Tuesday, July 03, 2012


Bill “Sully” Sullivan joined Disneyland as a nineteen year old on July 27, 1955 as a ticket taker on the Jungle Cruise attraction.   He soon became a ride operator and then supervisor.   Like many long time Disney cast members, he was involved in many different areas including management roles at the 1960 Squaw Valley Olympic Games, the 1964 New York World’s Fair, Disney film premieres, Vice President of the Magic Kingdom, in charge of PICO (Project Installation and Coordination Office) for Epcot’s opening and many other accomplishments.  He was made a Disney Legend in 2005.

On Saturday, June 16, the Florida World Chapter of the Disneyana Fan Club held a special brunch in Sully’s honor called a “Sully-bration” at the Bohemian (formerly Celebration) Hotel.   Sully talked for over an hour about some of his adventures and I had the opportunity to also talk with him before and after the presentation as well.  Here are are few excerpts: 

Jim Korkis:  Let’s talk about “The Yippie (Youth International Party) invasion” of Disneyland on August 6, 1970.  They “captured” Castle Rock on Tom Sawyer Island, raising a Viet Cong flag and smoking pot.  About three hundred of them made a nuisance of themselves on Main Street singing about sex and drugs, running between the Disneyland marching band, trying to raise a flag in Town Square and more.

Sully:  I remember that day.  Flyers had been distributed so we were prepared.  The police were there as well to keep things running smoothly.  Dick Nunis was running the park and Roy O. Disney had told him, “Don’t let them shut us down”.
During the disturbance, Dick grabbed one by the hair and yanked him backstage and his wig came off!  He was a Secret Service agent in disguise who was there to keep an eye on things.  Another time, Dick grabbed one in a headlock and pushed him toward one of the big heavy doors leading off stage.  He smashed the guy’s head on the door to open it because he was so angry.   Some guy tried to pull down the American flag on Main Street and Dick punched him right in the face.

JK:  On the Jungle Cruise, one of the famous stories was that Walt got on it and it turned out to be a three and a half minute ride and it was supposed to be seven minutes.

Sully:  Yeah, Walt chewed out Dick (Nunis) about that.  So Dick had to retrain the whole crew and weeks later Walt came back and got on a boat and it was seven minutes.  He got off and got on another and it was seven minutes.  He did that about three or four times so he could be sure that Dick hadn’t “stacked the deck” with the best person.  What people don’t know about that story is that when Walt got that three and a half minute ride, the captain was Tex and it was his last day so he was rushing things through so he could leave.

JK:  Rolly Crump mentioned that when the Swan Boat ride was closed at the Magic Kingdom, he proposed a Fantasia Gardens attraction to replace it with boats going through scenes from the Disney animated feature, FANTASIA.  He said the two things that killed the thing were difficulty in getting a sponsor and Sully Sullivan.

Sully: (laughs) Randy Bright was in on that thing as well.  It would have been a beautiful ride.  Just beautiful.  They set up this demonstration for all these big wigs and I said, “That’s fine.  I just want ten minutes with Michael Eisner.  That’s all.”  So the pitch and the demonstration went well.  I followed Eisner to the bathroom and we were talking and I said, “This is no good to me.  I need something with high volume and when it rains, this ride shuts down and I can’t use it to handle capacity in the park.  I need a bigger bang for my buck.”  So Eisner comes out and tells Bright, “We need to think through a few more things.”

JK:  I think Roy O. Disney is very underrated.

Sully:  I agree completely.  He was a great guy.  I remember one time as the sun was setting, it was quiet and work had started to clear the land to begin construction of the Magic Kingdom and we were standing out there looking at the land and he was taking a leisurely puff from his cigar and he just looked off into the distance and said quietly, “My brother left me a pile of shit.”

JK:  How did COORS beer that was only available on the West Coast end up at Walt Disney World during construction?

Sully:  PICO trucks!  A fellow named Dennis Robinson collected money from us and then arranged to have the beer put in crates marked “Small tools and equipment” for PETER PAN’S FLIGHT.  It was trucked across country to Orlando.  He almost got fired over it for misuse of company property but since so many managers enjoyed the fruits of that questionable act….

The complete interview with my additional questions will appear in an upcoming volume of WALT’S PEOPLE

The Disneyana Fan Club has posted video of the event by Luke Piacente on YouTube at these links:   

Sullybration with Disney Legend, William "Sully" Sullivan Part 1 of 3

Sullybration with Disney Legend, William "Sully" Sullivan Part 2 of 3

Sullybration with Disney Legend, William "Sully" Sullivan Part 3 of 3

[Jim Korkis is still looking for a permanent job or for freelance writting or speaking assignments. If you need a great Disney historian, writter, speaker, etc. Please keep him in mind and more importantly email him at jkorkis@aol.com to hire him ASAP.]

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