Saturday, October 1, 2011

Happy 40th Anniversary, Walt Disney World!

Yes, on October 1st 1971, Walt Disney World in Florida officially opened up to an appreciative public. I'm sure that many other Disney enthusiasts are posting articles today that go into the history of the park, so I'm going to do something a bit different. Instead I want to post up some of the artwork I did while employed at the WDW Marketing Art Dept. back in the period of 1990 to 1994. In 1991, of course, WDW was celebrating its 20th anniversary, so there was some special art that was produced for that year-long celebration:

Some of the 20th Anniversary material featured Roger Rabbit, who had made his screen debut just three years earlier. Unfortunately, at this point poor Roger was in the centre of a rather ugly legal battle between Disney and Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment, whom had partnered up with Disney to produce the movie. I strongly recall a memo being circulated around our office at that time, informing us that any projects we had on the go involving Roger could be completed and used, but nothing else could be initiated until further notice. I had this painting in progress, so they told me I could keep going on it. The way it ended up, Disney and Amblin were never able to resolve their differences, and Roger Rabbit ended up in a sort of legal limbo. This illustration was one of the last depictions of Roger for quite some time, although there have been some exceptions I've noticed in recent years, notably some sculpted figurines from the Walt Disney Classics Collection.

This colourful phone directory cover was my favourite illustration project that 20th Anniversary year. There was a festive parade featuring the Disney characters in Mardi Gras style costumes. In fact, they'd coined it the "Party Gras Parade", and it was actually recycled from a Disneyland 35th celebration the year before. You can see a bunch of images from it here on the Jim Hill Media site. I was given the happy assignment of creating the Lake Buena Vista phonebook cover art that year where I got to interpret the parade back into cartoon illustration form of the Disney characters.

Though the Splash Mountain attraction actually opened up the following year in 1992, I thought I'd include this illustration I did for the presskit folder that would have heralded the news to the media. I must admit I've had ambivalent feelings about that attraction, as the WDW Marketing Dept. tried to sell it as thrill-packed log flume ride while radically downplaying the theme of the Br'er Rabbit characters from Song of the South. They didn't show the character theming at all in the TV spots promoting it at the time. As we all know, Disney has kept that lovely film locked tightly in the vault out of fear that its time period of the immediate post-Civil War American South would upset and infuriate ultra-sensitive types. I'm just happy that I was able to illustrate the folder cover in a way that paid tribute to a film that has long been a warm memory from my early moviegoing years.

Finally, here is an example of something else we occasionally got to do in my department. Even though there was a separate WDW Merchandise Art Dept. elsewhere on property, sometimes we would get some of their overflow work. This was one of several illustrations I got to do for them which would appear on candy boxes sold in The Magic Kingdom gift shops. They also were novelty items, in that if you flipped the box over, there would be an illustration of the back view of the situation, in this case revealing a lucky horseshoe from Minnie that Mickey is holding behind his back.

Anyway, I might rummage through more boxes and folders of my old Disney artwork to post a few more samples up here in the next few days.


Amir Avni said...

These are gorgeous!

Alex. G said...

Wow! Thanks for posting this. I am a HUGE fan of Roger Rabbit and it is always fun to discover rare images of him.

Brubaker said...

The "Splash Mountain" illustration is great!

J. C. Estrada said...

Your work got featured on Toontown Antics, a Roger Rabbit blog:

Greetings! =3