I met a Disney Legend

In September of 1991 I was a Lead at the Monorail Cafe at the Disneyland Hotel and read in the Cast Newspaper that they were closing the Rivers of America and Tom Sawyers Island to refurbish it for a new show.

That winter I thought it would be fun to see what the ROA looked like empty, so I headed over to the Park and found a big green fence and a sign that read “Imagination!” Opening in spring of 1992 (later it was changed to Fantastic!). I walked around, peaked through the fence and took pictures of the empty riverbed from atop of Pirates of the Caribbean.

One of the perks of being a cast member is being able to watch sneak peaks of the shows as they practice. My first time watching it, I was blown away first by the music, so powerful then by the beauty of it all, the lights the water show. WOW! A short time later I learned that the Park was looking for Media Escorts to help out with the media preview day for Fantastic! I quickly got permission and was going to be able to ”Be Here When the Night Ignites” with Micheal Eisner, Frank Wells and my assigned TV Station from Abilene, Texas (KTSX News 12).

On my first day with my news crew I met them at the Park, we signed in, received our credentials, and we were off! I had a reporter and a camera guy with me, so we took video around the Park, the reporter did some “ eases”with a live remote and talked with a few Guests. Then we enjoyed a night in the Park.

The next day was the press premier for the show, lots of live shots, interviews and reaction. It was so interesting to hear them writing out what they were going to say. I laughed to myself because the reporter defiantly had a 90’s reporter voice…”and now back to you in the studio”

On the last day, they asked if I could drive them to Burbank for an interview, I said sure and off we went. I had no idea that the station had lined up an interview with a Disney Animator for them.

We pulled into the driveway of this cute two story house and walked up to the door. We knocked and we were met by this nice older guy. As we walked through his front room, my eyes were zooming all around. Who is this guy? On the mantel there was a Disney Legends statue, lots of small trophy’s and Disney characters. The coffee table had lots of books on Disney, some I had never scene before. The hallway had photos of him at the studio, and as we walked into the backyard he pointed out all the inspiration he found in his yard. This bush was in Fantasia, these branches where in Snow White.

He invited us upstairs to his drawing room. It was a beautiful sun room with a wall of windows that overlooked the backyard. As the camera guy was getting set up, I finally heard who this person was…Joe Grant. The very first thing I thought of after hearing his name was… this guy next to me knew and worked with Walt Disney. It was a very out of body experience for me for a few minutes. I was now glued to every word he said.

As the reporter started the interview, we were at his drawing board and inside I had a ton of questions that I wanted to ask (but I knew I couldn’t). At one point, he started to draw a variety of Dumbo’s for the segment. As we finished the interview he gave the drawings to the camera guy (I didn’t have it in me to ask for one). And as we were wrapping things up, he talked about his work on Beauty and the Beast and his work on Aladdin and how much he loved being at the Studio.

I finally had my chance to talk, I thanked him for his time, shook his hand, and he said “anytime”. Yes… for a brief second, I wanted to ask him if we could chat sometime, but being the professional I am, I just said “take care Joe”

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From Wikipedia:
Born in New York City, New York, he worked for The Walt Disney Company as a character designer and story artist beginning in 1933 on the Mickey Mouse short, Mickey’s Gala Premier. He was a Disney legend. He created the Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. He co-wrote Dumbo. He also led development of Pinocchio and Fantasia.

During World War II, Grant worked on war cartoons including the Academy Award winning Der Fuehrer’s Face. He left the Disney studio in 1949 and ran a ceramics business and a greeting card business but returned in 1989 to work on Beauty and the Beast. He also worked on Aladdin, The Lion King, Pocahontas, Mulan, Fantasia 2000, and Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. among others. The last two films he worked on before his death, Chicken Little and Pixar’s Up, were dedicated to him.

Grant worked four days a week at Disney until he died, nine days before his 97th birthday. Grant’s final project, Lorenzo, for which he conceived the idea and helped storyboard, received an Academy Award nomination in 2005.

