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WDW Radio # 771 – “Disney A to Z” with Steven Vagnini of the Walt Disney Archives

Join Lou Mongello on a journey through Disney history as we open up latest edition of Disney A to Z: The Official Encyclopedia with special guest, Steven Vagnini. Discover his journey from the parks to the heart of the Walt Disney Archives, and the challenges of ensuring the encyclopedia remains comprehensive and up-to-date amidst the ever-evolving Disney company.

Order your copy of Disney A to Z from Amazon.com


Summary

In this conversation, Lou Mongello interviews Stephen Vagnini, the author and maintainer of Disney A to Z, the Disney Encyclopedia. They discuss Stephen’s journey with Disney, his work at the Walt Disney Archives and Walt Disney Imagineering, and the challenges of updating the encyclopedia. They also highlight some of their favorite entries in the book. The conversation with Stephen Vagnini covers various topics related to the Disney A to Z Encyclopedia. The chapters include discussions about the offices of Walt Disney, honoring key personnel, the digital companion website, the impact on researchers and Disney fans, the emotional connection to Disney, appreciation for Stephen Vagnini, and the holy grail of the archives.


Takeaways

  • Disney A to Z is a comprehensive encyclopedia that covers the entire Disney enterprise, including the theme parks, movies, TV shows, and more.
  • Stephen Vagnini has had a diverse career with Disney, working at Walt Disney World, the Walt Disney Archives, Walt Disney Imagineering, and more.
  • Maintaining and updating the encyclopedia is a challenging task, requiring extensive research and verification of information.
  • The book includes entries on a wide range of subjects, including Walt Disney’s aircraft, offices, and more.
  • Disney A to Z is a valuable resource for Disney fans, researchers, and anyone interested in the history and legacy of the Walt Disney Company. The Disney A to Z Encyclopedia features entries on the offices of Walt Disney, providing insights into their locations and restoration.
  • The encyclopedia also honors key personnel who have made a significant impact on the company, including Disney Legends and other notable individuals.
  • There is a digital companion website to the encyclopedia, which complements the physical copy and provides additional updates and information.
  • The encyclopedia serves as a valuable resource for researchers and Disney fans, offering new knowledge, inspiration, and a deeper understanding of the company.
  • The emotional connection to Disney is a significant aspect of the encyclopedia, allowing readers to revisit memories and experience nostalgia.
  • Stephen Vagnini is praised for his contributions to preserving and sharing the legacy of Walt Disney and the company.
  • The holy grail of the archives includes sought-after merchandise pieces and early Disneyland or Walt Disney World materials.

Timestamped Overview

  • [00:00] Introduction to Disney A to Z
  • [03:17] Stephen Vagnini’s Journey with Disney
  • [11:22] Working with Dave Smith and the Archives
  • [22:05] Working at Walt Disney Imagineering
  • [25:13] Overview of Disney A to Z
  • [32:47] Challenges of Updating the Encyclopedia
  • [43:35] Inclusion of New Disney Properties
  • [44:44] Favorite Entries in the Book
  • [45:42] The Offices of Walt Disney
  • [46:12] Honoring Key Personnel
  • [47:28] Digital Companion Website
  • [48:39] Impact on Researchers and Disney Fans
  • [50:27] The Emotional Connection to Disney
  • [51:26] Appreciation for Stephen Vagnini
  • [53:46] The Holy Grail of the Archives

What item would you look for if you could have full access to the Walt Disney Archives?

Share your thoughts in the WDW Radio Clubhouse at WDWRadio.com/Clubhouse, or call the voicemail at 407-900-9391 (WDW1) and share your story on the show.


Episode Transcript

Click Here To Read The Full Podcast Episode Transcript

Lou Mongello (00:02.424)
As Disney fans, whether of the parks, the movies, the people or places, we're hungry, not just for her churros or popcorn, but I think to learn more about the who and the why and the how and the history and the mystery and certainly some of the magic. And if you thought or hope that maybe a great big book of everything Disney, maybe you thought it didn't exist, then you need to get a copy of Disney A to Z.

Steven Vagnini (00:23.182)
Thank you.

Lou Mongello (00:31.832)
the one and only Disney Encyclopedia. And this week, I'm joined by the man who not only helped write the book, but is now responsible for maintaining its legacy, its accuracy and completeness. He is someone whose career really reflects that deep commitment, I think, to doing what this book does, which is preserving and celebrating the history and legacy of the Walt Disney Company. So please welcome.

Author, historian, producer, researcher, writer, presenter, obvious wearer of many, many wonderful hats and all around super nice guy, Mr. Stephen Vagnini.

Steven Vagnini (01:14.54)
Lou, thank you so much for having me today. It's great to be here.

Lou Mongello (01:18.424)
It is good to see you. Steve, you know, I was thinking before today, I've known you for a really long time. We were chatting before we started recording about when that might have been. I remember first meeting you in like in person way back when, when you were with Dave back in, again, 2006, 2007. But I'm embarrassed that this is, I think this is the first time you've ever been on the show.

Steven Vagnini (01:43.598)
It's the first time I've ever been on the show. Now, it's odd for me to be here because I've heard the show so many times. I've been such a big fan. So I was telling you before the show, it's bizarre to sort of be here with you. And I think it's just wonderful. And finally, this is great.

Lou Mongello (01:59.64)
Yeah, I mean, it took me all these years, honestly, to figure out exactly just to get up enough courage to ask you to come on. So I've been practicing for 19 years just waiting for this one moment. Again, we've encountered each other so many times. I've seen you speak at Destination D and D23 Expo. And a few years ago, you actually gave a presentation at one of our events, the Tower of Terror event. And one of the things I've always loved about you is...

Steven Vagnini (02:11.406)
All right.

Lou Mongello (02:28.216)
I've always gotten the sense, Stephen, that you are a fan first and a fan always, and that genuine love and passion for what you do comes out in every conversation that we've had, every encounter, and certainly whenever I see you on stage.

