Larry Nikolai was a young boy when he first saw the humanoid Audio-Animatronic of President Abraham Lincoln take the stage in “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” at Disneyland in 1965. From this moment on, he was inspired. Not only by the Walt Disney Imagineering marvel of the audio-animatronic technology, but by Lincoln himself. Much like Walt Disney who recounted the following on an episode of Wonderful World of Color titled, “Disneyland Goes to the World’s Fair,” “Ever since I was a small boy in Illinois, I have had a great personal admiration for Abraham Lincoln…” so too would Larry Nikolai develop a deep admiration for the famous president (which you can go back and read about in Part 1 if you haven’t read it yet).
“Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” opened Larry’s eyes to a whole new world of show creation and Imagineering possibilities, it only seemed fitting that Larry Nikolai would begin his first day at Walt Disney Imagineering as a Senior Show Designer on Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, February 12th right at the beginning of what has commonly been referred to as the “Disney Decade” and as Larry tells me, “The New Golden Age of Imagineering.”
I do not believe there would have been a Disney Decade nor a “New Golden Age of Imagineering”, if it were not for the partnership of the then President of the Walt Disney Company, Frank Wells and its Chief Executive Officer Michael Eisner. Their partnership, which began in 1984 until Well’s untimely death in 1994, was as important to the Walt Disney Company as its original partners, brothers Walt and Roy Disney. Eisner was the man seen out front, the strong head of the company, while Wells was the man behind the scenes.
After Well’s passing, Disney Legend and former Attractions Chairman Dick Nunis commented in the April 5, 1994 Orlando Sentinel, about the partnership of the two men, “We had the combination that made our company great from the very beginning.”
When Wells and Eisner were first brought together in 1984, the Walt Disney Company had been floundering for years. According to fiscal reports, the reported net income fell 18% in 1982 followed by another 7% drop in 1983. But with the partnership of Wells and Eisner, together, the two men helped revitalize the company and as a result, annual revenues shot up from $1.5 billion to $8.5 billion within ten years, Disney stocks increased 1500 percent, and the theme parks and resort revenues tripled. What these two men set in motion at the Walt Disney Company would propel what would be known as the Disney Decade.
THE DISNEY DECADE
As a Cast Member who began to work for the Walt Disney Company in 1992, I felt as though the next ten years working for the Mouse was truly a very exciting time and what I believe to be one of the most magical eras in Disney history. For Disney, the years 1990 – 2000 was an unbelievable time of creativity and growth. Set forth in motion by the team of Eisner and Wells and further fueled by the beginnings of the Disney Renaissance of Walt Disney Animated films, which started with The Little Mermaid in 1989, followed by hit after hit, Beauty and the Beast 1991, Aladdin in 1992, and The Lion King in 1994.
That forward momentum would be the impetus into the creation of new lands, hotels, attractions, and theme parks, all of which were imagined and created at a seemingly rapid pace.
Just the year prior to the official Disney Decade era, MGM Studios would open in 1989, Walt Disney World’s 3rd theme park. Four new resort hotels opened at Walt Disney World in 1990 alone. Splash Mountain at Magic Kingdom opened in 1992, but only after Tokyo Disneyland opened their Splash Mountain the day before. Euro Disney, Disney’s second international park opens in 1992. Mickey’s Toontown, a whole new land opened in 1993 at Disneyland. New attractions and dining locations were opening left and right at MGM Studios including Twilight Zone Tower of Terror which opened in 1994. Tomorrowland reopened after refurbishments at Magic Kingdom in 1995 and that same year, Blizzard Beach, WDW’s second water park opens. Back at Disneyland, Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye opened in 1995. In 1996, Tokyo Disneyland opened their Toontown. Downtown Disney had a groundbreaking ceremony in 1997, Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened in 1998, and the list goes on and on, and let’s not forget two additional theme parks that would have their opening dates in 2001, Disney’s California Adventure Park followed by Tokyo DisneySea. The two parks opening dates would spill out of the official Disney Decade by one year, though I think should be included, as the planning and building of these parks began much earlier.
Larry had worked for the Walt Disney Company as a consultant prior to his hire in 1990 at WDI, he would help to design such characters as the colonel for the Adventures Club at WDW’s Pleasure Island. But now the dream he had of becoming an Imagineer had finally come to fruition. On February 12, 1990 Larry would begin his career as an Imagineer during one of the most exciting and magical eras in Disney design, the New Golden Age of Imagineering.
THE NEW GOLDEN AGE OF IMAGINEERING
During the Disney Decade and the New Golden Age of Imagineering, Larry would work on several projects both at Disneyland Paris, at what was then called Euro Disney, and at Tokyo Disneyland. I asked Larry about these projects.
C: What was the first project you worked on for Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI)?
L:I was assigned to work on the post show for “it’s a small world” at Euro Disneyland, which was currently being built in France.
C: Was there someone at WDI who inspired you or you looked up to when you first started your journey with the Disney company?
L: I was inspired by Tony Baxter and Tom Morris, and the other creative lead producers of the lands in Euro Disneyland. I could see how extremely important their creative input was to the design of the park. And of course, I was inspired by all the former ex-Disney folks that I had worked with leading up to my actual hiring at Disney.
During the Disney Decade, Nikolai would spend his time working on projects not only for Euro Disney, but he would also work on many attractions at Tokyo Disneyland as well. Having worked at Tokyo Disneyland (TDL) for many years, I wanted to know more.
C: During the Disney Decade it seems you were primarily creating the magic at Tokyo Disneyland, correct?
L:Even though I worked on Tokyo attractions for a total of 13 years, I actually bounced around a bit, and projects between parks frequently overlapped. TDL Swiss Family Treehouse (Larry was the Show Designer for the exterior sets and props based on the classic Disney film) which was after Jingle Bear Jamboree (show designer and art director). Then after TDL Splash Mountain (art director for the audio-animatronics animation, figure finishing and prop painting) I went back to Euro Disneyland in 1992, though still working on TDL Critter Country props.
Larry would go on to inform me that at Euro Disney he was the concept and show designer for the unrealized expansion project for a Beauty and the Beast theater attraction as well as the very much realized Storybookland “Le Pays Des Contes De Fees.”
Larry truly did jump around from Disney Park to Disney Park the first half of the 1990s, he even worked on the San Francisco Disney Store update in 1994, then back to Tokyo Disneyland to work on props for Critter Country and Splash Mountain. By 1995, Nikolai was promoted and would be assigned to a very special project, The Arabian Coast a brand-new port of call located inside a brand-new Disney theme park called Tokyo DisneySea.
As a cast member working for the Oriental Land Company (O.L.C.) in 2001, the opening of Tokyo DisneySea was truly an exciting time. I was able to preview the brand-new park before it opened to guests, and I can tell you, without a shadow of a doubt, it is the most beautiful of all Disney theme parks I have ever visited. I would be very happy to pay for an entrance ticket and not go on any attraction. The landscape of the park alone is well worth the price of admission and my favorite land, or as Tokyo DisneySea calls it, port of call, is without a doubt, The Arabian Coast. To be able to ask THE LARRY NIKOLAI, the overall art director AND lead show designer for this entirely distinctive land, questions about his work was so very incredible for me. I’m still getting a bit giddy thinking about it, so I’ll calm down a bit, and share with you what you’re really hear to read about, my interview with Larry Nikolai.
