Forty Years Of Flacking For The Mouse

Spinning Disney’s World:
Memories of A Magic Kingdom Press Agent

by Charles Ridgway
Foreword by Rick Sylvain

Paperback edition: April 2015
ISBN: 978-1-937-011-42-0
242 pages   6″ x 9″
11 b/w photographs
Index
Trade paperback
Printed in the U.S.A.
List price: $15.95

 

Disney Legend Charles Ridgway reminisces about the early days of Disneyland and Walt Disney World

(Orlando, FL – April 2015) On Main Street, U.S.A., in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, the windows above street level are filled with old-fashioned lettering announcing the businesses within. One of them reads, simply:

RIDGWAY PUBLIC RELATIONS
Charles Ridgway Press Agent
No Event Too Small

Ridgway Public Relations may be an imaginary business, but Charles Ridgway is very real. In fact, he is a “Disney Legend,” recognized by the Disney Company for his four decades of making “the Mouse” a household name

Ridgway’s delightful stories and a new paperback edition of Spinning Disney’s World: Memories of a Magic Kingdom Press Agent can now be enjoyed by new groups of Disney fans. The new edition has a Foreword by Rick Sylvain, Publicity Director for Walt Disney World Resort and Ridgway’s successor.

Ridgway, or Charlie as he is known to generations of media journalists and Disney Cast Members, spent his time at Disney dreaming up new and better ways to get publicity for Disney theme parks in Anaheim, Orlando, Paris, Tokyo, and Hong Kong. In the early days, Disney did next to no advertising, relying on Ridgway’s ingenuity to spread the word about the wonders that awaited within the parks.

In Spinning Disney’s World, Ridgway recounts such PR triumphs, having fifty white Peking ducks parade down Main Street U.S.A. in Magic Kingdom behind Donald Duck in celebration of Donald’s fiftieth birthday. It was no easy task.

To pull it off, Donald himself had to be on hand when the ducklings hatched, so that he would be the first thing they saw. That way, they would “imprint” on him and follow him anywhere.

Donald’s birthday bash was a huge success. But the PR ingenuity didn’t end there. When the celebration was over, Charlie arranged to have Disney donate pairs of these ducks to zoos around the country, guaranteeing another avalanche of publicity.

Charlie saw the world of the media change from an era of manual typewriters to the age of instant global communications. In fact, Disney events pioneered some of the media techniques we now take for granted. When Epcot opened in 1981, Walt Disney World became the site of the first large scale use of satellite uplinks to cover a news event. Ridgway’s office was flooded with requests from television stations around the world that wanted to participate. So new was the technology that many of them didn’t realize they needed a satellite dish in order to receive the live feed from Epcot’s Spaceship Earth. Stations scrounged downlinks from nearby universities so they could get in on this marvel of instant communication.

Ridgway’s book is filled with reminiscences of both the big names and the little people who made Disney parks so special. He rubbed shoulders with Walt and became close to both Roy O. Disney and Michael Eisner. As a result, he has a unique perspective on the controversy that surrounded Eisner’s last years at the company.

He also got to know virtually every famous journalist of the last fifty years, from Lowell Thomas and Walter Cronkite to Charlie Gibson and Diane Sawyer.

But he hasn’t forgotten the unsung Cast Members, such as Tom Nabbe, who sold newspapers outside Disneyland until he caught Walt’s eye and became the personification of Tom Sawyer. Forty-five years later, he was still working for Disney and was named a Disney Legend in 2005, just a few years after Charlie attained his Legend status.

Learn more about Charlie Ridgway.

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