March 23, 2017

Treasure Trove of Rare Imagineering Art

Note: I ran the piece below a couple of years ago. Now that the official Disney Parks Blog has changed its structure, it's harder to get such great pieces of Imagineering art. Thought I'd repost just for fun. Enjoy while it lasts!

Fans of Imagineering concept art would do well to keep an eye on the official Disney blog. Earlier this week, the blog ran a series of pieces celebrating their participation in the 1964 World's Fair fifty years ago. All the pieces posted today, sans one, are that individual day's website banners. (The above piece is my favorite of the bunch.) I am sure full sized art exists and that these are only slices to fit the web. Not that I mind. I'll take what I can get!

Historians correctly note that the public's response to Disney at the fair was the proving grounds to see if a Disneyland styled park and resort would be a hit should one be built on the East Coast. The results spoke for themselves, as Disney's work on four pavilion's were among the most popular.

EPCOT Center's CenterCore or the 1964 World's Fair?

Ford's "Magic Skyway" was one of the most popular attractions. Guests cruised in automobiles back in time to the world of dinosaurs. If the concept seems much like EPCOT Center's beloved World of Motion, well it is. The Future World attraction, sponsored by General Motors (and with an incredibly good voiceover tour by Gary Owens) used several variations on the same theme. If you look at the concept piece directly above, you may see the inspiration the ending of the attraction as guests cruised into CenterCore, the city of the future.

You can even see some similarities between the entrance to the EPCOT attraction and what was built for the Fair. In each, the cars were shown to guests as a draw into the attraction, moving in a circular path. If something works, there's no need to reinvent the wheel.

Each of these attractions would return from the fair back to Disneyland in one form or another. Magic Skyway was represented as part of the now Grand Canyon /Primeval World diorama (dinorama?)

Unfortunately, for most of the art shown on the Disney blog, there is no artist information made available for any of these pieces. (Imagineer Mary Blair's pieces-below- are instantly recognizable for It's a Small World collectionhowever!) Regardless, they do make a nice addition to my collection!

Love it or hate it, It's A Small World was a fan favorite from day one when it made its debut at the fair. The Pepsi show had it all- charm, warmth, and great atmosphere- not to mention the iconic song. I'm particularly fond of the forward looking color scheme in the second piece.

When it came to designing the attraction for Florida's Magic Kingdom, could it be the Imagineers looked at the piece above as inspiration for the new ending? The carousel and ferris wheel make the perfect setting for a playful conclusion- but not for a theme park.

Third on today's list: Carousel of Progress or Progressland as it was called at the fair. The innovative attraction traveled to California and landed in Tomorrowland in 1967. It was a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow for the extensive re-Imagineering of the Land of the Future.

Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln. The State of Illinois hired Disney to bring this remarkable one man show for visitors from all over the world. After a few problems, he performed perfectly, proving to Imagineering that they could in fact pull off human characters so convincingly. In the last couple of decades, the Disney suits thought about removing Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln more than once- including replacing this patriotic masterpiece with a new home for the Muppets. I'm sure Walt Disney was turning over in his grave! Wiser heads prevailed, and after a strange attempt at renovation, Tony Baxter was given the job to update the show. True to form, he handled it with impeccable style and restraint. 

As I said at the beginning, keep your eyes on the Disney blog. In the meantime, if you want to hear and see more about Disney at the Fair, order the boxed set. It's well worth the money!

Lastly, make sure you come back May 1st as the Insights and Sounds blog celebrates the 25th Anniversary of Disney's Hollywood Studios. I was there opening month, so this post is filled with photos, concept art, and a history of the park- with a few trip reports along the way through in for good measure. It's the longest, largest post I think I've ever written.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

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