Steven Vagnini (02:44.174)
Yeah, it certainly helps today go by fast, you know, and you love what you do. So I think, you know, obviously I share a lot in common with you, with our audience. I think we all share a mutual love for for Disney, the brand, the company, our heritage, our legacy. And I've been very blessed to be able to have the roles that I've had over the years to help preserve that. So whatever we can do to, you know, raise the curtain on some of that and share a little bit of the insight or knowledge of, you know, what it takes to to work at the Walt Disney Archives or to help participate in some of these books.

It's just a thrill for us to be able to share that with the world.

Lou Mongello (03:17.24)
So I want to, before we get into the book itself, I want to get into a little bit of the Stephen Vagnini origin story, because I think it's fascinating this wonderful journey that you have been on. Start at the beginning and just sort of give us a little synopsis of where you got started, how and why, and some of the stops that you've made along the way with the company.

Steven Vagnini (03:38.382)
Yeah, well, I always wanted to work for the company. I never really knew in what capacity. However, right out of high school, immediately went to the Walt Disney World Casting Building and applied for a role at Walt Disney World. So being a central Florida native, that was something that, you know, no question, turned 18, want to go apply. And immediately was cast in Adventureland attractions and was able to work at Pirates of the Caribbean attractions like the Jungle Cruise.

was also able to work in other Magic Kingdom locations like Hall of Presidents. And all this was throughout my college career locally here in Florida. So what a great way to begin working with Disney, you know, then at our first major location here in central Florida. And incidentally, the year I became a cast member, we made our first trip out to California as a family. Passed by on the 134 freeway, the Disney studio, we saw that

Water Tower that said at the time the Walt Disney Studios on it and Mickey's holding the clapboard. And I thought, wait a second, I'm a cast member now. I wonder if I can visit the studio. And by the way, policies have changed since, you know, once upon a time. So I felt like I should just drop in. But at the time, as a cast member, I was able to visit, bring my family along. And that's when we met the staff of the Archives as one of the locations open to visitors, in our case, you know, cast and guests. And I noticed...

Lou Mongello (04:45.56)
Right?

Steven Vagnini (05:00.366)
some of the material that were stacked up on the various desks in the Archives, some material was coming in from Walt Disney World. And I asked the question to Becky who was there and to Dave Smith who was there, and these folks were like legends, folks I never thought I'd be able to meet. And I asked, well, are you receiving this item from Walt Disney World or this cast of a publication that we have in the Utilidor at the Magic Kingdom? And they said, oh no, we don't really get those. And so I said, well, take along in the Archives, you should make sure to get them. So...

you know, after I visited with them, got to learn a little bit more about the team, would regularly send material over to California to have. And I think they appreciated that. Now, Dave Smith came to town with a few colleagues to present, I think, on the Disney Vacation Club member cruise. And when he let me know that, I said, well, you should check out all these new things on property, right? There's these brand new exhibits over at Epcot and X, Y, and Z. And so just maintaining a relationship with the group led to natural interactions. You know, I wasn't...

looking for a job. I was, you know, a happy pirate of the Caribbean. But about a year later, an internship opportunity opened with the Archives and it was one of the first internships in probably a few decades. And incidentally, one of the staff members, long time staff member who had left was knee deep in research and on filing Disney parks, specifically Walt Disney World related history, organizing the news clippings, a lot of material that had come in or that needed

some organization. And so having demonstrated a strong knowledge of the parks and having established a genuine relationship with the team, I was able to begin that internship and for the next four summers would transfer between Walt Disney World and the Archives and be able to help out with a variety of things and learn from the best, right? Learn firsthand from Dave how...

the Archives is organized, what types of materials the Archives keeps, how do you properly take care of them? And around this time, the Archives was under new senior leadership and was beginning a brand new exhibitions program. Soon would launch programs like D23, would eventually inherit programs like the Disney Legends program. So there is quite a bit of growth on the staff, growth in the size of the collections, and a lot of help was needed.

Steven Vagnini (07:24.014)
And then in 2010, Dave Smith retired full -time from the company, although he did stay on as Archivist Emeritus for many, let me say that again, as Chief Archivist Emeritus for many years. And some full -time roles became open, and that's when I joined the archive staff full -time. So that's how I became associated with the department. I led the research team for several years. We helped support a variety of projects, as you might imagine.

The Archives is pretty popular within the Walt Disney Company. Try to think of a company that looks to its past more than Disney does. Snow White and the Sun and the Wharfs, that came out in 1937. We're still doing new park entertainment, merchandise, live action feature adaptations coming out soon. So that makes a group like the Archives even more important as time goes on in terms of preserving and being a resource for the legacy of Disney. And so...

sort of as a side gig, I would help produce events that the Archives was associated with. So for example, Destination D, I think the first one I was really involved with in terms of a lot of onsite support and helping to curate the content was the Walt Disney World 40th event in 2011. And I know I saw you there, Lou, and we pulled off quite a bit at that event and celebrating, I think, the largest gathering of Disney legends at a company event who had participated in the Florida project.

And so that was a real thrill. And these sorts of events became a little bit more enhanced over the years. There was more opportunities that were seen. And eventually my role transitioned over to D23 to focus primarily on the production of those types of fan engagements through the D23 live events, website, gifts, et cetera. Then a few years later, a new opportunity became open with Walt Disney Imagineering. And this was with the Walt Disney Imagineering show awareness team.

And that is the group that I was about to give you the Archives mission statement. But the missions are somewhat similar. At Imagineering, show awareness, it's all about archiving and documenting the themes, the plots and stories of our attractions, resort hotels, anything that Imagineering produces in Florida. That includes Walt Disney World Resort and Disney Cruise Line. And packaging that into programs, educational materials, tours.

Lou Mongello (09:22.038)
Hahaha.