In 1977 I discovered albums

I had always listened to pop music on the radio, Dr Don Rose on KFRC was my go to AM radio station for the latest hits of the 70’s. At the age of 10, my elementary school had each homeroom perform, and we were to sing “Top of the World” by the Carpenters. It was a total class event, and I had to memorize the lyrics.

I ran home, put on the album and listened to this beautiful voice singing to me. I remember practicing the lyrics over and over and over again. Side note: Mom and I have the great voices in the family. I would sit in the front room of our house on Halifax , listening and looking over the album covers. I would listen to the entire album, then start again. We had a pair of the old school headphones that always warmed my ears after a while, so I would have to let my ears cool.

My parents didn’t have a huge record collection, but I sure remember the feelings theses songs gave me. Music made me feel alive inside.

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I remember coming home from school, and putting this album on to practice my first recital to the world. This is where my love of song lyrics begun and still continues today with the newest hits.

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My Mom was a huge Barry Manilow fan growing up, this is one of the first albums I remember listening too. I use to love the figuring on the cover. Mom would always be listening and singing too Barry. This love affair lasted all through my schooling, so its little wonder that I also fell in love with the music of Barry. When I was young, I hated the slow songs, I always favored the fast tempo stuff. Once in High School, I really started to appreciate his ballads, and this love affair continues today.

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It’s funny the things you remember. I would lay on the couch and listen to the album, as I analyzed every drawing the front and back of the album. What I remember most, was on the back, there is a little naked butt, pooping. Maybe thats why I appreciate a good fart joke?

LA Riots and Me

On April 29, 1992 the riots erupted in Los Angeles and I was working at the Disneyland Hotel in the Monorail Cafe at the time. I remember hearing about what was happening and watched in the cast member lunch room what was happening. Like everyone around, I was glued to the TV this day into night. As the riots continued, we were informed that Disney wanted any cast members that lived in the LA areas to stay at one of the hotels until it was safe.

I was working the closing shift this night, and defiantly did not want to drive home, after I saw the fires and looting on TV, so I was put up at the Heidi Hotel next to the Disneyland Park. That first night I got to the hotel around 1:00am, crawled into bed and watched as much news as I could until I fell asleep.

The next morning I knew I would be staying at least one more night, and decided to head home to pick up some clothes and supplies to tied me over for a few days. It was late morning when I turned off the 5 Freeway on to the 10 Santa Monica Freeway. As I drove there were rocks on the freeway and cars driving so fast, zig zagging all around me, It was pretty scary stuff. I finally exited at South La Cienega blvd and headed towards my apartment on Bedford. As I got closer, I found the gas station on the corner was blocked off and burned. The streets in my neighborhood, were empty of people but garbage and bricks tossed on the sidewalks and streets.

I found parking down the street and walked very fast to my apartment. I was happy to see that the apartment complex looked untouched and safe. As quickly as I closed the door, one of the neighbors came over and was so happy to see that I was ok. They were worried about me, because I had not return home last night. Most of my neighbors knew I worked at Disneyland and were always wonderful towards me. I would always try and bring a little something home for the kids who would always run up to me when I was off work.

I had a ton of calls from my family on my answering machine when I got home, so I called Mom right away to let her know what was happening. To say my Mom was a little freaked out was an understatement, but I assured her I would stay safe.

I stayed at the Hotel, another night then decided I should headed back to my place. A friend of mine, Jessie (from Marine World) was my neighbor across the street, and saw me drive up. He asked me to stay over at his place for the night just in case, as the area was still settling down.

As a new week started, life was returning to normal and I was changed. I was now more aware of my surroundings, more aware of who was watching me and knew I had to keep myself safe. Within a few months I would move to Santa Ana with a bunch of coworkers.

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Day 1 : flying day

The day started with an early flight to Seattle. It was a smooth quick flight. I had the row to myself which was fantastic. There was a mother and two small children that were fussing so the flight attendant offered her a row of seats in the back of the plane.