C: I have long believed that Tokyo DisneySea is the most beautiful of all the Disney Parks. When I worked in Japan, I was under the impression that O.L.C. (The company that owns and operates the Tokyo Disney theme parks) were held to a higher standard than the Parks in the states and elsewhere because the Japan Parks are not owned by Disney and instead are under a strict licensing agreement with the Walt Disney Company. While I do not think that is necessarily 100% true, I do understand that O.L.C. licenses the rights to use the Disney name and contractually all items designed must come directly from WDI.
L:This all takes some explanation. The Japanese parks are not necessarily held to a higher standard than the other parks. Oriental Land Company owns only the two parks, so the budgets for their attractions are very focused, and I found that they have an intense cultural desire for perfection. As I’m sure you know, the Japanese audience for Disney parks is extremely enthusiastic, making them two of the most attended parks in the entire world. Expectations for “Disney Magic” are high so O.L.C. is expected to deliver the best possible.
THE ARABIAN COAST
Delivering the best possible was certainly delivered when it comes to this enchanting seaport. It’s here where the streets of Agrabah seem to be calling you into its story. One of seven ports of call at Tokyo DisneySea, the Arabian Coast is stunning, and every last bit of detail is pure perfection. TDS describes this area as an “exotic world of The Arabian Nights.”
My favorite part of the Arabian Coast is its marketplace. The sites and scent of curry in the air sets the stage for the adventures that await you.
I can certainly envision Aladdin running through the streets of Agrabah, can’t you?
In fact, you can find Aladdin, Jasmin, Genie, Jafar and other friends to meet and greet in this lovely coastal port.
But what really grabs you, is its scenery, the architecture, it’s all so very stunning. As I write this I remember Larry telling me that buildings are characters too, and you can certainly see what he means when you look at the buildings that surround you in the Arabian Coast. Stepping into this port of call is like you are venturing into a land that is so incredibly immersive that you could quite easily forget that you’re in a theme park and we have the talented Imagineers like Larry Nikolai, Concept Architect Oscar Cobos, in-field Art Director Chris Crump, and many more artisans to thank for that.
C: Was your project at Tokyo DisneySea primarily focused on The Arabian Coast?
L:I was the lead Art Director for all of The Arabian Coast. Chris Crump was the in-field Art Director for the whole land as well as the Producer for the Magic Lamp Theater.
I also did concept work on Mermaid Lagoon and designed some attractions for American Waterfronts that were never built.
C:Not only was The Arabian Coast my favorite land at Tokyo DisneySea (TDS), Sinbad’s Seven Voyages was my favorite attraction. Can you tell me more about your process in creating this attraction?
L:Sindbad’s Seven Voyages (the original attraction name) was a project that went through many phases. It started with a very rough early concept of a Pirates style attraction, and then morphed into a boat ride with small, puppet sized characters (“mini-matronics”) that followed the classic stories of the 1001 Arabian Nights. I was asked to be the Show Designer/Art Director after this particular concept was deemed to be impractical in scope and character count. It then became more centered on just the Sindbad stories. We did decide to keep the overall theme of a boat ride through an elaborate puppet show, however, with the human puppets now being of a larger size- around 1 meter tall or so. We ended up with over 160 animatronic characters- mostly the 1-meter size but also some pretty huge ones like the Ruhk, Giant and Whale. The human figures were very animated for their size and the show was quite elaborate in scope. Overall, the attraction took 6 years to design, produce and install.
The trouble started almost immediately upon installation completion.
It’s important to understand the original concept for Tokyo DisneySea overall. The guests that the park was originally supposed to appeal to were supposed to be dating couples and an older audience- thus the emphasis on “ports of call” that featured a strong sense of adventure and romance. Sindbad’s Seven Voyages was designed to be a dramatic retelling of the sailor’s adventures in the Arabian Nights. The music was to be reminiscent of a Bernard Herrmann cinematic score, full of danger and drama. Disney Legend Buddy Baker was the composer and conductor, and he was a joy to work with. Unfortunately, even though the music came out great, it was the first thing to arouse criticism by Disney executives as being too dark and ponderous- and things went downhill from there.
We had been told all along that the Japanese audience was familiar with the Arabian Nights tales. Now we were informed that they weren’t, and that the guests were confused with the attraction’s storyline. The attraction was also underutilized- the large queue was never very full. There were two good reasons for this: as a through-load boat ride it had a high theoretical hourly ride capacity (THRC) of 3600, a real “people eater”. It also was located at the furthest point from the main entrance in the back corner of the park- nobody ran for this attraction at park opening!
The redesigns started after a short while. I participated with some new scene ideas until OLC declared that they wanted a fresh perspective, and I was off the project. That’s when the attraction was given a radical new lighthearted theme with an Alan Menken song and score. One prominent OLC exec didn’t like Sindbad’s beard- voila! He’s given a makeover. Now he needs a cute sidekick in order to sell merchandise- here’s a cute little tiger to accompany him on his adventure. All the menacing monsters are too scary? No problem- we’ll make them friendly and helpful to our newly youthful protagonist. And now a new name was needed for the altered attraction- thus it became what we see today: “Sindbad’s Storybook Adventure”.
The attraction is still about 80-85% of what was originally designed, but it is so radically different in tone now that it no longer resembles the show I was the Show Designer/Art Director for. My only consolation is that our creative partners at Pixar declared that it was their favorite attraction at TDS, and they were surprised that we were changing it.
C: Are there any Easter eggs (hidden Disney references or inside jokes) that are hidden on the attraction?
L:I can point out the biggest “Hidden Mickey” that I know of in an attraction – he’s on the front of the whale.
The entire land is so immersive. I loved meeting the camel and street merchant, riding the two storied Caravan Carousel in the Royal Courtyard and of course gazing upon the beautiful Princess Jasmine fountain.
L:That camel was designed by Chris Merritt, built by Garner Holt.
C: What inspired your design of The Arabian Coast?
L: I traveled with two other team members to Spain and Morocco to research Islamic and Moorish architecture, and we found that fountains were important elements there.
L: Princess Jasmine seemed like the perfect character for a decorative fountain.
L: I designed the tile mural and tiger “spitter,” and the overall fountain architecture was designed by our Creative Architect, Oscar Cobos.
C: The two-story Caravan Carousel is a marvel to me; can you tell me more about it?
L: I designed and art directed all the custom animals for the Caravan Carousel. The originals were hand-carved out of wood in the traditional carousel way. The elaborate color designs for the other horses were done by Andrea Bottancino.
Larry was not able to attend the official opening of Tokyo DisneySea on September 4, 2001, he was already assigned to new projects by then, like Flik’s Fun Fair ride vehicles for the new A Bug’s Land being built at Disney’s California Adventure.
Larry Nikolai has worked on, in some capacity, every Disney Park except for Disney Hollywood Studios in Florida. I of course had to ask him which was his favorite park.
L:My favorite foreign park will always be Tokyo DisneySea, because I feel it is the most beautiful park we ever built. I was the overall art director for The Arabian Coast so I was involved from the beginning and even after the park had officially opened.
Larry continues to consult as a freelance designer on projects for Tokyo DisneySea.
C: Do you have a favorite project, foreign or domestic?
L:There are three projects that hold a special place in my heart, foreign and domestic:
The Haunted Mansion Holiday Nightmare for Tokyo Disneyland
The Little Mermaid– Ariel’s Undersea Adventure at Disney California Adventure
C: Which of the three is your favorite?
L: The Little Mermaid – Ariel’s Undersea Adventure, Disney California Adventure
Oh, I’d love to learn more about Larry’s creative direction and design of this attraction, why this project is his favorite, and learn about a very cool hidden Easter egg that many do not know about. Wouldn’t you?
