With over thirty-years of experience working for The Walt Disney Company, Rebecca Cline is the Director of the company’s Archives. Cline has not only preserved Disney’s incredible history, she has also contributed to several articles, books, and projects on this company’s history. Cline recently worked with Steven B. Clark to write The Walt Disney Studios: A Lot to Remember – which provides a unique look at the history of Walt Disney Studios. Wanting to learn more about Cline and A Lot to Remember, I was able to interview her for ScifiPulse.
Nicholas Yanes: Growing up, what were some of your earliest memories of Walt Disney?
Rebecca Cline: I grew up in Los Angeles, so we had access to Disneyland as well as the movies and Sunday Night television show, so frankly, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t aware of Walt Disney and his amazing creations. 1964 was a special year for me, I first visited Disneyland that summer and Mary Poppins was the very first movie I ever attended. Apparently I LOVED it so much that they took me back multiple times and bought the soundtrack which I listened to endlessly.
Yanes: On this note, was there a moment in which you knew you wanted to pursue a career at Disney?
Cline: My father worked in Burbank at Lockheed Aircraft and my mother would drive him to work early each morning – with me bundled up sleepily in the back seat. We had to pass the studio on the way, so they would make sure that I was awake to look out and see the water tower and the buildings on the backlot as we went buy. I thought it must be the most wonderful place in the world. It wasn’t until years later, after college, that I decided I wanted to work at the Walt Disney Studios, but I think the seed of the idea was planted VERY early on…
Yanes: Thinking back on your career, what advice could you offer to people who would like to become corporate archivists?
Cline: These days it requires advanced degrees in Library Science or Museum Studies to get in the door of an Entertainment Archives, so the best piece of advice I have is to make sure that you really love general LIBRARY or MUSEUM work first, before heading down that path. Unfortunately, there are very few jobs in the few Entertainment or Studio Archives that exist, let alone here at Disney. It’s great to have your eye on the Walt Disney Archives as a goal, but unfortunately there are few openings – and I’d hate to see someone go through the trouble of all of that education and then not be happy working elsewhere ultimately. Having said that … learn all you can about Disney, watch the films, TV shows and read the books and then get formal education. The research itself is its own reward because it will be fun!
Yanes: Your latest project is The Walt Disney Studios: A Lot to Remember. What inspired you to want to write this book?
Cline: I have worked at the Walt Disney Studios for 30 years now, and I still get a charge walking around the lot. There is so much history on every corner. As you may imagine, I have read and assisted on the development of many Disney history books, and I realized that every one of them focused on the output of the Studio, not so much on the history of the actual “plant”. We had so much great info in the Archives, and so many fabulous photos that had never been published before, that I figured that it was time to write the book, and share all the wonderful stories that fans hadn’t heard yet!
Yanes: The Walt Disney Studio was founded in 1923. With nearly a hundred years of history covered in The Walt Disney Studios: A Lot to Remember, were there any facts you learned that took you by surprise?
Cline: It was such a great learning experience for me to dive deeply into the history of the studio. I found out a great deal about the World War II years here on the lot that I had never seen before. I was also amazed by how much thought went into the development of the buildings here at the studio – and how involved Walt Disney himself was in the planning of every single detail.
Yanes: On this topic, there is a growing number of academics writing about popular culture in general and Disney specifically. As the Director of the Walt Disney Archives do you think there are areas of Disney’s history that scholars haven’t substantially explored yet? (I’m asking for friend with a doctorate named Yicholas Nanes, and who might need some unique topics to write about.)
Cline: It’s hard now to find a Disney subject that hasn’t been written about, but I’ve found that there are a lot of live-action films and television shows that haven’t had detailed books written about them. The focus has been on the animated films and the parks, and I think that there are a lot of live-action films that deserve a deep dive and closer attention.
Yanes: Anyone who works in an archive will eventually develop favorite spots to visit. So, what are some of your favorite spots to visit?
Cline: Here on the lot, I simply LOVE to sit on a bench under a tree and just watch the world go by. But without a doubt my favorite spot to visit is Walt’s Office. It is a truly special place. We restored the office in 2015 to look just as it did in 1966 when he left us. It is now a place of great inspiration. You truly do feel that he just stepped away, and for a moment so many things become possible.
Yanes: Reflecting on the time you spent researching Walt Disney Studios, what are some of the reasons you think Disney has continued to be successful?
Cline: Disney has a very simple mission – to provide the highest quality family entertainment. And that never goes out of style. There will always be families and new audiences, and as long as we continue to provide great storytelling, cutting edge technology and aim to be relevant to all ages and backgrounds, I think Disney will always be successful.
Yanes: When people finish reading The Walt Disney Studios: A Lot to Remember, what do you hope they take away from the experience?
Cline: I hope they have an appreciation for this very special place. There is nothing else in the world like the Walt Disney Studios. It’s a relatively small studio when compared to many others, but every inch of it has such a rich history. There is nothing like walking about the studio lot and seeing the places where such timeless classics were developed and created. And I hope at least a little of that magic comes through in the photos and the written word.
Yanes: Finally, what else are you working on that people can look forward to?
Cline: Well … the Walt Disney Archives just released its first branded book on Sept. 17, 2019. It’s called “The Art of Disney Costuming: Heroes, Villains and Spaces Between” (Disney Editions). The book was shot and produced by our own team with text by Jeff Kurtti. It is based on a very successful exhibition that we did for the D23 Expo (August 23, 24 & 25, 2019) in Anaheim. I am also working on a new book with two other authors that will be out next summer (2020) also for Disney Editions. It’s titled “Holiday Magic in the Disney Parks”. I’m very excited about this new publication – we cover the Autumn and Winter holidays at all of the Disney Parks and Resorts worldwide. I think it’s going to be something very special, an historic look back from 1955 to the present, and it’s filled with glorious new photography. I can’t wait to share it!
Remember to pick up your own copy of The Walt Disney Studios: A Lot to Remember.