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Jim Hill
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by Jim Hill (archives)
September 13, 2001
Jim Hill remembers Imagineer Randy Bright, a good man who had some simple yet profound things to say about the American people

A Bright Spot in these Dark Times
Jim Hill remembers Imagineer Randy Bright, a good man who had some simple yet profound things to say about the American people

Hey there. Thanks for coming by LaughingPlace.com. Though I would imagine that it's going to be quite a while before any of us feels like laughing again.

I'm sure that a lot of you have been doing the exact same thing that I've been doing these past few days. Which is sitting numbly in front of the tube, watching as everything unfolds down in New York City, Washington D.C. and South Western Pennsylvania.

Face it, folks. We've all been awash in a sea of mixed emotions these past couple of days. Of course, our hearts automatically went out to all those poor souls whose friends & families were brutally slain or injured as a result of this senseless tragedy. And then this almost instinctual anger kicked in, since we're all so eager to see someone pay for this horrific crime.

But then there's that weird whiff of fear. That horrible, little self-centered voice that's inside all of us right now that keeps asking: How am I ever going to feel safe again -- when I'm riding in a plane or standing inside a tall building -- with all these memories of those planes crashing into the sides of the World Trade Center? Is this the sort of world that we're actually living right now -- where horrible, senseless things like that can suddenly happen to thousands of innocent people?

Sadly, yes. This *IS* the world that we're living in today. But we mustn't make the mistake of giving into fear, folks. If we were to become afraid now, then the cowardly SOBs who planned this awful assault emerge victorious. And -- in the end -- we'd end losing so much more than just our precious sense of personal well being.

The sad truth of the matter is that sad, senseless, awful things like this do happen sometimes. Like Tuesday's tragedies out in New York City, Washington D.C. and South Western Pennsylvania. Or -- on a much smaller scale -- like when Imagineer Randy Bright was killed back 'way in May 1989.

Most of you folks probably don't know who Randy Bright was. Some of you may know his name from that great book he wrote back in the late 1980s, "Disneyland: Inside Story." But -- beyond that -- very few people outside of WDI now remember Randy.

But inside the walls of Imagineering, memories of this guy still burn ... well ... bright. Many folks who work in Glendale still consider Randy Bright to have been the Imagineer's Imagineer. After all, here was a guy who really came up through the ranks the hard way, starting out as a part-time Disneyland employee 'way back in 1959.

Randy just took that job because he needed help covering his college expenses. But -- to hear him tell it -- Bright must have worked every single attraction in the park during that four year span. He even eventually donned that clear plastic helmet & slipped into that hot orange spacesuit to play Tomorrowland's resident spaceman

But Bright must have seen something he liked while he was taking that Cook's Tour of Disneyland. For -- right after he graduated -- Randy accepted a job with Disney University, the in-house organization that trains all of Disneyland's new cast members.

Following a successful stint at DU, Bright landed a staff writer's job at WED (Now WDI) in March of 1968. Once there, he helped create dozens of shows for Disneyland as well as the then-in-development Walt Disney World. During the early 1970s, Randy helped launch Mickey's Florida resort by moving to Orlando & managing cast communications for the WDW version of Disney University.

This was typical of Randy. To always go right where the Mouse needed him and do the best job possible. That's why in the late 1970s -- when executives at Walt Disney Productions were finally ready to get serious about Walt's last and greatest dream, Epcot -- they brought Bright back to Glendale.

For the first few years, he just served as WED's manager of Concepts and Communications (Which is a fancy way of saying that Randy made all of those marketing films that Mickey used to help convince U.S. corporations to sponsor Epcot pavilions). But -- starting in October 1979 -- Bright moved out of Epcot's marketing department and actually got to work creatively on the project itself. As WED's Director of Scripts & Show Development, Randy ended up as the de facto executive producer of all the films that would eventually be shown inside of Epcot Center.

Which is how that park's "American Adventure" show got dropped into Bright's lap.

Now it's important to note here that, prior to Randy's involvement in the project, that two other high-powered teams had tried -- and failed -- to come with a workable concept for an American themed pavilion for Epcot's World Showcase. Among the cornball ideas that thankfully had been discarded was a "Small World" - like boat ride that would have taken WDW visitors past scenes that featured AA figures of famous American folk heroes like Paul Bunyan & John Henry. (What's so bad about that? Did I mention that the AA figures would be singing Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land" over and over and over again?)

So how did Randy go about go about tackling this assignment? Well, first he spent weeks reseaching American history, trying to get a sense of what being an American was really all about. Then Bright would try & craft a show around that core concept.

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