Friday, February 26, 2010

Disney Historian Jim Korkis just finished interviewing Rock Hall for a future installment of WALT'S PEOPLE. Hall was an Imagineer for several years in the early Eighties and after the completion of the New Fantasyland, he was one of the many Imagineers who were laid off. Hall went on to found Technifex, a company that created special effects (visual illusions, 4-D theater effects, lighting, water, fire effects) for theme parks, water parks, casinos, trade shows, retail centers and many other industries and events. Technifex has won numerous awards for their contributions to Star Trek: The Experience, Revenge of the Mummy, Titanic: the Experience, Tomb Raider: the Ride, Disney Quest, Terminator 2: 3D, General Motors Epcot Test Track, Journey to Atlantis and enough other credits to fill pages and pages including working on several Disney theme park projects like the new Sleeping Beauty Castle Walk Through and the Adventurers Club at Pleasure Island.

While an Imagineer, Hall shared office space with Disney Legend Yale Gracey and Jim asked Rock about his memories of the "Merlin of WED" and here is that section as a preview of the upcoming full interview:

Rock Hall responded:

"Yale was a sweet mild mannered guy, polite and respectful at all times. He worked at a very meticulous pace, setting up his illusions with everything done to a precise level. He got a real kick out of illusions that were done with the unique use of optics. Parabolic mirrors, Pepper’s Ghost type effects, sculpture and lighting tricks, you name it. Delicate effects such as Blue Bayou fire flies were a specialty of his. He constantly complained that the replacements were never done according to the original design and every time someone tried to improve on them they fouled their performance in one way or another. Yale could show you the right way to build a fire fly like no one else could. He always said that the best effects were simple effects. Like finding out that a sculpted face when vacuum formed and viewed from the back seems to follow you. This was an accidental development that Yale discovered and ending up using in the hallway at the Haunted Mansion.

"He talked a lot about Walt and the way it used to be. Walt gave the people he trusted carte blanche to create and design using their own unique ideas to help his visions come true, it was great back in those days, every day became fun and rewarding. He also talked a lot about a book the Walt gave him in which many of his co-workers had signed and decorated. As you might imagine every animator left his mark in Yale’s book. He showed everyone this book and was so proud of it. I believe this was one of his favorite things. Unfortunately I seem to remember that this was stolen from him and never recovered. This would be a very valuable book and absolutely crushed him.

"One other story that I just recalled a few days ago the Yale told me about Walt. This was another one of Yale’s stories; he was telling me a very funny story about how Walt was trying to learn how to properly sign his signature. Of course this was designed for him by a team of Disney artists. I guess he was complaining about how difficult it was to follow their designs. Yale said he never quite mastered the signature. The one thing that was a carry over from his real signature was the dot on top of the “i”. Now mind you this was after Yale had two martinis at lunch. Yale always had his martini lunches, it was his tradition.

"The last thing I remember him working on was a parabolic reflection of a humming bird sipping from a flower. This created a virtual image out in space, he was great with these types of effects."

1 comment:

Jeff Kurtti said...

Rock and his team at Technifex also did the imaginative Optical Printer show for The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco.

They took a big piece of technical furniture, added Dick Van Dyke and a series of wonderful effects, and created a terrific and enlightening show.