Have you ever read this famous quote before? Perhaps you saw it written on an inspirational poster or a meme made on the internet? Have you seen it printed on a souvenir coin or on countless shirts and plaques sold by creatives on their do-it-yourself ETSY sites? Do you, like many others, incorrectly attribute this quote to something Walt Disney said?
If so, it is not your fault. When my oldest child was in the 3rd grade, he was given a homework assignment to come up with a family motto or saying. One such example given on the worksheet he brought home was the “If you can dream it, you can do it” quote wrongly giving credit to Walter Elias Disney, the famous pioneer of animated films, audio-animatronics, co-founder of the Walt Disney Company, and creator of Disneyland, to name a few of his many accomplishments.
When I saw my child’s homework assignment, I was livid. I knew third party companies like Hallmark and Etsy small shop designers were falsely claiming this quote as Walt’s, but now it is being taught in a school? How could this be? Even the Anaheim Police Department shares this quote in their training manuals.
What’s the Source?
Do you still believe Walt Disney spoke these words? Then what is its source?
Let me ask you a few more questions. Have you ever seen this quote printed from an interview Walt did in publication, such as an article in a newspaper or magazine? NO?
Perhaps you heard a recording of a radio broadcast of Walt Disney saying these words? NO?
Maybe you saw Walt Disney on television during a “Wonderful World of Color” segment and heard him speak these words directly into camera? NO?
Well, then, did you read this quote inside some secret diary of Walt’s? NO?
Perhaps, it was on a search engine, like Google for example. You type in the following words… “Walt Disney Quotes” and up on your computer or mobile device’s screen pops countless quotes and memes. Some quotes Walt did in fact say, while many other supposed credited quotes, Walt did not.
As a Cast Member working for the Walt Disney Company for more than 20 years, and a self-proclaimed Disney history enthusiast, I knew this quote was proven to be something Walt neither said, nor wrote down in any journal he had ever kept. There are no recordings of Walt saying this quote in publication, radio, or film. Nor had any Disney family member or colleague ever recall Walt Disney saying, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”
And yet, this quote had to come from somewhere, and why are people attributing this quote to something Walt Disney said?
To understand the origins of this quote, you will first have to learn about corporate sponsorships that helped propel the attractions and exhibits over the years at the Disney Parks.
When Disneyland first opened in 1955, Walt and Roy Disney looked to corporate sponsors in order to ensure some of the Park’s attractions would be in operation on opening day, like Kaiser’s Hall of Aluminum Fame.
Years later, though Roy was ready to retire prior to his brother’s passing on December 15, 1966, Roy Disney decided to remain on the job to tackle one of the greatest projects the Walt Disney Company had ever been tasked with to date, the creation of Walt Disney World.
While Walt Disney was indeed the dreamer, Roy was the businessman and doer. He would be the one to find ways to obtain the money to do the ideas Walt dreamed up, like finding the funds to finish Walt Disney’s first full length animation film, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” as just one of many examples.
Roy would again find a way to find the funds to honor his brother’s dream of building Walt Disney World in Florida. Five years after Walt’s death, through hard work, leadership and great creative financial prowess, Walt Disney World would open debt free in 1971. The late Disney Imagineer Marty Sklar once said, “Without Roy Disney, this (Walt Disney World) would never have happened.”
When it came to opening Epcot in 1982, although the budget was well over $1 Billion dollars, the Walt Disney Company again turned to corporate sponsorships to fork the bill. It would be these sponsorships that would end up paying for the majority of Epcot. It was the countries, like France, and Japan who would pay for and sponsor their country’s pavilion in the World Showcase, while corporations would pay millions of dollars a year to see their brand’s name alongside the Disney name on its attractions. The corporations would in turn, have some say on what the attraction they were sponsoring ended up looking like.
KODAK AND FIGMENT
One such sponsor was Kodak which sponsored the attraction ‘Journey into Imagination with Figment.’
The loveable character Figment was originally drawn with a green pigmentation in original concept sketches.
Concept Drawings of Figment Credit: Walt Disney Archives
Green was a problem for Kodak, as it was the color of Fuji-Film, Kodak’s competitor. Figment was then changed from green to purple, wearing a red and yellow sweater, the color of Kodak’s logo.
In the Imagination pavilion there was the Magic Eye Theater. During its preshow, an 8 minute long presentation featuring a song called, “Making Memories,” written by the Sherman Brothers was heard while award-winning amateur’s photos were displayed on a screen.
When I listen to the ragtime catchy song, to me it plays more like a commercial jingle for Kodak, than anything else. It starts:
“Long before the old Model T
‘Round about the turn of the century
Folks discovered a barrel of fun
Taking pictures by the light of the sun
Smile, hug, look at the camera
Hold your breath and say cheese!
Little did they realize back then,
They were making memories.
Making memories, making memories
Taking pictures is making memories
Catching little pieces of time
Making them yours and making them mine...”
How can memories reappear exactly? Why, by taking a snapshot with your Kodak camera on Kodak film of course.
General Electric, Disney, and EPCOT
“When Walt first advanced his idea of EPCOT he said WED (Walter Elias Disney – precursor to Walt Disney Imagineering), couldn’t do it alone. We’re in the entertainment business and, obviously, we felt our strength was to entertain people and communicate through our entertainment. But we had to bring in other companies, like GE, to add their expertise in developing our communication about the future. It was important to the credibility of EPCOT that we create a synergism – with Disney as the communicator, the entertainer, and companies like GE and Exxon and Kodak as the experts, the people who really are in the businesses we’re portraying. How do you start out interpreting a corporate culture? Just like there’s a Disney way to our company, there’s a GE style. Every company has its distinctive culture and legend and ways that it sees itself. Our job was to create a pavilion specifically for GE, whose theme is ‘the achievable future…” Marty Sklar, WED’s Executive VP for Creative Development at the time.
“Both our cultures are always changing – tuning to different times, adopting contemporary styles without giving up valued substance. It’s the spirit that led the Disney people to propose what they did and that led us to approve it – a vision of the future firmly rooted in what we know can someday be done.” – Karl Koss General Electric’s Liaison to WED.
From 1955 throughout the 1980’s, it was an absolute great investment for a corporation to share their brand messaging at a theme park where hundreds of millions of guests visit each year.
Just like Kodak sponsored ‘Journey into Imagination with Figment’, General Electric sponsored ‘Horizons’ in Future World.
The Horizon’s attraction that opened in Future World at Walt Disney World’s Epcot on October 1, 1983, was an attraction that was “dedicated to humanity’s future.” It was sponsored by General Electric until September 30, 1993. After the sponsorship ran out, The Walt Disney Company would continue to operate the attraction until late 1994. The attraction closed briefly and then reopened one last time in December of 1995, until finally closing forever on January 9, 1999.
Wait. Perhaps I am jumping into this too fast and too deep. What does this all mean? Why am I talking about Epcot and the Horizons attraction that no longer exists? Okay, let us step back and let me introduce some folks to you who I lovingly call, The Players.
Player #1 Dave Smith – The Disney Legend, Archivist and Historian
Dave Rollin Smith was the founder of the Walt Disney Archives in 1970 and worked for the company for 40 years. He received the prestigious Disney Legends Award in 2007 and retired after his 40th anniversary in 2010. As Chief Archivist Emeritus, Dave stayed on with the Walt Disney Company as a consultant for another nine years until his death in 2019.
