Sunday, July 4, 2010

Peter Pan Flight

When design for Disneyland park, Paris (then known as Euro Disneyland) began, I transferred from Disneyland International to Walt Disney Imagineering. Because of my experience with Peter Pan Disneyland (Fantasyland 1983) I was a perfect choice to do it all over again for Europe. I was assigned to the Fantasyland team headed by Tom Morris.

The direction for the dark rides (as Peter Pan is known) was to exactly copy what we had done in Disneyland. The only change was a requirement for larger capacity vehicles – that’s all. Well, there are just a few little problems with that idea: first, a larger vehicle needs a longer loading station; second, a larger vehicle needs a larger turning radius. These two factors meant that the entire ride had to be enlarged and the track layout had to be redesigned. Every piece of scenery had to be repositioned, or enlarged, or both. This could not be a copy – but it had to look like one.

My first priority became track change and facility wall changes. These two changes allowed me to make some minor changes to the overall attraction not possible with the original. As the walls were moved I was able to restage the Mermaid Lagoon finale scene for a better view. For the ride track I was able to sneak in a little fun.

In the film, the Darling children learn to fly in their nursery with the help of Peter Pan and some of Tinker Bell’s pixie dust. Before the children get the extra help from the pixie dust their first attempt at flying ends with a fall onto the bed. The feature film has 77 minutes to tell every detail of the story. In a dark ride I have a minute-and-a-half to do the same thing. Story points must be compressed for a ride.

The Nursery is the first scene of the ride, and even though guests have flown in the window to get here, I wanted to give guests the feeling of learning to fly. So just as the vehicle leaves the Nursery, and the safety of a soft bed to fall upon, I added a little thrill. At Disneyland the vehicle simply climbs over the Backyard and higher still over London. For Paris, I added a little dip just outside the window before the vehicle starts its climb. The dip is just enough to give the guests a feeling of falling before gaining the confidence necessary to fly off to Neverland. It was just a few notations on paper, but I knew exactly what those notations would translate into for a ride experience.

After Tony Baxter (the parks overall Art Director) took his first ride he reported back that the dip outside the window was, “much better than the one at Disneyland”. I laughed and told him, “That’s because there isn’t one at Disneyland”.

I added another little prize into the Nursery. At Disneyland there are many pictures on the wall (created just for the ride). One of those pictures is a map of Neverland that I designed based on the film. The color choices for the Disneyland attraction does not read well from the ride vehicle and the art was lost in blur. To correct the error in Paris, I simply painted the original art myself. As always I used the film as a guide and incorporated all of the information from two maps into this one. A tissue paper tracing of the map was crumbled, then dry-mounted (wrinkled) onto Bristol board to add texture. The painting is a combination of watercolor and cel-vinyl paints. It measures approximately 18 x 24 inches. A reduced copy hangs in the attraction in a custom frame.

This image is the most popular image on my blog--by a long shot. As of today (October 3, 2015) it has had 15,764 views. Compare that to the next highest post at 1,951 and you can see that this is a well liked image.

I have also received many requests for clean reprints of the image. Wouldn't that be nice? Sadly, I don't own the original artwork, nor the rights to that art. I am able to present it here under the terms of fair use because it is a representation of my work and it is properly copyright protected for the owner. The original art is a work-for-hire owned by The Walt Disney Company.

Now for those that would still like a clean print I am in the business of making dreams come true. Of course the truth is "that which is too easily obtained is regarded too lightly." So here is how to make your dreams come true. The original art is housed at Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) in the Information Research Library (IRC). I couldn't say who is in charge of that department today, but I can say that the original art was there in January of 2013. Sometimes WDI will print and sell copies of art from its library in the parks and other outlets. The IRC does not decide which artworks to make available, but they do know where to direct your requests.

If you want to make your dreams come true start by writing a polite letter to: IRC c/o Walt Disney Imagineering, 1401 Flower Street, Glendale CA 91201 USA

Request the name of the person, or department that decides what art to reprint. Post a comment here once you find a contact person--that will make it easier for others. Feel free to send a link to this blog. Tell all of your friends. With enough interest this dream can come true. All it takes is faith and trust... and you making a proactive effort. Good luck.

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