I had the distinct pleasure to meet Greg McCullough at the 999 Happy Haunts event held at Walt Disney World a couple months ago.Â Polite and unassuming, Greg sat down next to me as we awaited the event’s start.Â We chatted for quite a while before I discovered what an amazing part of our Disney visual history he is responsible for!Â Wait until you see some of the images he has developed!Â It will make you stop and reconsider so much of the visual art in Disney and wonder, “Wow–I wonder who created that?”
Please join me in appreciating Greg’s wonderful talents and his kindness for sharing them with us.
1.Â Â Â Â Â How did you first become interested in the arts?Â Have you loved it since childhood?
My mother was a crafts person so by six I was carving turtles out of soap bars and teaching fellow kindergartners how to draw tee pees.Â There always seemed to be someone around me working with wood, crafts, macramÃ© or going to art shows.Â At twelve I had a quick portrait done at Disneyland and that was the impetus for my first job.
I can still draw the tee pee.Â
2.Â Â Â Â Â What line(s) of work have you been in besides art?
None to date.Â I began as a caricature artist in Feb 1978 (15yrs old) and I still do a few caricature gigs throughout the year.Â http://www.aboutfacesentertainers.com/ In the early eighties (when I probably should have been in college) I had three jobs creating art for the backs of playing cards, screen printed t-shirts and specialty ad glassware.Â By 1988 I had worked my way up to freelance illustration for national advertising agencies.
3.Â Â Â Â Â How did you become affiliated with Disney as an artist?
ARTIFX STUDIO INC, my illustration studio, barely one year old, was awarded the Frito Lay tie-in project with Toy Story.Â Not only were our airbrushed paintings used for point of purchase displays but our art was printed on the bags themselves!Â A very exciting time!
This lead to Mattel contracting us to create the play set and action figure, packaging art for Toy Story 2 and A Bugs Life.
John Lasseter (an assistant) emailed Mattel asking for prints of each art for JL’s personal collection!Â
Before I hooked up with the Disney parks, Artifx did a ton of work for McDonalds
and the Disney Vacation Club.
4.Â Â Â Â Â Do you consider yourself a Disney fan as well as an artist?
5.Â Â Â Â Â How does the process of creating art for the Disney Company work?
FOR GRAPHICS:Â I am sent a rough pencil, a client approved pencil or a color comp.Â From a rough pencil, I create a tightened version for approval or go straight to rendering using the approved pencil.Â Artifx Studio went completely digital in 1994 and over the last 17 years a somewhat complex but efficient way to digitally render graphics has emerged using Illustrator to create paths, Photoshop channels to create isolated shapes and layers and adjustment layers to do all the airbrushing on.
FOR FINE ART:Â Disney will come to me with a specific event or concept with a few verbal requests.Â It is then left up to me to create one or more rough ideas.Â Once the “rough” is approved I create and submit a tight pencil of character(s) and background.Â Pencil’s are approved with a few (or a lot) of adjustments.Â The pencil is transferred to canvas and a fast digital color comp is created to establish hues and values.Â With references taped beside my easel I being to paint.
6.Â Â Â Â Â What kinds of graphic arts have you created for the Disney Company?
2009, 2010 and 2011 were phenomenal years for me, with the creation of no less than 39 of the high-profile logos and prominent images that are seen through out the Disney properties and Cruise ships.Â Sadly illustrators and designers do not get to sign their work, consequently no one knows who has done what.
Most prominent are the official dated logos, the shopping bags (being faded out this year, very sad!) and two years of the official Star Wars Weekends poster art.
7.Â Â Â Â Â What led you to work with Disney Fine Arts?Â Which do you prefer?
Passion for the characters.Â After two decades in the high stressed world of advertising deadlines I wanted to slow down a bit and to find something that would create residual income.Â Illustrations pay once, with the fine art I have a chance of royalties from print sells.
I am grateful for the ability to do both.Â Just before boredom sets in with digital rendering, my world is shaken with a round of oil paintings and vice versa.
8.Â Â Â Â Â What is your favorite Disney piece you have created?Â Why?