Steven Vagnini (09:45.304)
other resources for Imagineers and anyone who needs to engage with Imagineering storytelling. And that was a role that was absolutely a thrill to be a part of. Gary Landrum really was the Imagineer who invented that role, essentially, having done it for more than 20 years. He recently retired after, goodness, more than 40 years with the company. And...

what a legacy he has as well. So learning from Gary, learning from Dave, learning from Becky Klein, these are all incredible people with such passion and skill. And more recently, as of last year, transferred back to the Archives, but from central Florida. So I'm still based here in Orlando, but to be able to support a variety of Archives projects that includes things like Disney 100, the exhibition, which is our largest exhibition yet at 15 ,000 square feet.

to supporting our research team, which I used to be a part of in Burbank, to a variety of new projects and efforts that are underway since the archive staff has evolved so much in terms of our scope of work. So we're excited to have a physical presence in Florida officially for the first time, alongside my colleague, Kevin M. Kern, who's also a incredible Disney author, historian, presenter, all the things that you just shared about me, Lou, that is Kevin as well, and he's based here full -time as our regional manager. So...

It's great to have a presence locally to be able to help facilitate so many of the needs that we have from a historical standpoint, where so many well Disney World and other folks from the company have a presence. So I think that sort of sums it up.

Lou Mongello (11:22.36)
So let me just get this straight, Stephen. You worked at Walt Disney World. You worked at the Archives. You worked under Dave Smith. You worked for D23. You worked for Imagineering. My question to you is when are you going to finally start to apply yourself and really, you know, really make your parents proud? That is, I mean, you sort of touched the hallmark locations of the company, right? You've been able to sort of experience and learn from and contribute to

like the pillars of the company, right? And I say that with like the utmost admiration and respect for what you've done and what, first of all, not only do you maybe have the most perfect like career for like a nerd like me, but I love the fact that it started, it goes back to what I said earlier, like it started from your love of Disney. You were curating things in Walt Disney World.

before you were sort of asked to do so is almost sort of the impression I got from it because there was no, right, there wasn't sort of Archives at Walt Disney World itself. Like you were sort of taking this on your own and created this relationship with the Archives that led to this incredible journey.

Steven Vagnini (12:34.158)
Well, I think it goes back to, you know, when you think about passion and how valuable that is, you know, in my case, it was realizing that, yes, there are things that should be preserved and let's just make it happen. So I guess that natural drive, you know, led to a very natural organic relationship and then was really the launching point for my career personally. And I think that's something that I think anyone can take with them that, you know, when you apply, you know, what drives you to what interests you,

That's an unstoppable combination in many respects. So first of all, I'm very blessed for it. There's a bit of that, there's a bit of luck, and there's a bit of timing. Timing is so much of it when opportunities meet needs and skills. So I'm very blessed I've been part of those, I guess, three umbrellas of the company, if you will. And I think you're right, from a Disney fan perspective, they're appealing because they tie into so much of the product that we're all naturally drawn to. So...

I'm humbled to be sitting here with you and I'm humbled to have had the experiences I've had.

Lou Mongello (13:37.272)
For those of you who can't actually get out to the Archives, I think you should just open up your house for, I can only imagine now, I wanna see what your garage and your, you know, quote, we don't have basements in Florida, but I wanna see like the Stephen Vagnini Archives and the things you've been collecting over the years.

Steven Vagnini (13:53.102)
Well, I'll tell you this, we have a rule in the Archives is we don't hire collectors, right? Because we're an archive department, that's a conflict of interest. So I am not a collector, but it's all about, okay, what needs to be preserved properly? So that's one little thing I wanna note.

Lou Mongello (14:01.176)
Right?

Lou Mongello (14:11.384)
So from a fan perspective though, I'm sure you've walked into the Archives and I need to touch on that too because we all sort of imagine, you know, walking into the Raiders of the Lost Ark, you know, giant warehouse to a certain degree, which metaphorically sort of is, did you ever see something and be like, oh, this is the thing. Not that I ever would, but if I could, this is the thing I would love to sort of put on display in my home office.

Steven Vagnini (14:35.022)
I would never display it in my home office, but what I would do is try to get it exhibited and touring the world for people to see, right? Because, you know, sure, I could look at something across my office here or millions of people could see it. And one of those is more exciting to me. And I think that's what the archive staff shares as a passion is how do we help to tell and share more about our legacy? Because to your point, you know, there's a lot in the Archives. We have more than 9 ,000 boxes of material.

Lou Mongello (14:36.696)
Ha ha ha.

Steven Vagnini (15:02.542)
tens of thousands of objects from costumes, ride vehicles, props from TV shows, millions of documents. So there's a lot. But I think, Ross asked that question a lot. You have a favorite item in the Archives. And for me, I think it tends to be the items that tie back to Walt Disney and Roy Disney, the men, right? The co -founders of the company. Because there's material that go back to Walt's childhood, Walt's youth. There's Disney family material that goes back to the 1850s. So it's pretty cool stuff.

But for me, it's like, what are those items where you get a really big smile on your face when you encounter it? And for me, I have to go back to a moment when I was sitting in the back room where our offices are at the Disney Studio, where the Archives is located. And one of the Archives managers, Edo Avaye, who's been with the department since 2006, I think, which is when I got involved with the Archives as well, he came across something one day and it totally blew his mind and he showed it to us and...

We said, wow, where did you find this? And it was a brass badge that said Disneyland on it, and it had the number one on it. It was Walt Disney's number one name tag. Before they were name tags, they had your employee number, as they were called back then, right? So Walt was number one. And these brass badges would be worn until the 60s when they became actual name tags. But famously, Walt showed this employee badge off on one of the wonderful World of Color episodes, which was the Disneyland 10th anniversary show. He says, I'm employed.

Boy, number one. And we were all amazed by it. And Ed went to go show Dave. And they said, oh, yeah, that. Of course, that's been there for decades. But when you have 9 ,000 boxes, no one can see everything in the collection, no matter how long you work in the Archives. It's ever growing. And there is so much. So it's one of those little moments of discoveries and anecdotes that, for me, kind of warmed my heart of how they're discovered.

Lou Mongello (16:38.584)
Yes.

Steven Vagnini (16:57.655)
And the great thing is that badge is now on display as part of our Disney 100 exhibition. So the fact that folks across the nation can get up close to it and see Walt's badge is really the fulfilling part that goes back to those moments of rediscovery. As well, having worked on site on many of the de -installation for our parks projects, Mickey's Toontown closed in 2010, I believe. We had...

