The passion, imagination, and creativity that flow from an artist are inspired, spontaneous, intuitive, fearless, literal or abstract, complex or simplistic things of beauty or disturbance, which express his or her thoughts and feelings. The goal of an artist is to enable others to experience visually and/or texturally, emotionally and/or intellectually, that which once only existed in his or her mind and soul. In the simplest of terms, artists use technical skill(s) to express themselves as well as to captivate and stimulate others. This is especially true of Walt Disney World® (WDW) Imagineers. In light of that, art lovers should not merely consider a WDW vacation; they need to go there, where a World of art exists to satisfy their senses, mind, and spirit. At the theme parks and resorts, guests are surrounded by the culmination of years of artists at work. These artists—Imagineers—create an emotional, multi-sensory experience through traditional and non-traditional media. Thanks to the talents of these Imagineers, the art lovers and artists arriving at WDW quickly discover that there is more to the world for them than they had imagined. For instance, who can stand before the mosaic tile murals of Cinderella Castle without being amazed by the obvious inspiration, time, dedication, creativity, and skill that went into fashioning these masterpieces? While the art at WDW differs significantly from that of fine arts museums, it is thought-provoking, evokes emotion, and is no less powerful.
Included with Admission
Imagineers, paint with a wide stroke when it comes to artistic experiences within WDW. Guests of the parks and resorts can expect to encounter art through architecture, music, animation, stage performances, and traditional fine art forms. While roaming the walkways of the Festival of the Masters presented by Michaels® or, perhaps, touring the halls of the Animation Courtyard and Studio, art lovers will find—included with admission—an abundance of innovative as well as familiar art forms by both international artists and Imagineers.
The Festival of the Masters presented by Michaels® (FotM) takes place at Downtown Disney (DTD) over four days during early November. This year’s FotM is this week from November 8-11. At this event, artists, who have been selected by a panel of jurors, show and sell their artwork along the DTD walkways. More than one hundred artists have been chosen to display their work in media such as painting, collage, photography, fiber, clay, glass, printmaking, etc. At FotM, works of art not only line the streets, the walks are covered with extraordinary, temporary works created by highly skilled chalk artists.
All year round at Epcot®, art lovers will find artists of many nationalities working in their individual craft. At the Japan pavilion, Miyuki has an outdoor booth where guests can watch as she demonstrates the art of sculpting rice dough into animals. Her fingers fly as what starts out as a ball of dough-like candy quickly takes the form of a flamingo, penguin or whatever animal onlookers request. At La Bottega Italiana in the Italy pavilion, Giorgio Iurcotta hand paints elaborate Venetian masks, in various styles, like the ones traditionally worn to Carnival. To see Giorgio describe his art and its history, watch him on Lou Mongello’s WDW Radio 2009 interview. In the pyramid of the Mexico pavilion, art lovers will find the “Animalés Fantásticos: Spirits in Wood” exhibit. These wooden animals are handmade by the woodcarvers of the Oaxacan Valley of Southern Mexico. Many of these whimsical, brightly colored animals are on display, but guests can also watch as artisans hand-paint the figures that are available for purchase.
When Disney MGM Studios (now known as Disney’s Hollywood Studios®, DHS) opened in 1989, the animation studio located there was an actual working studio that produced films such as Mulan and Lilo and Stitch. During park hours, guests could tour the studio and watch as animators worked on feature films yet to be released. As of 2004, the Animation Studio and Courtyard is no longer a production facility. Now, as guests tour the courtyard, they find cement hand-prints from legendary Disney animators like Frank Wells and Marc Davis. Inside, adults and children learn about what is involved in animating a movie. They are also given the opportunity to learn how to draw a classic Disney character from an animator. Inside the studio, art lovers find concept art for upcoming feature films, early background art and sketches from classic Disney films, and a replica of an animator’s office.
In the back area of the Crystal Arts shop—which is located on Main Street, USA, in the Magic Kingdom (MK) — the Arribas Brothers’ artisans demonstrate glass blowing. Shop patrons can feel the heat emanating from the furnace as a skilled glassblower patiently heats the colored glass to be blown gradually, gently into beautiful vases, bowls, glasses and Christmas ornaments that line the shops shelves.
Throughout the year, licensed Disney Fine Art artists such as Larry Dotson, James Coleman, Noah, Frogman, Dan Mackin and others visit WDW to do signings and meet-and-greets with guests. These artists can be found during various times throughout the year at Main Street Cinema – The Art of Disney at MK, The Art of Disney at DTD, or the Wyland Galleries at both Disney’s Polynesian Resort® and Disney’s Boardwalk Inn®.
