Chapter 20 tells of evaluating and tuning Walt Disney’s piano on several occasions. Each occasion was for Richard Sherman to play the piano. Richard and his brother Robert wrote the music for numerous Disney songs, notably the songs for Mary Poppins. There is a wonderful movie called Saving Mr. Banks, which is the back story of the making of Mary Poppins. Essentially it is about the twenty year effort that Disney made in order to convince the author of the original book to allow him to make a movie of her story. Mr. Banks was the fictional name given to the alcoholic father of the author. The movie depicts upsetting scenes from her childhood in order to show the difficulty of her childhood, and how triggering it was for her to consider having a movie made of the book. Even after the movie was made, she was still insistent that the animated parts should be removed. Disney refused.
Richard Sherman was a consultant for the making of the film, in order to get portions of the story correct. The movie depicts the brothers working on the songs for the movie, but on an upright piano. They would not have used Disney’s office for writing songs, only for auditioning them. As a result, Disney’s piano was never shown in the movie. There were scenes depicting Disney’s office, but there was no piano shown. If you have not seen Saving Mr. Banks, I highly recommend it. Tom Hanks does an excellent job as Walt Disney. Here is a LINK to information about Richard Sherman. And here is a LINK for information about P.L. Travers, author of Mary Poppins.
I was asked to tune Disney’s piano in 2015 after his office was completely restored with every tiny item that was in the office at the time of his death. A Disney employee took the picture of me at the piano, saying that at that time, I was probably the only living person who had tuned Disney’s piano. It had not been serviced from the 1960’s until I started tuning it in 2011. He said there would be tours of the restored Disney office for VIP’s, but no photographs would be allowed.
I have had a request for color images of Disney’s office and piano. Black and white images were used in the book, in order to keep the purchase price down. Here are some color images:
The above image was taken in Disney’s recently renovated office, with every object returned to its position at the time of his death. You can see how the color of the piano was intended to match the color of his office paneling. This is where Disney had Robert Sherman play “Feed the Birds” every Friday afternoon.
The image above gives you a closer image of the black trim that was added to the piano by Kem Weber in 1939. The trim ran along the front of the piano, along the sides, and down the legs, giving the new legs the appearance that they had always been a part of the design. When a piano action is removed from a piano, the key slip, the brown wooden piece in front of the keys, is removed and the action is slid toward the front and out of the piano. Any trim that is below the key slip is typically the same height as the top of the keybed, the piece of wood on which the action slides. This black trim was too high, so that the action did not slide out easily. It could be done, but only by lifting the action over the lip of the trim. A piano maker would never make this mistake, but Kem Weber was a cabinet maker, not a piano maker. He did not realize that the action needed to be slid out for servicing. In this image, you can also see two other pieces of black trim that were added to the piano, at the top of the music desk and on the treble side. You can also see the underside of the lid which was painted a coral color.
Above is the image of one of the buildings with the seven dwarfs seemingly holding up the roof.