In 1951—four years before the grand opening of Disneyland—a man named Harper Goff browsed the shelves of Bassett-Lowke, a miniature train store in central London. When a particular antique train took Goff’s eye, he was told that it had been promised to someone else. “I found one,” Goff later remembered, “and the man said ‘There’s a gentleman coming in this evening who’s shown some interest in that…’”
The year was 1905. Theodore Roosevelt was president, a quart of fresh milk cost about 7 cents, and Eric Cleon Larson was born on September 3 in Cleveland, Utah. While Disney fans know Larson as one of Walt’s famous “Nine Old Men” of animation, his path to get there was hardly a straight line. In fact, during an interview not long before his retirement, he was asked how he ended up with Disney. His reply: “This is the last place I expected to be.”
Walt Disney’s Melody Time celebrates its 70th anniversary this year. Released in May of 1948, it was one of the last of the so-called package features, which took precedent from Fantasia (1940) by combining more than a half dozen short subject cartoons, each musically inclined.