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Animation Disney Documentary Film Sound Filmmaking Interview

Disney Imagineering Theme Park Sound Design

I worked with Joe Herrington when I was at WDI from 1989 to 1994. Joe saved some of the old Jimmy Macdonald contraptions from being thrown out. I was designer of video systems but worked closely with the audio department doing post production sound. Here are some audio and video clips showing how theme park sound is done.


This episode was written & produced by Dave Parsons.

Theme parks have a way of transporting us to magical places, and sound is crucial in maintaining the illusion. From the most action-packed attractions to the background music playing between park areas, theme park sound designers have thought of it all. In this episode, we speak to Joe Herrington and Mike Fracassi, two Disney Imagineers who work to maintain the magic for guests of Disney Parks.


The SoundWorks Collection pulls back the curtain on the talented Imagineers who are responsible for the sounds and music of the Walt Disney theme park properties. In our exclusive video profile we explore the history and role of the audio team as they share their stories and creative challenges. We also take a visit through the original John James “Jimmy” MacDonald sound effects collection, which explores some of the classic Disney sound effects.

“Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.” – Walt Disney

Copyright © 2019 SoundWorks Collection
Colemanfilm Media Group LLC

Jimmy Macdonald was a one-man sound effects wizard. Over his 48-year career with Disney, he created and assembled one of the largest and most impressive sound effects libraries in motion picture history. Beginning in 1934, he added extra dimension to all of Disney’s animated shorts and features including even more current offerings such as the Mouseworks television series. He also worked on the soundtracks for most of the Studio’s live-action films up through the mid-1980s. But perhaps most notable to fans was his greatest role: that of Mickey Mouse, to whom Jimmy gave voice from 1946 until 1977.

Born John James Macdonald in Dundee, Scotland, on May 19, 1906, Jimmy came to the United States when he was only a month old. He grew up in the Philadelphia area and received a correspondence school degree in engineering before moving to California in 1927. His first job was with the Burbank Engineering Department.

In 1934, he was playing drums and percussion for the Dollar Steamship Lines when the band, in between cruises, was called to the Disney Studios to record for a Mickey Mouse short. Jimmy stayed on to work in the newly formed Disney Sound Effects Department, doing vocal effects and cartoon voices.

His voice repertoire included yodeling, whistling, and sneezing for the Dwarfs in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, barks for Pluto, and, on many occasions, the excitable, high-pitched voices of Chip and Dale.

Rarely was there a sound Jimmy could not make with one of the more than 500 innovative Rube Goldberg-like contraptions that he built from scratch. He could create sounds as obscure as a spider web shimmering or a friendly bumblebee washing up before supper. Animator and Disney Legend Xavier Atencio once recalled, “If he couldn’t get a particular sound he wanted from one of those gizmos, Jimmy would do it with his mouth.”

In 1946, Walt Disney handpicked Jimmy to be his successor as the official voice of Mickey Mouse, beginning with the “Mickey and the Beanstalk” segment of Fun and Fancy Free. Jimmy provided the famed mouse’s familiar falsetto on all film and television projects up until the late 1970s.

On screen, Jimmy was the silhouetted figure of a timpani player in Fantasia. Four decades later, in 1982, he assisted conductor and Disney Legend Irwin Kostal in the digital re-recording of that film. As an original member of the popular jazz group, “The Firehouse Five Plus Two,” Jimmy played drums and made several Disney television appearances in the 1950s. In the live-action film arena, he supplied sound effects for everything from the Academy Award®-wining True-Life Adventures series up through The Black Hole in 1979. For the 1977 animated feature The Rescuers, he came out of retirement to provide sounds for the feisty dragonfly, Evinrude.

Jimmy Macdonald passed away on February 1, 1991, in Los Angeles.

From: https://d23.com/walt-disney-legend/jimmy-macdonald/

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Disney Interview

My Interview with the Los Angeles Times about working at Imagineering

I worked at Walt Disney Imagineering from 1989 to 1994. The LA Times recently interviewed me about my experience there. I was let go, along with about 800 other people, when the Disney Decade ended. My heart goes out to all those who were laid off. Hopefully by now they have found new work. Here is the interview and then some videos, including the new Leslie Iwerks documentary about WDI.

Disney Imagineering lays off designers while analysts look for earnings pop at Walt Disney Co.


