Saturday, July 11, 2015

New Shanghaî Disneyland Treasure Cove Pirates of Caribbean Artwork

The new Shanghaî Disneyland rendering above has been released in a new SDL video and, after the new Fantasyland artworks released two days ago that you can see HERE, this time it's an artwork for Treasure Cove, the Pirates of Caribbean land. It's a night scene but i don't think it shows an indoor scene, and certainly not a scene from the ride. I think it shows an outdoor scene in font of the POTC fortress or ne of the restaurants of the land and may be with the ride entrance in the background.

At first sight this new rendering is the only one included in the video - which can be watched HERE  - with the big one showing the whole land. But if we have a closer look at the video there is another one, although they added some canon effects on it, and it's showing a scene from the ride itself.

The artwork was by the way released previously and match a picture showing the inside of the POTC set which was released some months ago, the one below, showing two pirate ships between which the ride vehicle will go through before entering inside the ship on the right. And i'm ready to bet that either the scene you'll see above in the background will be either hand painted in the ride background or will be a projection effect. Or may be both, with a background painting and projection effects added on it.

We may have more artwork in the coming days and certainly on Wednesday 15 during the scheduled announcement.

Pictures: copyright Disney, Shendi

Jedi Training Academy Debut at Disneyland Paris Discoveryland Videopolis

It was the D-day today for the Jedi Training Academy which debut at DLP Discoveryland Videopolis. Thanks to our friends of ED92 we have great pictures of the impressive new stage they've built inside Videopolis, as well as pics of the show itself. The two first shows at 3 and 4 pm this Saturday were reserved for annual pass holders only but you'll see the whole show below in a video filmed by Toon Studios. Let's start by pics of the theatre before the show started.

And now, pics of the show itself. As you'll see below and in the video there is a cool scene during which the young padawans make levitate R2D2.

Then Darth Vader arrive on stage and will have short fights with all the young padawans ( Jedi apprentices ).

And here below is a first video of the full show of DLP Jedi Training Academy filmed this afternoon in HD by Toon Studios. The show length is around 15 minutes. So, what do i think about the show? Well, as much as they've done obvious efforts to build a nice stage, effects, etc… i, personally, think that the show is a bit boring and i think i know why. I think this Jedi Training Academy works fine at Disney Hollywood Studios because in fact it's made to be an outdoor show, a kind of outdoor happening. And that's what it is, fundamentally, not an indoor show with people sit, etc… That said, this Jedi Training Academy is definitely something for young children who will keep most probably good memories of it, as well of course as their parents watching them. Make sure to choose the higher definition when you watch the video below.

I remind you too that from July 6 to August 15 i'm doing a Special Summer Offer on the Disneyland Paris book and it's the best offer ever! Not only you can order a book copy in its english or french edition at 60€ ( + 15€ shipping worldwide ) but for the first time you can have a signed copy for the same price, 60€ instead of 90€ which was the regular price for a signed copy. The copy will be signed by me at your name or another name of your choice if you wish to offer the book to anyone you love. 

You can order the book easily by sending me an email at:

As the Euro is literally crashing since months it also mean that the book is now at its best price ever for our American friends as 60€ currently equals $68 only! It really is the best time ever to order the book as you save money thanks to the special offer AND you save money too thanks to the Euro / $US change rate!

To order your copy with this special offer just send me an email at:  and specify if you want an english or french edition.

Paypal, bank transfer or credit card payment are accepted.

Don't miss this special offer, and a GREAT surprise gift also comes in addition for all buyers!

You can learn more about the book HERE but do NOT use the Paypal button on this link as they are coded with the regular price. You can use the Paypal button BELOW ( prices on the Paypal button include shipping ) or send the 75€ directly from your Paypal account at:

Disneyland Paris From Sketch to Reality - Include shipping
Note that if you choose to order 2 or 3 copies with the Paypal button above the quantity might no appear on the Paypal page, but don't worry i will know the quantities of your order.

You can also watch a video showing the whole book here below!

Pictures: copyright ED92, Disney

Video: copyright Toon Studios

Comic-Con Star Wars The Force Awakens Panel : SW7 Cast Plus: Behind the Scenes Video

The Star Wars panel happened at Comic-con and J.J. Abrams showed a great Star Wars: The Force Awakens behind-the-scenes video that Lucasfilm just made available for everyone to see. Check it out below!

But San Diego Comic-Con’s fans were hysterical when Star Wars:The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams, Lucasfilm Kathleen Kennedy and writer Lawrence Kasdan were joined on stage by SW7 cast members Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, Gwendoline Christie, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and... Harrison Ford to the surprise and delight of everyone!

Picture and videos: copyright Lucasfilm

Super Typhoon Chan-hom Heading Towards Shanghaî Disneyland With 210 Km/h Winds

Super Typhoon Chan-hom is heading towards Shanghaî - and it's potential bad news for Shanghaî Disneyland as Chan-hom barrels towards Shanghai after lashing Japan's Okinawa island chain and Taiwan. More than 960 000 people in eastern China were moved to safety from coastal areas and 600 flights have been cancelled along with 330 long-distance bus journeys and several trains.

