I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeff Kurtti recently about his new Wonderful World of Walt
online column. Here are his answers.
Didier Ghez: Could you tell us about the genesis of this project and how you got involved?
Jeff Kurtti: I had worked with the Disney Insider some time ago on a project called the Disney Insider Yearbook
, and in ongoing conversations, we discussed ways of making Disney history accessible to general fans and "newbies.”
Disney Insider was interested in bringing informed content to a big part of their audience: adult Disney fans who seek out "anything and everything" related to the Company, its projects, and history. Accessibility is a priority at Disney Insider—there are a lot of new and young Disney fans who look for entree
and information to help in their study of the Company's projects, structure, culture, and history.
In a way, it's something Disney has been doing for decades: making something a point of entry for further study, discussion, or research. I remember studying pirates after seeing Disney's Treasure Island and riding Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland, and reading a juvenile biography of Abraham Lincoln after listening to the soundtrack record of Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln
So, Wonderful World of Walt
is ultimately seeking to be a point of entry for general Disney enthusiasts. We hope that once these fans have a taste for the rich history of Disney, they’ll be eager to learn more.
DG: Are you trying to discover new information when you write these columns?
JK: In a sense, the discovery that I hope to include in every column is the connections that happen by design, intent—or even coincidence—between the most current Company initiatives and the biography and legacy of Walt Disney himself. Walt's story is so rich and nuanced, and I think that it is both fun and fascinating to see how his life and work continue to be relevant, and his ideals and accomplishments are and living things.
In addition, I try to steer clear of statistical recitations and strict structures such as chronology. What is interesting to me (and I hope to readers) is some critical thinking, some "connection-making," and perhaps even a little curious contemplation about these subjects.
DG: Do you plan to tap into never-seen-before documents as the basis for some of them?
JK: Perhaps, but over the past forty years of my personal study, and my 25-year professional career with Disney, I have accumulated my own extensive library of all manner of media—film and video, audio recordings, books, magazines, correspondence and clippings; in addition, I have a huge network of eyewitnesses and experts on whom I rely for most of my projects—I expect these resources will be my primary reference.
DG: What are some of the main surprises which await serious Disney historians in your future columns?
JK: I think it depends on the historian. Every historian tends to specialize, I think, and no historian possesses every information resource and perspective. To a certain degree, Wonderful World of Walt
is more about perspective than anything; offering insights based on connections and unusual viewpoints that draw out detail and unusual stories about Walt and his life and work.
DG: What were the most interesting details or photographs you discovered while researching your column?
JK: Well, I'm only half a dozen columns in so far, so I haven't anything to report there, and as I said, my work isn't so much about unearthing some "unseen artifact" as it is about perhaps unearthing an "unseen insight." In a way, it's a bit like James Burke's Connections TV series, Wonderful World of Walt
demonstrates how events, projects and and personalities interconnect, to bring readers a new level of insight or interest to particular aspects of Disney.
DG: Are you working on any other Disney History related projects at the moment?
JK: Through my various professional and consulting relationships, I often work with Disney, and also have personal projects that I have been nurturing in what I laughingly refer to as "all my spare time." I'm developing a TV series for an actor friend, working on two non-Disney books, and a play. I am on the board of directors of my local Children's Theatre, and I'm also raising three young children. I hope to have them all "finished" before I die.