Every so often, I get something right.
By that I mean: I always thought that there might be a fun series of stories in writing about all of the great pieces of concept art that are used to decorate the lobby areas of the Disneyland Resort Hotel. But it wasn't 'til last Thursday's story got posted on this site and got such a strong response from JHM's readers that I actually knew for sure.
So -- sometime in the not-so-distant future -- the staff of JimHillMedia will officially get started on the Disneyland Hotel concept art project. With our ultimate goal being a detailed photo archive (which we'll keep here at the site) which would contain images of each single piece of concept art found in the public areas of the DL hotel. As well as a downloadable & printable version of a guide to all this concept art. Which would then (in theory) allow you to go to the Disneyland Resort Hotel and locate each of these concept paintings. So that you can then view all of these snazzy pieces of art in person.
Anyway ... As a "Thank You" to all of you who wrote in to say: "That's a great idea, Jim. I'd love to see a series like that up on JHM" ... Well, here's another series of pictures that the lovely Nancy Stadler took of all that concept art.
Mind you, some of these pictures were harder to get than others. Take -- for example -- this photo of the concept painting for the never-built Jazz Club that was proposed for New Orleans Square.
photo by Nancy Stadler
Try as she might, Nancy couldn't get a picture of this concept painting that didn't feature a sizable reflection. Which was kind of frustrating to Ms. Stadler. Given that she knew how much I wanted a decent photo of this particular concept painting.
Why for? Because this was one of the more infamous projects that never quite made it off of Disneyland's drawing board. You see, Walt's original plan for the second floor of New Orleans Square wasn't just limited to a private apartment for the Disney family as well as Club 33. No, Walt also wanted to add another private club to the Anaheim theme park. Someplace where he & his guests could go and hear some of the greatest musicians of the day perform in a truly intimate setting.
From what I've heard, New Orleans Square's Jazz Club would have only been able to seat 50-100 people at a time. That -- just like Club 33 -- it would have sold alcoholic drinks. And the way Walt had envisioned things unfolding was that -- for his extra special guests -- that an evening's entertainment would start out with cocktails in the Disney family apartment. Then the group would have moved over to the Trophy Room at Club 33 for a sumptuious private dinner. After that, Walt's group would cross one of the overhead bridges in New Orleans Square for an exciting evening of music at the Jazz Club.
photo by Nancy Stadler
Of course, Disney being a guy who was always a little bit ahead of his time, Walt was always concerned about his disabled friends. Those folks who wouldn't be able to climb the stairs up to Club 33 and/or the Jazz Club. Which is why he wanted to have elevators installed at both establishments so that they'd both have handicap access.
Speaking of being a little bit ahead of himself, take a look at this concept painting of Disneyland's new Tomorrowland that Imagineering legend Herbie Ryman painted for Walt back in 1965.
Mind you, this isn't the first time that Herbie tried to envision a "Land of Tomorrow" for the Anaheim theme park. Take a gander at this Buck Roger-ish concept painting that Ryman did back in 1954. Back when Walt was still trying to get a handle on what this side of Disneyland might look like.
What I love about this concept painting is here -- years before Disney actually got around to envisioning a monorail as a crucial part of the theme park -- here's Herbie already anticipating what Walt might like.
Of course, Ryman's early take on Disneyland's monorail system featured trains that hung down from their tracks. Rather than riding along on top of their beams, just as today's monorails do. Imagineer *** Hennesy kept Herbie's version of the monorail as part of his Tomorrowland concept painting ...
... Which you'll find in the upper left hand corner of this painting.
Speaking of this 1954 concept painting. Disney World fans may find something very familiar about this *** Hennesy painting. For (I'm told that) this concept painting actually served as an inspiration for the look & the styling of "The Future That Never Was." AKA the Magic Kingdom's New Tomorrowland, which debuted back in the early 1990s.
It's this sort of stuff that I love about all the concept art that's on display in the public areas of the Disneyland Hotel. You get to see all of these first passes at ideas. Stuff like Herbie Ryman's original take on Disneyland's "Peter Pan Flight Thru" attraction.
