Disney Legend Rolly Crump, an Imagineer who was instrumental in the design of early Disneyland and Walt Disney World attractions, passed away Sunday, March 12, 2023, in his California home. He was 93.
His Early Disney Career
He was born Roland Fargo Crump on February 27, 1930, in Alhambra, California, and in his 2012 autobiography “It’s Kind of a Cute Story,” he said he became enamored of Walt Disney’s early Silly Symphony cartoons, which led to dreams of working with Walt.
In 1952, Rolly took a pay cut as a “dipper” in a ceramic factory to join The Walt Disney Studios at age 22.
To make ends meet in his early days with the company, Crump started building sewer manholes on weekends so he could pay his bills and continue working at Disney, where he was assigned to such chores as filling in the dots on the puppies of One Hundred and One Dalmatians.
His early work at Disney Animation included serving as an in-between artist (a person who creates intermediate frames, called inbetweens, between two keyframes) and as assistant animator.
During this time, he contributed to 1953’s Peter Pan, 1955’s Lady and the Tramp, 1959’s Sleeping Beauty, and other classic films.
Becoming an Imagineer
In 1959, he joined show design at WED Enterprises, now known as Walt Disney Imagineering. One of his first major solo projects at WED was to redesign and refurbish the Adventureland Bazaar at Disneyland.
Crump said his nickname of “Rolly” was born from Walt’s struggle to recall his real name: “I started off as Roland, then I was ‘Owen’ for a while, and then I became ‘Orland,’ but of course, I would answer to anything he called me. But the crowning glory was when he called me ‘what’s his name.’” Eventually, Walt landed on “Rolly” as a nickname, and so Rolly he remained.
He then later was assigned to work on attractions for the 1964–65 New York World’s Fair including Ford’s Magic Skyway and it’s a small world, for which he designed the Tower of the Four Winds marquee.
When the attraction moved to Disneyland in 1966, Rolly designed the larger-than-life animated clock at its entrance, which sends puppet children on parade with each quarter-hour gong.
Crump developed the Museum of the Weird, an early development of what would eventually evolve into The Haunted Mansion.
One of his favorite stories to tell was how he and Yale Gracey were tasked with creating the scary effects in The Haunted Mansion. “Walt just wanted us to be left alone, and he gave us the freedom to do whatever we wanted. We had our own little studio that we just filled with all sorts of crazy stuff.”
They would leave the effects running but they were asked to leave the lights on at night so custodial could clean the room without it being so spooky. Instead the two turned it up a notch and scared them too much. Custodial never returned after that.
Crump also worked heavily on Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, where he not only designed, but sculpted the tiki gods used in the exterior garden.
As the world of Disney Parks expanded, so did Crump’s creations.
He worked on the initial designs for the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, before leaving the company to work on his own for a while.
He returned to Disney in 1976, where he contributed to EPCOT serving as project designer for The Land pavilion. He also developed concepts for the Wonders of Life pavilion, later redesigning and refurbishing The Land and Innoventions.
He left Disney again in 1981 to design a proposed Cousteau Ocean Center in Norfolk, VA, then returned to Disney in 1992 as executive designer at Imagineering.
Crump retired from The Walt Disney Company in 1996, but was named a Disney Legend in 2004. He also has a window on Main St. U.S.A. at Disneyland.
“A lot of people say, ‘What was your favorite project?’” Crump said in The Whimsical Imagineer, a 2016 documentary about him. “They were all my favorite projects. The thing I love the most is a challenge. To be asked to do something you’ve never done before. And that’s about as exciting as you can get. Believe it or not, that’s where the imagination kicks in.”
His Final Legacy
In addition to his work for Disney, Crump made significant design contributions to Knott’s Berry Farm, Busch Gardens, the Sultan of Oman, and many more.
Rolly was a particular favorite of Walt Disney while he worked at WED. Others say he was known for his originality and boldness, and he was never afraid to speak his mind to Walt, which set him apart at Imagineering
Crump’s career has also served as an inspiration for many future artists and Imagineers, including Disney Legend Marty Sklar.
“Rolly’s very personal, sometimes outrageous art and design style continue to flow,” Sklar once said, “and the many collectors of his art, including me, continue to be inspired by his talent and his sense of humor.”
Crump is survived by his wife, Marie Tocci; his children Christopher, Roxana, Theresa; and three grandchildren.
His death was announced on the Facebook page of his autobiography “It’s Kind of a Cute Story”:
“It is with a heavy heart that we announce that Roland “Rolly” Fargo Crump passed away peacefully yesterday morning at his home in Carlsbad, CA. He was 93 years old.
A truly one-of-a-kind individual, Rolly’s whimsical work has been featured all over the world. Whether it was his numerous contributions to the Walt Disney films & theme parks, his work for various pop culture luminaries (like Ernie Ball and Jacques Cousteau), or his own personal artwork, Rolly’s incredible style was uniquely his and instantly recognizable to many.
Rolly’s most notable work for The Walt Disney Company has profoundly impacted the theme park industry over the years. His designs contributed to the company’s most famous attractions, such as The Enchanted Tiki Room, the Haunted Mansion, it’s a small world, and more. His work went well beyond Disney, too, as he went on to create iconic work for Knott’s Berry Farm, Busch Gardens, the Sultan of Oman, and many more.
He leaves behind a legacy that can never be matched, and the magic he crafted for countless people worldwide will never be forgotten.
Rolly and his family would like to thank the fans for supporting his work over the years. His entire life was filled with one “kind of a cute story” after the next, and he will be remembered with lots of love.
February 27, 1930 – March 12, 2023″