Back in 1998, Animation Producer Peter Hastings (Pinky and the Brain, Tiny Toons) contacted me about sketching some ideas for a "magical expanding building" to open his new TV show "ABC's One Saturday Morning". We discussed the deco optimism of there 1939 world's fair, modern architecture, even the Matterhorn as to this amazing building that he wanted to rise from the ground. After sketching for some time, I submitted a sequence to him and the he and his producer Prudence Fenton were happy with. It was even more than a building, it had a ride in it! Fenton and her team ran with it, making my sketches of a "cereal bowl splashdown" and calendars being torn, chasing bulbs and satellite dishes, come to life and better than ever! A fun memory that in a way inspired our "thrillboard" project...
At WED Imagineering I had the honor of working with Disney legend Herb Ryman when heading up our Disneyland Paris Main Street design team. I was looking for talent to help visualize the project and Marty Sklar arranged to bring the now retired Ryman back into the company to help out this young producer. I had met Herb working for industry legend Gary Goddard a few years earlier, and knew of his ability to illustrate an idea like no one else. After all, he had done the original rendering that sold Disneyland, I was hoping he could help sell this new vision of the 1920's themed Main Street for Paris. Sklar warned me that he may not be very productive, but I learned that listening to him and spending time developing a relationship was the key to Herb finding a reason to enjoy the project. And he did, and produced many great things, the best being our friendship. We enjoyed each other very much. He taught me so much that goes beyond the art, but in fact, the "why" of art. Although he turned in some amazing pieces, his health was in decline and our time was cut short. He brought me along to his Thursday lunch group of retired Disney greats, known as "The Dinosaurs." and after his passing, I learned that the best thing he could leave me was not a painting, but his place at the table.
When I see this image, I'm reminded of a story. The dark object you see by Herb's hand was the failed fan clutch from his Mercedes. Fascinated by it's shape, I told him I thought it would make a great modern hotel design for the Paris project. (It reminded me of the Tower in the 1929 Film "Metropolis") My sketch is on the board...and he is here telling the photographer the story.. I even photographed it and later developed the design, hoping to later reveal how a "massive German car part landed in the French countryside", Herb and I laughed so much about it...now that's Imagineering!
Herb put a bit of himself into his work and encouraged me to do the same. "Bad taste costs no more" he'd say and encourage me to go the extra mile, researching the history of a period design, not just copying what has been done, but start with the story and the emotion of why something should be there. Good advice, and as a company, that's exactly what we do today.
Building mockups for scale is an experiential fundamental and something we strive to do on our current projects. Beyond computer modeling, simple mockups lend a tactile impression CGI does not. Having a sense of how a space can experientially feel can be overlooked, but when your success depends on how much people love it, it pays to focus on experiential massing. This image from the late 1980s shows Disney Imagineering Chief Marty Sklar reviewing a "mockup" of the enclosed arcades of Main Street USA for Disneyland Paris. We had never attempted to create an alternate route to the center of the park,let alone an indoor one. It had to feel just as warm and intimate as the rest of the park. Part of the scheme are the 80 or more flickering Gaslights (shown in white paper and styrofoam and pictured right) that highlight our path . In that dusty Imagineering parking lot within view of the Interstate 5 Freeway, Marty gave us his approval. The real arcades emerged in 1992 and the reviews have been great, thanks to the foresight of "mocking up" the height and width to great effect.
In fact, the Arcades were part of a mandate for the Paris park to allow the guests to warmly circulate during inclement weather. An initial proposal was covering the entire Main Street with a steel and glass roof as was done to ill effect in Tokyo Disneyland. To his credit, Tony Baxter, the executive in charge, did not want to cover the street or create an extensive network of porches and awnings, but rather to create alternate fowl weather route, which allowed the guest to experience Main Street the way it was intended, and the arcades developed from there as a way to avoid covering the entire street.