Now some of you may notice that -- as Herbie originally envisioned this Fantasyland dark ride -- that you flew counterclockwise to Neverland. Which (as every good Disneyland fan knows) is the exact opposite direction that the "Peter Pan" attraction runs today.
But me? What I like best about this early concept painting of the "Peter Pan Flight Thru" attraction was its entrance area. Where Ryman wanted to recreate a real street in London ...
... So that your transition to the dark ride's "Flying over London at night" sequence would be absolutely seamless. Mind you, I heard that -- when Herbie was doing design work on Epcot's U.K. pavilion in the late 1970s -- he actually had WDI's librarians pull this piece of concept art out of the archives. Just so he get the look & feel of this part of World Showcase just right.
You'll see that a lot as you wander through the Disneyland Hotel's lobby areas. All these little pieces of Orlando that were originally supposed to have been built in Anaheim. Take -- for example -- this painting that Herbie Ryman did of the inner courtyard of Sleeping Beauty Castle back in 1954.
This was back in the day when Walt wanted the area within the castle's walls to have an authentic medieval flavor. Later -- as the money begun to run out -- Disney ordered that this concept be radically simplified. Which is how the original Fantasyland ended up with all this plywood bunting & banners. As if it were always "Tournament Day" at "The Happiest Place on Earth."
Well, though this idea never ever saw the light of day at Disneyland, the Imagineers always kept this concept pretty close to their heart. And -- when they began design work on Disney World's Magic Kingdom in the mid-1960s -- one of the very first ideas that they pulled out of the pile was doing an authentically medieval version of Fantasyland.
Me? What I love about this painting is that -- once again -- Ryman was anticipating what Walt might want. Did you catch the name of the shop in this concept painting?
Yep. That's Merlin's Magic Shop. Now keep in mind that -- 'way back in 1954-- Walt Disney Productions hadn't even acquired the rights to produce a movie version of T.H. White's "Sword in the Stone" novel yet. Let alone begun development of an animated version of this same book. Yet here's Herbie already making Merlin a prominent character in Walt's Magic Kingdom.
Sometimes the changes that were envisioned are small. Take -- for example -- David Negron's original version of the exterior of the "Snow White's Scary Adventure" attraction. Check out the bizarre floral arrangements and topiaries that Negron wanted placed in front of this Fantasyland show building ...
... These weirdly-shaped flower beddings & plantings were supposed to give you a sense that something's not quite right about this attraction. Sadly, there ultimately wasn't enough money in the New Fantasyland's budget (More importantly, there wasn't really enough room in front of "Snow White's Scary Adventure") for a surrealistic garden. Which is why this once-thought-to-be-important detail got cut out of the attraction.
Other times, the changes were enormous. I mean, think how much more fun the "Dumbo the Flying Elephant" attraction would have been if this part of Fantasyland had been surrounded by a circus train (Which was to have housed numerous fast food establishments)?
Again, it's the little details that make this concept painting for me. Take a gander at the ticket booth at the bottom center of this photo. Where -- keeping the whole "Dumbo Circus" theme going -- two giraffes have poked their necks up out of the top of the booth.
That's what I love about all this concept art. It lets us see what might have been or what used to be ...
... Like Fantasyland's old Midget Autopia. Last week, we reminded you of what the cars looked like. This week, we give you a peek at this kiddie ride layout.
All this old concept art also allows us to revisit Disneyland attractions that are supposedly still there but are currently closed to the public. Fondly remembered rides & shows like the "Sleeping Beauty Walk-Through" in Fantasyland.
You'll find the concept art for each & every one of Eyvind Earle's "windows" on the second floor of the Disneyland Hotel, in the upstairs corridor right above "Goofy's Kitchen." These paintings alone -- with their striking color & design -- are worth taking a trip to the Anaheim resort to see.
Anywho ... That's a quick taste of what you can find as you wander through the public areas of the Disneyland Resort Hotel. In the weeks ahead, look for a formal archives section to be set up here at JHM. Where -- over time -- we'll be posting images of every single piece of concept art that can be found in the lobbies of this Anaheim hotel.
That's it for this week. Hope you folks enjoyed today's articles. Have a great weekend, okay?
See you on Monday!