1999, Jessica Rabbit painted for the backside of a collectors doll package!Â Why… it’s Jessica.Â No one else in the studio got to touch this project.Â It was all mine.Â
9.Â Â Â Â Â What Disney projects are you working on (that you can tell us about)?
For ACME Archives I am creating a series of Art Deco-ish Muppet portraits.
Two pencils have just been approved for oil paintings to be released next year at the Star Wars Weekend 2012.Â “Duck Maul” and “Boonta Eve Hero”
A multiple piece, illustration project with the Toy Story characters should begin in November.
Eight pencils are in the works for future “park element” oil paintings.
And finally I have begun concepting for a series of Princess paintings that are way over due.
10.Â Â What was your involvement in the 40th anniversary celebrations?
The rendering of the official 40th logo and a 30×24 oil painting “Mickey and Pluto Take Flight”.
11.Â Â What advice do you have for aspiring Disney artists?
Build a portfolio to who you are presenting to.
Reach out to working artist that you respect.Â Most are very receptive.
Do not be afraid to share your knowledge and experiences.Â The more you give the more that will return to you.
REFERENCE, REFERENCE, REFERENCE!!!
An artist’s or illustrators work day is not eight hours long!Â (…12+ with a slim chance of retirement)
If wealth is your goal, choose a different career path.Â At the very least, take a business class in order to better understand the workings, the power and to have respect for money.
You can plan for the future (dream big) but don’t plan the outcome (things change, be flexible).
Do NOT take it personally.
12.Â Â What has most surprised you in working with Disney?
That I am allowed (and invited) to work along side these creatives that I placed on such a high pedestals.Â Then to find out they are only people, just like all of us.
For so many years I have created illustrations with Disney elements but had very limited exposure to other Disney fans and creatives.Â When I began the fine art and actually began meeting fellow enthusiasts I surprised myself at how emotionally tied up I am (and have been) with the characters and structures of the parks and images of the movies.
13.Â Â Where can people find your artwork for sale now?
Disney gift shops and EBay!Â The illustrations can been seen throughout the parks on different products for only a year or so and then delegated to collections.
ACME ARCHIVESÂ http://www.acmearchivesdirect.com/search.jhtm?category=439&keywords=mccullough
Any of the Art of Disney Galleries in the parks and Downtown Disney.
14.Â Â If you could have been involved in the creation of Disney movie, which would it have been and why?
Pinocchio!Â To have been involved in any way (cleaning brushes, sweeping floors) of the creation of the backgrounds.
15.Â Â Anything else you would like to add?
In 2000, I stopped hiring illustrators for Artifx and only take on projects that I can handle myself.Â Altho fun for awhile, I finally realized that life is saner if an artist (without manager skills) is not trying to manage other artists.Â Herding cats…
My one goal left in life?Â To meet John Lasseter!Â There is a personalized, original oil painting waiting for anyone who can get me in to shake JL’s hand and get his autograph in my Toy Story book!Â Let me know…
WDW Radio 60 second drill:
1.Â Â Â Â Â Favorite park?Â Magic Kingdom
2.Â Â Â Â Â Favorite WDW snack food?Â Turkey Legs
3.Â Â Â Â Â Favorite sound at WDW? Sounds of the Seven Seas Lagoon as the ferries take me back to Magic Kingdom
4.Â Â Â Â Â Favorite resort hotel?Â After years of oohing and ahhhing over the Grand Floridian from afar, Disney housed me at the Grand Floridian on my last signing.Â What an honor to traipse through such hallowed ground.
5.Â Â Â Â Â Best souvenir ever: Mickey Mouse back scratcher.
6.Â Â Â Â Â Favorite time of year in the parks:Â Christmas
7.Â Â Â Â Â Favorite time of DAY in the parks: Sunset in front of the castle.
8.Â Â Â Â Â One thing you have not done in WDW (but want to):Â Live, outdoor painting (Plein Air) of Magic Kingdom or Epcot’s World Showcase
9.Â Â Â Â Â Best Disney travel advice:Â Have a preset budget and stick to it.Â (Ha!)
10.Â Â Favorite Disney character:Â Mickey…