Dave was first hired by Roy O. Disney in 1970, 4 years after Walt’s passing. His very first assignment was to catalogue every single item that was inside Walt’s office, which had been left untouched since his passing. During Dave’s four decades at the Walt Disney Company, it was his duty to preserve all things Disney, from film to television, theme parks, animation and so much more.
Bob Iger, Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board of the Walt Disney Company stated, “He was the unsung hero of Disney’s history who, as our first archivist, spent 40 years rescuing countless documents and artifacts from obscurity, investing endless hours restoring and preserving these priceless pieces of our legacy, and putting them in context to tell our story, Dave was a true Disney Legend, and we are indebted to him for building such an enduring, tangible connection to our past that continues to inspire our future.”
Dave was a treasure and well known amongst Disneyland Resort Cast Members. My husband Marlon, who has worked for the Walt Disney Company since the early 1990’s, recounted a memorable time when he first met Dave Smith. In 1998, Marlon was in Glendale at the Walt Disney Studios and he wanted to meet Dave. He, along with another Cast Member, approached his secretary and asked if they could meet him. His secretary gave a warm smile and invited them right into Dave‘s office. Dave stood up from his desk and gave my husband a firm handshake and a big smile. He then began to give them a tour of his office. At one point Marlon noticed an Academy Award under glass and asked Dave if that was a real award. Dave told Marlon that it indeed was real, and in fact it was the Honorary Academy Award Walt had won in 1939 for his 1937 film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Dave then took the Oscar out of its case and gave it to my husband and let him hold it. More than 20 years later, my husband still talks fondly of that first meeting with Dave, when he let him hold one of Walt Disney’s Academy Awards.
I myself would run into Dave from time to time, during the construction of Disney California Adventure Park, or after he had a speaking engagement or interview held at Walt’s Apartment above the firehouse in Disneyland. On a few rare sightings, I would catch a glimpse of Dave in the early mornings before the Disneyland Park opened. I worked in the TV/Film Production Department for the Disneyland Resort and our call times were often before sunrise.
On those few occasions, I would see a man walking onto the set. I would go to investigate and see that it was none other than Dave Smith. Sometimes Dave would be alone, and sometimes he would have a newly hired historian or archivist he was showing the ropes to. Dave would always have a clipboard in his hand with a blank piece of paper. He told me that if he had a clipboard and walked with a purpose, very rarely did anyone stop to ask him any questions. He liked to visit Disneyland in the early mornings, before it was opened to the guests, he was always taking note of all the changes happening inside the Park.
Dave was a kind man, he always wore a smile and graciously never tired of my questions, well, perhaps he did, but he never showed me that he was tired of providing me answers about the company. One of those questions I asked him about was if it was true that Walt never said the “If you can dream it, you can do it quote.” Dave told me it was a myth.
Though Dave never told me personally it was written by someone else, he simply stated at the time that Walt Disney never spoke nor wrote those specific words.
It would be many years later when I would come across the same question being asked to Dave, while reading his book Disney Facts Revealed. In the book, Dave answers questions from his readers he has received over the last 30 years. On page 252 of the book, Dave shared a question asked of him from a fan from Chicago named Todd.
Todd asks, “I’ve always been under the impression that Walt Disney himself said, ‘If you can dream it, you can do it.’ But I’ve never been able to find a source. Any idea if this quote was ever actually said by Walt himself?”
Dave’s Smith response was, “This is a very common urban legend. It is not a Walt Disney quote, but rather was written by Imagineer Tom Fitzgerald for the Horizons attraction at Epcot.”
Player #2 Tom Fitzgerald – The Imagineer and Script Writer
Enter Player 2 into the scene…
Tom Fitzgerald is a Senior Creative Executive of the Walt Disney Imagineering Management for the Walt Disney Company
For the past 42 years, Tom has worked for Walt Disney Imagineering bringing such iconic attractions to Disney Parks around the world like Star Tours to Disneyland in 1987.
Tom was a little boy when he went to the New York World’s Fair in 1964 and saw Disney’s ‘Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.’ Seeing the audio-animatronic Lincoln as a young boy gave Tom the inspiration to one day work for WED.
After graduating from Northwestern University, Fitzgerald would head to California to fulfill his childhood dream. Mission accomplished! In 1979, Tom was hired in the communications department at WED and by 1981, he was tasked to help write the script for the GE pavilion at Epcot.
“Tom Fitzgerald was the main story person as the Horizons project got rolling. Tom added the warmth of story to scenes I was designing and modeling in small scale.” wrote George McGinnis, the last Imagineer hired by Walt Disney.
In 1983, Fitzgerald would explain in an interview he gave for a General Electric Promotional Booklet about the Horizons attraction that, “We wanted to emphasize the family unit. Some people think that it may not exist in the future, but our feeling was that advances in transportation and communication will bring families closer together.” He would go on to include, “The GE credo ‘Better than the best,’ is a phrase that we at Disney understand well.”
Horizons – The Quote Connection
When guests first approached the Horizons attraction, instrumental music could be heard through speakers playing the “New Horizons” theme song along with GE’s familiar musical notes to their tagline “We Bring Good Things to Life.”
Once guests arrive inside, a large sign was seen displayed next to the left of the sliding glass door entrance. It reads “If we can dream it, we can do it”
Did you notice how this sentence does NOT read, “If you can dream it, you can do it”?
For the first time in the Walt Disney Company history, “If we can dream it, we can do it” is displayed on an attraction wall, 17 years after Walt Disney’s death.
Guests would see this sign and then begin to queue for the flight from the Future Port. Flight 83 is what they will take, 83 is significant because that is the year the Horizons attraction first began taking passengers.
Before the guests were cleared for departure an announcer’s voice could be heard saying, “GE Horizons passengers…you are now cleared for departure to the twenty-first century.”
The attraction took guests to see new towns of tomorrow, like desert farms, floating cities, and space colonies.
Throughout the flight, we witness Tom Fitzgerald’s script writing in action while the audio-animatronic family members recite various dialogue Tom wrote for them, like when the Mother character says, “I suppose people have always dreamed of the future. We sure do.”
To which the father character responds, “The only difference is that today, with what we know and what we are learning to do, we really can bring our dreams to life. It takes a lot of work, but the truth is, if we can dream it, we can do it.”
Did you recognize that the use of General Electric’s tag line, “We bring good things to life” has been integrated and reimagined into Tom Fitzgerald’s script? He has adapted “we bring good things to life” to “we really can bring ourdreams to life.”
Remember, this attraction is a corporate sponsored attraction paid for by General Electric. The corporation is spending millions of dollars a year to have their logo and messaging interwoven throughout the ride. Fitzgerald has cleverly adapted a familiar tagline that almost everyone who rode the attraction would have been very familiar with at that time.
At the end of the attraction, similar lines are once again spoken by Father
Father: Well, we’re almost back from the future.
Mother: Oh, it went by so quickly.
Father: Yes, but one of the nice things about traveling into the future is that the journey’s just beginning.
Mother: That’s right
Father: And I’ll tell you something, if we can dream it, we really can do it and that’s the most exciting part.
A GE Logo was seen and then the following announcement is heard as guests begin to approach the exit platform.
Announcer (1983 version): All of us at General Electric thank you for exploring Horizons. Please take small children by the hand and watch your step…
Announcer: (1984 version) All of us at GE look forward to bringing good things to life for you, today and tomorrow. Now please take small children by the hand and watch your step…
Dave Smith asks Tom Fitzgerald
A few decades after the Horizons attraction first opened, The Walt Disney Archives shared a question from their Ask Walt Disney Archives on the D23.com website.