Snow White Scary Adventures a couple years later, these were ones where I was able to participate in the on -site salvage of items that we felt should be part of the Archives collection. So, you know, you have a special place in your heart for things that you see being saved and that you can help preserve for fans to be able to enjoy in the future. So those types of things really excite me, I think.

Lou Mongello (17:44.184)
So there's two things, there's a lot, there's so much I want to ask. I love the fact that your sincere answer was so generous, right? I don't want to take something for myself. I want to be able to show even more to more people. And I know that you had a hand in doing that, sort of helping to sort of open up the velvet ropes and allow people to see more and experience more from the Archives. And I also love that you talked about Dave Smith.

I had a chance to meet Dave a number of times. I remember going on, I think it was an Adventures by Disney trip to the Archives eons ago, one of the first group trips that we did. And we were in sort of that outer office and Dave comes out and he's presenting to everybody and he takes this little cage and he's showing this little cage with a bird inside and just, you know, not passing it around, but showing it around to everybody. And he's like, oh, this is it. This is...

the bird. This is the animatronic bird. And I'm like, my God, man, what are you doing? Like, put on gloves, put it like this should be like, but it was just so it was just one of the things that he loved and appreciated and wanted to show people. And for us seeing something like that, that was so iconic and such an important part of Disney history, and not that it was, but it almost seemed relatively pedestrian to him because he's seen and experienced so much.

Steven Vagnini (19:09.756)
Yep, and it's amazing too because every item tells a story and, you know, we could be talking all day and not scratch the surface of even a handful of amazing objects in the Archives. And that was a great thing about Dave too is, you know, it was all in his head, right? You know, he created, right? He established the first archive for a major entertainment company that quickly became a model among all the corporate Archives. And he shepherded that, you know, for 40 years.

with the company. And so the amount of institutional knowledge about the Archives is obvious, right? He collected these things physically. He knew where these items came from. He maintained great documentation on it, but the knowledge about the history itself, you know, it's really remarkable. So we're very grateful that, you know, he was able to reflect on his history through so many interviews that he's done. He did a great interview with you, I think around the time that he retired and put on paper a lot of that knowledge that he has.

truly invaluable.

Lou Mongello (20:09.272)
What about for you, you know, looking back, I can only imagine how much you got to experience because of and for and with him, but what do you think for you was the most valuable lesson that you learned from working with Dave or that he imparted to you?

Steven Vagnini (20:25.908)
Yeah, this is, I don't know, it's sort of an odd answer, but I was amazed at how responsive Dave was. And anyone who I think who's written to Dave, you probably got a typed, signed letter back or an email back. And it wasn't just, you know, a couple of weeks or a couple of months later, usually he would respond same day. And I think this applies to any of us, you know, in a professional setting is the importance of...

that interaction because I find myself, you know, on many levels trying to keep up, but he always managed to do it. I think he put people first. He put folks who were passionate. He put fellow employees, you know, first. He knew the importance, not just of the treasures of the Archives, but the value of the information that the Archives held and the need to share that. And so he really was, I think, a servant to the Disney fan community through his Ask Dave column, through that correspondence.

his ability to partner with so many groups to get that information out there. On a day -to -day basis, working with fellow employees, I think that responsiveness and that servant leadership, if you will, is something that has really stuck with me.

Lou Mongello (21:36.888)
I always loved and appreciated and I don't how to sort of, Dave really, because he was the face of, he humanized, right, the Archives and he was so approachable, like you said, and relatable. Again, man, I could talk to you all day long about this. You know, one thing I wanted to talk about too is, you know, you went from the Archives, again, you get to work at and for and with Imagineering and only imagining the things that you got to see. But there,

You were what's called a show awareness producer, correct? And part of your responsibility was not just collecting and curating items and memorabilia and ephemera, but you were curating the stories behind the parks and resorts and experience, which I think is so important. It's not just about the piece of paper or the item, but the stories behind it and the people behind it. Can you talk just a little bit about your experience there?

Steven Vagnini (22:33.844)
Yeah, so if you think about it, we're all about storytelling. You know, there's not a single person who works for the Walt Disney Company who doesn't have a role to play in the telling of a story to an audience. And at Imagineering and at the Disney Parks, stories are obviously so important and we tell it in so many different ways. So in show awareness, the work that we did really involves curating that information because we have amazing show writers, we have amazing story editors, we have folks who...

do the best in the business in terms of lighting design, graphics, you name it. There's more than 120 disciplines at Imagineering. And the design intent behind every one of those disciplines is essentially documented. So when you look at an amazing new attraction like Guardians of the Galaxy, Cosmic Rewind, or a new resort like Disney's Riviera Resort, you're talking about hundreds of Imagineers and project managers and partners across Walt Disney World and beyond who bring those to life. With that,

there's an importance to document the why. Why did we design it the way we did in terms of sound, what we hear, in terms of special effects, in terms of color, in terms of any of these subjects. So that in the future, should there need to be a change to the show, maybe there needs to be a refurbishment, maybe there needs to be a tour that's given at the park, we have accurate information about all those different disciplines to make sure the story is told accurately and with integrity.

And I think, whether it's the work that I do at the Archives or the work that I did at Imagineering, it all sort of aligns with preserving that design intent, preserving that history so that that accuracy and that integrity can move forward. So at Imagineering, this took the form of hundreds of thousands of hours of interviews that have been amassed over the years, many tours that have been written, many programs that have been given to cast members and to guests, and to speaking with groups like yours about...

In that case, it was the Hollywood Tower Hotel story, because there's many different versions of these stories that you might find online or that might be shared among fan communities. But typically, there's one correct story, and we're excited to be able to, where possible, make sure that the correct stories are shared for a variety of reasons.

Lou Mongello (24:47.032)
And that's what I love, the fact that you and the Archives and D23, I think the company as a whole over the last number of years, really has sort of decided we want to share these stories, right? There might not quote unquote be this great big book of Imagineering, but you curate these stories and you authenticate them, you verify them, and then you share them with us. And to that end, let's maybe talk about the encyclopedia itself. All...

