Interview with Rob Fendler – Help restore a bit of Disney History

   We were fortunate to be introduced to Rob Fendler through my brother Shane and fell in love with his ambitious project to restore a piece of Disney History.  Rob has held some interesting jobs in the past, including bringing our friend Swampy to life.   Below is a short interview with Rob in which he describes what he has worked on and how The Small Worlds of Walt came to be.   If you would like to contribute to his efforts please visit the Donation Site.  There is no donation too small to help restore something that has affected so many lives.
The Small Worlds of Walt
QUESTION:  Where would we have seen your work in the past?
 ROB:  I’ve worked at several animation studios though out my career, but primarily Nickeleodeon, ClickN KIDS, Animax, and currently at Renegade Animation.
QUESTION: Do you have a favorite project you have worked on?
ROB: One of my favorite projects was not actually animation at all!  I was in charge of  building a giant slot-car set to look like a miniature Nascar racetrack for a series of Carl’s Jr/Hardee’s spots.  It was a live-action shoot, complete with professional miniature pyrotechnics!
QUESTION: As director of the Swampy’s Underground Adventures what did your days entail? 
ROB: At Animax, where the production took place, I would be overseeing the animation, giving notes to the animators on their scenes or answering questions about how their shot fit in with the entire episode. I would be meeting with Lars Kenseth, our writer, Dave Logan, our producer, and studio founder Dave Thomas (of SCTV and the voice of Tuke in Brother Bear).  There we would discuss the premise for new episodes, help write gags, or give notes on a storyboard that’s been pitched by a board artist.  I would also sit in the voice records with Justin Bowler(Swampy & Cranky) or Kate Micucci (Allie) to give my feedback as well.  Or I’d be sitting with our post-production editor to make sure all the animation is layering well over the backgrounds and the flow of continuity is intact. Or I could be sitting with our audio editor as he placed sound effects along side the music track that was scored to the finished animation.  We’d also meet regularly with folks from Disney to get their input as well and incorporate that during all stages of production.  When you’re overseeing multiple episodes in production you end up bouncing around a lot!
QUESTION:  Are the Swampy episodes you have directed available to view anywhere online?
ROB:  Yes, all twelve episodes can be seen at www.disney.com/smampy
QUESTION: What project are you currently working on?  Still with Disney?
 ROB:  I’m currently working on a few projects at Renegade – The new Tom & Jerry Show for Warner Bros., a series of Weinerschnitzel ads, content for an online educational program, and Hard Boiled Egg-Heads – a pilot for Amazon.
QUESTION: What made you want to start working on The Small Worlds of Walt?
ROB: I’ve always been interested in Disney history and Walt’s personal story.  I’ve been a volunteer at Walt’s Barn in Griffith Park for about 6 years, which is one place where you can really get a sense of Walt as person and the things that fascinated him, and how he focused all of that into creating Disneyland.  When the opportunity arose to preserve pieces of Disneyland that perfectly represented Walt’s love of miniatures I felt that if I didn’t do this, then there would be a real danger of these pieces being lost forever.
QUESTION: How did you get your hands on such an amazing piece of Disney history?
ROB: In 1981 the original “French Village” that sat just below Cinderella’s castle was removed from the attraction so that a copy could be created in the backstage Staff Shop.  We recently discovered a treasure trove of photos that documented this process by Gerald Parker, one of the shop craftsman that was responsible for reconstructing the entirety of Storybook Land.  After Gerald had finished the new village, the originals were set aside backstage.  A former imagineer had prevented this particular village from being lost forever with the intention of preserving them himself.  However as time went on, he decided that the Carolwood Foundation would be a perfect fit for making sure these miniatures would be properly cared for.
QUESTION: Have you done a restoration project like this before?
ROB: I have done restoration work on a 1:1 scale family cottage that dates back to 1905 that needed conservation and preservation of its old woodwork.  I’ll be combining this with my experience in RTV mold making and model making that will be needed to fabricate replacement pieces for what has gone missing from the village.
QUESTION: What is the Carolwood Foundation?
ROB: The Carolwood Foundation is the non-profit group affiliated with Walt’s Barn and the Carolwood Pacific Historical Society that was also responsible for restoring the Disneyland Railroad Combine car.
QUESTION: How did you get involved with the Foundation?
ROB: As a volunteer at the barn, I was able to propose the whole “Small Worlds of Walt” preservation project: how it would be restored, how it would be displayed, and how it would be funded, and put it through to a vote by the Foundation’s board members.
QUESTION: How much money are you trying to raise and how will this money be used?  Donate Here
ROB: Our initial goal is $6000 for the restoration to take place.  This will go towards supplies that will be needed to restore the models to a displayable state, things like specially formulated epoxies that will preserve the heavily damaged plywood structure thats crumbling inside the facades of the village.  It will also go towards an entirely new lighting system inside to bring life back to the miniature windows.  Any funds raised beyond that will go towards the fabrication of a themed cart that can make the display mobile.
QUESTION: Where do you plan to display the restored village?
ROB: The ultimate goal for the village is to be displayed in the themed cart next to Walt’s Barn in Griffith Park.  The village will also be mobile, which means that it could be transported to D23 or other gallery spaces.
QUESTION: What theme park character are you most like and why?
ROB: Does Casey Jr. count?  That little engine has stood the test of time since 1955.  Its nice to see that he’s finally been brought to Walt Disney World’s New Fantasyland.
QUESTION:  What is your favorite theme park?
ROB: I have to go with the original theme park – Disneyland.
QUESTION: What is your favorite theme park ride?
ROB: Nothing is more magical than Storybook Land at night.
QUESTION: What is your favorite theme park food?
ROB: On a hot day, the pickles from either the Main Street or Adventureland carts can’t be beat.
If you would like to find out more about Rob and the Small Worlds of Walt check out the links below.    Be sure to like his Facebook site to stay up to date on the progress of the restoration.  Questions and comments are welcome below.
Posted in Uncategorized.
  • Ooohh!! We watch the Swampy episodes on Roku. My son will be so impressed!

  • This is such an interesting interview! I am so glad they are working to preserve this “little” part of Disney history.

    • I agree – I love to hear that they are spending the time and money to keep the original items around.

  • DisneyDonnaKay

    What a great idea!! I am so glad these miniatures will be preserved. I would love the seem them myself!!

    • We are glad too, so close to being lost in time though. Glad there are others that love Disney as much as us to hold onto them and bring them back to life.

  • Pingback: Wordless Wednesday |()

  • Interesting read! I’m glad they are working to save a bit of this history!

  • MouseFanDiane

    Great Interview Sean, I love that there is and effort to preserve history especially DL

  • Pingback: Blog Carnival: Edition 1 | The Best of Disney()