Thursday, April 30, 2009

Muse of the Weird and Wonderful

Sun illustration by Rolly Crump, 1966

Artist Rolly Crump was honored this week at Disneyland with a special window on Main Street (it's about time!) and I couldn't be happier for him.
Rolly is a swell guy, and one of my favorite artists in the whole world, not only for his Disney work -  which is groundbreaking - but his independent art as well.   Actually, I'm inspired by everything I've seen him do.
Rolly with his Tower of the Four Winds model
for the 1964 New York World's Fair

In Disney circles he is known for his designs on the Enchanted Tiki Room, It's a Small World,  the Haunted Mansion, the Adventureland Bazaar, and to a lesser degree for his legendary unbuilt "Museum of the Weird" - macabre and witty concepts that were decades ahead of their time...and Tim Burton.

Lighting Fixture for The Museum of the Weird, 1966

I love his drawing style of the 1960s: bold, ragged ink line, textured and angular, with colors kept to a minimum. Much of it borders on the psychedelic.  Even more, his art has a sly sense of humor that I'm simply crazy about.

Pride Creations "Push Down" Toys, 
concepted by Rolly, 1960s.

According to Rolly, even while at Disney he always had cool projects going on the side. 
In 1960, a chance meeting with West Coast rock poster pioneer, Howard Morseburg, led to a new venture in printmaking.  Rolly's satirical designs poked fun at Beatnik culture, the coffee houses and jazz clubs of Greenwich Village, Seattle, San Francisco, and the East Bay.  

Poster for Pete's Poop Deck Jazz Club
Seattle, Washington, 1960

His easy-to-read graphics satirized big issues of the era, from drug use to the human rights record of revolutionary Cuba and the Soviet Union.  Though they apparently weren't made in extremely large quantities, the hand-pulled prints were popular with artistic young musicians and hipsters, and were influential on poster design that later dominated the Sixties.

"Green Gasser Kauphy House" Poster

In 1959 Rolly became a show designer at WED (now Walt Disney Imagineering) after Walt saw some of the propellers and mobiles he had created.  

Rolly's Rongo Tiki God concept, 1962

I met Rolly for the first time when Jody and I were co-curating "Tiki: Native Drums in the Orange Grove" at the Anaheim Museum in 1996.  Rolly gave a 2-hour presentation describing the inspiration for his Tiki designs and his other work.  An unforgettable evening.

Jody Daily, Rolly Crump, & Kevin Kidney
 Anaheim Museum Tiki Show, September 14, 1996

In our own projects for Disney, Jody and I have welcomed the opportunity to more fully geek out over Rolly's designs by translating several into merchandise, including his 1967 Tomorrowland Ticket Booth,  Small World Clock facade, and, of course, his Tiki characters.

New Disneyland Tiki Room Rongo Bowl
Rongo Tiki Drink Bowl at Disneyland, 2009

Cheers for Rolly, on his very-deserved tribute down at Disneyland this week. We can't thank him enough for sharing his creativity and utter coolness with all of us.


Matt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matt said...

I have always loved Rolly's stuff, the Towers of the Four Winds in particular of his Disney stuff I think is just amazing!

Emily said...

Hey, Kevin! Thanks for making me aware of Rolly. I didn't know of his work, but now I do :)

BlueBoy-U said...

Good work Kevin! It's absurd that this genius/legend is not honored with a parade on shoulders! As there are few remaining legends around, I say get them crowned as the ancestors that created dreams we now have known for decades! Cheers to Rolly! Michael

Pete Emslie said...

I remember Rolly's talk at the 1992 National Fantasy Fan Club convention held at the Disneyland Hotel. Though there were so many great guest lecturers at that con, I'd have to say that Rolly Crump had the biggest effect on me. He came across as a pure artist, so fascinated with the creative process and with a genuine enthusiasm for everything he got to work on in his WED Imagineering career. My congrats to Rolly for being honoured with his own Window on Main Street!

midlockland said...

very cool!
i've never seen this version of the "tower of the four winds" print; i'm more familiar with the multicolor print. both color schemes work for me!!

did rolly create the artwork for both of these versions??

outsidetheberm said...

Can never get enough Rolly!

Maybe it's time for another look at his incredible work on Knott's Bear-y Tales.

Great post.

Amy said...

Great post! His work is amazing. I was hoping you'd end it by saying you were going to partner to recreate the Tower of the Four Winds.

Mark London said...

Hands down the most Godhead blog post I've seen yet...This'll be tough to top Kevin!

Beat wishes,

! Mark London !

Major Pepperidge said...

From everything I've heard, Rolly is quite a guy. Everyone seems to love him! I wish I could have seen the presentation at the Anaheim Museum...

designerd said...

Congratulations Rolly! You've earned it!