"The powerful storm could be the strongest typhoon to strike Zhejiang province, just south of Shanghai, since 1949, China's National Meteorological Centre (NMC) said.

The storm left five people dead in the Philippines earlier in the week and injured more than 20 people in Japan on Friday as strong winds uprooted trees and battered buildings, the Tokyo Broadcasting System broadcaster reported. Four people were also injured by falling trees in Taiwan when the storm buffeted the island on Friday.

Early on Saturday morning the storm was 235 kilometres south-west of Zhenjiang province and continued to gain pace as it travelled towards land, the NMC said. Super Typhoon Chan-hom's expected path would see it pass just to the east of the financial metropolis of Shanghai, after it makes landfall to the south of the city bringing with it winds of up to 210 kilometres per hour."

Shanghaî Disneyland is located where you see the "g" of Shanghaî on the above picture.

Why is it potential bad news? Because a landfall at the south of Shanghaî might put the typhoon very close to Shanghaî Disneyland, if not right over it. Right now SDL construction is of course not finished, the construction site is full of materials which most probably will "fly" with 210 km/h winds, not to mention the on site light houses for workers, etc… So this super typhoon could potentially be very destructive for SDL.

The latest forecast this Saturday afternoon is saying that Chan-hom is expected to skirt the coast before heading back out to sea rather than going further inland. Shanghai forecast the typhoon would "brush" within 100 kilometres (62 miles) of the city late Saturday or early Sunday as it veered into the Yellow Sea, according to a local government posting on its official blog.

Have a look on the CNN screen captures and the map i did for you. Even if the typhoon only "brush" Shanghaî coast, Shanghaî Disneyland is just at 8 - 9 km from the Yellow Sea and the typhoon path as shown by CNN HERE shows that Chan-hom heading towards SDL and will pass right over the park. CNN says that the alert over that area is "orange" and not "red" but you know how unpredictable typhoons can be so let's cross the fingers that it won't be too devastating and that Shanghaî Disneyland won't become the first Disney theme park to be hit by a typhoon before its opening.

Pictures: copyright CNN, Google Maps

Friday, July 10, 2015

2015 Tokyo Disneyland Electrical Parade Dreamlights - Full Parade HD Video !

O-Kay, this time it's the good one, and we have a HD video of the full new Tokyo Disneyland Electrical Parade Dreamlights - the video posted yesterday was in fact not the new one - with the updated and new floats including the Tangled one. Don't miss too the updated Peter Pan one which is impressive!

For those of you who are in a rush here is a shorter video filmed by TDR Explorer and showing only the new or updated TDL Dreamlights parade floats. For a HD video of the FULL updated parade, see post below! And for HD pictures of the parade wait a few minutes they'll be on Disney and more soon!

And here are great pictures released by Tokyo Disneyland a few days ago!

Pictures: copyright Disney - Oriental Land

Shanghaî Disneyland Fantasyland Artwork

A short post with these two new renderings unveiled today and showing for the first time Shanghaî Disneyland Fantasyland, and more renderings should be unveiled later next week!

Don't miss too the other post about Shanghaî Disneyland below!

Pictures: copyright Disney - Shendi

Shanghaî Disneyland : How Disney Try to Don't Do the Same Mistakes Twice

Interesting article from about Shanghaî Disneyland titled: "Rethinking Disneyland for the Chinese Family: The Shanghai park is designed with extended families—and even line jumpers—in mind".
Or: how Disney try do don't do the same mistakes twice and adapt the park to local culture - the famous "distinctly Chinese" as said Bob Iger.

"As any parent who’s hauled awe-struck kids through a Disney park in the U.S. knows, the stars of the show are the ever-present Mickey, Minnie, and the fairy tale princesses (think Cinderella, Ariel, and Elsa) that Walt Disney transformed into a perpetual profit machine. But visitors to Shanghai Disneyland, set to open next spring, will be wowed by a new cast member in a starring role: Chinese culture. Whether it’s the giant glass peony blossom representing nobility and good fortune at the center of a fairy-bedecked fountain, the “lucky” cloud patterns painted on some spires of the massive castle dwarfing the park, or the traditional dim sum restaurant in the Disneytown night life area, every detail will exhibit a heavy dose of mainland history and customs.
“We’re building something that’s authentically Disney and distinctly Chinese,” Disney Chairman Robert Iger says. “It definitely will be Disneyland in China, but we’ll obviously be respectful of the Chinese culture and relatable to the people of China.”

In May the company opened the world’s largest Disney Store in Shanghai, the mainland’s most affluent metropolis. But the $5.5 billion resort Disney is building in partnership with Shanghai’s local government—within a three-hour drive of more than 330 million potential visitors—is a far bigger bet on China’s rising middle class. It’s also the entertainment giant’s largest foreign investment ever.