Once in Seattle I had breakfast and upgraded to First Class for my long flight to Atlanta.


This was my first time in first class. They started meal service with a hot towel to freshen up. Then served a hot meal of blackened chicken, with a side salad. During lunch they passed out tablets, and I was able to watch Revenanr. The views are always amazing when you fly.

Last day before Tour

As I get set to leave for tour there has been one person that has been with me every moment of my Promo team life, Tabatha! We first connected in 2003 when she was a Promo Princess now 13 years later she is my Tour Wife and this photo from 2013 is our honeymoon photo.


My first show with Tabatha, she was a beast. She came roaring in with the truck and trailer, parked it, dropped it and started to set up. To keep up with her, I knew I had to just jump in, and get started with setting up. Tabatha was a great teacher, If I ever turned the bills in the wrong direction she would tell me ” they all need to go in the same direction” and if I folded a shirt wrong she would just give me the look and fold it properly.
Tab and I worked so well together, we just know what has to be done and do it. Over the years we became a staple of the Promo teams, and the best of friends, sharing lots of laughs and making the best of life on the road. In 2006 we were asked multiple times by other promo teams if we were married, and so Tab become my tour wife.
There is nothing we can’t handle. From working 18 shifts, getting a truck and trailer up a steep hill, running a show by ourselves or driving all day, pulling right into the show and selling for the next five hours… we’ve done it all.
In 2009 we added our Son Mikey to our Promo family and this year we have our daughter Suzy with us 😀. This year will also be the last year we will have Mom Gail with us on the road.
Our Blue Devils family may be changing but our love for each other will never end.

2 days before Tour

Number 2 is from 2013. This was taken in Lynchburg, VA at 12:59 AM, after we finished playing solitaire with 600 pieces of uniforms. Part of being on the Promo team is that help out whenever we can with anything that is asked of us. From finding Post Offices to pick up letters from home, driving to airports to pick up staff and the always fun and exciting grocery run. But one task that we tackle 2-3 times (during my two weeks on the road) is washing the uniforms.
The process starts with locating a facility that can handle us rolling in and taking over 90% of the washers and dryers. Next we announce to the members to drop off the uniforms after a meal. We grab garbage bags and separate ourselves by uniforms parts…jackets, pants and rubbers (shirts worn underneath) and depending on the year any extra accessories for the uniform.
Once collected these bags smell horrible but as much as the uniforms stink, we feel so bad for the members having the perform in that smell, so we are always happy to give them back fresh uniforms. The bags are loaded into our Promo truck or bus and we’re off. Once at the laundry mat we kick into high gear, loading jackets into all the washers and staggering the start times so they don’t end all at once. As the washing cycle ends for the jackets we move them into dryers and start the process over with the pants. To ensure nothing wrinkles we only load around 10 per dryer and when the cycle ends we remove them and fold immediately. We have mastered the art of this and it takes around three hours for the washing and drying but we’re not done yet. We load up the bus and head back to the housing site where we start solitaire.
Rolled out paper on gym floors, down hallways or on the lawn to keep the uniforms clean and organized. We then start to match up each uniform part by their assigned numbers in numerical order starting with the pants. We usually always have an extra something with no number, but it always finds its owner in no time. Solitaire takes about an hour depending on who volunteers to help us. Cooks and drivers will often help out with this part which we are always thankful for.
Part of being in the The Blue Devils family is always being willing to help each other out. We are one family and we bleed blue.

3 days until Tour

Number 3 is from 2011. I’m not sure where this was taken, but it shows one of my favorite things to do while on tour…meeting and talking with fans.


