HOW HOLLYWOOD VOICE ACTOR SCOTT RUMMELL BUILT HIS MAGICAL, MASSIVE ASSEMBLAGE OF DISNEY MEMORABILIA
By Laura Kostelny
It would be impossible to overstate the impact the Happiest Place on Earth has had on Scott Rummell’s life. Growing up in Orange County, Calif., “in the shadow of the Disneyland castle,” Rummell began making regular trips to Disneyland with his family back in the 1960s. “I have pictures of me there as a very young boy with my parents and grandparents, and my grandpa is wearing a suit,” he says.
The first car he ever “drove” was the Autopia racer. The park even inspired his career aspirations very early on. “I used to stop and listen to announcer Jack Wagner’s voice as a little kid,” says Rummell, now an accomplished voice-over artist. “I’d go to the Haunted Mansion and try to memorize Paul Frees’ great narration.”
The appeal of the park didn’t at all wane as he matured into adolescence and adulthood. By the time Rummell was a teenager, it was his go-to destination for dates. “It was only $5 after 5,” he marvels. It’s where he took wife Terry on their first date.
In his professional life, Rummell became one of the voices of the Disneyland park and has voiced numerous Disney and Pixar campaigns and movie trailers, including Cars, The Avengers and the Pirates of the Caribbean series.
Disney continued to play a major part in his personal life as well, as he and Terry and their kids frequently paid visits to the parks in Anaheim, Orlando and Paris. One of their sons was even a performer at Disneyland, where he met – and eventually married – another performer. They had a son named Lincoln, a nod to Disneyland’s Lincoln Theater, and a daughter named Lilly, after Walt Disney’s wife, Lillian.
But Rummell’s love for Disney goes even deeper. He has also spent the past 40 years amassing thousands of park-related items ranging from ticket books and signage to ride vehicles and statues. He and Terry raised their kids in a customized house in Yorba Linda – “the second happiest place on earth,” he calls it – where all his Disney treasures could truly shine. But now that the kids are grown, he and Terry have decided to downsize and part with a majority of the memorabilia, which will be offered in Heritage Auctions’ May 21-22 Disneyland: The Auction in Beverly Hills.
We talked to Rummell about how he started collecting, some of his happiest discoveries along the way and a few of the coolest collectibles that will hit the auction block.
How did the collection start?
I loved collecting as a kid – political buttons, stamps, you name it. After Terry and I got married, I thought it would be fun to have a collection in common. She already had an affinity for Donald Duck, so I thought we should start collecting Disney items.
This was in the early 1980s, and I didn’t have a whole lot of money, so I spent my Saturday mornings going early to garage sales, looking for Disney items. One particular Saturday, I bought everything this guy had. He had worked at Disneyland for 30 years, and his whole yard was filled with Disney stuff. He wanted $2,000 for everything; I offered him $1,500. When he accepted, I told him, “Take down the signs! Kick everyone out!” It took me a year to go through that haul.
How did the hunts evolve through the years?
Because I worked in Hollywood, I knew about two or three great shops that always had Disney stuff, and I checked them every week. Then I found out about some auctions. While I could not afford to compete against people like Michael Jackson, I was still able to get some cool stuff. And the first time I did a Disney movie, the director told me he collected the attraction posters and suggested I start collecting them, too. That was back when they were like $150 or $200 apiece. I didn’t realize they were going to become rare pieces of art. In fact, at one time, I had collected 43 of the original attraction posters.
Some Disney collectors look for specific items – ticket books, posters, ride-related pieces – but you collect a little of everything.
Others may see this as an eclectic compilation, but it’s not to my brain. I love having options, and I see the joy in all of it. I’m not a car collector, but I had two very famous cars. Disney is such a large force that offers collectors so many different options. It allowed me to collect “eclectically,” I guess, but it’s all still Disney.
How did your collection influence your home design?
I hired Disney people to help customize our Yorba Linda house, and our collection determined how the house would be built. There was a piece I really wanted – the Rocket Jets rocket. When I bought that at auction, it was the most I ever paid for a Disney item. In my brain I thought, we’re going to make a Tomorrowland suite. So from there, I started collecting Tomorrowland-themed items for that specific room. I did the same for the home movie theater, which was modeled after the Main Street Cinema.
Was it hard to incorporate some of the larger pieces, like the ride vehicles?
I had made a friend in Florida who called me about the Mr. Toad car and the Skyway gondola. My wife was understandably worried about where we were going to put these things. But even though the Mr. Toad car was in terrible shape, I really wanted it. I had it repainted and added the mechanical stuff to make the wheels go and lights flicker, and then we displayed it in our living room. It brought so much immediate joy to everyone when they saw it. We hosted parties, and every single person always wanted a picture in that car. It was the same with the Skyway bucket.
Purists may have an issue with me, by the way, for enhancing items. But for me, it helped bring things like the Mr. Toad car to life. We installed two special motors to get the wheels to turn at a low enough RPM so it was safe. We replaced the fake wood with real wood and reupholstered the seats. All the original pieces are still there, but we made it better. And we have a lot of memories with that car. My son Taylor, who is now a director, was in trouble years ago. He sat on a couch while Terry and I gave him a talking-to from the Mr. Toad car. He obviously had a very hard time taking us seriously.
What’s the significance of the Disney statuary?
We fell in love with the “big figs” [large figurines] during Disneyland’s 50th anniversary – that’s when we bought the life-size Mickey. They don’t make them anymore, but we thought they were fun and looked great in different places both inside and out. Our family also loved Country Bear Jamboree. So when we got Big Al, we gave him a prominent place in a custom alcove beneath a Country Bear Playhouse exit sign.
While many of the bigger pieces are natural attention-getters, are there any smaller ones that you want to shine a light on?
The Tinker Bell Main Street lamppost topper is carved out of wood. The original maquette tops the lamp stand. It was used for the 50th anniversary. Before I had it, a director friend of mine bought it from the artist. It’s a one-of-a-kind piece and the original maquette.
Of the thousands of items you’ve amassed, what do you think you’ll miss the most?
Honestly, it’s all hard. Of the ride vehicles, the Autopia race car was the one I wanted to keep the most. That was the first car I ever drove in 1967 at 7 years old. That was a very tough one for me.
After all these years, how does Disney make you feel today?
It still fills me with delight. Collecting Disney items never got old. We always loved it. To think about me in my 20s, going to garage sales and finding treasures like a Mickey Mouse figurine and lunchboxes, to being able to attend and become a VIP collector at the world’s biggest auctions? The journey has been incredible. My career journey has been so fun, and the collecting one was just as fun.
A preview of highlights from the Rummell Collection will be open to the public May 19-20 at Heritage’s Beverly Hills location: 9478 W. Olympic Blvd., 310-492-8600. To order a catalog featuring the nearly 700 lots in the auction, click here.
LAURA KOSTELNY is a contributor to Intelligent Collector.