Saturday, November 28, 2009

Emporium Windows - Part Three

Behind the Glass
Every now and then comes a rush project that is so crazed I just want to get it finished and move on. Then after it's all over, I usually kick myself for not taking pictures!

In 1991, I was one of four artists making figures for Disneyland's Main Street windows. It was the year of Beauty and the Beast, and the miniature displays debuted the same day the film arrived in theaters.

Belle, book and sheep by me.

None of us had yet seen the movie or were even very familiar with the characters, but we had reference sketches provided by Disney Feature Animation. Figures with movement were sculpted directly over internal mechanisms, and doll-sized costuming was added last. Disneyland's decorating department dressed the characters and was responsible for the beautiful miniature sets.

Rich Collins sculpts a large figure of the Beast.

Apparently there wasn't time to spend making molds, so our "one-and-only" handmade sculptures were painted and placed in the windows without back-ups. Artist Rich Collins created a little Gaston (in the first photo) that had an unfortunate mishap. We didn't know it at the time, but the Emporium windows are constantly changing temperature. The alternating warm days and cool damp nights actually caused Gaston's wrist to crack, and after a month on display, he performed a fatal swan dive off the roof leaving his hand behind - still attached to the building! The pieces were sent back for repairs, and we all learned a valuable lesson on the importance of a well-made armature.

The famous dancing figures of Belle and the Beast were sculpted by Jackie Perreault (Gonzales), and can be seen today as part of a display of historic Emporium figures at Disneyland. Considering that beneath the clothes and flocked "fur" are Jackie's actual sculpts, they've held up surprisingly well over the years.

Jackie Perreault with dancing couple in progress.

Jackie, herself, has also held up extremely well! After Disneyland, she went on to sculpt full-scale dinosaurs for the Jurassic Park films, and movie creatures for Stan Winston. In recent years, her exquisite sculptures for the Walt Disney Classics Collection have attracted a devoted following of fans - me included!

Big Potts by Jackie... little Potts by me.

The final figures created for the windows were two versions of Mrs. Potts for different scenes in two scales. Jackie and I worked straight through the day and night before the windows were to debut the next morning. We speed-dried the paint with a hair blower, attached the false eyelashes, and delivered them to the park an hour before opening.

The images above, blurry and grainy, are the only record I have of Disneyland's Beauty and the Beast windows. Jackie believes she may have a few more stashed somewhere, and I'll share them in a future post if any turn up.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Emporium Windows - Part Two

Nose Prints on the Glass
Disneyland, Summer 1986

After setting up the windows for the Manhattan Bloomingdales in 1988, our team travelled to Chicago with two more units for the Bloomingdales located at "Miracle Mile". These were bigger as they had originally been designed for Walt Disney World's larger Emporium windows. Housed inside giant rolling "shadow boxes" the units consisted of a Snow White scene (with the Old Hag at her cauldron) and a scene from Pinocchio.

Here's another display that I believe had been created for Florida in the early 80s:
This scene from Mickey's Christmas Carol is so large that, you'll notice, it's TWO-stories -- with a chair and bed upstairs! These scenes had toured around a bit, as well, including a trip to New York in 1984 or 85.

And if you still can't get enough of this, here's a magazine article from 1974 about the ultra-deluxe windows promoting the theatrical release of "The Island at the Top of the World." The windows were better than the movie!

Click for Part One

Click for Part Two

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Emporium Windows - Part One

Deck the Mall!
A waaay younger me in New York, 1988

I'm playing the Ghost of Christmas Past this week and taking you with me to revisit another holiday season that happened twenty-one years ago. (Ready? Touch my robe!)

We've traveled backward in time to this exact week in November, 1988. I was a skinny kid working with a few other creative "kids" from Disneyland's Entertainment division on Christmas windows for New York's famous Bloomingdales department store in Manhattan.

Every year beginning at Thanksgiving, the store-front windows at Bloomie's (as women with designer sunglasses and gigantic handbags call it) are as much a part of the New York tradition as slush in the winter. In 1988 the retailer had asked Disneyland for assistance in coming up with something unique.

