Remembering Jim Korkis

Posted on Wed, 08/09/2023 - 12:13

We are saddened to hear of the passing of Disney historian Jim Korkis. Jim interviewed Diane Disney Miller many times for his projects, and Diane shared, "I have not hesitated to correspond with Jim whenever I think of something that might interest him, or to add some insights into something he has written about. Dad did not hide anything about his life."

Jim contributed numerous insightful articles to the museum's blog and in 2014, presented a program on "How Walt Put a Man on the Moon." His generosity and invaluable knowledge and research of Walt Disney's life will be missed.

As a tribute to his memory, we have compiled the many insightful blogs he contributed to the museum over the years in the hope that Jim's words and example will continue to inspire generations of Disney fans and historians.

Jim Korkis

The Best of Walt Disney's True-Life Adventures: Behind the Cameras

In the December 1959 issue of Wisdom magazine, Walt Disney is quoted as saying: “Animals have personalities like people and must be studied. The spontaneity of the animal—you find it in small children, but it’s gradually trained out of them.” 

Walt’s love and fascination with animals began with his childhood years on a farm in Marceline and led to his creation of a series showcasing animals and nature known as the True-Life Adventures. 

Walt’s Onscreen Surrogate: Fred MacMurray

“I will say the seven pictures I made at the Disney Studio were the pleasantest times I’ve had in the picture business—and I’ve been around quite a while,” smiled actor Fred MacMurray in the ABC Wide World of Entertainment special from 1973, Walt Disney: A Golden Anniversary Salute. 

It is always intriguing to me that someone could be highly successful in their area of expertise, and well known throughout the world, and yet a decade or more later can be completely unknown to a new generation.

Disneyland's Costumed Characters

Continuing with our countdown to Disneyland's anniversary, today we'd like to share an excerpt from an interview between Disney Historian Jim Korkis and Disney Legend Bill Justice, conducted in March 1997. Bill Justice—who worked for The Walt Disney Company from 1937 to 1979, first as an animator, and then as an Imagineer—reflects back on Disneyland's first costumed characters.

Moon Pilot: The Making of the Disney Classic

“A funny thing happened to me on my way to the moon…girl (with seven moons all made for love) meets boy (with chimp)…and WOW!”

That was the marketing phrase that appeared on many movie advertisements for the Disney live-action “Technicolor® blast of fun and entertainment” known as Moon Pilot, first released to theaters nearly fifty years ago.

Mickey’s Moveable Birthday

November 18 has become the official day of observation of Mickey’s “birthday,” but it was not always so. Disney historian, author, and friend of the Museum Jim Korkis explains.

Once upon a time, Mickey Mouse didn’t have a birthday. Or, to be more precise, Mickey Mouse didn’t have a specific date for his birthday. 

Award-Winning Walt

Even decades after his passing, Walt Disney still retains the honor of being the individual with the most Academy Award nominations and the most Oscar wins. While the listing of these awards for animation, live action and more is very impressive, it is fun to take a quick look behind some of the stories of those golden statuettes.

Forgotten Disney Heroines: The Disney Secretaries

Most secretaries usually get “roses instead of raises,” but I remember my dad telling me to always be nice to secretaries and janitors because “they will either help you get things done or they can prevent things from getting done.” I’ve followed his advice, and often been happily rewarded.

Fortunately, much of Disney history survives because of the skill and attention of the Disney secretaries.

World War One Walt

During World War II, many employees of the Disney Studio left to join various branches of the armed forces. When Card Walker came up and told Walt that he was leaving the Studio to join the Navy, Walt first tried to talk him out of it and then eventually said, “You’re a lucky guy. I’d like to go myself.”

Walt was either too young or too old when the United States went to war, and as a result was never a member of any of the branches of the armed forces. However, Walt grew up in a time when it was an honor and an obligation as an American to serve your country. 

The Miniature Worlds of Walt

Strangely, for a man who always had big dreams, Walt Disney took some of his greatest delight in the world of miniatures. For decades, he both constructed and collected a huge variety of intricate tiny objects. Sometimes those small objects inspired some much larger ideas, including attractions at the Disney theme parks.

Behind the Scenes: So Dear To My Heart

“Come One! Come All! To the Walt Disney County Fair! Filled with music, laughter and heartwarming drama!” proclaimed the theatrical poster for the film, as So Dear to My Heart was released nationwide on January 19, 1949—a sentimental snapshot of a bygone period close to the heart of Walt Disney.

Walt and the True-Life Adventures

Walt made thirteen nature films in the 1950s known as the True-Life Adventures series. Eight of them won Academy Awards®. They were shown in public schools for decades and—judging by correspondence that is in the Walt Disney Archives in Burbank—many young people went into the forestry service and related fields due to the influence of these films.

New Heights: A Matterhorn in the Anaheim Alps

When Disneyland opened, there was not enough time nor money to do everything that Walt Disney wanted. In an area between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland was a large pile of dirt that had been named “Holiday Hill.”

When the Disneyland Skyway opened on June 23, 1956, the hill became the home to a large steel tower, used to support the “buckets” that traveled from Fantasyland to Tomorrowland and back. That summer, Walt sat on the hill with Admiral Joe Fowler and talked about the possibility of transforming the hill into a toboggan ride with real snow.

It’s What You Do With What You’ve Got

So Dear was especially close to me. Why, that’s the life my brother and I grew up with as kids out in Missouri. The great racehorse, Dan Patch, was a hero to us. We had Dan Patch’s grandson on my father’s farm,” claimed Walt Disney when the film was first released in January 1949.

While the film itself was not as profitable in its initial release or re-releases as some other Disney films, it was indirectly responsible for many memorable moments in Disney history