1 ,002 pages and this is about seven pounds or so. This is not a pocketbook by any stretch of the imagination, but it's not, quote unquote, just an encyclopedia because it's filled with, you know, stories and biographies and achievements and dates. And, you know, I start out as, you know, a trivia guy, like writing my first trivia book. So I love the amazing

tidbits of trivia and anecdotes that are in here. This is the sixth edition that includes everything not just from the theme parks, but, you know, ABC and Disney Television, Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm. I mean, the company umbrella that you referred to earlier has grown wider. It's grown deeper. You know, when we talk about encyclopedias, it's funny when I got this, I'm like, oh, I remember physical encyclopedias. I remember having these.

on my shelf and you know there's something something's even about having a physical book in your hand I think that just can't be replicated by reading online and what I love about this too is it's as much I think a collectible as it is a reference resource. So I want to go through all of the entries one by one. Let's start with the first Willie Ames from Runaway on the Rogue River. I can't of course but talk to me just.

a little bit about the book itself. And I want to talk to you really about some of the things that that you do, because you this is a huge, like, I'm going to assume almost overwhelming role and responsibility. And probably I have to imagine a lot of pressure when you sort of take this project over and stepping into such huge shoes.

Steven Vagnini (26:56.754)
Yeah, and really quick, I want to take a quick step back and just comment on the importance of having a physical book in your hands. It makes tangible the information, right? You can hold in your hand Disney history, which I just think is the coolest thing. And that's what I found amazing about this encyclopedia.

You know, even going back to the first edition in 1996. So, so with that, you know, this is a tribute to Dave Smith, right? He founded the Archives. He was obviously a mentor, a great friend. You know, when he passed away sadly in 2019, it was a tremendous loss to our, you know, the whole Disney community, not just fans, but across the company and so many of us personally. Um, and so the question became, you know, what will become of the encyclopedia, but we knew exactly what Dave wanted, which was that this would.

continue to evolve and grow as the company did. So the reason I got involved with Disney A to Z as an author was based on the prior two editions, editions four and five, which were released I think in 2015 and 2016. And these were ones where Dave had the opportunity through Disney Publishing, which makes all this possible, huge kudos and thanks to Wendy Lefkhan and Jenny Stood and all the team at Disney Publishing that is a champion and a supporter of A to Z.

It's all about ensuring that this book is always available as a resource to anyone who needs it. It could be a fan, it could be a researcher, it could be a journalist, it could be a cast member. There's so many reasons why we would need to have Disney information at our fingertips. I'm sure you especially, based on your role. But with that, I had the opportunity to closely work with Dave on those prior two editions. And it was essentially going cover to cover for each one and...

looking through the thousands of entries and trying to determine what's the need of an update, what should the updates be, what new entries are needed to bring this book up to date. And like you said, Lou, it is not just the parks, it is the entire enterprise and it goes to studio, TV, consumer products and beyond. So with that, Dave asked me at the end of our work on the fifth edition if I would be interested in keeping it up, which floored me. First of all, I said, Dave, you have many more editions in your future.

Steven Vagnini (29:16.006)
And sure enough, Dave did continue working on the book all the way until the end. He would work on the online supplement. So just a quick side note, a lot of the entries that you'll find in this new edition, Dave wrote that were not previously written before, which I think is very special. But all of us knew that the book needed to continue just as Dave wanted it to. Tremendous support from the publishing team, tremendous support from my leader, Becky Klein, from the archive staff, including Kevin Kern, who's...

my cohort out here. And this was obviously, like you said, a lot of pressure because you want this to live up to Dave's name. You want Dave to be proud of this because this is his legacy. So we took it very seriously. What's the approach that we take? How do we incorporate the profound changes that have taken place at the company? Things like Disney Plus, right? You have an entirely new form of entertainment that previously Dave never really

had in this book, you know, streaming is new essentially for the company when it comes to this new edition. So with that, we have to make a lot of choices where we put on our Dave hat, you mentioned a lot of hats, there's a Dave hat that we try to put on saying, what would Dave do? And in this case, we worked very closely. And I think having had that tremendous experience working with them on the nitty gritty of those prior two editions, that was a crash course in how to keep this book updated. So really understanding what warrants a new entry, what

What do you not include in the book? Because that's just as important. We have a very finite page count. How do you write these entries? What information is more important or less important? And how does that apply to TV, to parks, to film? Because all those entries are written uniquely and differently. And so I think as a team, all of us who had a role to play in this book, I think are very proud of all the effort that went into it to make sure that it followed Dave's criteria, that followed his cadence when it came to this. You know,

I would often write entries for him for these other editions and he would come back with his notes and his rewrites. And we applied all that thinking into it to make sure that Dave would be proud of it, that it would be something that he would want. And so in it, you will find 6 ,500 updates since the last edition. That's updates to existing entries, plus more than 2 ,000 on top of that, additional entries of not just new content, right?

Steven Vagnini (31:36.71)
The company's grown. There's more to add to the encyclopedia. New park attractions, a new cruise ship, Broadway shows, members of the board of directors. But because this was the centennial, we thought it was very special to be able to pack more into the 100 -year anniversary edition, the centennial edition, as I lovingly call it. And so we went in and we did things like enhance our Disney Legends biographies. There's more information about legends who've been in the book since the beginning. We have for the first time descriptions of all the Oswald cartoons.

They all had entries, but for the first time you get the descriptions of the plot. But then even at the Disney parks, we really went back and added in shops, restaurants, attractions, characters, songs that had not been in the encyclopedia previously, going back to 1955 Disneyland, all the way to, I think every single shop now that Disney owned and operated at the Lake Buena Vista shopping village, all the way to Disney Springs. That's part of the 2000 entry. So we went in and added more of what's new, obviously.

but more information as well that taps into 100 years of content to really make this as complete of an update as possible.

