Some notes, thoughts, and some life lessons from Dream It! Do It! – My Half Century Creating Disney’s Magic Kingdoms by Marty Sklar
Article written by Jeff Dixon, author of The Key to the Kingdom & Unlocking the Kingdom
“Help me get out of here before this horse kills somebody!”
That is an unusual beginning to a Disney story but it did not happen in a Disney film or a Disney television show. It was something that was actually said on the opening day of Disneyland on what many have referred to as “Black Sunday” in July of 1955.
History recalls the opening day madness that occurred when Disneyland was first opened to the public. The massive crowds, the live television broadcast, the eyes of the world watched as Walt opened his dream come true for the world do see. Working there on that opening day was a young man in the PR department named Marty Sklar. During the afternoon hours on that opening day it was his job to wander the park and offer his assistance to any member of the media who might need help. The crowds were so thick you could barely move and Davy Crockett rode up on his horse, noticed Marty’s cast member I.D. and uttered the line, “Marty, help me get out of here before this horse kills somebody!”
Fess Parker, also known as Davy Crockett was getting swallowed up by the crowds and feared they would ultimately cause the horse to bolt, rear, kick and do harm to the guest. What did Marty do? He helped Fess Parker and the horse he rode in on find a backstage area that was safe from the surging crowds.
This account is just one of the many stories that are shared in the amazing book, Dream It! Do It! My Half-Century Creating Disney’s Magic Kingdom’s by Marty Sklar. (Disney Editions 2013) There are many people in the world today who are Disney historians, there are many who offer commentary on the world of Disney and the company today, but few people have actually “lived” it and can tell the story like Marty Sklar. As the man who wrote many of the words that Walt Disney used to change the world, his story of being a staff writer, vice president of Concepts and Planning, then president, vice chairman, and principal creative executive of Imagineering gives us a glimpse of the life and times of Walt Disney and the worlds he created that none other have offered. Written over the four years since his retirement but actually written over a lifetime of experiences, Marty has given Disney fans everywhere a precious gift. My suggestion for any Disney fan is to pick up his book and start reading it today. It is an adventure worth taking, a true E-Ticket attraction, and you will discover a treasure chest of stories, snippets, and memories that you will never forget.
As a novelist who makes commentary as DixonOnDisney, I look for the stories that illustrate life and I find the encounter between Davy Crockett and Mary Sklar one worth remembering. As Marty recounts the opening day of Disneyland (and again, you must get the book and read his account of the day) I was struck by his assignment for the afternoon. It was simple and basic, help those in the media that might need assistance. In doing that job he encountered one of the best known and most popular movie stars in the world, Fess Parker, in costume, hopelessly stuck in the unexpected mob scene that had come to catch a glimpse of Disneyland. When the “hero on horseback” asked for “help,” Marty was more than willing to do what he could do to assist. The result was successful, Fess Parker and the horse made it safely off the streets and the crowds were safe from an impending accident that they never knew was coming.
It could be argued it was not Marty’s job to help lead a horse and celebrity around that day. But as you read the pages Sklar has created you get a sense that he was committed to Walt Disney, Disneyland, the company, and the experience they had created for the guests. He wanted it to be the best it could possibly be and that meant he was willing to do whatever it might take to make it great.
In a day and age where most people are quick to point out “it is not my job.” Or when they are busy feeling entitled so some tasks are just beneath them…I am reminder that world changers, those that make a difference, and those that make life better are the kind of people that roll up their sleeves, aren’t afraid to get to work, and do what needs to be done…no matter what the task.
As an Imagineer, Marty reminds us on page after page that dreams come true when you are willing to have the courage to do the work to make them real. His book, Dream It! Do It! is instructional and inspirational…you just can’t read it quick enough!
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* (The account of encounter with Fess Parker is a paraphrase inspired by Sklar’s story on pages 73-74)