Daily Figment 45: Book Review – The Art of Disneyland

The Art of Disneyland by Jeff Kurtti and Bruce Gordon. 2006, ISBN: 1423104595

Released to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Disneyland, The Art of Disneyland is a visually stunning and historically amazing work. The large scale of the book (almost 11″ X 13″) forces you to turn the book sideways to enjoy the art. This is by no means an issue. More page space set aside for the artwork is what makes the book truly shine.

Paintings, concept art, layouts and sketches fill out this impressive volume. What I truly love about The Art of Disneyland is the amazing conceptual art. The book starts with Main St and ends with Tomorrowland. And yes, it does include Mickey’s Toontown!

The Imagineering roll call is inspiring: Ken Anderson, Claude Coats, Mary Blair, John Hench, Harper Goff, Marc Davis, Peter Ellenshaw, Sam McKim, Herbert Ryman and so many more. Seeing all of this artwork in one place, by so many different artists, is like having a conversation about what Disneyland might have been. But then we actually know how it turned out. Most of the artwork is so true to what was developed, though. If you have ever spent any time at Disneyland, you will enjoy this book.
I’ve pulled a couple of the images from the book to share. They speak so much better than I do.

Main St. USA, Center Street, Sam McKim, 1967
Main St., USA, Coffee Garden, Unknown Artist, 1957
Main St. Snow Scene, Unknown Artist, 1978
Splash Mountain, Dan Goozer, 1987
My favorite section would actually end up as a fist fight between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. The artwork for both sections is astounding and they both have the unique honor of being the two lands at Disneyland to have been re-done, so to speak. In the case of Tomorrowland, it has had several minor revisions, including the big mid-1990’s re-do. The famous Mary Blair Tomorrowland murals are also reproduced in the book.

The front endpaper of the book presents the Fun Map of Disneyland done in 1957 by Sam KcKim. The rear endpaper has the Fun Map of Disneyland by Nina Rae Vaughn in 2000. They hug the book; reverently and figuratively.

The Art of Disneyland is filled with beautiful paintings, ride concept sketches and amazing bird’s eye views of the various lands. At $49.99 retail, it is rather expensive, but you can find it on Amazon much cheaper. This is a great addition to any Disney Geeks library collection.

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Book Review: Designing Disney by John Hench

Designing Disneyby John Hench is one of my favorite books in my personal library.

The book is divided into four main areas: the Art of Show, the Art of Visual Storytelling, the Art of Character and the Art of Color. Mr. Hench does an amazing job of breaking down these areas by providing concrete examples through artwork, concept art, photographs, stories and personal recollections. One of of the amazing concept art shots is of the proposed Mickey Mouse Hotel. Mr. Hench briefly discusses using forms and symbols that are immediately recognizable to the viewer. Of course, the Mickey Mouse hotel was never built; the original idea was for it to be on the monorail line between the Grand Floridian and the Magic Kingdom.

Mr. Hench was also the concept artists for the Enchanted Tiki Room at Disneyland. You can see from the picture that he was very much into color and the moods and feelings associated with color. He would use color to set the scene, invite guests further into the attraction or to simply set a mood. Mr. Hench refers to the concept art as enhanced reality. He also talks about the original iteration of the Enchanted Tiki Room. Walt wanted it to be a dining establishment with a dinner show. Once they started planning and designing, they realized that it would limit the audience capacity too much. So, Mr. Hench added the center fountain and created a theater in the round. The rest is history!

The most stunning part of the book is the Art of Color section. Actually, I consider it the most interesting and eye-opening part. Not only does Mr. Hench discuss the different properties of color as they would appear in the different theme park locales; but he tackles how the same color will have drastically different effects depending on the sunlight. Disneyland Paris has a colder sun while Walt Disney World has a much brighter sun. Therefore, the color palette has to be very carefully chosen. In planning the Polynesian Hotel, they wanted to make sure that all of the details and the warmth were accessible in the day or evening. To me, the Art of Color is something that I can apply in my life. Whether it is the color of the bedroom walls, the floor tiles in the bathroom or open sky-blue of my children’s bedroom.

I started writing this post with just the quote below. Then I started flipping through the book and I realized that there was simply too much inside the pages to leave it as is. I hoped to whet your appetite with three very minor parts of the work. This is not a book review, by any means–it is just one friend telling another friend about an incredible read. I urge you to get a copy of this book. You will never look at Disney the same after devouring reading it. This will be the next book that I loan to Disney Geek Andrew. Only if he promises to not eat Dorito’s and ice cream while reading it!

When I am asked, “What is your greatest achievement?” I answer, “Disneyland is our greatest achievement. Disneyland was first and set the pattern for others to follow.” Disneyland has been an example for many enterprises in the entertainment industry, and its design principles have been embraced by other industries as well. The concept of “themed” environments–places designed so that every element contributes to telling a story–was developed and popularized by Walt Disney. Its influence has been extraordinarily widespread, and can be seen today in many aspects of our daily experience–in shops and shopping malls, hotels, restaurants, museums, airports, offices, even people’s homes.

–John Hench, page 1.

Hench, John et.al. Designing Disney Imagineering and the Art of the Show. New York: Disney Editions, 2003.