Those who made it to the ceremony where Rolly was presented his window got a real treat. Bob Gurr and Marty Sklar were on hand and Rolly shared some personal stories about his experiences with Walt and the origins of the tiki room. It was fantastic!

And is it any coincidence that with Rolly's great sense of humor that they chose to put his window over the old "Wizard of Bras" shop?

Matt Jones said...

Terrific stuff- thanks for highlighting this excellent artist.

Graham said...

Any clue on how many of the Pride Creations "Popsies" Rolly Crump designed besides the two you show?

Kevin Kidney said...

Thanks for the comments everybody.
Graham - I'm not sure how many of the toys Rolly did concepts for. There are many out there that are obvious he didn't do.

designerd - Yes, isn't that funny, his window is over the old "Intimate Apparel" shop. I hope Rolly gets a laugh out of that!

outsidetheberm - YES! We need to learn more about the Knott's Bear-y Tales ride. This might be a job for YOU. I don't have much on it, unfortunately.

Michael - Every drawing/graphic I've ever seen of the "Tower of the Four Winds" has always been credited to Rolly, so I do surmise that both are his.

Amy - Yes indeed! I'd love to make a replica of the Tower. Maybe I'll do one for myself!

Incidentally, Did you all get your copies of the excellent "Walt Disney & the 1964 World's Fair" CD set?? It's a must-have.

The Viewliner Limited said...

What a genius. How can they not have saved the Tower of the Four Winds. SAD! Iam a big fan of your work Kevin & Jody. Very very cool stuff, Richard

Papermoonies said...

Ive only just found you from Cathy's blog, I love your post. I was not familiar with this artist.
Thank you.

Skipper Jane said...

Where is the window located? Any chance of a picture?

ElectroSpark said...

Thanks for the post! This style of 60s illustration is rapidly growing on my psyche. His stuff still looks so fresh.

Anonymous said...

That is really cool he got honored finally. I'm a fan of his work mostly haunted mansion and The Knott's Bear-y Tales ride.(which i want to know more about).Someday when joining Disney Imageneering I thought about bringing back 1 of his best works to disney which Is Knott's Bear-y Tales and that i would update Bear-y tales by adding modern effects,improved lighting,updated figures, and new scenes (a Western scene based of off of the original idea for the ride with cowboys bears,frogs, and other animals with native american Bears in a spaghetti western town,A New Bear-y Town scene which is a new before the bakery to show where the Bear-y family and other characters came from, A las vegas and hollywood type scene simialar to the great movie ride scenes,and a new circus scene (Based off a finale of the old Kings Island Ride,called Enchanted Voyage) before the fair which shows portraits of the characters like,Tedra bear,The Bear-y Family, and other characters before entering in it with clowns and portraits of the characters like if they are the stars of the fair with some LED effects and Lights in the sky moving around before entering a redesigned beautiful country fair than the knott's original which is based off The LA county Fair)to extend it from The show building at Knott's and also remove some knott's references to make it more Disney.

Anthony said...

Hey, Kevin!
A friend of mine suggested your blog to me, insisting that I'd love it... and the verdict is, YES, I absolutely dig it!

I'm curious. How much of 'It's A Small World' is Rolly's? That has always been my favorite ride at Disneyland. It just makes me happy, singing along while enjoying all of the puppets/marionettes and the incredible artwork! Rolly probably wasn't involved in the puppet designs, was he?

What little I've seen of your blog, so far, is completely up my alley! I will have to spelunk every nook & cranny...

Howarde said...

Well, how about that? You have both Pete's Poor Deck and the Green Gasser! The Green Gasser was a silk screen in three colors, and cost me 50 cents to produce in 30 x 24 inch size. Rolly was fun to work with. He had a studio full of small fun items. I produced and sold them through college book stores from Seattle to San Diego and in Arizona and Nevada.

Howarde said...

Doggone, I forgot to sign my name, but coming Dec. 8, I'll be 85, so cut me some slack, k.o.?

Howard E. Morseburg
founder: Esoteric Poster Co.,
which sort of foundered along the way.

Howarde said...

Pete's Poop Deck was the last one of Rollie's posters I published, a bit smaller than the others.
There was Big Liz, also a 30 x 24, in three color silk screen. And, I'm trying to think of the name of the third one we did.
These posters, by the way, were the beginnings of a whole new industry, and all the psychedelic posters came later, after I proved that such things would sell, all due to his origianl concepts, his terric sense of humor, like sight gags in the movies, and his colors. Buyers were instantly attracted to them.
A gift store owner, named Marge, asked me to go visit Rolly and see his things, hoping that I could promote his posters. He was such a genuine human being, sort of self-amused with his things, fun to be with.
He did some things in Las Vegas too, for Wynne.

Howard E. Morseburg

ThaneTheBrain said...

Do you know anyplace we can see more of Rolly's work online? My son is a great artist and reminds me of Rolly.

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