"Walt Disney had intended that the food experience to be as immersive and entertaining as the attractions themselves." - Marcy Carriker Smothers
We're getting an insider's look at what Walt Disney was really like, and why the theme park pioneer was actually quite a simple man.
We caught up with the author of "Eat Like Walt: The Wonderful World of Disney Food."
You can watch the entire interview below, but here are some highlights:
ALLISON WALKER TORRES: So you figured out, Marcy, how the lands pay homage to Walt, but of course there are some parallels between Disneyland and Walt Disney World, I imagine. Talk to be about that.
MARCY CARRIKER SMOTHERS: Well, I mean, the whole idea for me is I wanted to prove that Walt Disney had intended that the food experience to be as immersive and entertaining as the attractions themselves when he was building Disneyland. So in my research, I found this semi-obscure insert to an Orange County newspaper where Walt said, "Welcome to the Kingdom of good eating, where the food is as fabulous as the fun. Like Adventureland and Fantasyland, the food is an attraction into itself.
AWT: So he knew what "normal" people didn't know at the time, that food is entertainment, right?
MCS: He was a very normal person; a very simple, simple eater. But his whole idea about Disneyland and of course Walt Disney World and the parks around the world was he wanted a safe place for the families to have fun together. And that included the restaurant experience... He wanted people to be able to have a good meal at a fair price when they were relaxing and not jumping from ride to ride.
AWT: How did you learn all of this stuff? You must have had rock star sources. How did you crack this?
MCS: It's a combination - thanks for asking - when I was writing the proposal, I had the help from 2 great Imagineers... Once I sold the book, I then got access to the archives at Walt Disney - the photo archives, the Imagineering archives, the actual paper archives. And then, the family cooperated... Three of his granddaughters helped me immensely.
AWT: I want to know about this hand-written list of some of his favorite foods (pictured above).
MCS: Well this, to me, is probably one of the things that reveals Walt Disney as a human being more than almost any other image in the book... It has his loopy signatures... What happened was, he said to his housekeeper, "Foofoo" - who was called "FooFoo because his grandson couldn't say Thelma, whom he referred to as his Mary Poppins - he said, 'Here is what I like to eat.' And he wrote a list, including only one vegetable. [Laughing]. And then so she took it and she put it on the refrigerator and the Walt Disney Family Museum has it enshrined there, but they gave me permission to publish it.
AWT: I'm looking at it here. Things like Waldorf salad, diet custards...
MCS: Diet custard. Very, very simple food - roast chicken, roast beef. And only one vegetable. I love that. If I were the boss of Disneyland and Walt Disney World, I would have a true Walt's restaurant with the foods he liked to eat. But you could only have one vegetable. That would be the rule.
AWT: So the stuff that he liked to eat at home - can we see it in the theme park?
MCS: I would suppose, to a degree. The chili is there. But then again, you're trying to theme everything to the different lands.
AWT: What's also interesting to me - looking at this picture here - is seeing Walt pick up trash.
MCS: I love that one... What's also interesting, it Walt helped invent the swinging door trashcans that we also see at Walt Disney World. That was because he didn't want guests to lift he lid - back in the day, they had those aluminum [lids] - and see the garbage inside. So that was to make it invisible to the guests. They would push it in and they would drop the garbage in.... Details, details, details.
Meanwhile, you might recognize Richard Nixon in one of the pictures above. Smothers tells the story of how lunch turned into one of the most iconic Walt photos - ever. Again, our unedited interview is up top.