And so it begins... Chapter 1 - Whenever the creative minds in the Walt Disney Company embark on a challenging new project, they are faced with a rather daunting task: how does Disney outdo…Disney? Join Justin, Jenn and Joe as we talk with the Chuck Schmidt the author of Disney's Animal Kingdom An Unofficial History. Too address that question and many many more. Check it out.
In February of 1990, a small group of Imagineers sat in the smallest conference room in the smallest trailer on the Walt Disney Imagineering lot. I was among those few people leading development of a new concept for a park in Florida. It had to be something completely different from any animal park in the world—different from any theme park we or anyone else had ever created.
The very first meeting about the park was conducted in August of 1989. It lasted five minutes. According to Rohde:
Michael Eisner said, “People like animals. People like Disney. If Disney does something with animals, people will come.” I said, “OK, there’s the mission.”
At that point, however, the idea of Animal Kingdom was a “dark-horse kind of project.” Euro Disneyland was well underway, and Eisner’s highly touted Disney Decade, where the company would expand its footprint in the parks, resorts, animated films—even into the unchartered waters of operating its own cruise line—was in full swing as the 1990s unfolded.
Although Rohde was tasked with leading the Animal Kingdom project, it wasn’t as if there were a long line of Imagineers yearning to take up the challenge.
Chuck Schmidt was bitten by the Disney bug at an early age. He remembers watching The Mickey Mouse Club after school in the mid-1950s. During his 48-year career in the newspaper business, he channeled that love of Disney as the Sunday News and Travel editor for the Staten Island Advance, writing features and covering a variety of events involving the expansive world created by Walt Disney.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom is his fourth book published by Theme Park Press. The others are On the Disney Beat, An American in Disneyland Paris, and Disney’s Dream Weavers. He also collaborated with former Disney cast member Ted Kellogg on his book Passport to Pixie Dust.
Since 2009, Chuck has shared his passion for all things Disney in his Goofy About Disney blog on SILive.com. He also writes a blog for AllEars.net called Still Goofy About Disney. Chuck resides in Beachwood, New Jersey, with his wife, Janet. They have three adult children and six grandchildren.
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