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.


Unknown said...

It must be said the Emporium windows are STILL one of my favorite spots in WDW/DL.

Out of curiosity, was there one "team" for the DL windows and another for the WDW windows?

Eric Scales said...

These were the Emporium windows I saw when I made my first "grown up" trip to Disneyland- with a friend sans parents. We were both so excited about this film, and the windows only fed that excitement. As I've related on your blog before, I called up Disneyland and asked how much it would cost to purchase one of these figures- surely I could afford at least one of the minor characters or something on my meager junior high allowance. Disneyland politely explained to me that they don't sell the figures and that they would most likely end up using them over and over again. Years later when Big Figs became popular, my first thought on seeing them was that it was like being able to purchase an Emporium Window sculpture!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful work, Kevin

Major Pepperidge said...

As a kid I always spent too much time staring at the Emporium windows. Everyone would be waiting for me until they couldn't stand it anymore.

These photos make me wish I could sculpt!

Burgin Streetman said...

So cool. Thanks for sharing!

Pete Emslie said...

It's always a pleasure to look at your sculpting, Kevin! Just out of curiosity, since you were sculpting directly onto the robotic armatures, what material were you using? I'm guessing Sculpey, but it's hard to tell from the photos.

By the way, Jackie sure is a cutie!

Kevin Kidney said...

Joe, the windows for WDW were made by a different group. I never got to see their version, unfortunately.

Eric, great story! In the early days of the Disneyana Shop, you could buy actual figures from the windows. Many of the characters from Robin Hood, Mary Poppins, and Island at the Top of The World were sold here. Hopefully they exist safe and sound in private collections somewhere!

Thank you, jmanu and Scribbler!

Major, go get yourself a box of Super Sculpey from your craft store and get started! It's so fun!

Pete, Super Sculpey is the medium of champions. (Stay away from regular white Sculpey, which is too chalky.) And Jackie is still a cutie. I think all the chemicals we worked with back then have preserved us well.

Jackie said...

Ah, if only I were really that well preserved; but I still haven't "grown up", so that helps! Thanks for the memories Kevin, I've got to start digging through my old boxes of "Polaroids". I'll let you know if I find anything good. Hey, remember when Vladamir rigged up a battery for the radio from spent polaroid film packs? McGyver personified.

Unknown said...

LOVE That little village diorama! I love browsing the emporium windows after a long day at the park. I slow down and really take the time to peer into all the windows. It's the last bit of Disney Magic I take in before leaving the park.

Unknown said...

As a kid growing up in FL, I had to get my theme park fix at WDW, so I dunno if this will apply to DL, but...

I distinctly remember in the early-to-mid 1970s being able to buy something called "Disney's Mini Molds" whereby you poured a plaster-like batter into a rubber mold, allowed it to harden and then peeled off the mold. I made many (OK, 2) "Emporium windows" in my room with that.

But I assume the rubber in the molds has become part of the ozone hole by now, because I have YET to see one on eBay.

There was a point to this, honest.

Vintage Disneyland Tickets said...

Hi Kevin, great post. I found "Belle and the Beast" today at the park (link), they are looking great.

I also found this guy (link) I didn't buy him, but I did get one of your awesome shirts! All you stuff looks perfect in the Gallery, nice job.

Dan Alexander said...

Beautiful work!

Kevin, did you work on the windows for The Rescuers Down Under? I remember being really impressed with one of the windows that had Wilbur taking flight off a skyscraper. I don't remember if I saw it in Disneyland or Walt Disney World, though!

[rich] said...

:-D Great post, sure have got talent!

American Toycoon said...

The Emporium Shop windows are my very favorite components of the Disneyland experience. My friends always ditch me the minute I get stuck at the first one on the corner of Main Street!

Of all of the jobs available at Disneyland, designing the Main Street shop windows would have been my first choice. Now, I design toys for a living and specifically, Disney Princess dolls. Hooray! My dream (sort of) came true!

Peppermint Snowdrift said...

Awesome pictures, although I'd LOVE to see pics that were more clear, as these are some cool figures!