Lou Mongello (32:48.02)
I'm literally, I'm like, I'm sweating just thinking about the overwhelm of how do you, all the questions, the somewhat rhetorical questions that you ask are all the questions that I and we have. How do you make those decisions? How do you go about finding out? How do you make sure that it's complete and accurate? How do you decide what can't make it in that somebody is invariably going to go, Steven, how did you not include, you know, such this obscure reference from?

you know, 1956, because you when I think about the overwhelm, I'm trying to sort of, it's this ensuring that it's as complete as it can be, that it's not just accurate. But the other thing too, I mean, sort of forgetting about including what content, right? Deciding what you have a finite number of words and pages to include. But I love the fact that the book is detailed, it's complete.

It's thorough, but it's also, it's very accessible, right? So you're, how do you sort of go about ensuring that the information is accurate? It's as complete as it can be, but you also make it very engaging for a very wide spectrum of an audience that's gonna be reading the book as well.

Steven Vagnini (34:02.89)
That is a great question. And that's what Dave was able to achieve with these prior five editions. And that's what we're modeling off of. So in terms of accuracy, the great thing about this book is all the information is sourced from verified company sources or company personnel. So we go to original source material to find it, which is why we always recommend going to a resource like A to Z when anyone's looking up a fact, we know it comes from the company.

or from the folks who worked for the company. And if you go to the back, there's a whole acknowledgments page which thanks the hundreds and hundreds of people who we had to reach out to to verify information or to complete much of the information that needed to be updated. But it is about distilling that into fewer words, right? We're not gonna tell the entire plot descriptions for all the films, because we have entries for all the films and all the shorts and all the TV shows that are from.

say it'd be ABC Signature or Disney Channel, for instance, but it is looking at sort of what is that basic information that we think someone would want to have at their fingertips. It's gonna be a plot description, it's gonna be a running time, it's gonna be the major actors and the characters they played. But in addition to that, you wanna include as many fun facts as you can because perhaps someone that wants to come up with a list of, say, trivia questions, maybe there's someone here who's...

writes Disney trivia books and enjoys doing that. Well, we want to include as much accurate, fun information as well sprinkled in. So wherever we can, we like to add in those little tidbits. And what I love is there's so much Dave in this book when it comes to that. And what I mean by that is whenever, you know, I had a chance to visit the parks with Dave or chat about Disney history, which for many years was every day working at the Archives, he would make these little asides about his favorite attraction or

an architectural error that he noticed at the park or that an Imagineer might have told him once. And these sort of greatest hits are all in the book, right? He has a little note under America Sings, which many of you will know was a long, a favorite attraction at Disneyland, in Tomorrowland, that was one of Dave's favorites. And Dave writes, America Sings was fondly remembered by many guests. Well, what he means by that is I loved America Sings, right? That's sort of his way to begin a great show or was a great show. And you know, you want to keep.

Lou Mongello (36:18.294)
Right?

Steven Vagnini (36:23.824)
as much Dave in this as you can, but for the most part it is the raw facts. And that's really what this is intended to be, is the raw information. We don't want to make it fancy, we want to make it accessible. And that way anyone can have, you know, at their fingertips as much Disney knowledge as we can pack in it.

Lou Mongello (36:42.488)
again, I can't help, and I have to imagine that I'm not alone, where, you know, you wake up one day and you walk into the Raiders of the Lost Ark room in the Archives, and you either fire up the Dewey Decimal system where you go, listen, show me everything you have on the black hole, the Safari Club arcade, you know, and Willie Ames. You know, the challenges that I have to imagine in...

again, all those things that you're trying to do. But so what are some of the, you know, obviously, maybe the from other than some of the obvious ones we think of, what are some of the challenges that that you run into other than trying to be succinct or trying to maybe find that little bit of information that is maybe more difficult to track down, especially from the early years when maybe records weren't kept as accurate or, you know, things may have gotten, God forbid, thrown away.

Steven Vagnini (37:37.83)
Yeah, you know, those most recent examples are ones that are obvious challenges, you know, and thankfully Dave has covered the early history in this book quite well, you know, going back to 1996. By the way, we still are finding opportunities to incorporate early history. We have a new entry on just the Kansas City Star. And this is a quick aside. You know, that was the newspaper where Elias Disney, Walt's dad, owned a distributorship when they lived in Kansas City, Missouri, and Walt would deliver the papers. Well, there's some incredible information that came to light about

Disney's association with the Kansas City Star. And we thought, that's such a great fact. Let's put in that entry in the book. So again, this isn't just what's new. We're putting in what's old as well. That's new, right? For many of us. So yes, there are challenges that come with tapping into that, but thankfully there are many resources that Dave created that Becky and the team have been able to keep up and grow and enhance that offer insight into those early years. Obviously picking up the phone for many of those story creators or long time.

Disney legends who can help answer questions for us. But in terms of maintaining the book, it is quite a challenge in the sense that, you know, you have close to 10 ,000 entries. And once you write an entry, you know, the entry isn't sealed. That entry could easily be outdated with the next edition. So you quite literally have to go entry by entry to make sure did this actor appear in more films or television shows or streaming specials since the last publication.

Did this shop on the other side of the world in one of our Disney parks close permanently, right? So there's a lot that goes into it on many different levels based on the diversity of the worlds of Disney and how you access that information. Because we're growing every day and we're evolving every day. And that means thousands of these entries are going to, in theory, have to be updated on a daily basis in some cases. Thankfully, it's going to be a little bit until the next edition.

goes to print, but what you're looking at is essentially a complete update from the last edition where, you know, we might've acquired a company two decades ago that maybe has evolved, you know, that needs to be updated too. So every entry has to be looked at. So it's an issue of resources and time. And that's why we're so thrilled that it's finished, right? That it's out there because now everyone can have access to that update.

Lou Mongello (39:33.28)
Right?

Steven Vagnini (40:00.678)
And essentially it's updated through March of 2023. So you have October, 1923 to March of 2023 represented, which is an exciting.

Lou Mongello (40:10.872)
It is, it's mind blowing to think about that. But, you know, quickly touch on this idea of not just finding new information about things that have happened in the past, but how do you approach the mind? There's no word. Flames from the side of my face. You have this constant addition of new Disney content.

