Back before the official Disney blog changed, fans of Imagineering concept art would do well to keep an eye on it. Years back, the Disney Parks 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- which I quickly saved to my hard drive. (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! Disney park concept art is one of my favorite Imagineering things!
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. Of course, we know the results spoke for themselves, as Disney's work on four pavilion's were among the most popular. All setting the stage for Walt Disney World to move from dream to reality.
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.
Sharp eyed viewers will find a number of 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. Not only was it innovative, it was charming! If something works, there's no need to reinvent the wheel. It's Fun to Be Free!
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 collection, however!) Regardless, they do make a nice addition to my collection! She was a genius, and her color styling never quite duplicated in any other Small World.
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. Pundits suggest the attraction should be moved or removed. May they never go this route! Part of the Disney park experience is this taste of innocence and friendship. Something so sorely needed in our world.
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. Sorry, Pixar Pier!
Third on today's list: Carousel of Progress or Progressland as it was called at the fair. The innovative attraction also traveled from the fair 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. Perhaps the best of all versions of Tomorrowland in Anaheim.
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 his usual impeccable style and restraint.