Shanghai Disneyland
Nearly two months after opening Shanghai Disney Resort, Disney Imagineering has announced a round of layoffs. During the opening celebration for the resort, fireworks explode over the Enchanted Storybook Castle. (Walt Disney Co.)

Hugo Martin and Daniel Miller

Nearly two months after opening its latest theme park, Walt Disney Imagineering has laid off some of the designers and builders who dream up the company’s parks and attractions.

Representatives for Disney Imagineering, a Glendale-based division of the Walt Disney Co. with about 2,000 employees, confirmed the layoffs but declined to specify how many employees were let go except to say that the percentage was in the “low single digits.” Separately, Burbank-based Walt Disney Co. is set to report its earnings Tuesday after the market closes.

With the June 16 opening of Shanghai Disney Resort park falling near the end of the quarter, observers will be curious to see how it affected the parks and resorts division and whether Disney executives shed any light on the new property’s performance thus far.

The $5.5-billion Shanghai Disney Resort, measuring nearly 1,000 acres, is Disney’s most expensive international resort.

Analysts are predicting that the company will deliver earnings per share of $1.61, according to investment research firm Zacks. That would be up 11% from the same quarter a year earlier. During the most recent third quarter, Disney released the blockbuster “Captain America: Civil War,” which has grossed more than $1 billion worldwide, and “Finding Dory,” which has grossed more than $900 million.

Shares of Disney dropped less than 1% to $95.75 on Monday. The stock is down about 9% this year. Over the past year, investors have been concerned about the lack of subscriber growth at ESPN, the crown jewel of Disney’s media networks unit. Earlier this year, Nielsen Co. said that ESPN lost 1.2 million subscribers in 2015.

“The desire to watch sporting events live and the abundance of sports rights makes ESPN the most valuable piece of real estate in pay-TV today, but we expect slower growth than in the past as competition for consumer time and entertainment dollars increases,” wrote analyst Robin Diedrich of Edward Jones Research in a note published July 29.

The layoffs at Disney’s Imagineering reflect the organization’s variable approach to hiring.

“Walt Disney Imagineering is a project-based organization, and we continually evaluate and adjust our resources to support the design and development of Disney theme parks, resorts and experiences around the globe,” the company said in a statement Friday.

Robert Niles, author of the Theme Park Insider website, said Disney Imagineering hired extra workers to help complete Shanghai Disney, which might explain why some workers are being laid off now that the project is finished.

“I think they absolutely bulked up for this,” he said.

Although the Shanghai Disney project is open, Disney is still working on several theme park projects across the country, including the new Star Wars lands at Disneyland in Anaheim and Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida as well as a new Avatar land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida.

Former Imagineer Steve Diggins knows what it’s like to get laid off after Disney opens a theme park.

He joined Imagineering in 1989 and among the projects he worked on was the Visionarium attraction built at Paris Disneyland. That resort opened in 1992 and about two years later he was out of a job.

Diggins said he was aware it was a possibility that he would be let go because “everything at Imagineering is project-related.” Still, it was a disappointment, said Diggins, who remains acquainted with people who work at Imagineering.

“When it happens to you, you feel bad,” said Diggins, who is now a video engineer at KTLA. “I was hoping to stay there.”

Diggins said he expected that some of the Imagineers who were let go last week had to know the cuts were coming.

“They will gear up for a big theme park, and when that theme park [project] ends, some people will move onto other things and it is not always possible [for everyone],” said Diggins, who in the early 2000s had another stint at Disney as an assistant film editor for Walt Disney Television Animation. “I think most people should know this.”

 

Imagineering Documentary Trailer from Iwerks & Co. on Vimeo.

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Disney Documentary

Leslie Iwerks Creating Documentary About Walt Disney Imagineering

Photo of Disney Legend Ub Iwerks.

Here is the trailer of Leslie Iwerks documentary about Walt Disney Imagineering.

From Variety:

Disney plans to pull back the curtain on its Imagineers with a feature-length documentary that explores the history of the division behind the designs of its theme park rides and other attractions. Leslie Iwerks, the daughter of Don Iwerks, a former Disney animator and Imagineer, and granddaughter of Ub Iwerks, co-creator of Mickey Mouse and Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, is directing the project.