But how do you handle the inclusion of new Disney properties? Like when you get a phone call one day, oh, by the way, we just acquired 20th Century Fox. Have at it. Go. Like, I can't imagine you hang up your phone and just put your head in your hands. I'm sure you're excited about the opportunity. But, you know, these are there's multiple companies that sort of fall under the umbrella. And now you really are tasked with not just Disney history, but there's Pixar and there's Lucasfilm and now 20th Century Fox.

Steven Vagnini (41:05.094)
Yeah, I think one of the things that helps us a lot, again, looking to how Dave handled it and really looking at what his mission was for the encyclopedia, his perspective on it always was including the content created by Disney, meaning anything created since the acquisition. So when you look at something like 20th century, for instance, you're looking at a history that begins with the acquisition in terms of what Disney is creating. It is Disney A to Z, right?

So in that case, that was a criteria that Dave set that at least was able to narrow down our history. We weren't having to go create entries for films and amazing TV properties and so much else that goes back for. Well, I don't think they published the book. So so in that case, you know, we have an entry on 20th century. We have an entry on every one of the major brands and companies that was part of that acquisition. Primarily, we focus on the Disney brand.

Lou Mongello (41:43.51)
Dave was a smart man. Dave was a very...

Steven Vagnini (42:01.414)
and the different properties that you see associated with the Disney name that tends to align more with say our Lucasfilm properties. You find those well as part of our park experiences. Same with Marvel Studios, obviously with Pixar. You look at acquisitions of the nineties, things like maybe the Miramax films, not as much. And so we looked at how Dave handled that acquisition. So I think what we've done with this book is very much handle it the way that we feel Dave would have. And by the way, this was hundreds of hours of conversing with folks like...

Becky and Kevin and another one of our amazing senior editors, Jim Banning, who helped us so much with this edition, making it a reality, to address all that evolution in a way that made sense for the encyclopedia. So you will find an entry that lists out every single essentially 20th century searchlight, et cetera, feature that is separate from the Disney list to keep those brands separated, right? Separate distribution deals and such. And we're excited to feature it in there, but in a way that we feel Dave,

Dave would have wanted. Disney Plus was another big one, right? We have the world of streaming. And so you'll find entries for every Disney Plus original show and series. You'll find, of course, an entry on the streaming service itself. But that also affects our future films list from the Walt Disney Studios. There are films created by the studio for Disney Plus. So that requires so many different entries to be affected by that in an exciting way. Those are just two examples, right?

but there's been so much in the past seven years that, you know, it's definitely a refresh in this book.

Lou Mongello (43:35.224)
Yeah, and you know, what I, you know, I think sometimes you hear encyclopedia, we think, you know, for those of us that used to have encyclopedias, it was sort of the place that you had to go when your book report was due the next day, when you had to sort of find information. What I love about this specifically is I sort of call it the joy of randomness, right? How you can sort of just flip open to any page and you can find new information out just by

flipping through the book, you don't have to sort of read it from you cannot read this from beginning to end. Trust me, I tried. I'm still stuck on Willie Ames. But, you know, for you, is there, I can't ask you the favorite child question, but I want to ask you the favorite child question. I'm gonna ask you the favorite child question. When you're putting the book together, is there this one entry or like, this is just gold right here. This is the one that I want to make sure people see because it's either

personal to you because you just love how the entry came together or you just feel feel that it's one of those like it's the treasure in this treasure trove of information.

Steven Vagnini (44:44.102)
That's a great question. I don't think I, let me start. I probably enjoy most what I like to call the subject entries. So it's not based on a specific film release or park attraction or individual, but rather it's based on a subject. So for instance, Dave had an entry that we added, oh goodness, maybe in the fourth edition, all about Walt's aircraft. Cause we know the story of Walt's plane, right? That amazing jet that he searched for the land here in Florida, right?

Lou Mongello (44:47.808)
Ha ha ha.

Steven Vagnini (45:14.01)
Waltz had many aircrafts, so there's an entry dedicated just to Waltz, different aircraft and when they were in service and such. Those types of entries are fun because it includes a little bit more story in the way that the entry is presented. And so that inspired us to create a few more that we thought, you know, here's some subjects that maybe readers would find interesting or might have questions about. So we have an entry all about Waltz offices now. So if go to offices, comma, Walt Disney's, there you're able to find,

You know, the fact that Walt had two offices, he had a working office and he had a formal office where he entertained visitors. What's the difference between those offices? Where did those offices travel to when they were displayed over the years? When did they come back to the studio? And when were they restored and dedicated by Bob Iger? And so entries like that, I think, are helpful because it gives you a quick snapshot over an extended period of time of a continuous story. So you'll find several of those now added where we felt it made sense.

So that's just one example. Another great opportunity is to honor many of the individuals who have made a significant impact on the company. So we feature entries on all the Disney legends, right? The names that have officially been designated and given the Disney Legends Awards honor, but also many other longtime artists, animators, imagineers, executives, and leaders who have made a significant impact on the company as well. So you'll find more entries on many of those key personnel who tend to have a very public presence so that

general reader who wants to learn more about say Kevin Rafferty who's an incredible long -term Imagineer who recently retired. Mark Henn just retired this year as you might have seen. So many of these individuals but even celebrities like Brenda Song just notable stars that have been in so many Disney properties are definitely deserving of entries and obviously that's an amazing opportunity for us to make this book even more robust by featuring as many names as possible. So that's another one that I'm

especially excited about.

Lou Mongello (47:12.728)
And Steve, is there's a companion, there's a digital sort of companion website to the encyclopedia that exists online, yeah? So the physical copy of the encyclopedia sort of complements the digital resources available and vice versa?

Steven Vagnini (47:28.038)
Yes, around 2014 or so, d23 .com did launch an online version of A to Z. It's a different format. Primarily, it drew from that edition and Dave and I would be submitting updates for that over time. As we look to the centennial edition, currently, the only place you can find all this information is in physical form. So yes, online, we will be updating it. You'll be seeing it available online at some point. But if you want the most up -to -date information, if you want...

all the new entries, the only place to go at this moment in time is by picking up your physical copy, which I think is exciting. I think having it at your fingertips, like I said earlier, is pretty cool, but definitely stay tuned. We'll eventually have those updates online as well.

