Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Imagineering History: Touring My Mecca Pt. 2

After seeing how they converted the annals of Disney history to digital, we were lucky enough to view some of the most glorious artifacts that exist in the archives.

I got to see the original, up close and personal. It was amazing. 
We were brought into a room that had a number of large, metal cabinets. Our host had set up three hand-drawn, framed plans for the original plans for a Disney park adjacent to the studios in Burbank. These original drawing were pretty fantastic, but not nearly as amazing as what was to come.

Our host had put some thought into planning this, as he then took us from the three Burbank park plans, over to a video set up on a MacBook pro of Herb Ryman, or Herbie as our host affectionately referred to him as, discussing in an interview how he and Walt stayed up for a weekend drawing the original plan for Disneyland to show the bankers in New York to get funding for the park. Then, in a well-planned reveal, our host pulled back curtains to reveal that exact hand-drawn, large scale pencil rendering of the plans for Disneyland.

It was amazing. I almost cried. Here I was, standing in front of what was essentially the drawing that started it all. The Disney parks are my favorite aspect of the company besides Walt himself, and here in front of me was a piece of history that was made up equally of both. From the hands of a legendary imagineer and the mind of Walt himself, I almost didn't know how to take it all in. It was like meeting my idol.

The schematic itself was on a rolling wire-mesh wall, with many walls like it in front of it and behind. Hung on those walls were many other original Herb Ryman paintings and drawings, as well as other famous pieces or Disney park art. It was a lot to take in.

We were then shown some of the original silk-screened attraction posters. It was a funny coincidence that I had just started pinning these, and it was an experience to see all these, right there, in stacks. I wish I could have walked away with a couple.

On another wall, behind another curtain, were both the original concept paintings of the stretching room, and ones used on stage. Right there in front of my face, as creepy as ever. It was phenomenal.

After reluctantly pulling myself away from the room, we went to our hosts office which he shares with Vanessa Hunt, one of the two authors behind the new"Poster Art of the Disney Parks" book. I got to meet her, and was bummed I didn't have my copy with me to get signed. Alas it will not arrive until September and is completely sold out at the parks. It was enough just meeting her.

In the office, we were shown the software that the archivists and others use to access the digitized archives. Man, the pinning potential!

Also, sitting in a corner was Figment, an original from Epcot, all nonchalantly. That's just how it is when you're in a building with the most amazing Disney artifacts. Something that could be a spectacular piece on its own is no big deal. It's a weird, overwhelming feeling.

After getting a preview of the Poster art book, while standing in front of its author, we headed over to the WDI gift shop. If I we're a pinning man, I'd have dropped some serious dough on the WDI exclusive pins. Heck, I should have as someone who appreciates a nice ROI, but I'm not. Instead, I got myself two t-shirts: a classic WED Imagineering tee and a more modern, yet equally classic WDI shirt with the blueprint of Sleeping Beauty castle as a background. My girlfriend, in my opinion, got a much more interesting shirt, with an original Disneyland Date night flyer on it. Girls apparel is always more interesting than mens. Always.

It was then that we had to leave. It was a sad moment, but not so sad, because our connection to the place will always be around, and another tour is not impossible.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Imagineering History: Touring My Mecca Pt. 1

My life may not get better than how great it was on Friday, August 3.

That was the day, thanks to a friend of a friend, I toured Disney's Glendale campus, home to Imagineering (which I was not authorized to tour. They keep that place locked down like they're designing the next iPhone in there), and the Imagineering library, which holds some of the most iconic pieces of Disney history.

When I got there, one of the first things I saw as I walked to meet our host was an old entrance to a bowling alley, which has since been converted into offices for Imagineering, and was used as the exterior for Jack Rabbit Slim's restaurant in "Pulp Fiction." A cool fact, but anyone can walk by and see that. Like the saying goes, it's what's on the inside that counts.

We met our host, and the first thing I noticed was a full size print of a stretching room painting from the Haunted Mansion. It was cool, but just a taste of what was to come. We then walked down a hallway with all the highlights from the Disney parks, both domestic and international.

Then it was off, through the new courtyard area, to the library. In that library, Imagineers go to research everything. I was told the library had nearly every National Geographic ever printed, so the Imagineers can get every natural detail right when creating their own environments. We went into the children's library, where, if you pulled out a book, chances were some historic imagineer had picked out the same book years ago. If you were lucky, the book's library slip would be the original, documenting all who had read it before you, maybe John Hench, maybe Bob Gurr. Maybe no one, because someone decided they wanted a centerpiece for their personal collection.

From there we walked by a model of Disneyland constructed of pieces you would receive month-by-month if you were subscribed to a certain magazine. There were a lot of pieces. We also passed a tiki-room animatronic. Herb Ryman's personal library, donated from his estate. It was cold in there, to keep the history fresh. Open up just about any book, and there you could fin Herb's personal notes.

It was off to another room past a Walt Disney World Mr. Toad ride vehicle, and into a room full of binders that had every single detail of every attraction, from the specific color a certain feature was painted. The time I could have spent in there nerding out. We were shown a revolving file cabinet that was so large, the building had to be built around it. All that in old-form, paper media. I was told it was getting digitized. It should be done by 2035. That year was made up.

Another thing we were shown was the room where they do some of that digital documenting, with, ironically, a camera that seemed to be from the Ansel Adams, completely non-digital era. What wasn't old school was the device they used to capture those images, which cost thousands of dollars and produced multi-gigabyte images.

But that was just the beginning... Stay tuned for part 2 of my report!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Visual Queues

Have I mentioned the internet is awesome? That's how I feel, if you don't know.

There are many reasons for me feeling this way, but this weeks, it's because I discovered a blog post with just about every original Tomorrowland poster from the early days of Disneyland.

I'd never seen many of these in person because I was too young to ever go on the rides, but some of these have been part of, what I feel, is the best memory that can be had at Disneyland: walking underneath the Disneyland Rail Road, through the tunnel with all the posters with the awaiting attractions, and walking into town square on Main St. USA.

Those posters may be just static pieces of paper, but what they represent is magic, fun, adventure, exploration, and everything that a day in the Disneyland can be.

I then, through my new fascination with Pinterest, unearthed the other classic posters, from the Matterhorn, to a Indiana Jones to a Peter Pan poster I'd never seen before.

Like I said in my post devoted to Pinterest, the website is enriching my knowledge of Disney History, and with that enrichment comes a huge amount of excitement.

Through Pinterest, I've discovered just how much of Disney's history can be told through visuals, but no other visuals make me feel more like I'm at Disneyland than these posters. They look the same on the screen as they do in real life, unlike everything else, from the castle to Mickey Mouse himself. They literally represent everything that is Disneyland. Many posters have remained unchanged over the many years, and the new ones are done in the same style. The colors are fantastic, the style is simple yet tells the whole story of the ride.

Disney knows this. If you're in the parks, you can pick up their new "Poster Art of the Disney Parks," or if your life is sad like mine and you don't frequent the parks, you can preorder it and get it in September.

I really hope that Disney starts making reprints of these more available. I know there's a kiosk you can order prints from in the Magic Kingdom. Though, getting your hands on a poster that's rare, it's that much more special.