History Revealed


One Saturday morning, on 22 September 1953, Herb Ryman was at work on a painting when his phone rang. He answered and heard the instantly recognisable voice of Walt Disney say: “Hi, Herbie. I’m over here at the studio.” On a Saturday? Ryman remarked. That made Disney testy. “Yes, it’s my studio and I can be here anytime I want.” Then he changed his tone. “I wonder if you could come over here. Just come the way you are.” Ryman “was curious and flattered that he picked up the phone and called me. I had no idea what he wanted.”

He also had reason to be a bit nervous. A first-rate illustrator who painted with dash and sparkle, he could create moody evocations of fantastic places: fairy tale forests, future cities, enchanted castles. Disney had hired him away from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1938, but after nearly a decade in his studio Ryman had decamped for 20th Century Fox.

“I had deserted Walt, which was a very criminal act (or at least he thought it was).” Still, a summons from Walt Disney was not easily flouted. Ryman went at once. Disney met him and shook his hand. “Hi, Herbie,” he said. “We’re going to build an amusement park.”

“That’s interesting.” Ryman said. “Where are you going to build it?”

“Well, we were going to do it across the street, but now it’s gotten too big. We’re going to look for a place.”

“What are you going to call it?”

“I’m going to

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