Jeff Heimbuch has a pretty extensive resume within the Disney community. He writes three columns for MiceChat, co-hosts an energetic video podcast called Communicore Weekly, steps up to the mic monthly with The Disney Project, and most recently, he has partnered up with Disney legend, Rolly Crump, to publish his life story as well as distribute several audio volumes filled with his work experiences in and out of the Disney Company.
At this point, you might be asking yourself: when does Jeff find the time to sleep? Honestly, I have no idea but I’m thankful he took some time to chat with me about the decision to self-publish It’s Kind of a Cute Story, his relationship with Rolly Crump, the feedback they’ve received so far, and what’s next.
I am so excited to welcome Jeff back to This Happy Place Blog today + I hope you enjoy hearing from him!
One thing we don’t have any access to are a ton of great Disney history books, especially ones with such honest accounts of their time with the company. This is part of the reason I was always so excited about you working on CUTE STORY with Rolly. (This is a two-part question…)
Why do you think this is?
JEFF: Well, I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that a lot of these guys who have firsthand accounts of the early days are no longer around. When they were here, there wasn’t a thing called “the Internet” yet. There was no online Disney community. As much as we love Disney and their work, these guys didn’t really get to see that in the same way that people are able to express their appreciation of it today. The internet has been really great for these Disney Legends to know how people react to things in the Park, and I think because of that, more folks are apt to write about their Disney story. Before, they didn’t think anyone was interested. I know Rolly certainly didn’t. But now, they know better! As for the honesty portion, it’s tough to be honest when you have Disney looming over your shoulder. You really need to go down a longer road to get the story out you want to tell, without upsetting their feelings.
What kind of Disney books and biographies would you like to see?
JEFF: I would really love to see more books with honest, firsthand accounts. I don’t necessarily mean from the original Imagineers. But from folks like Tony Baxter. That’s a story I’d love to hear an honest account of! But other history in general would be great, especially for topics we haven’t really heard much about before. I’d really like to see an in-depth book about some of the resorts and theme parks that were planned, some even very far in the development process, but were canned for some reason or another.
It’s already been a year since CUTE STORY came out! (Where does the time go?) Looking back, what’s been a favorite moment since the release?
JEFF: The last year has been pretty amazing, and it’s hard to pick a single moment. But I can narrow it down to two: one specific, and one general. Specific is when we held a breakfast book signing back in January with MiceChat as part of their 10th anniversary. Rolly and I did a little presentation during it, and then signed a lot of books after. What was supposed to be an hour of signing turned into almost three because the line was so long and everyone stopped to chat with us. It was amazing to hear so many people tell us how much they enjoyed the book, and how they couldn’t wait for more!
But generally speaking, just hearing from everyone about the book has been great. We’ve gotten a lot of emails from folks who say they love how honest it is, and how it feels like Rolly is actually telling them the story. Even people from within the Company itself have told us that! It really makes me appreciate all the time and work we put into it.
Can we talk a little bit about your experience with getting the book published? Disney history is such an untapped genre and I wondered if you would weigh in on the big publisher vs. smaller houses and what challenges you experienced along the way.
JEFF: For a lot of the big name publishers, Disney books are not a proven income source for them. Sure, I shopped it around a bit to these places, but they all turned us down because they didn’t believe it would make its money back, and they didn’t believe in the vision we had for it.I looked into self-publishing, but it was way too big of an undertaking. Thankfully, though, I knew of an independent publishing company that had recently published a Disney book I enjoyed (even if some people lamented it). I had become friends with the author of the book beforehand, and when the time was right, we discussed how we could make the book a reality.
I absolutely love Bamboo Forest Publishing and Leonard Kinsey. If it wasn’t for him, this book would have never gotten published. He really believed in not only Rolly’s story but in how we wanted the book to be presented. Like you mentioned earlier, he was someone who believed very much more personal, honest accounts of Disney history, so he loved the book. He did everything he could to do Rolly’s story justice, and I have to say, he treated the book much, much better than any other publisher would have. I owe him everything, and I really can’t thank him enough.
And for the record, to all those big publishing companies, the book DOES sell well. Even a year later, I’m amazed at how many people are still discovering the book. The word of mouth on it has been fantastic!
What exactly are the responsibilities of someone involved in an “as told to” book?
JEFF: I guess the role of “as told to” changes from book to book, but for me specifically, it was basically listening to all of Rolly’s stories and crafting it into a linear narrative. When Rolly tells a story, he usually goes from point A, to point B, C, D, E, F, W, K, Z, and then back to A. While it’s really awesome to hear the stories like that, it sometimes doesn’t make sense in a linear fashion. So, I took the over 200 hours (seriously) of interviews I did with him, and worked them together in a way that would make sense for someone who has never heard of Rolly before.
It’s not a big surprise that you and Rolly have formed a close relationship since working on this book together. What’s the biggest lesson he’s taught you so far?
JEFF: Do what you love. No matter what happens, no matter who stands in your way, even if no one else believes in it…just do what you love. Don’t be afraid to take a gamble, because Walt certainly wasn’t. That’s pretty much been his motto since he began working for Disney. And I have to tell you, it’s a great way to live your life!
Did you receive any feedback from readers who were not necessarily dedicated Disney enthusiasts? Anyone that surprised you?
JEFF: Actually, yes, we have gotten a few messages from folks who happened to pick up the book for one reason or another, and wound up really enjoying it. Even though a good portion of the book deals with his life at Disney, Rolly also talks about many other things. At the end of the day, it’s the story of a creative guy who has done a lot of really creative things. Even if you aren’t into Disney like some of us are, it’s still a relatable story. Plus, Rolly has some hilarious stories!
What part of Rolly’s experience with the Disney company stands out to you the most? Were most of the stories totally brand new to you?
JEFF: I really think the fact that Rolly had his own style of working that was completely different from everyone else’s, and Walt let him do his thing; it kind of amazes me. You can ask 50 different people about their experiences with Walt, and get 50 different answers. But I really think Rolly’s is the most unique. A lot of people have told us that they learned more from the chapter on Walt in the book than you have in most biographies of the man.
Having been a fan of Rolly’s since I was a kid, I had assumed I heard most of what he had to say. But when we started working on the book, imagine my surprise when he had a million more stories I had never heard before. Even now, with the book a year old and three CDs out, he’ll tell me something new every time we talk. It’s amazing.
I know you have the audio CUTE STORY volumes out, but are you working on any upcoming projects with Rolly?
JEFF: The audio companions, More Cute Stories, are the only thing we have planned for now. We already have three released, and many more to record. Provided Rolly still wants to tell his stories, I’ll continue help get them out there!
Thanks so much Jeff!