For the first time in history, several of Disneyland's original Main Street Emporium window displays, featuring hand-made scenes from Disney animated films, went on a road trip.

Click to Enlarge.

Each set of miniature figures and scenery was carefully cleaned and restored (some were decades old even back then) and shipped to the East Coast for a month-long engagement along Lexington Avenue.

We installed the displays in full view of people passing by in the street outside, attracting crowds of lookie-loos, as you can imagine. It was a lot of fun!

Bambi scene made in the early 1970s

(Say, how much are those doggies in the window, anyway?)

This scene with Peter Pan and the kids flying off to Neverland was actually kind of a headache for us, I remember. The monofilament that suspended the animated figures would get wound up in the mechanisms (located above the arch) and sometimes break. If the characters didn't end up dangling by their ankles over the London cityscape, then they had dropped completely onto the buildings below. We were constantly rescuing them.

Peter Pan figures from the late 60s.

Robin Hood and the gang
from the animated film's initial release, 1973.
I really liked that Allan-a-Dale figure.

And lastly, here's a scene the public never saw...
The backside of the displays! The windows at Bloomingdales were a lot bigger than those of Disneyland's Emporium, so custom prosceniums were built to narrow the openings down to the edges of the miniature sets.

There were a few more scenes, as well, including one with Captain Hook and the Crocodile, but I wasn't able to photograph everything. Maybe some New Yorkers out there have more pictures??

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Future Bright

Artist Sam McKim has long been one of my idols, not only for his immense creative talent, but for being one of the finest gentlemen I've ever met.  His positive, enthusiastic nature was so uplifting, so encouraging, especially to a young artist like myself in awe of this man.

Here's a stunning 1957 illustration by Sam for a short story titled "Butch and Jan Meet the Atom".  Chock full of hopeful visions for the year 2000, the narrative promises a world of power, health and peace through atomic energy.  In Sam McKim's hands, "tomorrow" certainly seems like a good place to be. 

Click to see the published spread. 
Walt Disney's  Mickey Mouse Club Magazine, April 1957.

Monday, November 09, 2009

And now, a toast!

Today this blog is exactly two years old, and to mark the occasion, I popped open a whole bottle of champaign all for myself.  
So, here's to me! (gank...gank...gank...gank...)

This oddball illustration, created in 1955 for an LP of Disney songs by the Lawrence Welk Orchestra, bubbles over with cut-out paper heads glued to a painted background board (Yup, that's Davy Crockett there, but did you recognize Captain Nemo?!)  I love the way this artwork tickles my nose.

"ah-one and ah-two..."

Saturday, November 07, 2009

The Hot Car

Hop in, Blog Reader, and we'll go for a jolly ride!  Down the open road, over the dusty high-way, and through every hammy hamlet by the sea, disobeying signs and cops, taking every wrong turn, and all the while merrily, merrily text messaging.  Wheeeee!

There's no better way to traverse the "roads perpendicular" than in this sporty little conveyance right here. Why some guys would hand over their entire estate to a flock of weasels for one.

Toady's "hot looking car" in the film "The Adventures of Ichabod & Mr. Toad" is comparatively different from the attraction vehicles down at Disneyland, as you can see in this 1940s animation model sheet.

Click for Full-Size.

The cartoon motorcar's design includes the parts and pieces of  an authentic 1906 Autocar Roadster:

For Mr. Toad's wild little dark ride down at Disneyland, designer Bruce Bushman combined the rich luxury of the Roadster with the charm and floating fenders of a 1904 Glide:


And as Cyril Proudbottom would say, "Lumme Guvnor, it's a motorcar!"

Hot off the 1955 assembly line.

The twelve original Disneyland Toad Cars were hand-made of sheet metal and fiberglass by Arrow Development and for the first few years, the cars had no built-in safety bar.

By 1961, bars were added to ensure that wilder riders 
remained in those cushy upholstered seats at all times.

"Pull down on the lap bar, please."

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, 1960s

Now hold on and give your steering wheel a spin, as we bang through the doorways of Toad Hall and out to the English countryside.  Tally Ho, and keep off the train tracks.