We on the Promo team are so lucky because we are often the closes fans get to meeting the Blue Devils. We are truly a Blue Devils information hub for many people. From answering questions on how to audition , how to get Wayne Downey or Scott Chandler this music for a show idea, or where are the Blue Devils from.
Often they think we know every member of the corps by name “please tell Jack that his sisters friend said hi”. Some of the yearly chats include, talking about the good old days of the 1980’s Drum Corps shows, about how I got involved with The Blue Devils, explaining where Concord, CA is, encouraging them to just try out for next season, and sharing the secret of where the Corps is warming up. This last one is always tricky for us as we often have no idea where they are or if they have arrived yet. This mostly happens at the larger shows when we are working an 18 hour shift inside a stadium.
I love talking drum corps and sharing stories with others who know exactly what I am talking about. A few times way up here in Idaho, I have been stopped while wearing a BD shirt and asked if that’s the drum corps. When I say yes, the energy level goes full force and I am connecting with this stranger about something few understand. It’s amazing and I feel so lucky to be part of the activity.
Who would have known that the pounding sound I heard on summer nights growing up in Concord in the early 1980’s were the Blue Devils. That a few years later I would be invited to be a volunteer with them and almost 30 years later I am still listening to that pounding sound during the summer.

Blue Devils and Me: DCI Finals

With my travels with The Blue Devils over the years, here are the locations of the 15 DCI Finals that I have had the pleasure to attend. My all time favorite location was in Pasadena, CA


1988 Kansas City, MO
1989 Kansas City, MO
1999 Buffalo, NY
2004 Denver, CO
2005 Foxboro, MA
2006 Madison, WI
2007 Pasadena, CA
2008 Indianapolis, IN
2009 Indianapolis, IN
2010 Indianapolis, IN
2011 Indianapolis, IN
2012 Indianapolis, IN
2013 Indianapolis, IN
2015 Indianapolis, IN
2016 Indianapolis, IN

4 days until Tour

Number 4 is from 1987 and my first national tour with The Blue Devils. I was hired as part of a four person food crew this summer and the trailer was my home for thirty days as we crossed the country. It was only two years old at the time and it was the longest and highest trailer allowed on the roads. She was a beauty.


See those two small windows in the back, that’s where we slept. There were four bunk beds back there and we would stay in Devils Food as we traveled down the road. We would try and sleep, but we would bounce in our bunks the entire time. We would often just sit in the main kitchen and enjoy the views, mostly sunrises as we had no curtains, so we were up like it or not. I remember making up a salad as we zoomed along the highway, waving to the Santa Clara Vanguard as we passed and even stopping the fleet along the road once when we smelled propane. Back in 1985 we lost our old food truck to a fire, so no one took any chances. Luckily for us it was nothing and we were back on the road in no time.
Devils Food is still in use today, although our bunk beds is now a pantry and its had major upgrades over the years. Devils Food is part of my BD history, and I still enjoy helping set her up in the mornings and going to the grocery store to restock her. She still makes a mean cup of coffee. 

This is a photo of the back entrance of Devils Food. What makes this picture special for me is that back in 1987 I was driving the B Corps truck and they wanted to get lettering for the back of the truck “Blue Devils B Corps”. I was given the project to find and get the lettering for the roll up door of the truck.
After My truck project they asked if I could order lettering for Devils Food? I said you got it. Fast forward 17 years to my first tour with the Promo team in 2004 and I see Devils Food for the first time. Goose bumps are everywhere as I walk to the back of the trailer and see my lettering looking as sharp as ever.

5 days until Tour

For the next five days I’m looking over photos from my tours with The Blue Devils and sharing their photo story.
Number 5 is from the 2015 Tour. Each tour when it’s time for the Eastern Classic in Allentown,PA we make the town of Hamburg, PA our home for a few days.
Devils Food is our mobile kitchen and when we get to a housing site we connect to water and power at the school. We discovered our first year here that when we connect the hose to the facet there is a kick back of water that shoots out from the pressure valve on the facet. The water creates a puddle of water that we try and keep cleaned up so know one slips. In this photo Tabatha is clearing the way before the Corps Members arrive for their meal.
Our favorite pastime is to watch the members walk past and get a surprised spray of water or better yet when they try and escape the sun and sit next to it and it goes off. 

To be honest, it never gets old and is always great fun to watch year after year.