This time the question is from a Krystina from Arizona.
Krystina: “I heard that Walt Disney did not, in fact, ever say the famous quote, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” Is that true? If so, who did say it?
Dave Smith responds: “He never said this quote. If you check my book, Disney Trivia from the Vault, you can find the true story:
“Despite its frequent publication, that is not a Walt Disney quote. We checked with Imagineer Tom Fitzgerald for the definitive answer: ‘I am very familiar with that line because I wrote it! It was written specifically for the Horizons attraction at Epcot and used in numerous ways, from dialogue in the ride to graphics. I find it amusing that the Science of Imagineering DVD series attributes it to Walt Disney, but I guess I should be flattered.”
Does the Misinformation begin with “The Science of Imagineering” DVD Series?
What I would like to know, and I apologize if my tone changes briefly here, but, who decided to add this quote to the intro of the DVD series? I could find one writer, two producers, and a director listed for the series along with Disney Education Productions listed on IMDB (Internet Movie Database). I attempted to search for the four names listed and could not track anyone down to ask who thought to insert this quote.
I would like to ask them what source did the writer or producers use to claim Walt Disney ever said, “If you can dream it, you can do it” when the foremost expert in Walt Disney history never found any such source with the entire archives at his disposal? Could a writer simply make a mistake? Perhaps they thought a quote by Walt Disney in the introduction of the DVD would make a good setup for the preface of what was about to be taught in the video series and he simply googled “Walt Disney quotes” like so many others, relying on Google to always provide the answers? Could someone truly be that careless?
Having worked in the Broadcast Services Television department, for the Walt Disney Company, you have the great minds of Disney at your disposal to verify and confirm information. Dave Smith was alive at the time the Science of Imagineering was produced. Why was this quote not verified prior to it being sold to the public and pushed for school usage? I would like to know those answers. The Walt Disney Archives have long disputed that this quote belongs to Walt Disney. I would like to better understand this apparent failure to do due diligence. This educational series has been played at schools for many years and can still be purchased on Amazon, shopDisney, and can be seen on YouTube as well. It appears, by all intents and purposes that Tom Fitzgerald is accurate that this could quite possibly be the origin of the falsehood that Walt said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” Way to go Science of Imagineering DVD! Now I know why my then 3rd grader came home with this false information.
First, when I talked to Dave Smith about this quote, it must’ve been in the late 1990’s. He never mentioned Tom Fitzgerald to me at that time. But years passed and the internet usage grew more wide and false quotes were beginning to surface more than before and at an alarming rate. In 2012 or so is when I began to first hear that Tom Fitzgerald originated the quote. As soon as I read about Dave’s source being Tom Fitzgerald and Dave, being a Disney Legend with unparalleled knowledge of all things Disney, how could I question that it could be anyone but Tom Fitzgerald? Dave had already long proven the quote to not be that of Walt’s. Dave was the founder of the Walt Disney Archives, remember? Chief Archivist Emeritus? The only person to enter Walt Disney’s office 4 years after he passed away to carefully chronicle Walt’s entire office space, piece of paper, record, everything. It was the information he received from Tom Fitzgerald, claiming the quote as his own, that finally had some weight to it, Tom is a credible source. It made sense. Tom Fitzgerald is the source of the quote. Right?
MY QUEST TO SHARE THE TRUTH
By 2014, I had left Disney due to a progressive illness after 22 years of service with the company and was missing my home away from home. Starting at the age of 17 in 1992, Disneyland is where I met my husband. It was a magical place of friends and family that I was missing so terribly.
By 2019, I discovered Instagram, very much late to the social media game, it was not until last year that I finally joined Facebook, though that may have been a bad decision, but I digress.
But on Instagram I had found a wonderful world of people who liked Disney. At first, I was intrigued by how much these people liked Disney, like…WOW! These people really LOVE Disney. I mean REALLY LOVE Disney! Then I thought…hmm, maybe this is not for me. I had only viewed Disney from the perspective of a Cast Member and I didn’t relate to their perspective on Disney. But then I began noticing folks posting information that was blatantly inaccurate, unresearched, not verifiable. That is what rejuvenated me, though no longer a Disney Cast Member, I could at least attempt to share accurate information and set the record straight. I began to post historical content, information told to me firsthand by the Imagineers and historians that I worked with.
While scrolling through some posts on Instagram, I pause. I see it. THE QUOTE. “If You can dream it, you can do it” credited to Walt Disney!
Seeing this posted as a picture on someone’s feed, then another and then another. NO! Don’t they know?!? If they are truly Disney loving diehards, why are they sharing incorrect information?
I took it upon myself to share the story, share Dave Smith’s legacy and the perceived fact that Tom Fitzgerald came up with the quote, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” I shared this quarterly on my Instagram page. Reminding people that Walt Disney never said this quote. It was my mission that I took on full force. I am a stay-at-home disabled mom; it was my ONE thing! THE ONE mission I gave myself.
THE PANDEMIC AND THE SPARK
It is now almost a year into the worldwide pandemic. While staying safe at home, I began to organize my Disney treasures I have collected over the years. I have a signed concept drawing lithograph of Jessica Rabbit by Imagineer and Disney artist Marcelo Vignali. I was curious of its value and if anyone else had one. It was a Cast Member exclusive when Mickey’s Toontown first opened in 1993. So, I hopped onto a site called Worthpoint, to see if my art piece had value. Though nothing resembling my piece could be found, I did notice a Walt Disney World Epcot GE Horizons 1983 puzzle with the GE Logo and the words If We Can Dream It We Can Do It tag line on the side of the box.
My AHA moment! A spark went off. GE. Horizons is sponsored by General Electric. IF WE CAN DREAM IT WE CAN DO IT. No lower case lettering. Wait. Read the script! READ THE SCRIPT!
I then began to devour the Horizons script, word for word. There are only two places in the script where Fitzgerald writes these words for “Father” to say, in the beginning of the attraction and at the end. By all accounts, “If We can dream it, we can do it,” is not the same as, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” Different pronouns were used. “We” inspires the collaborative aspect in a society, much like the hope of future in the Horizons attraction. While “You” is to inspire one person. Do YOU have what it takes? What can YOU dream up? If YOU can dream it, YOU can do it.
Though Tom took credit for the famous quote, “If you can dream it, you can do it” for Horizons, he was clearly referring to the line he adapted it to be, “If we can dream it, we can do it” as nowhere in the attraction is there signage or words heard spoken, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”
This made me think, since Tom adapted General Electric’s, “We bring good things to life.” To “We really can bring ourdreams to life” for Horizons, is it just as possible that Tom saw “If you can dream it, you can do it” within the chronicles and journals of GE for inspiration? I went on a hunt to find the source.
THE PODCAST – RetroWDW
First stop, a podcast. I never listen to podcasts. Not because I do not like them, I just do not feel I have the time. But this one caused me to stop. The Podcast is called RetroWDW and is a podcast of the Lake Buena Vista Historical Society. “Ok,” I thought, “it’s a historical society, I can listen to this.”
While listening to the broadcast, four hosts, Todd McCartney, How Bowers, JT Kuzior and Brian Miles interview a woman by the name of Sheralyn Silverstein. A woman claiming to have written, “If you can dream it, you can do it” for General Electric in early 1981.
After hearing Sheralyn’s interview on RetroWDW, it all made sense. She was the missing link. She was the AHA moment I was waiting for. But I needed to talk to her myself. I needed to know the who, what, where, when and why’s. I needed definitive answers.
