LOS ANGELES — Stan Jolley was a senior set designer at 20th Century Fox in 1953 when he got a call from his artist friend Herb Ryman at Walt Disney Studios.
Ryman was working on the original drawings for a theme park Disney was planning and suggested Jolley meet the legendary movie mogul. With his architectural and motion picture background, Ryman told Jolley, “You’d be a perfect fit.”
“I said, ‘I can’t. I’m under contract at Fox,’” Jolley recalled in a 2009 interview for Disney historian Scott Wolf’s MouseClubhouse website. “He said, ‘Well, you can get a loan-out. You’d only be here about nine months.’ Eight or nine months turned into two and a half years to design it and find out where we were going to build it….”
Jolley, 86, one of the original art directors who designed Disneyland and who later worked on Disney film and TV projects, died Monday at a hospice facility in Rancho Mirage, said his family. He had gastric cancer.
His film career included sharing an Oscar nomination for best art direction and set decoration as production designer for the 1985 movie “Witness” and seven years as an art director at the Disney studio.
As part of the Disneyland design team, he worked on projects that included the Golden Horseshoe saloon in Frontierland, the Autopia ride in Tomorrowland, and the Storybook Land Canal Boats attraction and interiors of Sleeping Beauty Castle in Fantasyland.
As Disney’s Magic Kingdom in Anaheim began to take shape, Jolley recalled in the 2009 interview, “we were working six days and a couple of nights a week.” As time went on, first one and then two more nights were added to their workweek.
“The pressure was on to finish the park,” he said, “and I had had it by that time.”
So much so that when Disneyland opened with great fanfare and live TV coverage on July 17, 1955, Jolley was not there. He had given his opening-day tickets to his parents and was on a two-week New York City vacation with his wife.
When he informed his fellow art directors that he planned to skip the Disneyland opening, he was told not to expect to have a job when he came back.
“I’ve been my own man my whole life,” he said in the interview, and he went ahead with his vacation plans, fully expecting to be fired. Instead, when he returned to the studio, “things had calmed down” and “that’s when Walt said to stay and get into TV and so forth.”
At Walt Disney Studios, Jolley helped design the western street on the studio’s back lot.
He also designed the studio-office set that Disney appeared in on his weekly TV anthology series, “Disneyland.” The series was called “Walt Disney Presents” when Jolley worked as art director for “The Nine Lives of Elfego Baca,” a 10-part miniseries that aired on the show in 1958.
Jolley was also the art director for the Oscar-nominated 1959 cartoon short “Donald in MathMagic Land” and an art director on the 1960 movie “Toby Tyler, or Ten Weeks With a Circus.”
After leaving Disney in 1960, he worked as an art director on television series such as “Mister Ed,” “Branded,” “Land of the Giants” and “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” — as well as the pilot episode for the 1965-70 series “Get Smart.” He later was the production designer on the series “MacGyver” and “Walking Tall.”
His film credits as an art director include “Taps” (1981) and “The Grass Harp” (1995), and he was the production designer on films such as “The Swarm” (1978), “Caddyshack” (1980) and “Cattle Annie and Little Britches” (1981).
The son of character actor I. Stanford Jolley, he was born May 17, 1926, in New York City and moved to Hollywood with his family in the ‘30s.
After serving in the Navy during World War II, Jolley began working as an apprentice set designer for Warner Bros. while attending college. He received a degree in industrial design from the University of Southern California in 1951.
Jolley is survived by his daughters, Karen Nauyokas and Christina Cortes; and two granddaughters.
©2012 Los Angeles Times