Monday, August 20, 2007
Disneyland's Saddest Hour
Friends, easily coming in as the saddest news I've received in the last week is Disneyland's little publicized closing of The Disney Gallery located above the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction in New Orleans Square on August 7. I know it may seem trivial, but this closing has come as one more in a series of knives in the gut from Disney which on some level is about as heartbreaking as the loss of a close loved one. My emotions are a slurry of disbelief, sadness, and anger.
As it has been pointed out by fellow disneyphiles and bloggers, The Disney Gallery was perhaps one of the only corners of the park which provided valuable respite in the often overcrowded magic kingdom. But aside from the calm solitude of the Disney Gallery, was something truly irreplaceable. The Disney Gallery was one of the few remaining locations where classic and unadulterated Disney magic was present. And to the few park visitors who opted to skip out on another ride on Splash Mountain or a trip to the Emporium to grab one more overpriced stuffed Pooh bears and visit the Gallery instead awaited a real treasure trove - a place for "insiders."
Many of you know may know that the Gallery location was originally intended to home a private apartment for Walt. The above painting by Dorthea Raymond illustrates the original concept of that apartment, which unfortunately for Walt but fortunately for park visitors was slashed after Walt died and before the space was completed. Since that time, the space has housed a magical world where original art and one of a kind collectibles and souvenirs (I hesitate to use that word as the mere thought of it conjures up all kinds of bad Disney marketing images like mountains of Buzz Lightyear light-up spinner wands) could be found.
Merely being present in the location brought a sort of camaraderie among the Gallery visitors far above the bustle below. I'd like to recount such a special visit that I had there at least three or four years ago while I was still an aspiring animator/illustrator. I spent one afternoon voraciously studying art pieces on display for Disneyland’s 50th Anniversary celebration at The Disney Gallery in Disneyland (this has always been infinitely more exciting to me than Space Mountain). I think I had my eyeball nearly as close to the glass of one such drawing as humanly possible in order to see every pencil stroke – each one so fluid, yet with perfect precision – and was marveling over the idea that Ward Kimball or Marc Davis’ hands had actually floated over these pages to create the flawless lines when I was approached by a gentleman of about 40. His name, as I recall, was Joe Hadar, a Disney animator who was being let go by the company, as many animators were at that time, and who had decided to spend one of his last days before leaving his job at Disneyland, and here in The Gallery no less.
Evidently the curious sight of this young girl taking so much time to take in every drawing caused him to inquire about my penchant for studying such small details that most visitors, especially at my age, would have walked by without a thought. When he found out I was an aspiring animator he became very enthusiastic, leading to a nearly hour-long conversation. That encounter was truly inspiring. Here was a world fast being overtaken by the art of computer animation, an art which had more or less put him out of a job temporarily, but he was passionate as ever to have found a young person that cared about the labor and care of the original hand-drawn art created by the masters before us. He insisted that I needed the book Nine Old Men, which I've mentioned in an earlier post, and even offered to buy it for me. He told me that in that business one needs as many friends and contacts and possible, and offered up his phone and e-mail should my endeavors require it. My heart breaks for young people like me who will never get to experience that specialness the Disney Gallery held.
For those people who have never been, this probably seems silly or overemotional. But I can't help but feel like something sacred and sanctified has really been taken out of the park. Metaphorically, it was the heart of what Disney was all about. Located in practically the bustling epicenter of Disneyland, The Gallery was a sanctuary of original concept drawings and paintings, ideas, stories, sculptures and illustrations that can't be replaced. I think David Koenig does a lovely job expressing this sentiment in his article on MousePlanet.com.
Out of desperation to see the Disney company get its act together and give what few remaining fans are left a little something for their willingness to continue supporting Walt's dream despite the blasphemy that has unfolded from the company in the last 10 years, some bloggers are are rallying on the web on sites such as Re-imagineering, one of my personal favorites (a great posting of nothing but some famous words by Walt up right now, do check it out...), to try and organize the effort to get the company back on track. I wish it were that easy. This new closing has really drained what little hope I had that maybe Disney was on the right track following Iger's inception.
Anyways, I apologize for the negativity that this lengthy blog post has espoused and will welcome any words of positivity and encouragement as always from readers in the comments section. Posted above is the last item I bought at The Gallery. It's a fantastic layout diagram of the teacups for Disneyland's Mad Tea Party. I encourage you to click to enlarge the image to see all the notes and scribbles. I just love it. Again, this is one of those items that you just couldn't find anywhere else. Shame on Disney for closing one more amazing park experience that didn't "bring in big bucks" or attempt to shuffle guests into one more souvenir stand afterwards. This really is one of Disneyland's saddest hours.