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"The Art of the Walt Disney World Resort" is worth going out of your way for

Jim Hill

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"The Art of the Walt Disney World Resort" is worth going out of your way for

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Over the years, I have heard a lot of stories from Disney insiders that I’ve been lucky enough to interview. Like how Alice Davis once told me that she knew that Mary Blair must be dealing with some horrific personal problems. Given that – in the early 1970s – this Disney Legend’s acclaimed sense of color & style suddenly seemed to slip away.

“I looked at the environmental studies that (Blair) had done for Western River Expedition,” Davis remembered, “And I then told Marc that ‘Something must be wrong with Mary. Her colors have all gone to mud.’ “

Art of Walt Disney World Resort
Copyright 2009 Disney Editions. All Right Reserved

I’ve also talked with folks like Gary Goddard who spent their formative years at Walt Disney Imagineering working on projects that almost got built. Like that proposed replacement for Fort Wilderness’ “Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue” that Gary designed. Which was going to be …

“ … dinner theatre on an epic scale. The set was going to be this full Western street. Where the stars would made their entrance by riding on stage aboard this full-sized stagecoach pulled by six horses,” Goddard explained. “And Card Walker just loved the concept for this show. He told me ‘This is exactly what we should be doing at Walt Disney World.’ “

Art of Walt Disney World Resort
Copyright 2009 Disney Editions. All Rights Reserved

But – all too often – all you ever get are the stories. Not any images that actually validate the tales that you’ve been told.  Which is what’s so terrific about “The Art of the Walt Disney World Resort” (Disney Editions, May 2009). Here – finally ! – thanks to Jeff Kurtti & the late Bruce Gordon, are the sketches & concept paintings that prove that so many of these stories that I’ve heard over the years are true.

Art of Walt Disney World Resort
Copyright 2009 Disney Editions. All Rights Reserved

Take – for example – that really-for-real hotel for that Dorothea Redmond designed for the Main Street U.S.A. area at WDW’s Magic Kingdom. For years now, I’ve been told that the real reason that the Town Square Exhibition Hall is so tall is because the building that was originally supposed to have been built there had to be large enough to prevent anyone standing on Main Street Street U.S.A. from seeing the Contemporary Resort Hotel off in the distance.

And judging by this early Magic Kingdom map …

Art of Walt Disney World Resort
Copyright 2009 Disney Editions. All Rights Reserved

… the Main Street Hotel would have indeed  been big enough to block out the Contemporary. And its beautiful turn-of-the-century interior would have made rooms at this WDW Resort highly sought after by Guests.

Art of Walt Disney World Resort - Main Street Hotel interior
Copyright 2009 Disney Editions. All Rights Reserved

The history of the Walt Disney World Resort is loaded with great what-ifs like this. Like – would Treasure Island have been far more popular with WDW visitors if the Imagineers had actually gone ahead with their original plan?

Art of Walt Disney World ResortI
Copyright 2009 Disney Editions. All Rights Reserved

Which was to load up the formerly-known-as-Raz-Island with elaborately themed recreations of scenes & settings from Disney’s 1950 live-action film, “Treasure Island.” Take – for example – Collin Campbell’s concept for Ben Gunn’s cave depicted below.

Art of Walt Disney World Resort - Ben Gunn's cave concept
Copyright 2009 Disney Editions. All Rights Reserved

I know, I know. A couple of the ideas that were mentioned in today’s review (i.e. the epic scale western dinner theater show, a hotel near the entrance of the Magic Kingdom & Ben Gunn’s Cave) did eventually get built as part of the Euro Disney Resort. Which isn’t all that surprising. Given that WDI is the place where good ideas never die.

Which – given that Walt Disney Pictures is now readying that new 3D version of “A Christmas Carol” for release -- one wonders if Imagineering will now circle back on that idea it once had for a new attraction for Epcot’s UK pavilion. Which was to have been a ride-thru version of Charles Dickens' classic holiday tale.

Art of Walt Disney World Resort
Copyright 2009 Disney Editions. All Rights Reserved

The images featured in today’s article are just a handful of the great sketches & concept paintings that can be found in “The Art of the Walt Disney World Resort.” The only downside to this 160-page, oversized hardcover is that it’s currently only for sale at the Disney theme parks.

But – then again – you were looking for an excuse to book another trip to Orlando, weren’t you? So go ahead. “The Art of the Walt Disney World Resort” is worth going out of your way for.

Way, way, WAY far out of your way for.

Your thoughts?

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  • Yes sir - and, this one is at a reasonable initial cost for the book (as opposed to the intial cost for the Disneyland version) and is about 50 times better than the Dland entry into the series!

  • Your story was featured in DisMarks! Here is the link to vote it up and promote it: http://dismarks.com/DisneyWorld/Review_of_The_Art_of_Walt_Disney_World_Resort

  • Wow this book looks great.  But go easy on Mary Blair, Jim!  She's a Disney Legend!

