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Hayley Mills, Actress
It must have been 1959 when I first Walt. Me, my parents, my younger brother, and our white Pekinese dog named Suki went to see him in the Harlequin Suite at the Dorchester Hotel in London. He wanted to meet me because he was interested in casting me as Pollyanna. I remember Walt and I were crawling around on the floor after the Pekinese, who was eating potato crisps on the carpet. Walt thought the Pekinese was wonderful! I wasn't nervous about meeting Walt. I was more concerned, really, that the Pekinese might pee on his carpet because she wasn't yet housetrained.
Shirley Temple Black, Actress
As a child, I saw most everybody from belt level. As a result, I became a connoisseur of hands, belts, and shoes, since faces were usually pretty far up there. Walt's hands looked like those of an artist.
Annette Funicello, Mouseketeer
I first met Walt on my audition for The Mickey Mouse Club. I was such a fan of his and I was scared to death, but his demeanor was so lovely and comforting.
He said, "Can you sing us a song?"
I said, "No, I'm sorry, I don't sing."
"Surely you can sing something," he said. So I did and I was so relieved when I sang my last note of the torch song "That's All I Want from You." I could see a smile on his face.
Richard Sherman, Songwriter
The Studio needed a song for Annette Funicello to sing in The Horsemasters. We demonstrated "Strummin' Song" for Jimmy Johnson and he said, "That's very nice. Now, Walt's got to hear it."
"Walt who?" We didn't dream we'd have to see Walt Disney. As we walked into his office, Walt was sitting behind his desk signing photographs. His opening line to us was, "So are you really brothers?" Then he said, "Let me tell you about this picture" and he started describing The Parent Trap!
After a few minutes my brother Bob said, "Mr. Disney. We came to play you a song we wrote for Annette to sing in The Horsemasters."
"Whoa! Why did you let me go on like this?" he grunted. "Come with me," and we walked into a second office where there was a piano. After I was through singing "Strummin' Song," he said, "Yeah, that'll work. Now, look, take this script home, We Belong Together (which was the working title of The Parent Trap). There's a couple of places for a song. I don't like this title, maybe you can come up with a better one."
He basically threw us out of his office and we felt as though we'd just been kicked. All he said about our song was "That'll work!?" I mean, what kind of a compliment is that? So we staggered out and Jimmy Johnson was bursting at the seams. "Oh, my God, what a meeting!" he said. "Walt accepted one song and he's given you a feature. This is unbelievable!" It was unbelievable.
Sherry Alberoni, Mouseketeer
The very first time I met Walt was at the press opening of Disneyland. I was not a Mouseketeer then. I was a Bluebird for the Junior Camp Fire Girls and had sold more candy than any other girl in the state of California. My prize was to represent the Bluebirds at Disneyland and to make an ice cream sundae for Walt Disney at the Carnation Café on Main Street.
It was a really hot day and they had me standing on an apple crate because I was real short. The photographers were taking pictures of us and they kept yelling, "Just one more shot, just one more..." Mr. Disney and I were holding on to the ice cream sundae and smiling for the cameras, while the sundae was melting all over the sleeve of his suit. He was good-natured about it though. He wanted to make sure the photographers got the shots they needed at the cost of a suit cleaning.
Mary Costa, Voice of Sleeping Beauty
Late in the afternoon, there was a phone call. My mother answered the phone and it was Walt. He asked to speak to me. "Mary, I've chosen you to play the part of Sleeping Beauty. I'm confident you'll do well and that you'll be happy doing it. I hear something in your voice that is full of enthusiasm and I look forward to working with you. I won't be seeing you in sessions, but I'll be speaking to you on the phone."
That was our first conversation; most of our relationship was over the phone. His voice was extremely interesting to me. I could always tell Walt Disney's unusual voice.
By the time I met him in person, it seemed like I'd known him because we had talked so many times by phone. He came on to the soundstage and it was just like meeting an old friend because when you looked at him, his eyes appeared to be plugged into sockets, he was so bright.
Hycy Engel Hill, Walt's Flight Attendant
I was hired as flight attendant for the Disney plane in March 1965. I met Walt when we flew to New York to pick him up and bring him back to California.
About ten or fifteen minutes before we expected him to board the plane, I heard somebody come bounding up the steps of the airplane into the cabin. It was Walt. He stuck out his hand to me and gave me a robust "Hi! I'm Walt Disney" and we shook hands. Now think about it: There I was working on his airplane; he had every right to assume that I knew who he was.
Bob Broughton, Camera Effects Artist
I met Walt on my very first day working at the Studio in the traffic department, delivering mail. I had been instructed that everybody was on a first name basis, even Walt.
So I was walking down the hall when here came Walt Disney. As we passed, I said "Hi, Walt!" and he went by me like I wasn't even there. I thought, I'd been set up and fell right into it.
A little while later, I was coming back down that same hall when here was Walt again. I was not quite bright, but I wasn't stupid, so that time I just looked straight ahead like there was nobody there. Just as I passed him, Walt grabbed me by the arm and said, "What's the matter? Aren't we speaking?"
Later, I learned that when Walt was working on a project, he was absolutely, totally serious. We used to say he had "tunnel vision" because when he was on a project, that's all he saw.
Dick Van Dyke, Actor
I was called to meet him about Mary Poppins and found out why everybody called him Uncle Walt. He was the most old-shoe guy I ever met in my life. He was comfortable to be around. An avuncular personality is what he was.
Excerpted by permission of Hyperion. Copyright c 1999 Disney Enterprises, Inc.