Despite Disney’s longtime success in theme parks, risks remain. Since the 1980s, many Chinese real estate developers have added entertainment components to their projects, so there are plenty of rivals for mainlanders’ leisure-time dollars. The number of Chinese amusement parks, including water parks and other destinations with rides, is expected to reach 850 this year, up 40 percent since 2006, according to consultant IBISWorld. Comcast’s Universal Studios is building a theme park in Beijing, and DreamWorks Animation is opening a film studio and entertainment complex in Shanghai. Attractions operated by local competitors, such as Songcheng Park in Hangzhou and Chimelong Ocean Kingdom in Hengqin, rank among the most attended in the world, according to consulting firm Aecom.
“They [Disney] have to be on top of their game,” says Dennis Speigel, a theme park consultant from Cincinnati who’s worked in China. “It better be sized correctly, it better be finished properly, because the Chinese are so into technology and social media, now they know what’s going on.”

China’s one-child policy and a desire by extended families to travel together often mean there are as many as four adults for every kid in the parks, says Craig Hanna, chief creative officer for Thinkwell Group, a theme park designer based in Los Angeles, which has done work in China. So operators need to design plenty of seating, restaurants, viewing areas, and open space where older family members can camp out while others go on rides, Hanna says.

Chinese companies don’t typically offer paid vacation time, so park attendance tends to surge around a handful of national holidays, according to Tony Sze, senior counselor of the Chimelong Group, one of China’s largest park operators. To reduce the waits at rides during peak times, the company schedules parades and street performances to draw customers elsewhere in its parks, he says. Disney has been adding games, videos, and robots to distract Shanghai customers while they wait.

Another challenge is the Chinese propensity for line-cutting, detailed in a 2010 article in InPark Magazine, published by the International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions. The article described tactics such as “constant walking,” moving forward while pretending there’s no line, or using a kid as an “advance man” to snake through the queue, bypassing the waiting throngs. The article recommended enclosed lines that narrow to single file so people can’t jump ahead. “Rather than pull people away and say ‘I’m sorry, you can’t do that,’ you make it impossible,” says John Rust, senior creative director at Rethink Leisure & Entertainment, another California-based theme park designer.

The Shanghai Disney Resort will feature 11 acres of gardens at its center, with benches and areas for strolling. Playing to Iger’s mandate to focus on Chinese culture, the Garden of the Twelve Friends will blend Chinese zodiac symbols with Disney characters. Remy, from the Pixar film Ratatouille, represents the Year of the Rat. The lambs from Mary Poppins do the same for the Year of the Sheep.

The Chinese like large-scale visuals, Hanna says. And Disney will satisfy that with Shanghai’s Enchanted Storybook Castle, the tallest and largest such structure at any Disney park. Chinese parkgoers also expect live entertainment. Outside the Shanghai park will be Disneytown, a shopping plaza with no entry fee that will serve as a kind of overflow area and include a theater with the first Mandarin-language live production of The Lion King.

Disney has learned from past mistakes. Disneyland Paris opened in 1992 to French criticism of the lack of wine on its menus; Shanghai will have plenty of local food at various prices. The 310-acre Hong Kong Disneyland was dinged at its debut as too small; Shanghai will be three times the size. And the Paris park, with seven on-site hotels with a total 5,765 rooms, suffered from a lodging glut; Shanghai will open with two Disney-run hotels totaling 1,220 rooms. “They’ve definitely learned some lessons,” says Lee Cockerell, who supervised food offerings at the hotels at Disneyland Paris when it opened. “Understand the culture, respect the culture, and make sure the guests are going to get what they expect.”

Picture and Text: copyright

Thursday, July 9, 2015

New Tokyo Disneyland Electrical Parade Dreamlights

Tokyo Disneyland Electrical Parade Dreamlights has started and you can see the video of it below. They've added new floats illuminated with LED lights and they can too pretty amazing with these - don't miss the float with Aladdin Genie around 10min, you'll see what i mean.

Editing:  A D&M reader just told me that this isn't the newest version... the new one was scheduled to start today ( July 9th ) but because of bad whether, today's performance was cancelled. The Genie float was actually added in 2011. Looks great anyway, and i'll post a video of the new version as soon as available!

Don't forget to choose the HD definition on the video below which last 23 min and shows the full parade filmed two days ago.

Actually it seems that TDL also have another short parade called the "Nightfall Glow Parade", less interesting and mainly with characters on a few floats but the video below was timed in 4K, so choose to watch it in 4K definition!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

D&M Tribute to WDI Imagineer and Sculptor Blaine Gibson

Legendary WDI Imagineer and sculptor Blaine Gibson passed away last Sunday and thanks to my co-author and good friend Didier Ghez i post today this great interview of Blaine Gibson. As long as the interview below might look it is just an excerpt from the full interview that Didier Ghez did of Blaine Gibson on January 28, 2008. You'll read below only the excerpts related to his career at WED Enterprises, now Walt Disney Imagineering, but you have to know that before entering WED Blaine Gibson worked at the Disney Studios as animator and sculptor.

