By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2020, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

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Jim Korkis, 1950-2023

By Dave Shute

Jim Korkis, noted Disney historian and author of dozens of books, hundreds of articles for this site, and hundreds more elsewhere, died on Friday morning. A GoFundMe organized by Mark Goldhaber, first to help Jim with his ongoing medical bills and now to pay his final bills, can be contributed to here.

I’d been reading Jim on for years, but didn’t meet him until 2014. That year,  our mutual publisher suggested that Jim add historical vignettes to the Disney World guidebook that my late friend Josh Humphrey and I published for many years, on the principle that all great Disney World guidebooks require vignettes by a dude named Jim.

One of his vignettes:

Josh and I, who did four or five meetups and book signings a year for many years, did at least one of those with Jim.   I learned a lot from Jim about how to properly do a meet-up/book signing, although Josh and I never actually put that learning into practice…we were too shy…

In March of 2015 Jim started writing a weekly column on Disney World history on this site, A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis .

Here’s how Jim introduced himself to my readers  :

I grew up in Glendale, California and was lucky enough to then have the opportunity to meet and interview many Disney animators and Imagineers. Over the years, I have used that material in articles for fanzines, newspapers, magazines, websites and books.

In 1995, I moved to Orlando and with my background as a professional magician, I soon found work as a street magician and balloon artist at Downtown Disney.

Within a few short months with my background as a professional actor in stage and television, I became a “friend” of Merlin the magician, doing the “Sword in the Stone” ceremony in Fantasyland.

Shortly thereafter, with my background in animation in Los Angeles, I got a job as a salaried animation instructor at the Disney Institute in 1996.

I later found myself working with Disney Adult Discoveries, the department that created and facilitated behind-the-scenes tours for guests and convention groups.

Being the sole researcher and writer on the original UnDiscovered Futureworld tour got me the opportunity to work in Guest Relations at Epcot and later as a Coordinator with College and International Programs.

Then, I was moved to the Epcot Learning Center (a combination computer lab and library for cast members) where I researched and taught over two hundred different presentations on Disney history for cast members and Disney business clients like Feld Entertainment and Kodak.

Along the way, I also did special assignments including being the off-screen narrator for the syndicated television series, “Secrets of the Animal Kingdom,” the writer of the text for the 30th anniversary Walt Disney World trading cards, the facilitator for the Disney Crew puppet show (a touring anti-drug show performed at all the Central Florida elementary schools), the host of the “100 Years of Magic Vacation Planning” video and many other interesting things.

So, all of this puffery is to assure you that when I write about Walt Disney World, including things you may never have heard before, that I have a very solid and unique background.

In 2009, along with thousands of other WDW cast members, I was laid off. I am still on good terms with the company and do freelance work including writing a quarterly column on Disney history for Disney Files magazine produced for members of the Disney Vacation Club as well as still contributing to special projects like a video I wrote and narrated about Walt’s love of steam trains.

In the last five years, I have written seven books on Disney history including three volumes of The Vault of WaltWho’s Afraid of the Song of the South?, and The Book of MouseWho’s the Leader of the Club?: Walt Disney’s Leadership Lessons, and Animation Anecdotes.

These books were all published by Theme Park Press and are available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle versions. I also wrote the “Jim’s Gems” parts of The easy Guide to Your First Walt Disney World Visit. I am currently working on another Disney related book.

I hope all of this has intrigued you to come back next Friday and every Friday after that to hear some interesting stories about Walt Disney World and things that you may have missed even if you are a frequent Disney World guest!

If I have the math right, Jim did more than 450 columns for this site, and much of the material he first published here made its way into one of his books. You can find his columns here.

Jim’s last post for me—a review of Dick Nunis’s book —came out in December.  An unfortunate series of health events and unexpected discoveries ensued—a fall, arterial blockages requiring bypasses, COVID, and metastatic colon cancer—and he died, “quickly and quietly” according to Mark, on Friday. The Orlando Sentinel published an article about his death yesterday.

It is astonishing to me that two of three people in this photo pastiche I created for our 2015 meetup are now gone…

My best wishes to Jim’s family…and I love you, Josh.


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1 comment

1 Biffette { 08.08.23 at 10:03 pm }

Hi Dave, I consider your site to be the most valuable WDW resource on the internet. Thank you so much for maintaining the regular periodic updates as well as keeping people like me who aren’t “plugged-in” to the Disney culture informed about news like this.

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