Saturday, August 1, 2015

DISNEYLAND Diamond Jubilee Celebrates 60 Years of Dreams!

I'm delighted to have the opportunity to present 3 new designs to honor Disneyland's 60 Anniversary!
Blocking in "Retro Retlaw"
The "crown jewel" of all amusement parks is celebrating its 60th Diamond Anniversary on July 17, 2015 and I was  asked to join a select group of amazing artists to design something to help usher in the sparkling celebration. My three original gems are entitled, "Retro Retlaw", "Road to Dreams" and "60 yEARS!" are of course designed and painted in traditional methods instead of using a computer. The final paintings are all gouache, the very same medium we all used at Disney Studios in the 1930s on Pinocchio up into the 1970s, and the pieces measure around 18" x 24".

Opening Day
You would be hard pressed to find a child or adult who, if they haven't visited the park, has at least  dreamed of doing so. Well I'm one of the millions of lucky kids (of all ages) who dreamed of going to Disneyland and subsequently realized that magical dream coming true, well it came true frequently in fact. And I have to admit, I never get tired of visiting the magic kingdom, especially with folks who are first time or infrequent visitors whereas I can enjoy it again through their eyes. I also just plain enjoy watching people as they enjoy themselves at the "happiest place on Earth!"

First ticket sold!
Disneyland is the ONLY theme park designed and built under the direct supervision of Walt Disney. Maybe that's why it always seemed to have an edge over all the other later parks in some kind of special feeling within its gates. As Walt once recollected during an interview, being the head of a thriving studio kept him very busy and he looked forward to weekends, especially Sundays at Griffith Park Carousel watching his daughters Diane and Sharon reach for the brass ring. Walt wistfully dreamed about a place where parents, children and friends could all enjoy a family experience together as opposed to sitting there waiting for a ride or two to finish.

Disneyland 60th artwork ad
Walt Disney, as he usually did, surrounded himself with people that would help enable his dream to become a reality. Originally it was going to be built in Burbank across the street from the studio but Walt's plans quickly outgrew that tiny corner of real estate. His unbridled imagination eventually stretched to take root across 160 acres of orange groves that was owned owned by no less than 17 different families in the middle of a place no one had ever heard of called Anaheim. (Ana-who? no Anaheim!).

Week after week on Sunday evenings we would see the progress on Walt's TV show entitled what else? "Disneyland" and marvel as the park took shape. As the weeks went on American families grew more excited about this magical kingdom that Walt Disney was creating. The wait was finally over on July 17th 1955, when Disneyland lowered it's drawbridge and opened its doors to the world on live television, spreading happiness and magic for millions ever since. Shown here on the left is the first Disneyland admission ticket and it was purchased by Walt's older brother and important partner of the Disney empire from its beginning, Roy O. Disney,  for $1. Gee, prices have gone up a bit wouldn't you say?

Another playful parody ad for the celebration
The Monsanto House of the Future
For my tribute pieces I decided to pay homage to the "retro style"I seem to have become associated with that harkens back to mid century design aesthetics, so I guess I'm a retro kinda guy these days. Although I can and have worked in a multitude of styles, media and techniques, I felt that to properly pay respect to an event from the 1950s it would be nice to use a style keenly embraced by graphic designers and Madison Avenue firms during that time period. I also created a series of parody ads to humorously help herald the event using, what else? a 1950s magazine ad feel. A couple of them are included here.
Remember the Sky Buckets?

With Walt in charge, the Walt Disney Company was always on the cutting edge with regard to design, and the commercial art side of things from the earliest days of Disneyland's conception was certainly no exception. That contemporary style carried through into maps, tickets, signage, and print advertisement during the first decade of the park. I am a big fan of that now vintage look and in fact used it back in the early 1970s when I was a commercial artist working for an advertising firm not unlike a smaller version of that on the series MAD MEN. We operated out of a tiny two story building so the falling man title sequence from Mad Men opening just wouldn't have had the same impact. These new retro pieces honoring Disneyland's 60th will be unveiled as prints along with the originals at the Anaheim Convention Center during this years D23 EXPO.
Painting Disneyland's 60th Anniversary artwork

I was "bi-desk-al" meaning I worked back and forth on these three pieces at two different desks so while one painting was drying I could scoot over the the other one and keep going. Those of you familiar with my posts know I am the happy owner of the original Walt Disney Studio architect Kem Weber's prototype animation desk and his concept/story desk model that was actually used by a legendary imagineer at WED by the name of Herb Ryman.

My wife, Disney animator Patty Peraza was the first to notice the delightful irony that here I was happily nestled up in my studio, designing poster artwork to celebrate Disneyland's 60th Anniversary... on Disney Legend Herb Ryman's desk!  

Herb Ryman's iconic original concept design for Disneyland
Patty and Whatshisname
For those of you who may not know who Herbie is, well he was a long time artist in the company, and a stunning talent valued by Walt Disney himself. In 1952, Walt had set up an independent company that would concentrate on bringing his dreams of a new kind of amusement park to life. To get a full head of steam with visuals, Walt Disney spoke to Herb Ryman on Spetember 23, 1953 a Wednesday morning and implored him to come to the studio right away for something important.

Road to Dreams
For the next few days Walt and Herbie were inseparable as Walt "described" and Herb "inscribed". Monday morning found a worn out Walt and Herb along with a huge ink drawing on thick vellum paper. That drawing was rolled up and taken to New York by Walt's brother Roy to line up some early but important financing for the new Disneyland park.

So here I was decades later using the master's magical desk to compose posters of that wonderful new idea of Walt's, DISNEYLAND! I'm very proud and humbled to have been able to contribute my designs in a small way to help celebrate Disneyland's 60th Diamond Anniversary. I sincerely hope you like them and will stop by and say howdy at D23 and at the Disneyanna Gallery! I won't be alone by any means and in fact I am in good company with a fantastic and talented group of artists and I encourage you to check out their fabulous creations. So Happy Birthday DISNEYLAND and thank you Walt and all those original Imagineers for 60 years of magic at the Happiest Place on Earth!

One of the signings at the Disney Dream Store
UPDATE: We really enjoyed our time at D23 Expo meeting so many wonderful Disney fans from around the world. All of my original paintings sold out within the first five minutes of D23 opening its doors on Friday! On Saturday the Giclees followed with the smaller prints going before they closed the magical doors on Sunday! Patty and I were happily surprised!

By the way, we made our own outfits to celebrate the Diamond Anniversary and as such we made sure they were "dazzling"! The local arts and crafts stores enjoyed our repeated visits to buy more and more sparkling sequins, glass beads and foam sheets. D23 EXPO, my favorite part was spending time chatting with and meeting Disney fans. After all, I'm a Disney fan myself!