Didier Ghez: When and where you born? I think it was in Rocky Ford, Colorado on February 11, 1918. Is that correct?

Blaine Gibson: That’s right.

DG: When did you become interested in art?

BG: As long as I can remember…I became interested in art when I was living on a farm four miles from Rocky Ford, Colorado. A child gets bored at four or five, so I did things to entertain myself as a child, before I was able to get out and help in the fields. My mother was a very kind and generous lady and would kind of watch what I would do. That was actually encouragement from my viewpoint. And she would let me take the newspaper and pick up the barber scissors, which are the only kind of scissors I had, and I would cut out silhouettes of the various animals around the farm—that would be pigs and cows and horses and even birds, and rabbits that I would see running through the yard. And she would actually pick up a lot of my mess, but she would save the little animals just so that they would be separate. I have no idea how good they were.
But anyway, that was the wintertime and then when the summer came we did not have enough water on our farm to sustain farming without irrigation. We had perhaps in some years twelve to eighteen inches of rain, but that was not enough. So my dad irrigated and I discovered this wonderful waste ditch. When the water finally evaporated, it made the greatest mud in the world. I found I could make all kinds of little things. I didn’t make pots or little dishes or pancakes or pretend that I was a cook or something like girls seem to do. But I would make little animals, little rabbits and pigs and animals lying down, because I discovered early on that the legs were an inhibiter. So I would actually do these little things and set them up on the porch, which my mother soon corrected me on because she did not want to get them crushed all over the porch when they dried. So I had to move them all over to the side and let them dry and leave a path for people to get through over the porch to the house. That was my early start in art. And strangely enough, it continued on into my vocation in a similar but more sophisticated way. I became an animator and I was an animator for 20 years. And I was the lead sculptor for 23 years after that, because I was doing sculpture on my own time while I was an animator.

DG: A bit later on in your career at Disney you moved into Effects Animation. Why?

BG: When World War II came, Disney was taken over by all the military services. It was all there was. We did training films for all the services. Effects Animation was the best medium to use for these films, so that's what I worked on. I could have been sent back to Virginia where they had a place that did military training films, but Disney did them right there in Burbank, so that's where I worked

DG: And that’s the time you worked in Effects?

BG: That’s when I went into Effects, and I stayed there for ten years because I was married and I had a job. Effects were not un-interesting, but I felt not nearly as interesting as character animation, which I really wanted to do. I was doing character to start with. As I mentioned before, I was an assistant animator on character animation with Ken Hultgren before the War. Ultimately, I decided that I did not want to stay in Effects Animation, so I went to Ken Peterson, who was the head [of Animation] and he said, “You’re in luck, Frank Thomas is looking for an assistant.” I thought, “Good grief, even though I am a full-fledged animator and have been for ten years, I’m going to be an assistant again!” But I took a cut in my weekly salary so I could go work with Frank. He devoted many hours of time working with me and made sure I wouldn’t be doing the things that would be regularly required of other assistants, which is just cleaning up the animator’s drawing and making it so it can be made inkable. Then he started giving me animation. I’d get something else with a little more personality and I was really enjoying myself at that time.

But I was also a sculptor, so I made the "mistake" of showing some of my sculptures throughout the years when I was a young man in my 20s and 30s. I would show these sculptures in the Studio library and Walt didn’t forget anything when he saw it; and that’s where my downfall came. Walt got the idea for Disneyland. It grew from a small idea, a small location across from the Studio to a rather large organization down at Anaheim. And from then on it was a case where in the early 1950s Walt had me start doing things, which were in line with ideas he had about his theme park. And they were all sculpture. But I also loved animation, because Frank did everything he could to help me become a good animator.

DG: What were the challenges of Effects Animation?

BG: Some of the ocean water in Pinocchio with Monstro the Whale was great and was very challenging for me to do in line. And while there were people who were quite happy spending a life with Effects Animation, that was not for me. I had done some personal tests as a young man that indicated to me that to make a character come to life and give it personality was a far bigger goal than making a tree blow or leaves fall or smoke going up or fire. I like to have something with a face on it, even an animal. Animals were fascinating and, especially when Walt did a picture like Bambi, I thought the work that they did, the life… There again I come back to my old friend and mentor Frank, and to Ollie Johnston… to their work on Bambi. Mostly little things, like Thumper on ice and Bambi on ice. That’s the most beautiful animation I have ever seen or ever will see… where Frank made Bambi look like a clumsy little ungulate as opposed to the little rabbit that could get on the ice and slip around and never hurt himself. Bambi was like an animal born on stilts on ice. It was a great, great piece of work.

DG: What was the first sculpture you did for Disneyland? Was it that of the Indian chief head?

BG: I did many, many sculptures for Disneyland. For the Indian Village I did the heads and Herb Ryman and I painted them. For the bodies, interestingly, they actually cast a man named Willie Strode who was an athlete. There again, we all have to learn sometimes. Experience is the key. They want to get it done and so they’d have a guy lying down and cast him lying down. Well, that’s as stiff as a board. You want to be careful not to get things too stiff. You’ve got to get it more natural. But that takes time and sort of a history of discovery and trial and error, in other words. But it should always be done with as much critical analysis as possible.