Where to Stay
The Art of Animation Resort® (AoA) affords art lovers the opportunity to peek into the inspiration behind some of the great masterpieces of both Walt Disney Animation and Pixar Animation Studios. Upon entering the lobby, visitors are captivated by a back-lit wall with glowing recreations of color concept art from one of four feature films: The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, Finding Nemo, or Cars. Guests will also notice a contemporary, custom chandelier that is adorned with reproductions of black and white early character renderings. As they transition from the entry to the check-in desk, guests discover enormous prints of early sketches, which gives them the opportunity to view the process that produced the now iconic characters. Art lovers who visit Ink & Paint Shop, the merchandise location in AoA, are likely to appreciate the theming of the shop. This shop presents a great opportunity to explain to younger art lovers about what went into creating the hand-painted, production sericels of the animated classics. Oversized traditional ink and paint bottles line the walls and serve as store shelving. At Landscape of Flavors, the resort’s quick-service dining location, beautiful prints depicting landscape and background concept art span both the walls and ceiling. As guests exit the main building, they find themselves in the middle of the combined imaginative worlds of Disney and Pixar. Art lovers will appreciate the Imagineers’ painstaking recreation of the animators’ original works, which were the basis for the fantastical environments that surround guests at the AoA.
Where to Eat
There are two restaurants at WDW where two very different types of artwork are featured prominently: Artist Point at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge® (DWL) and The Hollywood Brown Derby at DHS. Artist Point is the premier table service location found at DWL. Known for its unique Pacific-northwest inspired menu offerings, its interior décor is equally as memorable. On its walls hang grand scale paintings inspired by German immigrant and artist, Albert Bierstadt, who traveled west in the mid-to-late 1800s painting landscapes of the American West that would become some of the most recognizable art pieces in the world. For an art lover, not only will the paintings be a source of awe and inspiration, the very landscape outside the picture windows of the restaurant displays such beauty that any painter or art lover will wish they had a canvas and brushes in hand.
Ask any artist or art lover what is the most iconic aspect of The Hollywood Brown Derby on Vine Street in Hollywood, CA, and they will surely say the caricatures. These simple black and white drawings consisting of just a few well-placed lines and curves accurately capture the personalities of hundreds of celebrities. Reproductions of these now famous caricatures line the walls of The Hollywood Brown Derby at DHS at WDW. Art and cinema lovers will enjoy perusing the restaurant and lobby searching for their favorite celebrity or just admiring the artists’ ability to capture and convey—with such simplicity—the prominent features and personalities of these icons of Hollywood.
- Character Sketches – In the Animation Gallery at DHS, a character sketch-artist can be found recreating character sketches at an animator’s light table. Guests can purchase an early rendering-style sketch of their favorite Disney character(s) that bear the traditional blue, red or green sketch lines. While there are numerous affordable sketches to peruse and purchase, there is a limited selection of higher priced special edition cells as well. Patrons are invited to request a particular character if the one sought after is not already available.
- Personalized Silhouettes, Caricatures and Sketches – Throughout WDW parks and resorts, guests will find artists scattered about with fold-up stands and tools of the trade. At Liberty Square and Main Street, USA at MK, artists can be found cutting silhouettes for guests. Single person portraits are $12; doubles $20; triples $24; or four for $27. Portrait and caricature artists are located throughout the WDW parks and resorts. These start at around $15 for a black and white single person caricature. The price increases if color is used as well as for each person added to the piece. If there is concern about having to sit still for a lengthy period of time as the artist works, a mere few minutes are required to complete the base portion of the sketch.
- Purchase a Gallery Piece – Giclées, gallery-quality prints, and original works of both 2-D and 3-D art can be purchased at locations such as the Wyland Galleries at both the Polynesian Resort and the Boardwalk Inn, the Galleriá Sottil at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotels, Main Street Cinema – The Art of Disney at MK, Animation Gallery at DHS and The Art of Disney at DTD. Ranging in price from $15 to several thousand dollars, any art lover would enjoy having one or more of these pieces in their home, place of work, or personal gallery. Note: While the Wyland Galleries and the Galleriá Sottil are found on the WDW property, many of the pieces available in these shops have no Disney-related theming or influence.
It goes without saying that the information provided here represents a mere sampling of the opportunities available for art lovers to experience and enjoy at WDW. As an art lover, I often find myself stopping in the middle of a park or resort to observe and appreciate the art all around me. I am typically incapable of doing so without considering the effort and passion of the skilled artists who contributed to the creation and beauty of it. Readers, how do you or would you like to experience art while at WDW?
(Photos from the personal collection of Kendall Foreman.)
Kendall began visiting Walt Disney World in 1991 with her family and has continued to visit the resort with her husband. As a child, she and her family filled vacations with challenges such as “How many times can we ride Splash Mountain during SpectroMagic and the fireworks?” (Answer: 7) Now, after marrying a converted Disney skeptic, she and her husband enjoy challenges such as “How many hours can we eat nonstop at the Food & Wine Festival?” (Answer: 4)