Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Now that was a wrap party

POOLSIDEIn June 1938, staffers at Walt Disney Productions were treated to a wrap party for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, six months after the movie's boffo opening. In those days, back before everyone in the studio could expect a bonus after a blockbuster was released, parties like this were the reward for hard work...

The Norconian Club was located in what's now called "The Inland Empire," not far from Palm Springs. ON THE DIVEBOARD
Right: Jack Dunham, Joe Rinaldi and Curt Perkins at the diving board.
There have been numerous tales about the Disney Lake Norconian party over the years. Ward Kimball described how it started relatively sedately, then turned into a drunken bacchanal, with Fred Moore falling out of a third floor window into a tree while relieving himself, and general carousing and mayhem.

And there was the story (perhaps apocryphal) of Walt, Roy and wives arriving at the celebration and then hurriedly departing when they saw all the rowdy debauchery.

Above: At 3 am, the party continues ... Willis Pyle (at the upper right, with his hands clasped) admitted he "really wasn't unhappy ..."
To our minds, these photographs don't show anything out of the ordinary (well, maybe Dunham, Rinaldi and Perkins on the diving board are a little bizarre -- particularly Rinaldi), but maybe unloosing a thousand twenty-somethings at a resort where the liquor flows freely is a recipe for, ahm, robust celebration. Certainly Disney never threw a party to rival it ever again. But then, the boys and girls of animation never had another record-breaker like "Snow White" during Walt's lifetime. The Norconian Club/resort in its heyday... and the place as it stands today; a boarded-up shell of its former glory. NORCONIAN CLUB TODAY


Anonymous said...

Thanks Steve, The story about Walt and Roy and their wives backing away from the wild goings-on were confirmed to me by Maurice Noble. He said he stood at the top of the main staircase and saw them . Maurice also said someone drunkenly galloped on a horse through the second floor hallways.

People knew how to party back then!

Anonymous said...

I was somewhat surprised at the reluctance of so many "old timers" to talk about the famous Disney Snow White party. Ward Kimball and a few others didn't hold back. Perhaps some were embarrassed by the wild behavior.

Heck, their kids would be doing the same thing one day. I have to agree, those "old timers" really knew how to party.

Kevin Koch said...

Michael Barrier posted the program for the party ("Walt's Field Day") on his site a few days ago, and it's worth checking out (as is the rest of Michael's site). He also ID's a few more of the people in the third photo.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like Disney's version of Tailhook!

LoyalTubist said...

Norco is actually closer to Los Angeles than Palm Springs. Norco and Palm Springs just happen to be in the same county.

Tyler Jorgenson said...

What a cool post. I really hope the Norconian can get restored.

Steve Hulett said...

Now that I think on it nine years later, the Norco celebration wasn't a wrap party. It was a "Look how our record-breaking movie did" party.

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