DG: So the first sculptures you did for Disneyland were those of the Indians?

BG: The first sculptures were when I was in animation, with Frank Thomas; they were the Sleeping Beauty characters. And then I think I did another one for somebody, a seal or something, I don’t remember what it was.

DG: For animation?

BG: No, it was just a study of a seal for something. Maybe it was something we never even used. But we did a submarine ride early on where I did mermaids for Disneyland. We ran into problems, because there were a lot of unknowns, and one of them is that the chlorine in the water and the compatibility of the materials we used sometimes didn’t jive. Those things did not hold up because of the chemical incompatibility. We didn’t know those things when we started.

DG: Let me jump in time a little bit. In Pirates of the Caribbean, some of the figures were based on Marc Davis’ sketches …

BG: The storytelling device of having these ransacking pirates was his idea, but my job was to turn it into three-dimensional compatible designs. So I actually did the heads quite separate from what he did, by just knowing the kind of characters we had to have. I was not fighting Marc and he was not fighting me in any sense. We were going in two different directions. It’s like the story sketch in an animated picture would be what Marc was doing, and what I would be doing would be to crystallize the character. I happened to do that in my own way, because Walt and I worked together on that. The thing that I wanted was to have real people, not cartoons that were brought up to life size. So my job was to make it so that they would be credible. Walt wanted the ride's characters to be believable. If you just made a little cartoon… sure, you could tell a story with a little cartoon… I’m not faulting Marc at all, he’s one of the greatest. But he did have this ability to draw a cartoon that would be funny and maybe have a mouth which, when fully analyzed, would be six inches across. And it can’t work in three dimensions and be compatible. So I had to base my character from the inside out. They were based on real people and so that is what I insisted on.

DG: There’s a rumor that you based some of those characters on people from your church.

BG: It’s just that I did not exclude any place for analyzing human types, and I have a whole series of drawings that I’m going to exhibit here to illustrate that. They’re just simple line drawings of showing ways of keeping things in a range. They were suggestions I had left for other artists that might inherit my problems of trying to develop characters for shows. I not only worked on Pirates to develop those characters, but even on a whole series of characters for the American Adventure pavilion, which actually has whole sets of characters that have to be like people.

DG: So then there is something to that rumor that some of them were based on people you would observe at church for example?

BG: Absolutely, yes. My wife would say, “Blaine, you’re staring at that person.” She’d sort of kick me. [Laughs] That was embarrassing her a little bit, me staring at somebody, and I was really giving him the once over, you know. Yes, that did happen in church, and also in restaurants.

DG: Chris Mueller was also…

BG: Chris Mueller? He was by far the best of our ornamental sculptors. I never tampered with his ornamental work. When he started doing heads and things like that, I would come in and work on those. But as far as the traditional ornamental sculptures of pillars, Corinthian and Doric and Ionic and all that sort of thing, this man knew it all. I’d be crazy to get in there and criticize something in that area. I admired him. For 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Chris Mueller actually did that wonderful squid. I brought in books for Disney to use called Wonders of Animal Life, which had records of how big the giant squid got. I remember Walt came in and said, “What’s the biggest size squid according to your book Blaine?” I said, “It’s actually 60 feet, Walt.” He said, “We found a book where it’s 80 feet. I’m gonna use that one.” So that’s the length Chris Mueller used for the squid.

DG: What type of person was Chris Mueller?

BG: I didn’t work with him very much, but I would say he was a fine gentleman. I would not hesitate to give him anything in the monumental or ornamental line of architectural sculpture. I would say he was the best. I’m not a great judge of that because I don’t even consider myself good at it. But I think, at least in my opinion, he’d be right up there with the best.

DG: What about Jack Ferges? What kind of artist was he and what were his specialties? Any special memories of him?

BG: Jack Ferges was my assistant for a while. A very amusing guy. He was six foot seven or eight, weighed two hundred and eighty pounds at least and was a former football player with a great sense of humor. At first we had one big table, because we were really moving from Disney’s studio to Glendale where Walt was setting up his place. Jack was with me at that time and was going to be my assistant, but we ran into some complexities because we had to have a union system for the sculptors that I used, because we were going to use a whole team of people. Jack belonged to the animators’ union, not the sculptors’ union. I did belong to it, because some time before I had to join it. Jack had an ability to make miniature models. Walt would come in and see these tiny little things he was able to make, little model sculptures or building sculptures, or something else. Rolly [Crump] said to Walt, “You know he can’t do that with his big hands. When you’re gone he has a pair of little hands that he gets out of the drawer. He uses those to do his tiny work.” (Just kidding Walt of course.) It did look like he couldn’t do it with his big hands because he was a football player. He did have huge hands but was a very talented guy.

DG: You said that he had a great sense of humor. Do you remember any pranks?