  • I've been thinking for some time that the UK area of Epcot needs a dark ride, a la Norway's Maelstrom. A Christmas Carol dark ride would be a GREAT idea! Spooky yet uplifting. Why oh why was this idea thrown out?

    Another idea for a ride would be one based on the Beatles in some way. Maybe Pepperland or Yellow Submarine. That would be extremely cool.

    At any rate, Disney needs to invest money in more dark rides. There aren't nearly enough in the park IMO.

  • I believe that Collin Campbell art is an element of Royce Mathew's complaint against the POTC films (see disneylawsuit.com).  

    Disney used that same art in Jason Surrell's POTC Making Of book (with a misleading caption) as evidence that "pirates who turn to skelletons in moonlight" was always part of the POTC ride conception.  Mathew makes a case that the idea was stolen from his "supernatural pirate movie" and that Disney's use of the image in the POTC book is part of a conspiracy to defraud him.  

    If Disney is now republishing that image in a new book with proper attribution (ie proving it was made long after the POTC ride) then it may be seen as tacit admission of guilt.  

  • Not sure when the Collin Campbell artwork was made.....but Jim is asserting that it was created as a Treasure Island idea for WDW which would have predated the POTC films.

    I wish they would turn Discovery Island into a pirate adventure island...build Tortuga and everything.  A couple of the resorts have a pirate excursion activity (for a price of course)...but playing pirate at the Beach Club would be nothing compared to going to an actual island to run around and explore......dock the Black Pearl out there too....would be sweet.


  • Okie dokie - Imagineering archives have barely been tippled for what we have been allowed to see.  There are concepts and artwork dating back to the 50's that prety much cover every idea that has been presented and/or thought of by anyone or everyone.  Just because a piece of art is given clearance to be published does not make it a "tacit admission of guilt."  

    Great minds think alike.  I know many creative themed entertainment designers who come up with a concept only to see it suddenly arise at a Disney park a few years later...but never had they shown the idea to Disney.  Or, anyone in Disney, for that fact.

    The point is, Disney has (or had) the BEST creative talents in their folds to design and envision immersive adventures and attractions for them. And, there are always people looking to hit into Disney's deep financial pockets and claim the ideas were theirs and stolen in order to get some form of compensation they feel they deserve.

    Truth is, put creative people into gear and a lot of them will independently come up with the same idea in whatever location they happen to be sitting in.  The Disney Studios has the ability to put money behind their film ideas or the theme park installs where a lot of people just don't.  There is no way to prove intellectual property ownership in that situation.  And, it is why Disney has a direct and straight forward "no acceptance of any outside material" clause.  It is also why that, whenever a Disney Studio member or Theme Park Cast Member submits an idea to the studio or Imagineering, they sign a waiver releasing all rights of that concept to the company without compensation as they are a working member of that company.  

    In fact, the various competitions held for WDI through college design and architectural programs also have a similar waiver in that the ideas presented in the competition become the property of Disney and the original owner has no further hold upon their creations.

    Basically, you know going into the game you are going to have your creative child taken from you and very probably get nothing in return.  If you are feeling strong enough that it is an idea that Disney should pursue...especially as a member of the company...then, be happy that your idea was submitted and worked upon.  That's the Disney mindset and way the corporation is structured.  Fair or not, that is the way the inner working game is played.

    Back to artwork - whatever you see you can bet was created by Disney and not in any form of intellectual robbery or justification to prove innocence of said intellectual robbery.  The WDI archives are chock full of concepts that a lot of people would claim were their own but aren't.  The concepts are the work of Imagineers (in the case of WDI) who spent hours and months (or longer) on various team members or independently coming up with ideas to pitch in order to plus and improve the Disney Parks.

    Walt even said (and, I'm paraphrasing the quote from memory) - "the only name that goes on the product is Disney.  There's a lot of people who make that name happen.  But, when the public sees one of our films or comes through our Park gate, the only name they know is Disney."

    And, that's the way it is still working today.

  • I just purchased this book at Amazon for $90. How much do they cost at the parks? Did I pay too much? Thank you for the heads up Jim. I would love to see more articles dealing with the parks and rides.

  • Jazzmoe - you should have tried calling the Parks first before ordering it on Amazon.  If you noticed when you placed your order, the book did not come from Amazon directly, but from a third party which can always overcharge you.  I almost ordered it from Amazon and noticed this and will wait until July when we're planning our trip to WDW.

  • The book is $50 in The Art Of Disney and bookstores at the theme parks and Downtown Disney.

  • Jazzmoe,

    Don't feel bad; with what DelivEARs would have charged for handing, ostage, insurance etc, etc ...

    you would have ended paying the same, more or less!

  • Thank you all for the responses. Im not planning a trip for awhile so $90 doesn't seem all that bad.

  • This post was mentioned on Twitter by Disneyopolis: "The Art of the Walt Disney World Resort" is worth going out of ... http://bit.ly/jlGmx

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