up a couple of times, so it probably will be done in 10 or 15 years.

And that is little AR I don't know if you would call it a Periscope or observation some sort of observation not room, but station observation station that you can go into in, in parks where people have, you know, a very strong interest in it's past where you can go in and virtually look at the same space and see how it has evolved all the way back to like, if it's Disneyland, here's what the orange trees look like here.

And I think we're going to

[00:43:10] Lou Mongello: see that on our phones. I honestly do have a little hint sense of that already. Right?

[00:43:16] Tom K. Morris: Right. People don't know where to access the correct information for that. So they're guessing, and they don't know where to find the information that will tell them where. The original orange trees were, you can, there is a GPS location for every single Walnut and we're in street on that property.

Cause it's on a grid, you know, they didn't just randomly pop up. They're all space, you know, 16, or I can't remember what it is, but they're there on a specific grid and that specific grid is locked into a survey, you know, that goes back to the fifties and that can be rejiggered to go up into the sky and be, but, but where do you find that information?

Well, it's not necessarily at WDI. Right, right.

[00:44:09] Lou Mongello: But once they find it and once they realize that there'd be a guest interest in it. You, you obviate the sign pollution issue in an imagination post-show area. Because now, especially over the past 12 to 18 months, our mobile devices are such an integral part of our experience.

It's only going to continue to grow, excuse me. And now being able to give guests additional layered experiences if you want. So if you want to do the play Disney app, you can do it. If you want to do an

[00:44:39] Tom K. Morris: educator. Yeah. You don't want to force that next level on them. And that's, that's a pitfall that I see sometimes where, where, you know, a designer or a creator will be so enthusiastic about their idea, that they just assume that everyone is going to want to do that.

And you find that that behavior is different. When you get into a park it's difficult. You know, I rely a lot when I'm traveling, I rely a lot, or I think I'm going to rely on a lot of the pre the preparation, the digital preparation, the map, finding the wayfinding, all of that. And I end up, you know, not using it so much because I'm in the moment and you know, I, I don't need it or it's more interesting, whatever is happening at this moment than to have to stop the car, pull off to the side of the road.

So, you know, I think that's the key it's, you know, it's, it's for repeat visitors, it's more for repeat visitors who want to take it progressively into deeper levels.

[00:45:46] Lou Mongello: Right? Cause the Disney fan, excuse me, encompasses such a wide spectrum. There's parks people, there's pin people. There's history, people, there's technology people.

There's. Movie people. And it's a matter of, of creating guests, satisfiers for each of those sort of different buckets in that same space. Right.

[00:46:05] Tom K. Morris: Yeah. You know, the, it's the, the passion project that I've had for over 10 years now, it's the archeology of Disneyland and it still has not been done. A lot of really great books have been written recently about Disneyland, but it still hasn't gotten into the archeology.

Of it. And when I say that, I don't mean it in a didactic boring, you know, geography class kind of a way, but in a national geographic way, that is, you know, that where it it's being told visually in ways that are instantly comprehendable and where you can see layers, just like, you know, the cell overlays that they have in the now, I don't know if they still do that, but they did when I was growing up.

And I love those, you know, I looked forward to a national geographic issue, so you can see progressively how a city evolved or devolved or how, you know, the smoothie is erupted. Exactly. And, and, and it's a rupture pattern and what was destroyed in its wake and then what survives today. Cause you always want to link it back to what you know, or what you can see today.

And so that hasn't been done. And tend to do a book about it, like a giant national geographic, but taking it to the next level with AR would be the bomb. You know, that is, you know, and someone's going to do it. I hope I can do it because I'm going to have the correct information. And I'm not going to be guessing blindly because I tell you that the information needed to to do it accurately is buried.

You have to know where to find it. Yeah.

[00:47:42] Lou Mongello: It's an overwhelming undertaking, but one, I think that's necessary. And I know that I am not alone is one that would be highly anticipated by Disney fans. And to your point, it's not about doing it. It's about doing it, right?

[00:47:56] Tom K. Morris: Yeah, exactly. It's the curation of it.

[00:47:58] Lou Mongello: Yeah. Yeah, well, you are the person to do it clearly because you have the knowledge, you have the passion. And from what I understand, you have a garage full of, you know, 16 millimeter slides piling up

[00:48:13] Tom K. Morris: and now I have it. And now I've developed the OCD required to focus.

[00:48:21] Lou Mongello: We'll call it the OCD. We'll call it passion.

We'll call it passion.

[00:48:24] Tom K. Morris: I think it is like a muscle in your brain because. When I would go to the archives in Burbank, the Disney archives have been so nice to me. And letting me do some of my research there. It's like, I have a limited amount of time in there. And so I have like developed that muscle, not to get distracted by anything else.

Cause I can certainly get distracted and people come in. It's funny, you know, it's open the lobby. There is open to folks at the studio to come in and browse what's in the cases there. And someone I know sometimes comes in, you know, are and I'll over hear conversation. About various things I've worked on and I just keep my mouth shut and I am trying to get as much information into my head as I, or through pages and I'm tapping away on my laptop and I'm just laser-focused and I've never, I was never able to do that in school or anything.

But I think because of the, you know, it's such a privilege to go into the archives and to be there that I just like, okay, I'm going to get as much out of this as I can. So now I can do this at home where I just, you know, yesterday was the first day I got back onto the book and I just went through and chopped it from 170 or 180 pages down to what they want, which is 150 it making draconian decisions, but also creatively jiggering things around, by the way, doesn't mean it's not going to be in the book.

It just means that that will go into the second volume of. So I did that yesterday and got it. Here's the, now I've got the template now I'm getting, you know, now I can finish writing it. And it turns me into a very boring person. No, not at all. Very boring. It's very, my friends call me come, let's do this.

Let's do that.

[00:50:12] Lou Mongello: nah, the result can be worth the investment of the time and the sweat equity that you put into it. And I know, like I said, one that will be we will all be looking forward to seeing when it comes out. And I would certainly love again to do this again. Maybe we'll do, maybe we'll do a live show one night where people can actually come on and ask you some questions that they might have to, because I really are just scratching the surface of some of the amazing work.

[00:50:38] Tom K. Morris: Great. All right. We'd love to

[00:50:40] Lou Mongello: Tom Kim, Maurice. Thank you so much. I will link to your Twitter where you are a prolific Twitter with images and content that we have never seen before. And

[00:50:50] Tom K. Morris: I wish you know, I, I dry up sometimes because I've got, let me tell you I had stuff I could show, but I'm not allowed to show.

I mean, I have a premium to show unpublished material from Disney. If something I'd seen before in a book you know, or it has been published somehow, even if, you know, back in the sixties or seventies, and then I'm free to use that, but anything that has never, never been seen and it's not floating around on the internet already.

So that limits me to what I can, what I can do. So I, I feel like I've been kind of dry lately, but well, no, when he tweets it, there's going to be good stuff. It might not be five times a day, but it's quality, not quantity. So Tom, I cannot thank you enough, not just for your time, the last few times that we've spoken, but really the, the incredible work and the gifts that you've given.

So many guests literally for generations with your contributions to the parks. I sincerely thank you

[00:51:48] Tom K. Morris: sincerely appreciate that's awfully. Nice. Thank you. Alrighty, so long

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