An unassuming storefront on the backside of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland bears the name H. Goff Cartography. Considering that its purpose is to house a Disney Vacation Club kiosk, it is likely many a Guest passes right by without paying attention to the establishment at all, let alone stopping to give the name a second thought. However, anyone who chooses to dive into the history of the Disney company will quickly discover Harper Goff’s role in both its films and theme parks.
After a chance encounter involving a model locomotive at the Bassett-Lowke Ltd. Shop in London, Walt Disney encouraged Harper Goff to “come and talk” when he got back to America. This serendipitous moment led to Goff being hired by Walt to work on a number of projects within the Disney company, including storyboards for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. According to d23, that title was originally intended to be attached to one of Disney’s True-Life Adventures shorts, but Harper began sketching ideas based on the Jules Verne novel instead. As they say, the rest is history, and the now iconic Nautilus (along with much else in the live action film) has Harper Goff to thank for its incredible design.
Years later, the filmed served as the inspiration for the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea submarine voyage in Fantasyland. The attraction debuted on October 14, 1971, just shy of Magic Kingdom’s opening day and allowed guests to board one of twelve submarines based on Harper Goff’s vision of the Nautilus. While the submerged ride remained popular for a number of years, it embarked on its last journey in 1994.
Many years later, the lagoon was filled in, and many more years later, the land was designated to become New Fantasyland. Today, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train sits atop the land where Guests encountered the giant squid and other sea creatures. This makes it only fitting that the aforementioned kiosk would bear the name of H. Goff, the Imagineer whose designs had such an influence on the history of that location.
While this brief chronicle explains why today’s Imagineers chose to honor Goff, it leaves the question as to why cartography was the chosen profession.
To answer that quandary, one would need to journey back to 1951. At that time, Walt was considering the idea of building a theme park across the street from the Disney Studio in Burbank, and he asked Goff to create some concept designs for the venture. Goff created both three-quarter views and overhead, map-style views of what such an undertaking could look like. Many of the ideas in Goff’s “map” such as a Mississippi steamboat, a carousel, a castle, and more would later be implemented in Disneyland. Upon the completion of this initial piece of concept art, it could be said that Harper Goff was Walt Disney’s first cartographer.
With both name and profession, H. Goff Cartography serves as an ever present reminder of the extensive work of Disney Legend, Harper Goff.