Player #1: Dave Smith had already long proven that Walt Disney NEVER said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”
Player #2: Tom Fitzgerald clearly wrote. “If we can dream it, we can do it” for the Horizons attraction at Epcot, SPONSORED by General Electric.
What then was Sheralyn Silverstein’s part? How does she fit into this tale?
PLAYER #3 SHERALYN SILVERSTEIN – THE COPYWRITER
Enter Player 3 into the scene.
I reached out to Sheralyn Silverstein via email at the end of January this year seeking an interview. My email was simple, but straight to the point, was she THE Sheralyn Silverstein that had claimed to have written that all too famous quote.
She responded, “Yes, you are contacting the right person. I’m Sheralyn Silverstein, and I did indeed write, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”
I was so very joyful when Sheralyn agreed to be interviewed via that device we all have become familiar with this past year, Zoom.
The following are excerpts from this interview:
After I received permission to record our audio conversation, we got right into her story.
I asked Sheralyn how she felt about her quote being passed around as Walt Disney’s quote.
S: Over time I was getting increasingly annoyed that Walt Disney was getting credit for this. What you write is coin of the realm. Your work is all you have to show for who you are and what you’ve done. How does he (Walt Disney) get credit? He had everything, but he didn’t have that. That was mine.
C: When did you write this quote?
S: Going back to the beginning of things, I got a job as a young writer with a company called Marsteller New York (subsidiary of Young and Rubicam, Y&R). At that time, I was the only female on the creative staff. It was rough and tough. It was competitive and a very hard environment, but it was also a great place to learn.
At that point in time, I was the youngest and lowest on the pay scale. I would often get the jobs that nobody else wanted to do. I would do the little ads for little publications. At one point I had to write an ad for a bank for Playbill Magazine and nobody wants that assignment, but I believed if I make something out of even the smallest thing, it is going to build my reputation and portfolio.
Sheralyn continued to tell me that the ad she wrote for Playbill Magazine won her an award in the ad business, and soon, people began to take notice of her. She began to earn more assignments and then the president of Marsteller New York, Lou Magnani, took notice of her too and saw to it that she would get the better assignments.
S: In 1981 General Electric (GE) was a big company and the ad agency they worked with was BBD&O in New York (Batten, Barton, Durstine and Osborn originally founded in New York City in 1891). BBD&O is one of the best ad agencies and their tagline for GE was “We bring good things to life.” But General Electric was looking for another ad agency that would do some of the smaller types of ad work.
At any rate, GE asked us to pitch them with an idea about their recruitment division and ideas for other things. Of course, the bigger guns of the agency, the ‘big boys’ wanted to work on television for GE.
While the ‘big boys’ were working on their television pitches, Sheralyn was assigned to work with a man by the name of Bob Green. Green was her senior, with many awards under his belt, who was annoyed by the assignment because he was paired to work on the recruitment pitch ideas with her, a Junior Copywriter.
S: Bob and I worked on the recruitment and what I decided to do was I said, ‘Why don’t we use quotes for teachers and professors, and I’ll make them up.’
One of Sheralyn’s ideas was a picture of a kid with a teacher. The quote Sheralyn wrote for the teacher to say to her student was, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”
Sheralyn recalled Magnani telling her that he did not know if he liked it and thought her tag line was too ‘pie in the sky.’ She further reminisced that Bob, who did not want to work with her in the first place, seemed to express that it was the only good pitch she had come up with for the entire campaign. Sheralyn stuck to her guns and told Magnani that she liked her idea and that she believed in it.
Sheralyn was too junior to be able to attend the meeting with GE. The Senior Copywriters at Marsteller New York would be making the pitch to GE with the new Charmain and CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch, in attendance. The Marsteller team had all the work lined up on a wall, TV ads, along with other smaller ad ideas including Sheralyn’s “If you can dream it, you can do it” were all in a line on the wall awaiting the pitch.
After the meeting, Lou Magnani, came straight over to Sheralyn’s tiny little office space and told her that they could not have asked for a better meeting. He informed Sheralyn that Jack Welch came straight over to the wall and pointed to Sheralyn’s, “If you can dream it, you can do it” quote and he said, “That’s the reason I’m going to sign your agency!”
S: It was like winning the lottery. This is something you dream about as a kid. I also got a bonus and a raise. It doesn’t happen like that very often.
Sheralyn went on to explain that GE was not going to be giving up their tag line, “We bring good things to life” because it was a brand line. What was happening was GE wanted to buy her line and keep it for recruitment advertising.
It was during this time that Sheralyn begins to show me the brochures and pamphlets she had kept from the original recruitment pieces she did for GE. Starting with this large brochure printed by General Electric in 1982, which includes GE’s brand messaging on the left, with the quote Sheralyn wrote, “If you can dream it, you can do it” on the right.
Photo Credit: Sheralyn Silverstein
The Proof Continues
HEIGH HO HEIGH HO OFF TO GE SHE GOES
S: They sent me off to Schenectady to their Research and Development facility. I got to meet some great scientists and a Nobel prize winner. GE was interested in attracting the top talent; the life blood of the company is its research.
After meeting the great minds of General Electric’s R&D division, Sheralyn was set to write the words, while Marilyn Lowther, a talented art designer would design the brochure’s artwork. Several months after the brochures for the recruitment had been published, the president of the company, Magnani, called Sherlayn into his office to share some exciting news.
S: He said they are going to use it (If you can dream it, you can do it). For their tag line (for Horizons) at Epcot. And that’s what they did.
That is most certainly what Disney did. Somewhere, somehow, someone saw a tag line that was seen in GE documentation, a line Jack Welch bought from the Marsteller New York ad agency that Sheralyn Silverstein wrote in 1981. The line was taken, and it was reworked. Sheralyn’s tag line for GE, “If you can dream it, you can do it” was beautifully rebirthed by Tom Fitzgerald to fit the communal futuristic landscape of the General Electric sponsored Horizons attraction with his reimagined line, “If we can dream it, we can do it” that was completed at Epcot in 1983.
WALT DISNEY DID NOT SAY IT
C: When did you first notice or become aware of your quote, “If you can dream it, you can do it” was attributed to Walt Disney? Did you just go online one day, or did someone bring it to your attention?
S: I think partly because with Google coming along, there was so many things you could find out that you might have been curious about years ago, and when I started to put together my portfolio, I always keep my portfolio updated, I started to think about this, and the one reason why I kept it (Sheralyn is holding up an original pristine condition 1982 GE folder with the GE logo and her tag line, “If you can dream it you can do it” written inside) was because of that line, because it was going to get me jobs, and it did. It helped me. I wanted to protect what’s mine and I kept it along with other pieces of the campaign. So, I thought one day why I hadn’t ever put this quote on my resume.
And so Sheralyn began to look online to see if her quote was out in this new internet world. It was a great quote, one that won her a promotion and several high-profile accounts. I am sure Sheralyn was excited as she began to search for her quote, and then…she sees it. She sees her quote. But wait, it is not attributed to her as the author.
Sheralyn recounts her first memory seeing her quote attributed to Walt Disney:
S: I had found out (online) Walt Disney had said it. Wait. Wait. WAIT! No. He did not. HE DID NOT! That is not true. GE had it. If GE were going to use it, Disney would have said wait a minute. GE loved it. EVERYONE loved it. Then I kept looking into it and looking into it then I said no! No! NO! Then I dug this out (Sheralyn holds up her folder for me to see). Fortunately, I’m not a hoarder but I am a pack rat. I have portfolios from my entire career, things have changed, they’re all digital now, but I have the big black portfolios. I dug it out and I said, ‘There it is.’
