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Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Unexpected Art of Walt Disney World

By EPCOT Explorer




One of the things that make Walt Disney World so unique is the unexpected art found throughout the resort complex. A couple of areas that this really stands out is in the foyer of Cinderella Castle with its glittering, richly hued glass mosaic murals and also at Disney's Contemporary Resort that features a massive 90-foot-high ceramic mural unlike anything in the world. Join us in today's new article as we take an up-close look at how these murals were created and why they remain as some of the most well-known artistic treasures in the entire world...

Walt Disney World is a business, there’s no denying it. The place exists to be profitable, to be lucrative, and to keep the Walt Disney Company, as a whole, afloat. And, thankfully, WDW does all these things quite well. But despite a spartan purpose, the hallmark of the Vacation Kingdom, or any enterprise of Disney’s, is to be artful and academic. Yes, the purpose is rooted in profit, but the prose used to get to that point can be meaningful, surprising, and rich in character. One of the oldest features of Disney World are her tile murals, and they are all of the things just mentioned.




The Cinderella Castle foyer with its glittering, richly hued glass mosaic murals.




The Cinderella Castle foyer is adorned by one of the more famous murals in Walt Disney World. There, five shining mosaic panels illustrate the story of Cinderella, as told by WED’s Dorothea Redmond. The actual construction of the murals was overseen by Hanns-Joachim Scharff and took over two years to complete before they were lifted into the Gothic arches of the castle.Each of the scenes was first illustrated by Redmond, only later to be redrawn by Scharff, only this time to be life-size and on heavy, brown craft paper. The entire finished work was then divided along the natural lines of the artwork so as to be added into the walls of the castle.




Mosaicist Hanns-Joachim Scharff recreates the intricate Cinderella design on mural sheets.



Tiles were then glued in reverse and backwards, corresponding to the color and design of the panel in question. These were then shipped from WED in California to Disney’s unfolding venture in Florida where they were sprayed with water to prevent the glue from cracking and bulging. When they were reassembled, the glue and the paper were intricately sponged off. With this in mind, the murals are completely self supporting and a single “sheet” of tiled glass is suspended on the foyer walls of the castle. The five finished murals contain thousands of shards of glass and tiles, some fused with silver and 14-carat gold. Additionally, more than 500 individual hues are used in the mural’s imagery.




Workers reassemble the Cinderella Castle mural that was shipped from WED in California and contains thousands of shards of glass and tiles, some fused with silver and 14-carat gold.




This is only one of Disney’s stunning murals, as another resides in the Contemporary Resort Hotel and could not be more different from Redmond’s and Scharff’s work. Massive in scope, the Contemporary’s Grand Canyon Concourse stretches several stories high and its focal point rests on Mary Blair’s largest installation and the most expansive project she undertook in her career.








Themed to represent the spirit and culture of the Grand Canyon (for which the massive atrium of the A-Frame hotel is named after) and the southwestern Native Americans, a bold spectrum of colors and textures makes for a stunning and artistic vista. Based off of Navajo and Pueblo ceremonial art, the towering mural is a testament to Disney’s dedication to the arts.  Mary Blair herself said that “Children and animals are such a vital part of the art of Disney that they were chosen for the mural to show the activities and culture of the people of the Grand Canyon, with the whimsical touch of fun."




Legendary Disney artist Mary Blair's original composition for the Contemporary Resort Hotel, entitled "The Pueblo Village," covers 18,000 square feet across its six faces. The Pueblo Village was her last major project for Disney.

Mary Blair herself said that “Children and animals are such a vital part of the art of Disney that they were chosen for the mural to show the activities and culture of the people of the Grand Canyon, with the whimsical touch of fun."




The mural’s hues match those of the Grand Canyon Concourse itself, intended to be vibrantly evocative of the earth and sky of the southwestern United States. Ceramics are heavily featured in the mural and were used to provide contrast to the forest of clear plexiglass trees that originally decorated the floor of the concourse. Brilliant oranges, yellows, blues, and greens paint a lurid scene of native children and the flora and fauna of the Southwest region.




The Contemporary Resort's Grand Canyon Concourse mural provided contrast to the forest of clear plexiglass trees that originally decorated the floor of the concourse.

The Contemporary Resort's Grand Canyon Concourse originally featured brilliant oranges, yellows, blues, and greens that helped to paint a lurid scene of native children and the flora and fauna of the Southwest region.




Using a full scale paper rendering of the mural, tile sections were fired and painted and lifted into place using a massive network of scaffolds and lifts. The mural was a 54-ton jigsaw puzzle and took more than two months to complete the nine story installation.




Artists at WED designed a full-scale paper model for the nine-story-high mural.

WED artists carefully paint each ceramic title according to Mary Blair's specifications.

The Contemporary Resort's Grand Canyon Concourse prior to the installation of the massive 90-foot-high ceramic mural.

The Contemporary Resort's Grand Canyon Concourse during the installation of the massive 90-foot-high ceramic mural.




Whether it be a stroll through the foyer of Cinderella Castle or a Monorail ride through the Contemporary Resort's Grand Canyon Concourse, noticing these marvelous murals is like seeing them for the first time over and over again. As you examine their beauty and scale and realize the tremendous amount of work that went into these artistic treasures, it's easy to see why unexpected art forms such as these help to set Walt Disney World apart from the competition.






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EPCOT Explorer has been visiting the Walt Disney World Resort since he was 2 years old and has recently just made his first visit to Disneyland. EPCOT Explorer's first ‘Disney’ interest is the history of EPCOT Center of his youth and the brand of optimism, futurism, and culture that was originally found in the park. Other interests include the thematic interplay of design elements in Disneyland and the Magic Kingdoms that make these theme parks repositories of culture and Americana. EPCOT Explorer is also interested in the World’s Fairs for their connections to EPCOT and tiki culture, since the return of the Enchanted Tiki Room to Walt Disney World in 2011. EE’s writings often focus on the minutia of Disney’s enterprises and attempt to uncover how and why the parks function in the manner that they do. EPCOT Explorer is currently a graduate student and Teaching Assistant in History at Florida International University. EPCOTEXPLORER.TUMBLR.COM
 
You can find all of EPCOT Explorer's articles here.

1 comment:

  1. Just got to see both of these for the first time a month ago and was blown away.

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