BG: If I went to the bathroom, he’d take all of my junk and shove it back on my side. When he went to the bathroom I would shove it all back again. It was just a big pile of stuff. It was sort of a humorous thing. He was always making jokes and a funny guy with a different kind of humor. Everybody liked him.
Early on the sculptors and I were all together in a great big room. Later on I moved to our big separate studio. But this was sort of a model shop. I remember we would have to move complete models up on the deck in storage and we would all be lifting, and then all of a sudden we would notice it just left us. And here Jack was being so tall, six foot eight, he’d keep pushing it on up. It would just disappear… he’d lift it clear over our heads… the whole thing.

DG: You did some of the sculptures for the updating of the Jungle Cruise. Can you tell me the story of Walt pulling down his pants to act out a part of an elephant climbing up a bank?

BG: Oh, that was afterwards. Most of the ideas that we used earlier on were ideas that Marc Davis came up with, humorous ideas that showed a bunch of happy elephants sitting and bathing in the waterfall and that sort of thing. But Walt came in and saw those I had designed as a scale model for later use, which we had made in plaster and then we would cut them off at different lengths so that they would look like they were in a pool, and Walt said, “In our nature pictures we have one elephant climbing out on a bank and he’s reaching his trunk up to reach a limb and bring it down. And he’s in the water, but he’s got one knee on the bank.” So Walt kind of pushed his pants down a little, got a chair; his arm became a trunk and he had one arm on the back of the chair which would have been the bank. And then he raised his right knee up on the chair and his arm was raised with his wrist bent, and he raised it up to grab a branch (like the elephant in the Disney True-Life Adventure) and said, “Can we do that?” I got the picture right away of what scene he was thinking of. So I went home and did that model. We did it full size for Disneyland.

DG: Do you have other stories of meetings with Walt or working with Walt?

BG: It would take too long to think about all of them. Walt was very involved in our projects . . . He had an idea for the Hall of Presidents before we actually did it. He was there a lot when I was working on Lincoln in the beginning. He knew that I was making every effort to be authentic about it, so I went to him about acquiring things through our studio-props department. I had them buy a mask from Kathryn Stuberg, who had a wax museum in Hollywood as I remember. I wondered if the Studio could buy it. (When I went to see Kathryn Stuberg one time I started to ask her a lot of questions. Of course I was quite a young guy in her view, I guess. She said, “Why should I answer you?” or “Why should I do this, you might be just going right out and creating a Wax Museum?”) But I was able to get our Props Shop, who would have been less suspicious, to go down there and they actually bought this mask of Abraham Lincoln. So I went to Walt and showed it to him and he said, “Yeah, that's a great idea.” Later, he was doing one of his TV programs and he was struggling with what I had told him about the mask and he said, “Who was it that did this mask?” And I said, “The guy’s name was Leonard Volk and he was a Chicago sculptor in 1860 and did this mask from life.” He forgot it, and then said, “You get up here, Blaine.” So I had to get up with him for the cameras and tell him about this story of getting this mask of Abraham Lincoln.

DG: You worked with Ken Anderson…

BG: Yes. Not enough good things can be said about Ken.

DG: How difficult was it to translate Ken’s sketches to 3D?

BG: Remember I was an animator for a long time and all characters that we did were composites of contributions of many people, so I was used to that. That must be one of the characteristics of an animator, to make every effort to use what was best that was presented in describing a character. Ken Anderson was capable of originating characters for animation and strangely enough he never became an animator. But he was an excellent character developer and storyman and perhaps one of the best layout artists that we ever had. He had a background in architecture. That was a great asset, as it was for Claude Coats, who also had a background in architecture. Ken’s talent, however, was much more toward character than Claude’s. He would come up with very interesting character concepts.

DG: On what specific projects did you work with Ken?

BG: I worked with Ken on things like Skull Rock for Disneyland. I also worked with him on pictures, because he was what we called “a layout man,” somebody responsible for much of the architecture and the settings for the characters in the pictures we did.

DG: You said that Ken sketched the devil at the end of the Mr. Toad ride and that you had to do some adjustments. Why was that?

BG: It’s just that there is two-dimensional design and there is three-dimensional design, and I awkwardly stated that. What he did were little devil characters, which were perfectly inspirational for me to get them into three dimensions. And that’s probably what I should have said.

DG: What did you think of Mary Blair as a person and as an artist?

BG: She was a wonderful lady. I only got to know her rather late at a time when she was doing the tile decorations for Tomorrowland. It’s probably all gone now. On occasions I had worked with her on some special assignments, like going to a chemical company which we went to visit together to get some ideas. She was a marvelous lady, very uniquely talented. She had so much to do with the design elements of Small World. It was sort of difficult for me to try and develop the three-dimensional character designs to fit her two-dimensional style, but ultimately I think we were able to get the feeling of it.

DG: In the interview with The E-Ticket you said that you did not really want to move to WED. Why? And at the time did you do both animation and work for WED in parallel?

