Saturday, September 30, 2023

Remembering Artists, Authors, and Entertainers

Dick Clark and Donna Summer

By Joe Kleiman, IPM Online News Editor

As 2012 hits the halfway mark, IPM News pays tribute to some of the talent we have recently lost:

Considered the world’s “Oldest Living Teenager,” Dick Clark was America’s iconic face of New Year’s Eve, as for decades he counted down the ball drop in Times Square for a nationwide audience in a broadcast featuring the freshest sounds in contemporary pop and rock.  It was in this genre that he made his name, as host of American Bandstand.  Here, every week on the ABC television network, he would introduce American youth to the newest artists, who performed in front of a live crowd in a studio dance club atmosphere.  His brand would prove so succcessful that it would spawn a chain of American Bandstand eateries, a live theater venue in Branson, MO, and an American Bandstand attraction in Pigeon Forge, TN.

But American Bandstand‘s greatest contribution to the themed entertainment industry was in telling young people that it was cool to dance, an idea that parks around the country quickly picked up on in an effort to pull in younger crowds, especially at night.  Disney, among others, has proven to be a master at the American Bandstand concept, employing the formula through the years from Tomorrowland Terrace to Videopolis, Pleasure  Island, and this year’s Mad T Party.  Dick Clark passed away at age 82 on April 18.

One of the artists who performed on Bandstand was Donna Summer.  The “Queen of Disco” wrote her songs based on the world she saw in her gritty New York other locales of the 1970’s.  Few realize that her hit song Bad Girls is about streetwalkers looking for customers, but the rhythm and her voice combined to place it in the American popular songbook.

Summer had a long career of performing at Disney parks, appearing in television specials for Disneyland’s 30th and the grand opening of the Disney/MGM Studios.  In 2006, she performed at Disney’s Animal Kingdom for the International POW WOW, one of tourism’s most important industry events.  A year later, she shited gears to Universal, headlining the 2007 Mardi Gras celebration at Universal Studios Florida.  Here her legacy remains, as attraction designers selected Bad Girls as an official onboard music track for the park’s Rip Ride Rockit rollercoaster.  Donna Summer passed away May 17, age 63.

Michael Swinney, SONY Development, with Maurice Sendak

Children attending Universal theme parks in Singapore and Osaka, Japan, along with those attending parks operated by SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment here in the states, have much for which to thank Maurice Sendak.  As a creative advisor to Sesame Street during its formative stage in the 1960’s, and author of bestselling children’s books, Sendak’s legacy can be found anywhere friendly monsters exist. From a Sesame Street theme park in Pennsylvania to a giant purple dinosaur in Central Florida, to a picnic on a plantation in Georgia, Sendak’s imagination sprouted monstrous fruit at parks worldwide.

But it took more than a generation for his most famous creations, the creatures of his best selling childrens book Where the Wild Things Are, to find a home.  In 1999, a Where the Wild Things Are interactive play zone opened as a key component to SONY’S Metreon urban entertainment center in San Francisco, CA.  Sendak, touring the attraction during its construction, told the San Francisco Chronicle how proud he was that it wasn’t high tech.  “I like them to use their imaginations,” he said.  Although the attraction only operated for a few years, the monsters returned a decade later, when a feature length Hollywood adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are played in METREON’s IMAX theater.  Sendak passed away May 8 at age 83.

Ray Bradbury.  Copyright Disney.

Ray Bradbury considered himself a children’s book author at heart, telling the BBC that his novel Farenheit 451 was nothing more than a fun book about a chase.  But to millions around the world, he was known as a leading science fiction author and futurist.

Bradbury was at the forefront of science fiction and fantasy as the atomic age began and the promise of space travel was around each corner.  With the advent of television, a new and exciting medium opened up and Bradbury took advantage of it, writing not only for The Twilight Zone, but for his own television program as well.

Bradbury had strong ideals about the connection of the past to the future and it showed on two projects he helped conceive – Past as Prologue at the United States Pavilion at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, which used 135 screens to convey the idea that the exploration of space was an extension of the Western expansion of the United States, and Epcot Center’s Spaceship Earth, which told the story of interhuman communication and the effects of technology on lessening the gaps in both time and space between people.   Bradbury would also work with Disney on other Future World attractions at EPCOT and on Discoveryland at Disneyland Paris.  He passed away June 5.  He was 91.

Stan Jolley (on right).  Copyright Disney.

While Ray Bradbury helped envision the future at EPCOT, Stan Jolley made tomorrow a reality at Disneyland.  Having been encouraged by his friend Herb Ryman in 1953 to join the team designing the new park, Jolley illustrated conceptional ideas for the new Tomorrowland, including the Autopia, an attraction still operating today.

Jolley wasn’t stuck in the future, as his artistic skills helped create a look for many of the park’s most beloved attractions, including the Golden Horseshoe and the Storybook Land Canal Boats.  He would go on to become an art director and production designer for Disney television programs, including designing Walt Disney’s office that appeared at the beginning of each episode of the hosted tv show and later at the Disney parks.

Jolley also worked on films, including Caddyshack, Taps, Walking Tall, and Witness, for which he was nominated for an Oscar.  Stan Jolley passed away June 4.  He was 86.

Joe Kleiman
Joe Kleiman
Raised in San Diego on theme parks, zoos, and IMAX films, InPark's Senior Correspondent Joe Kleiman would expand his childhood loves into two decades as a projectionist and theater director within the giant screen industry. In addition to his work in commercial and museum operations, Joe has volunteered his time to animal husbandry at leading facilities in California and Texas and has played a leading management role for a number of performing arts companies. Joe previously served as News Editor and has remained a contributing author to InPark Magazine since 2011. HIs writing has also appeared in Sound & Communications, LF Examiner, Jim Hill Media, The Planetarian, Behind the Thrills, and MiceChat His blog, takes an unconventional look at the attractions industry. Follow on twitter @ThemesRenewed Joe lives in Sacramento, California with his wife, dog, and a ghost.

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