Monday, October 3, 2011

Walt Disney World Kids Menus

Continuing with the theme of Walt Disney World celebrating its 40th Anniversary, here are some more samples of projects I worked on while employed there in the early 1990's. Specifically, these are some of the kids menus I illustrated for the various restaurants in the WDW resort hotels - projects that I particularly enjoyed doing due to their novelty factor.

I always enjoyed illustrating Donald and his nephews, as the ducks are my favourite of the standard Disney characters. This was one of the numerous, more economically produced menus/placemats that were easily printed up on 11 x 17 stock. It was created for Olivia's Café at the Old Key West Resort. The menu items are actually listed on the back of this placemat, in among some illustrated puzzles for the kids to work out while eating. The novelty aspect was the fish that was a separate insert that kids could remove and replace in the net.

In a similar vein, this was another economical novelty menu created for Boatwright's at the Port Orleans Resort (which was originally a separate area known as Dixie Landings Resort). As I mentioned in my previous post, it was always a treat to illustrate the characters from Song of the South, as they were not utilized that often. Again, there is the novelty of the ruler insert with small stencils cut in each end.

As I'm a huge fan of The Jungle Book, it was a particular thrill to get to illustrate this kids menu that was used in one of the restaurants over at The Polynesian Resort. (I can't recall which one, though.) It was about 36" wide, so I decided to illustrate it actual print size just to keep it a manageable size on my drawing table, rather than 25% bigger or so, as I normally chose to work. The only direction I'd gotten from the client was that it had to depict the various characters gathered around a table in the jungle and there had to be room to print the menu items somewhere too. Hmm, that was a tricky problem - how to achieve that directive, yet keep the solution somewhat faithful to the jungle environment itself.

I decided to treat the table as a gigantic stone tablet that might have been part of King Louie's ruined temple. Likewise, the menu items appeared on more tablets suspended by vines overhead. To be sure, the situation with the characters is quite contrived, but I enjoyed coming up with gags that seemed right for each of them, such as Kaa the snake's front end appearing in the first segment while his tail end is shown further along in the scene. The whole scene was painted with gouache on illustration board, and I enjoyed trying to maintain the look of those beautiful backgrounds from the film.

Speaking of Kaa, the reverse side of the menu featured a line drawing of the snake (a segment shown above) for kids to colour in with crayons, then punch out along the perforations to fasten into a loop that could then be placed around the head like he does with Mowgli in the film. Unfortunately, this novelty led to the unintended effect of kids asking for a second intact menu after they ruined the first one by punching out the snake. Ultimately this resulted in the item being discontinued after about a year, as it was costing the restaurant more than their budget had allowed for!

Finally, here is the only item for which I ever got to illustrate the characters from The Rescuers. This menu was created for Port Orleans Resort, if memory serves. The menu items appeared on the reverse side listed on the underside of the gator's belly, as it was the same scene depicted, only as if you were underwater looking up. Very tricky to make it look optically correct, as I recall. Again the novelty involved punching out the gator, then folding down his side panels to end up with a dimensional relief sculpture that the kids could play with while eating. Alas, this one as well often resulted in twice as many menus being requested due to ruining the illustration in the process, thereby being replaced sometime later with a simpler, more economical menu instead.

I look back with a lot of fondness on these kids menus, as they were usually more creative and playful than a lot of the other illustrated assignments I worked on. They were all produced in collaboration with the great design team who worked in the WDW Resort Design Department. To those who are still working there today, I salute you!


Martin Fagan said...

These are fantastic Pete.
You did a great job capturing the look of the original films.
I'm extremely impressed by your brush line work. Particularly the Donald Duck piece. Amazing.

Dan said...

you are constantly an inspiration. I love looking at your work.

Chris Signore said...

Echoing those before me, really loving these, especially the Jungle Book design. Can't beat a big ol' character gathering such as that 8-)

Tony DiStefano said...

That jungle book setup is a masterpiece!

Will Finn said...

Digging the Jungle Book menu. Hungry for more!

Jeane M. said...

Awesome sketches. Gotta love this new set of inspirations, simply genius. :D

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Jennifer said...

My husband just framed the Jungle Book menu for me! I had kept it from a trip my family made to Disney. I also wish I remembered the name of the restaurant that it came from! It is a lovely visual display and excited to have stumbled upon the artist. :)