When you go to Disneyland, what are some of the things that stand out to you every time you go? Is it the carved faces staring at you from every corner of the Enchanted Tiki Room? Or the wallpaper, festooned with eyes, watching you in the Haunted Mansion? What about the almost deranged smile on the clock face of Small World? Then you’ve experienced the artistic genius that was the legendary Rolly Crump, who sadly passed away on March 12th, 2023.
Described as a wild card by many of his peers, Crump started working for Disney in the animation department. He had no college degree, but his work seemed to speak for itself, even without formal training. In fact, it seemed to be the untamed aspect of his work that attracted Walt Disney to him. Esoteric and with a solid perspective on what art could be, Crump followed the beat of his own drum. With a style derived more from tattoos and pop culture art, Crump’s use of loud colors and wild design had Walt moving him from animation to Imagineering (which had yet to be named such).
He contributed as an in-between artist and later assistant animator on such Disney classics as “Peter Pan,” “Lady and the Tramp,” “Sleeping Beauty,” and others.
He Lives on in Disneyland’s Designs
Crump’s first project was the clock face of Small World. Taking inspiration from the work of Mary Blaire, Crump designed the exterior of Small World, and had his concept canned almost immediately by boss Dick Irvine. Undeterred by the comments, Crump decided to show Walt personally. Despite Irvine’s protests it didn’t fit with the European castle aesthetic the park contained, Disney claimed he loved it exactly as it was. The rest, as they say, was history. And Small World’s goofy-faced clock ticks proudly away in the park.
He was also a lead designer in such classic attractions as the Haunted Mansion, Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, and the Adventureland Bazaar.
Crump worked for Disney for years, helping design landmarks at Epcot, Disney World in Florida, and many others. Eventually, he split from Disney to create his own company, and was head designer for Knott’s Bear-y Tails in Knotts Berry Farm. Due to his massive body of work, Crump was initiated as a Disney Legend and given his own window on Main Street in 2004. Crump believed park design belonged to the artists behind the work. By collaborating and feeding off each others creative energies, they could create something truly amazing. He worried the commercialization of art and design would cause a loss of freedom to be truly creative. A beatnik with a charismatic rebelliousness that charmed even Disney’s stubbornness, he will be sorely missed and fondly remembered.
Rolly Crump was 93.