BG: [Laughs] I was doing sculpture on a continual basis on my own and I was doing animation at the Studio and working with Frank Thomas and I got more challenging animation all the time. By “challenging,” I mean if you were an actor you would say “better parts,” work that was more stimulating. To me animation was about as great a high as anyone could achieve, something very gratifying when you can bring a character to life. So to leave that would be leaving something that was pretty rewarding, and that’s the direction I was headed.
But when I was at WED, it was different. I was with Walt, much more than at the Studio. He was a very stimulating man. Everybody sensed that in our interactions at WED. Whereas, when we were animating, we would go in a sweatbox or a projection booth, a little theater, and Walt would sit at the back of the room and the scenes would go by that we were working on at that time… take for example 101 Dalmatians. Walt would say, “That’s coming well, that’s coming well,” then move on and not make much comment on it. And that was a good position to be in. If he said the famous, “I think that needs work,” that would give you a little pause.
At WED, I often found myself working with Walt and he was sitting on a chair right beside me, discussing what I was doing. And that became quite gratifying too, because the man had this ability to really stimulate activity and thought and make it a team project, which we were all very interested in.

DG: Was there a time that you were both doing some sculptures for the parks and, in parallel to that, working in animation?

BG: Yes. That’s a good point. There was an overlap of time that I was doing sculpture down at Disneyland, and then having to animate a scene at my desk after that.

DG: You were talking about Walt’s ideas for The Hall of Presidents that was opened after Walt’s death. Did they consult you recently about the sculpture of Obama?

BG: Valerie Edwards, who took my place, did the Obama sculpture. She is very competent and more knowledgeable on the anatomical detail of the human being than I am. I did go in and I checked on what she was doing and made a comment or two, but the head was done well. If two artists approach a portrait, they will do it differently and you have to acknowledge that.

DG: On Carousel of Progress, who did the paintings of the figures? I understand that you did some painting and Harriet Burns did some painting, is that correct?

BG: For many characters that I worked on with Harriet, like in Small World, I would do the sculpture and design and Harriet would do the painting. Alice Davis did the costumes on that one. But on the Carousel of Progress there was a man named Preston Hanson who was actually a rather popular TV star at that time. He was one that Walt had hired individually and had me sculpt his head and figure and all that sort of thing along with all the other characters in the show. We had a makeup man, who had come to Disney. He made a cast of Preston Hanson for me so I’d have something to start with. I remember one of the guys, Bob Sewell, who was head of the Model Shop at that time, said, “Boy, that’s not gonna work,” because I was changing what this plaster cast was. Then one day Preston came in and sat for me while I finished the sculpture and Bob said, “Now I see why you changed it.” What happens is when you take a cast of a person using a soft plastic material, gravity will push the flesh away from the bones enough to distort it. I would have to change it back to "normal." Bob Sewell noticed afterwards. He could see why I changed it.

DG: Tell me about the bust you made of Walt in the sixties? What made you decide to make it?

BG: It was suggested by Dick Irvine who was president of WED Enterprises at that time. He said, “We want you to do that while you’re working with him all the time.” So I did it. I knew Lillian Disney didn’t like it very well. She didn’t tell me that, but I knew that she was not happy with it. I still have that head. I started to destroy it. Then I called the heads of Retlaw, the people that managed all the Disney properties, who had a bronze cast of the bust, and I said, “I’m going to destroy this head I had, but only on the condition that you destroy the bust that you have.” And they wouldn’t destroy it. [Laughs] So it is still there somewhere and it has a bad patina, partly because of time. Bronze is subject to more bad things in L.A. than probably many places in the world, because of the sulfuric acid, which is a very strong oxidizer. Bronze responds very much to sulfuric acid and it gets black or green depending on what the elements are.

DG: Where were you when Walt passed away?

BG: I was at Imagineering and it was very definitely a sad time. It was getting close to Christmas, but it was not a happy time. I was actually doing a project for Walt and I have a copy of that here. He came in one day and he brought a sketch that somebody had made of this idea. He said, “Would you please do this in three-dimension? Debbie Reynolds and her husband and Lilly and I…” I believe it was bridge he said they played together. He wondered if we could do a project for Debbie Reynolds, because at that time she was the president of Thaliana Society, a group of actors and actresses that got together and did services for groups of children that had learning difficulties of one kind or another. The one that provided the most services for these children would be given an award, and it was going to be Goofy. I have a copy of it here. Basically, it is Goofy holding masks of the two extremes of sadness and happiness… tragedy and comedy . . . with a caduceus symbol on his vest.

DG: In 3D?

BG: That was the last thing that I did for Walt. I had no idea that Walt was actually dying.

DG: That last project you did, that was in 3D?

BG: It was a sculpture of my version of this little sketch idea that somebody in Disney’s Art Department had come up with. I did it my own way, because I also worked on Goofy sometimes when I was doing assistant animation.

DG: Did you ever work on projects that were never completed?

