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How Maggie Parr created her painting for the Disney Gallery's "A Grand Circle Tour of the Disney Trains" show

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How Maggie Parr created her painting for the Disney Gallery's "A Grand Circle Tour of the Disney Trains" show

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So what it take to create a killer canvas like this? Well, it takes time, talent and a friend who really knows their way around a train.

"Right on Time" by Maggie Parr. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Luckily, artist & designer Maggie Parr has all three of those things. But when she was working on the two pieces that will be showcased at this Saturday's "A Grand Circle Tour of the Disney Trains" event (which will be held from 9 - 11 a.m. at the Disney Gallery in the Main Street, U.S.A. section of Disneyland Park), the thing that Maggie valued the most was having a train expert with which she could then consult while Ms. Parr was working on these particular paintings.

"My friend Jeff Remy is actually one of the engineers who works on the Disneyland Railroad. So it 's been great to be able to run the work-in-progress versions of these paintings by him, make sure that I'd gotten all of the details - like the running lights on these trains -- just right," Ms. Parr explained.

Thumbnail sketch of Maggie Parr's "Heading West." Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc. All rights reserved

Mind you, when she tackles a project like this, Maggie always likes to have some photo reference. Which is why - once she was recruited to create a painting for this train-themed show - Ms. Parr immediately headed out for the Disney Parks with camera in hand.

"Whenever I'm composing my shots for photo reference, I always try and stand in the Guests shoes. Make sure that the angles that I'm choosing actually reflect what the Guests see & experience whenever they visit the Disney theme parks," Maggie continued. "That way ... Well, hopefully the image that I'm trying to create with my painting can then remind them of a fond memory or a particularly special time that they had at the Parks."

Parr works on her character poses & perspective before she then begins painting.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Once she's done all of the necessary research, Parr creates a thumbnail of the proposed painting which she then sends off the Disney Gallery Group for approval.

"It's kind of an involved process. Disney Legal has to get involved, make sure that it's okay to depict the characters doing what I'd like them to do in each painting," Maggie continued. "But once they sign off of it, I then try and regularly send them shots of my work-in-progress. Plus - of course - the Disney Gallery Group has to approve the final version of each painting."

Here's an early color comp. Notice how Mickey's no longer driving the train. More to the
point, Parr's decided to put the Disney characters in period costume for this particular
piece. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

And - of course - because Ms. Parr like to work in oils (which can sometimes take upwards of 5 hours to dry between applications), each of these individual paintings is a fairly lengthy project.

"These particular paintings - due to getting all of the train-related stuff just right - took me forever. I must have put in 50 hours on the Disneyland one and 40 hours of the Walt Disney World canvas," Ms. Parr said. "I wish that I were like George Scribner. Who can knock out a great train painting in his sleep."

George Scribner's "Like Clockwork." Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

Speaking of Mr. Scribner, Maggie was amused when she saw the canvas that George had created for Saturday's "A Grand Circle Tour of the Disney Trains" event, "Like Clockwork." Which placed Walt Disney World's No. 1 train in a very similar position to the one that Ms. Parr used in her "Right On Time" painting.

"We all have our own individual painting styles. George is kind of impressionistic whereas Larry Nikolai's work is more whimsical. And Noah just does amazing stuff with his airbrush," Maggie said. "That's half the fun of taking part in a theme show like this. Getting to see what each of my friends does, seeing how they bring the theme of that particular show to life with their latest painting."

Noah's "Walt in Train." Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc. All rights reserved

In a lot of ways, that's the very best part of these Disney Gallery theme shows. At least as far as Ms. Parr is concerned.

"You have to remember that - when you work as an artist - you spend a lot of time alone in your studio. So when you get the chance to hang out with your contemporaries and talk shop, that's great," Maggie explained. "Plus Disneyland always treats us to lunch right after the signing. So we then get to talk about how the event went, the reaction that our paintings got from the fans."

Larry Nikolai's "Casey Jr. - Whistle Stop in Storybook Land."
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Though given that Saturday's "Grand Circle Tour of the Disney Trains" event is being held at Disneyland Park, one wonders if - after the signing & lunch are over - Ms. Parr's then going to take a moment to head up to Fantasyland and take some time to check out Sleeping Beauty Castle & the King Arthur Carousel.

"And why would she want to do that?," you ask. Because Maggie might just be looking for some additional inspiration for her latest assignment. Which is to serve as a consultant on the castle and the carousel that the Imagineers are creating for Shanghai Disneyland.

Concept art for Shanghai Disneyland's castle. Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"Obviously I can't talk about what WDI has planned for that theme park," Ms. Parr stated. "But what I can say is that the Imagineers are looking to make this castle the crown jewel of Shanghai Disneyland. They've got some very ambitious plans for this building. They're going to do things with Shanghai Disneyland's castle that they've never ever done with any of the other Disney theme park castles."

But while she's working on that project, Maggie's going to continue on with her work for the Disney Gallery Group. And maybe even try and do another train painting or two.

Parr enters the final phase of working on "Heading West," as she continues to
experiment with her color choices. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

"I've painted one of Disneyland's trains now as well as one of Walt Disney World's," Ms. Parr concluded. "It might be interesting now to try and paint all of the trains for the stateside parks. Find fun new ways to fold the characters in. Show them really enjoying riding the rails just as the Guests do each time they visit these theme parks."

And if you're a train enthusiast and/or a Disney art fan, then you really owe it to yourself to get Disneyland Park this Saturday between 9 - 11 a.m. So that you can then meet Maggie Parr and all of the other artists who created paintings to the Disney Gallery's latest themed event, "A Grand Circle Tour of the Disney Trains."

The final, finished version of Maggie Parr's "Heading West." Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

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  • Maggie captures your interest with the richness of the colour in her Heading West train with the happiest crew of Disney land characters.  The offsetting of the depth and richness of colours makes this painting leap out at you.  As we know Walt always loved trains & boats and for are star Mickey it is great to see him still involved with the rails since his creation was sparked on the Train heading out of New York in 1928.  Mickey & Maggie will keep capturing your heart with their gifted talents way into the distant future.  Jeff from Canada and a proud purchaser of Heading West in 2011.

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