February 7, 2014

Herb Ryman's Liberty Square or Was It Liberty Street Disneyland?

 Yesterday, I shared a piece of concept art for Liberty Square in Florida's Magic Kingdom, a few thoughts on the attractions, shops, and dining options to be found. In 1975, it was the land I instantly wanted more of. Little did I know back then that the inspiration for the place came from ideas Walt Disney himself had for a similarly themed avenue at Disneyland in California. Or was it to be a full-fledged land in the Anaheim park? Keep reading...

Here's a piece of concept art I had never seen before... and I do not remember where this came from, so please forgive me for not giving credit where it is due. I'll take a guess that the Imagineer responsible for this art is none other than the legendary Herb Ryman (whose rather unseen work appears paragraphs below). The layout of the proposed addition is quite different than what was finally built years later in an entirely new theme park. I'm sure the attention to detail would be found, but keeping the design linear by necessity would create an entirely different experience. Contrast this piece seen above to the classic art of the Florida entrance below:

Of course, color aside, this piece creates an area a bit more expansive and inviting. Note George Washington never made an appearance at the bridge entrance, and sadly, the boats that once traveled under the bridges (Plaza Swan Boats), no longer do. The missing slice of kinetic energy creates an odd stillness to the area- something that a Magic Kingdom park should never have. In contrast, Imagineer Tony Baxter and team understood the impact and importance of movement in drawing crowds. At Disneyland Paris, most every land comes equipped with its own "weenie" to draw guests in.

Back to Herb Ryman. This piece above is labeled "Liberty Square Waterfront" and is dated 1964, the year Walt starting gobbling up land in the swamps of Florida. Could it be that artwork design on an East Coast kingdom really was in full swing by then? Or was Walt going to use a parcel of Disneyland shoreline to add a taste of Colonial America to his beloved park? 

It would have been a kick to find another elegantly executed, historically based, land at the bend from Frontierland. Certainly the Sailing Ship Columbia could have had its dock moved and then the Mark Twain could have found itself properly placed in New Orleans Square. Lest you think that to be a logistical nightmare, let me say- both ships are rarely run concurrently.

Perhaps both Liberty Square and New Orleans Square point to the reason I find Epcot's World Showcase so appealing. The detailed environments and attractions found within encourage exploration and the discovery of culture and history. It's something lost on many guests to the Magic Kingdom styled parks today as they rush from attraction to character meet and greets and back.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)


3 comments:

Jeff Huckaby said...

Regarding Liberty Square, I am torn in my feelings for it. It has this great calm vibe...and the theming has a nice charm, but it has extremely limited opportunities for great attractions. It is the one land that creative license with attractions would perhaps be in bad taste and disrespectful. I have to say that New Orleans Square is much more malleable to merriment and fun; NOS just draws you in somehow. Lib Sq is just a pass-through. WDW's Magic Kingdom once had this educational and sophisticated undertone in the 70's which has long been left behind; Lib Sq fit into that time, but now it seems like the odd man out to me. 1976 was huge year being the U.S.A.'s 200 birthday, so the land was relevant in that decade. Now, it seems way too low-key for the MK of today?

Mark Taft said...

I share your thoughts and couldn't have said it better! If you feel this way about Liberty Square of old vs. today, I can only imagine your thoughts regarding EPCOT Center vs. Epcot! Thanks for sharing!

Mark Taft said...

PS Jeff- I have another Liberty Square piece coming up next week...