It’s funny because you remember, always when you’re an author of things, where you were when you did it. I remember being in my house and freaking out. I was so worried I wasn’t going to be able to do it. It was very intimidating to work with Bob. He would tell me now, “What are you kidding?” But he was very good and he came from a very disciplined background and he wanted a good variety, I always had a lot of anxiety about that and self-doubt. But I remember this.
C: Do you think you would ever contact the Walt Disney Company about this?
S: No, but if they want to talk to me about it, I’m open. I’d be glad to talk to Walt Disney the man if he were still alive. I’d say, we both know. And as for the Imagineer (Tom Fitzgerald), I respectfully say he is incorrect.
It’s like I said, when you write something, and you’re a writer, if you see someone else taking credit for it. You think, that is something you would never do. It’s the only thing you have to get other jobs, to get recognition, you have to be vigilant about your work and protect it. And when people say you shouldn’t blow your own horn, yes you should, yes you should. (laughter) I’ve been in plenty of rooms with people blowing their own horns.
“If we can dream it, we can do it” – Tom Fitzgerald
Most diehard Disney history aficionados know that Walt Disney the man never said, “If you can dream it, you can do it,” that has long been a proven myth by Dave Smith and the whole of the Walt Disney Archives. The origin has become clear, to me, that Sheralyn Silverstein is the first to write these specific words for a campaign piece for General Electric in 1981. But why would Tom claim the quote as his own after the Science in Imagineering DVD series started to misquote this line?
Tom never wrote “If you can dream it, you can do it” for Horizons. He wrote “If we can dream it, we can do it.” An obvious reimaginated line, brilliantly written to not only bring together GE’s brand, the ride’s corporate sponsor, but also the futuristic possibilities the message of the attraction was telling. We, the people of the world can do it if we, together can just dream it.
I reached out to Tom Fitzgerald requesting an interview and was informed by the WDI Communication team that, “Unfortunately, we are unable to offer an interview or email Q&A with Tom at this time. We appreciate the opportunity though!”
Thank you anyway WDI Communication team. I am hopeful I will be able to interview Tom Fitzgerald in the future, I am a huge fan of his and I will make myself available for whenever Tom is ready, I’ll be ready too!
My best conjecture as to why Tom claimed the If YOU can dream it… is that for the last 42 years of working in Walt Disney Imagineering, he has worked on a multitude of projects. From supervising the story development and production for Soarin’ Over California to story supervising one of my favorite of all time attractions, Pooh’s Hunny Hunt at Tokyo Disneyland. Fitzgerald is a script writer and story developer for countless WDI projects. He wrote and produced Star Tours, worked on the blending of the cinematic Pirates of the Caribbean world to the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, including the famous pirate Jack Sparrow. He took over the creative direction of Epcot in 2014 and has been dreaming up and creating the magic for the Walt Disney Company since he was first hired in 1979. Is it just possible, that maybe, when hearing the misquote from the Science of Imagineering DVDs, the, “If you can dream it, you can do it” that Tom came across while working with GE triggered a memory, that made him think, hey, I wrote that! When, in reality, memories tend to get a bit muddled. Could that be? Because Tom did not write THAT quote. What he wrote, once again for the attraction’s script and signage, was, ‘If WE can dream it, WE can do it.”
ASKING JIM KORKIS – THE AUTHOR, HISTORIAN, ALL AROUND GREAT GUY
Whenever I begin my research of any story I write for my Instagram posts or my blog, I tend to lean towards two historians and their books to help me verify and corroborate any information, Jim Korkis and the late great Chief Archivist Emeritus, Dave Smith.
While researching my story, I thought to turn to Korkis to ask for his thoughts on the subject as he has written on the subject previously in various publications. And, like me, he has also confirmed the famous quote as Fitzgerald’s in the past. I think of Korkis as the Disney Detective. He provides corroborative evidence and never takes one account as the true story without dissecting countless other stories first to confirm the truth. He is everything a historian should strive and aspire to be like.
Korkis has written 30 books about Disney and several other books about animation and has an additional two new books coming out the first week of May, Kungaloosh! The Mythic Jungles of Walt Disney World, which I hear has half the book devoted to Jungle Cruise, Trader Sam’s, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park, with two interviews with legendary Imagineer alumnus Joe Rohde! His 2nd book coming out is called Hidden Treasures of Walt Disney World Resort Hotels, which sounds like a great book sharing the histories and stories behind the resorts, and so much more.
Having learned about Sheralyn, I thought Jim would be the person to turn to. To date, I have not yet seen Jim write about Sheralyn Silverstein and I wanted to know what he thought on the subject. What he thought of Tom’s claims from over a decade ago, but mostly, I wanted to know where he now stands on who authored the tag line, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”
C: Do you agree that Tom must have forgotten how he reimagined the wording in the script he wrote for Horizons?
Korkis: I don’t think Fitzgerald consciously borrowed that phrase to claim as his own. As a writer, you read tons of stuff and sometimes something gets buried in the subconscious that seeps out when you need something and it just seems right somehow. I have never heard of Fitzgerald ever taking credit for something from someone else.
Korkis also stated: “However, that wouldn’t be the first time an Imagineer “borrowed” a phrase from elsewhere… the Imagineers dubbing the Epcot model at Carousel of Progress “Progress City” because sponsor GE was using the phrase at the time “Progress is our most important product.”
C: Do you know about when the quote, “If you can dream it, you can do it” first started to appear as Walt’s?
Korkis: As soon as Horizons opened (1983), people who saw it on the wall of the queue immediately assumed it was a Walt quote since Disney had often done that in the past including Epcot’s Living with the Land attraction.
C: In your opinion, what is your stance on who first wrote “If you can dream it, you can do it”?
Korkis: In my opinion, it seems like Silverstein should get credit for the line that we all know today.
Who is Sheralyn Silverstein?
So now we all know Sheralyn Silverstein wrote, “If you can dream it, you can do it” for GE in 1981. What happened to her after she wrote the quote Jack Welch bought? The following are more excerpts from my interview.
S: I was given opportunities to work on other things at Marsteller New York. I worked on ads for cars, women did not work on cars back then, they just didn’t. I never wanted to be pigeonholed into so called feminine products because you are female. You should be able to work on everything. So, I worked very hard to try to change that.
After a few years Sheralyn would go one to write tag lines for everything from Dannon yogurt to Grape Nuts.
S: I tell people if you walk down an aisle in the supermarket, every single aisle there’s something I worked on, every single aisle.
Now a Creative Director/Copy Writer, Sheralyn Silverstein has gone on to create some amazing campaigns. For Olive Garden in 1997 she wrote, “When you’re here, you’re family,” which ‘Late Night with Jimmy Fallon’ ended up buying in 2016 and for Bank of America she wrote, “What would you like the power to do?”
Another campaign she worked on while working at BrandUnion, NY (now SuperUnion) was for the Lead the Way Fund. She was apart of a team, including Executive Creative Director Jamie Ambler, assigned to work on the project. Sheralyn sounded so very passionate about this campaign and these group of men and their families. She told me this was another campaign that she was most proud of to work on.
She explained that it was started by James P. Regan, who’s only son, Sgt. James (Jimmy) Regan was killed by an IED which targeted his vehicle in northern Iraq in 2007. His father turned to Sheralyn and Jamie to create a campaign that would help motivate people to donate.
