The Back Story
Toward the end of 1969, Mineral King in California was set to be annexed into Sequoia National Park, and that scuttled Walt's plans to develop the area into a year-around resort featuring a major ski area. In Florida, Walt Disney World was under construction, and its own public relations operation was launched, as had been done at Disneyland.
Card Walker needed me somewhere else—at Disneyland to work with entertainment Director Bob Jani, to help plan and budget the Grand Opening for Walt Disney World. And I was being eyed for entertainment director at the Florida Project's Magic Kingdom.
Several months passed by, and in August of 1970 Bob and I were ready to present the plan and budget to top management. Those in the meeting were Card Walker, Executive Vice President of Walt Disney Productions; Dick Irvine, WED’s Vice President of Operations; Dick Nunis, Disneyland Vice President and Chief Operations Officer; and Ward Kimball, one of Walt’s legendary “nine old men.”
Bob and I spent a couple of hours discussing the plans and budgets with the group.
Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Water
Bob moved on to tell the group around the table that I had been working on a live entertainment attraction for Florida’s Magic Kingdom.
With that short introduction, I turned around a four-by-eight-foot bulletin board on rollers and unveiled a storyboard of my concept for “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Water.”
The concept was essentially a Disney-themed water circus, with multiple activities taking place concurrently. There would be water skiing and all sorts of other water-related activities, including a lake with acts that would be viewed from shore by spectators seated in a large grandstand. The evening show would be a Light Parade on Water, consisting of boats with lighted Disney characters, floats, and music. They would follow routes along the lake shore and through numerous canals.
I went through the storyboard overview, picture-by-picture.
My presentation was well received—and with lively discussion. Ward Kimball, the zany artist and animator from the Studio, was excited about it. Even WED's reserved Dick Irvine showed interest by asking questions and offering suggestions. They were really getting into it!
When it came time for a break in the meeting, Card and Ward went over to the storyboard and examined it more closely. I watched from a distance as they talked about it. Ward was very animated. He laughed several times as he waved his arms and pointed to some of the sketches.
Card turned and asked me, “Who did the art?”
"I did,” I answered. He simply nodded.
In a few minutes, the meeting reconvened and the conversation returned to the Grand Opening plans. Card then returned the group's attention to the Water Show storyboard and said to us, “We’ll do it—not in time for Phase One, but we’ll do it." He turned to me and said, “Frank, I want you to spend some time on this with Ward.”
I could hardly believe it! Card was telling me to work with one of the greatest creative minds at Disney to further develop my concepts for the water show. It was an opportunity of a lifetime, a potential path for me to have a hand in creating new attractions for Florida and Disneyland. Speculation was running away with me.
After several days of thinking things over and discussing them with my wife, I arrived at a decision. Had I been single, I would have jumped at the opportunity to work with Ward Kimball at the Studio. But I wasn’t single; I was married and had two sons, and we were very happy in our new home in Mission Viejo, and with our new friends in the neighborhood and at church.
And so it came to pass that my Cinderella story with Disney had run its course, and I moved on in other directions.