BG: Yes, I did. Jack Ferges, my assistant, and I did a bunch of little characters that were from the books of Oz. Walt bought up some Oz books. Not The Wizard of Oz. That had been taken and done beautifully in a motion picture. He bought up some other books, and so our job was to interpret some things into three dimensions, suggested by a man named Joe Rinaldi, who was a good sketch artist and a storyman. And so Jack and I would interpret these. Walt really liked them, but they never were done other than just the samples we did in three dimensions.

DG: What was Roy O. Disney like?

BG: He reminded me of the farmers that I knew, like my dad and others. Very genuine and down-to-earth… somebody who had no phoniness to him. He was totally who he was. A very remarkable man and a very fortunate coincidence that two brothers would be together like that.
I remember one time I ended up working on a medallion of Walt that the U.S. Congress had commissioned the Disney company to do, so Congress could present a gold medallion to Lillian Disney in remembrance of her husband. Someone else had done a design and Lillian had become almost angry when she saw it, commenting “Why would they have him smile and show his teeth?” You can do it if it is done right, but the earlier design wasn’t done right. Now, I had to be involved because Dick Irvine said to me, “Blaine, it’s in your lap. You’ve got to do it now, and Lillian does not want him to have the teeth showing.” I said I would do the best I could without Walt’s teeth showing. In some of his famous portraits he had a very broad smile and I thought, “Oh boy. Now I’ve got to make it without…” So I did this bas relief model with the best smiling expression I could get without Walt having his mouth open, and Roy came up to check it out. He said he liked it, so I felt much more confident about showing it to Lillian, and she liked it too and okayed it. Dick Irvine and John Hench all passed on it and that was the medallion that was presented to Lillian in gold. Later it was sold in bronze as a small fundraiser for CalArts, one of Walt's favorite philanthropies.

DG: Speaking of Roy O. Disney, you also obviously did the statue of him for Walt Disney World.

BG: Yes.

DG: What’s the story behind that and why is there Minnie Mouse on his side?

BG: The story evolved from a picture that Roy Jr., whom I knew and admired, told me was his dad’s favorite picture. Roy was the one responsible for Walt Disney World getting opened. After the Magic Kingdom [in Florida] was finished, Roy, his son, had apparently arranged to have a photograph of his dad sitting on a bench with Mickey, the costume character. But the head of Mickey was enormous. So I started making sketches. The way I picked the size was the precedent that had been set in Fantasia of Mickey Mouse walking up to Stokowski and shaking his hand. That was my precedent for a size. It made it much more compatible. And also John Hench came up with the idea, “We’re not a gender-biased company, we’re not against girls. Why don’t we have a Minnie Mouse sitting next to Roy instead of a Mickey Mouse? You already have a Mickey Mouse out there with Walt holding his hand and so why don’t we have Minnie Mouse?” So it ended up that I used a Minnie Mouse sitting next to Roy with him looking down admirably at her, and she looking up admirably to him. I think it came off pretty well.

DG: By the way, in the Walt statue with Mickey, why is he pointing the way he is?

BG: I was asked that early on. The thought that came to me immediately was of Walt saying, “See all of the people coming in? See how happy they are, Mickey?” That’s what it is all about. Of course, Mickey’s a little short guy, he can’t see over the people, so his direction is toward Walt’s hand. Walt is the master. But if you look at Walt’s eyes, he’s looking out at the crowd, the people coming in, but Mickey is looking up at Walt’s hand and he’s only finally getting the idea. It made it a little better composition in my opinion than if I had had Mickey looking away from Walt. I wanted Mickey and Walt to be a unit. But you look at Walt’s eyes, he’s looking at the people coming in.

DG: Why did you decide to retire in 1983?

BG: That was a misnomer, Didier; actually I did not really retire in 1983. I did retire officially, but Walt Disney Imagineering kept giving me assignments for the next 20+ years.

DG: [Laughs] Okay, so what have you been doing since you retired to Santa Barbara in 2004?

BG: Well, I keep busy, I read and make little drawings. I even make little thank-you sketches of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck and Goofy and things like that now and then. I don’t have a dull life.

DG: Will you ever write a book about your career?

BG: [Laughs] Who knows? I may sometime, but right now I have been challenged to make a bust of Obama, not because I want to interfere with what is being done at Disney, but because I would like to complete my cycle of sculpting all the presidents since Gerald Ford. I also admire Obama a lot and I would like to do a bust of him. I won’t say it will be the last thing like this I will do, but it takes a little more effort to do these things as you get older. Especially when you’re ninety-one. I feel good and I have the strength, but it would be much easier had I had my old studio and all my tools available.

The full interview of Blaine Gibson is available in Didier's Walt's People Volume 13 which i strongly recommend as it include too many others great interviews with Roy E. Disney, X Atencio, Fess Parker, Don Iwerks, Bob Moore, Tony Baxter, Floyd Gottfredson and many more. Make sure to check the publisher website Theme Park Press HERE for more infos, including the table of contents and others excerpts.

Interview: copyright Didier Ghez. This interview was transcribed by Edward Mazzilli. Most of the questions for this interview were provided by Jim Korkis.

Pictures: copyright Disney