S: I came up with a line, “PEACE CAN BE HELL TOO.” It was rewarding for me to do this for them. ‘PEACE CAN BE HELL TOO’ is one of the best things I ever did. That’s for sure.
Talking with Sheralyn Silverstein was an absolute privilege. Yes, I wrote her first AND last name…AGAIN! Maybe, just maybe, I’m trying to get you to remember it. So, the next time you hear or see that someone is quoting Walt Disney incorrectly as the person who said, “If you can dream it, you can do it” or even Imagineer Tom Fitzgerald, you can politely educate them with the history of the quote and the name of the Junior Copywriter who did not think her quote was too ‘pie in the sky’ for General Electric back in 1981.
Disney recently shared on the DisneyParks App a Frozen Pineapple Treat. Which is in all appearances, a nod to the Pineapple Dole Whip sold at the parks. Now, there are a few Disney Foodie enthusiasts who will scoff at the idea that the Disney Parks recipe is in fact a Dole Whip DIY recipe. According to some Disney foodies, it’s not a Dole Whip for one distinct reason; vanillaice cream is included in Disney’s recipe as an ingredient. That’s right, the current Dole Whip sold in the Disney Parks has been dairy free and vegan certified since 1997. Yet, the original Dole Whip prior to 1997 did in fact contain dairy.
In any case, there are the sceptics, even the Dole company came out with their own vegan friendly version of a DIY Dole Whip, as a friendly counter to Disney’s frozen concoction.
For me, however, I am all in for trying anything that could replicate the tangy and sweet frozen pineapple goodness that is a favorite amongst guests visiting the Disney Parks. So why not try what could be perfection? We’ll get back to the recipes later, first, let me tell you a little bit about the history of the famous Disney snack and why I now crave this delectable treat.
It was the summer of 1992
Can you remember the very first time you tried a Dole Whip? I can. It was the summer of 1992, back when there was dairy in the mix. That was the first summer I was cast in the Main Street Electrical Parade. I remember parking my float and hightailing it one night to meet up with a few other Cast Members who had invited me to come along to try an amazing pineapple soft serve that was sold just outside the Tiki Room. I remember we were walking as fast as we could, across Main Street USA, past Carnation Plaza and on into Adventureland. We were bobbing, weaving, and side stepping around guests in the dimly lit landscape of Disneyland, just to get in line and grab a Dole Whip.
Parade Cast Members could get away with getting into the parks back then during our shift, just as long as we didn’t go on an attraction. I truly enjoyed those summer nights, going into the park in between parades to enjoy a tasty treat. Ahhh, those were the days. It was on this one fateful summer night that I will never forget the taste of that first Dole Whip. It was cold, sweet, refreshing and yet tarte enough to cause the back of your mouth to tense up as it swallowed that first drop of pineapple. It was so good. So good in fact, that twenty-eight years later, it’s still my favorite Disney Parks treat.
How did the Dole Whip come about anyway? Well, Dole became the official sponsor of Disneyland’s Enchanted Tiki Room in 1976. The partnership between the two companies consisted specifically of selling Dole’s pineapple which is why all pineapples used throughout the Disney Resorts are Dole grown. For the first ten years, between 1976 and 1986, the fruit stand outside of the Tiki room sold Dole pineapple juice and juicy pineapple spears. It wasn’t until 1986, through a collaboration between both Disney and Dole that produced the now legendary Dole Whip and the Dole Whip float, which is the same Whip served with pineapple juice.
Kent Precision Food Groups took over the license rights to Dole Whip in 1997
Kent Precision Food group’s mission statement reads, “Kent Precision Foods Group specializes in developing, blending and packaging dry mix food products to our customers’ exacting specifications. In addition to our dry blending capabilities, KPFG offers a diverse line of branded products for the foodservice and consumer channels. Kent Precision Foods Group and their parent company Kent Corporation are committed to conducting business with the highest standards of morality, fairness, and integrity and to adhere to the laws of the jurisdictions in which their business takes place.”
The Airy Texture makes the Dole Whip
Since 1997, Dole Whip is now licensed by Kent Precision Foods Group, and describes the Dole Whip as being made with a non-dairy creamer, sugar, natural flavoring and coloring. The company also states that anyone who licenses Dole Whip must use the company’s soft serve machine, because it’s their machine that creates the air like texture. Without this machine, you can’t claim the product is a Dole Whip.
If no one has a patented Kent Precision Soft Serve Machine, can anyone really make a DIY Dole Whip?
And so, when the Disney Parks App shared their Frozen Pineapple Treat recipe with the world, they did so, knowing families were staying safe at home. Also knowing folks weren’t likely to have the patented soft serve machine at home, a Dole Whip like recipe was bestowed upon the Earth to many great cheers, and few grumbles and nay-sayers. But to them I say, “Let them eat Dole Whip!”
The Disney Parks Frozen Pineapple Recipe
The pictures above by Disney, show the simple ingredients needed to make what the Disney Parks call a Frozen Pineapple Treat. It also lists a suggested piping bag to make that famous swirl we have come accustomed to when enjoying a Dole Whip at the Parks.
Let’s Make the Dole Whip, I mean, the Frozen Pineapple Treat
One fresh Dole Pineapple. Cut, remove the core, and freeze 2 cups fresh pineapple, preferably overnight, the harder and more frozen the pineapple, the better.
1/2 cup Dole Pineapple juice; you may need more, depending on how well your blender can cut through the frozen pineapple
1 large scoop of vanilla ice cream.
1 Blender (I used my Ninja blender)
If you are Vegan, my suggestion, deviating now from the Disney Parks recipie, is to omit the vanilla ice cream and instead, add 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk, it tastes wonderful, yet not as creamy or sweet as the Dole Whips sold at the Disney Parks.
Add all the ingredients and blend until smooth.
Dole’s DIY Dole Whip Recipe
Dole recently came out with their own version of an at home DIY Dole Whip which I also made.
As written by Dole, you will need
1 cup ripe DOLE® pineapple, chopped and frozen
1 ripe DOLE® Banana, peeled and frozen
2-1/2 teaspoons powdered sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 teaspoon lime juice.
Directions: Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Cover; blend until smooth, about 2-3 minutes.
To Be a Dole Whip or Not To Be… Is that really the question?
Dole’s recipe was tasty, especially if you want to blend it a bit more and turn it into a smoothie. With the addition of the banana in Dole’s recipe, it helps to create a creamy texture, yet, the flavor of banana is therefore also apparent, and I tend to be a purist of pineapple whenever possible, at least when it comes to a Dole Whip.
After making both the Disney Parks recipe and Dole’s, I am in favor of the Disney Parks Frozen Pineapple Treat that tastes near identical to the Dole Whip. It was so good in fact that my husband now comes home regularly with a pineapple.
The simple and all natural ingredients, depending on the ice cream you choose, for the recipe was so good in fact that I started experimenting more and ended up creating a Dole Whip blended margarita by adding 3 tablespoons Tequila, 2 tablespoons Triple Sec, and 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice to the Disney Parks recipe. Cheers!
Ahhh, the Dole Whip that can also be enjoyed as a float or a fruity libation, is a tangy and sweet frozen pineapple treat and I am so grateful that Disney Parks shared their version so that we too can make a near perfect version. So sit back, click on the SoundsofDisneyland.com and close your eyes while you enjoy the Dole Whip you just made. It tastes honestly, AMAZING!! But don’t take my word for it. Try it for yourself and let me know what you think.