Lou Mongello (48:11.736)
Yeah, and what, you know, because I think this obviously ties so closely with the Archives. We talked about how it's letting fans not just peek behind the curtain, but sort of lifting those metaphorical velvet ropes. I think you've been such a big part of that evolution of the Archives and the access to the information. What do you sort of hope will, what do you hope the impact...

maybe of something like the Encyclopedia has not just on researchers, but Disney fans as well.

Steven Vagnini (48:45.094)
Yeah, well, you know, in many respects, I could probably just look back to my excitement looking at this book for the first time as I was growing up, right? And to be able to open my mind to whole new worlds of Disney in this case. There are parts of the company I never knew existed that simply by flipping through this book, reading a random entry, reading a random fact, it totally sent me down a rabbit hole on you name the subject, right? There's so many. So my hope is that anyone looking at this, first of all,

finds this book to be a good resource to them, that it helps them as readers, as fans, as researchers, and whatever it is they need the information for. But also that they gain new knowledge and inspiration as well, right? Because there are so many stories about the people who made this company what it is. Their stories are in here. There are worlds to unlock through any entry. And I think that's a very exciting prospect. So hopefully folks will get a lot out of this. Hopefully it'll continue to be an up -to -date resource that

folks will continue to be interested in. And hopefully it'll spark more fandom, but enhance your fandom as well as you learn even more about the company. I've learned so much just going through what Dave wrote over these many decades in this book, and hopefully it'll have the same effect for many others.

Lou Mongello (49:58.552)
Yeah, I know just doing what I said earlier, just sort of popping it open to a random page and finding something that sparked a memory that I hadn't thought of in years and that sense of nostalgia. And, you know, the thing that the reason why we love Disney, right? We don't just like Disney, we love the Disney. We use that word very affectionately is because of the way Disney makes us feel. Right? I think that no other company, no other brand does the same way. It's why we have such loyalty to it. And I think...

One of the things that this does is it allows us to reach back and touch on that, not just to learn, but to sort of have some of those motions again and also see, you know, a big picture of the company itself. And look, I said this at the outset, I will say it again, if you're just listening to the audio version of this, everything that you talked about, these, the fact that you, you Stephen Magnini, you are a walking encyclopedia.

It's what I love and appreciate you and when I talk to you now, when I see you up on stage or just we happen to pass each other at a destination D or D20 the Expo, your face lights up when you share this information and I can sort of feel that coming through on the pages of the book. So for all that you do for carrying this legacy, not just of Dave and the Archives and the different divisions of the company forward, but...

helping to continue to make it exciting and emotional and fun and interactive for guests and fans. I sincerely, I really do. I appreciate the work, not just on the book, but everything that you do for the company.

Steven Vagnini (51:40.026)
Oh, Lou, thank you. That is so kind of you to say, and it's pretty amazing. I do want to say really quickly, at the Archives we like to say, you know, we don't know all the information, we don't have all the information in our heads, but we know where to find the information. So, Day to Z is one of those places, so it makes it little bit easier to access. But thank you. I really appreciate that.

Lou Mongello (52:02.968)
Obviously, you can find the book on Amazon. I think there's a few brick and mortar stores that are still out there as well. And if you want to see, so I'm assuming you'll be at, I want to get it right, D23, the ultimate, wait. It's...

Steven Vagnini (52:19.174)
Yes, D23 Ultimate Disney Fan Event.

Lou Mongello (52:22.776)
That's it in Anaheim this summer.

Steven Vagnini (52:26.264)
Absolutely. So that's coming up pretty soon. The Archives is excited to play a role as always. So tickets are on sale March 26th. That'll be this August. We're looking August 9th, 10th, and 11th in Anaheim. More information at ultimatefanevent .d23 .com. So I will see you there, hopefully.

Lou Mongello (52:46.936)
Absolutely, we will be there. We'll have a booth again this year. I'm certainly going to link to where you can find the book, certainly to the Archives and D23 and again all the other sort of divisions of the company that you can follow along on social or by visiting their website. And Stephen Bagnini, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your time today, your friendship, your support and everything that you've done, not just for me personally, but you know, for all of us Disney fans and what you do to...

preserve and share the legacy of Walt and the company.

Steven Vagnini (53:22.566)
Well, that means the world to me and every time I get to spend time with you, Lou, huge smile on my face always. So thank you for bringing me a big smile today.

Lou Mongello (53:30.488)
Thank you. All right, one last question. Going back to the arc, is there one holy grail of the Archives that you think is sort of missing, that one piece that you like, that empty spot on a shelf that you wish you can find and fill just from a personal perspective?

Steven Vagnini (53:46.63)
Oh, you know, that's a great question. Many of these things are probably things that are long, no longer with us, right? Things that...

Lou Mongello (53:52.024)
or in somebody's attic, like somebody's grandma has it up in the attic and they just don't know that it's there.

Steven Vagnini (53:57.51)
That's such a great question. Dave has always been searching, or always searched for a couple of merchandise pieces that would complete the watch collection or complete the Fantasia collection. In this case, I would say probably some of the early Disneyland or Walt Disney World materials that we love, whether it's say something from the Kitchen Cabaret, right? I think we're in this room. So for those of you who don't know what that is, apologies. But I think...

Lou Mongello (54:19.48)
Right.

Steven Vagnini (54:25.688)
things that kind of resonate with your childhood probably are pretty great, but we're still on the search for a specific watch and a specific Fantasia piece, so if we can check that off for Dave, that'll make me happy.

Lou Mongello (54:37.432)
sure, go into your garages, open up those buckets and I just did a few weeks, I was cleaning out my garage and I opened up something from my shop and there's, I kid you not, there's a little pocket watch, you probably know the year, 73, 74 and I, my hand to God, it's still ticking and I haven't touched it in decades. So that's my little bit, that's my contribution to my own personal archive. So Stephen Magnini, thank you again.

Steven Vagnini (55:04.934)
Thank you, Lewis, it's been so great. Appreciate it.


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