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The Reason Why ToonTown Was So Special For Me

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ToonTown was a really special project for me because I was able to participate at multiple levels all the way through the process. Typically, someone will be asked to come on board a project, and participate in one thing. It's part of the problem I have with the industry in that it is so compartmentalized. 

To give you a run down on my participation, I started as one of the four principle designers for ToonTown -- and the youngest member of the team -- that launched the project for Disneyland in Anaheim. I did designs for several buildings in the town, designed the ToonTown Trolley, was the lead designer for the Roger Rabbit Ride, did the show set drawings for many of the dimensional props...including the Benny the Cab that sits in front of the Roger Rabbit Ride and greets the guests as they come in, and ultimately illustrated the ToonTown silkscreen poster for Japan... where I combined all those elements in one painting.

This allowed me to work in architecture, animation design, character design, set design, show set design, and finally illustration. Painting the ToonTown poster for Japan was like a cherry on top to a wonderful experience. 

As an artist I find the entire creative process engaging, and fortunately ToonTown was one of those projects that allowed me to participate at multiple levels. 

#disneyland #toontown #rogerrabbit #rogerrabbitscartoonspin

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The Portable Hole at Disneyland

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I'm gonna roll the clock back to when I was the lead designer for Disneyland's Roger Rabbit Car-Toon Spin Ride in 1990/92. The goal was to end the ride with our guests going through a cartoon portable hole to escape, so I did this drawing of Roger Rabbit as we exited the ride. But how to make it work?

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The Imagineering R&D department gave us two solutions. One solution was a wall behind a wall, and the illusion was an optical one. The bricks behind the first wall would be painted larger, so as we approached they would appear to be on the same plane. But that didn’t account for parallax, shadows, lighting, that would disrupt the illusion. It simply would not be believable.

The second solution was to have a wall with a hole cut into it, and a thin sheet of fog would be blasted in front to create a surface — and we would project a portable hole that appears as we exit the ride. But, that didn’t make any sense as you can project light, but can’t project the absence of light! That’s impossible. We had to choose between one of these two options!

So, my artist friend and Imagineering colleague Andrea Favilli reached out to magician Jim Steinmeyer — and it was Jim that helped us create the wonderful portable hole effect with a simple magic trick. Jim was an expert magician that built magic tricks for the biggest names in magic. He came up with a brilliant solution, and THAT is what we built in the ride. (I’m not going to divulge the secret here!)

I also designed this particular scene so that the figure of Roger was NOT entirely audio animatronic, but rather show-action animation. This meant it’s the extending arm that places the portable hole against the wall, not the Roger Rabbit figure. Again, another simple solution that helped to stretch our budget. This means the ride and this illusion can continue to work even if the equipment isn’t working. The posing of the character also works with or without animation.

Limiting the expenditures allowed us to spend more money on the rest of the sets so that the ride never felt neglected, stayed exciting... and prevented break-downs. More tech heavy rides have a tendency to shut down when their complicated equipment stops working. Not so with the Roger Rabbit Ride.

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The Lost Disney Art -- Part 2

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More LOST DISNEY ART. (Brush Pen Ink and Watercolor 1994)

I know... the title is a little "click-baity". Technically this work is not lost -- I'm sure the originals are buried somewhere in the vaults at Imagineering, but these drawings haven't been seen in nearly 30 years.

It was before the digital age, so hard copies of these drawings remained in my flat file tucked away inside a manilla folder mis-labelled "Tokyo roughs". I found them by chance while going through my files looking for theme park work for my website,

The Big Idea 

Legendary Imagineer Eddie Sotto had come up with an idea called Pirate's Island where we were going to revamp Tom Sawyer Island (TSI) at Disneyland and turn it into a pirate island. This was back in 1994, way before the Pirates of the Caribbean movies... so the idea was truly ahead of its time.

At the center, Eddie imagined there would be a large cavern where the pirates had brought their booty, and in there was built a bar where guests could dine. Eddie had asked me to come up with some ideas for things to put in the bar, I sketched out several things, and that's when I thought of these lovely ship's figureheads. I worked them out in color so we could add this to our pitch.

I even remember I had roughed out the entire bar and was planning to do one of those large drawings of the interior... unfortunately soon afterwards the project was scrapped. Eddie's Pirate's Island was a great idea that was short lived... but the big idea was so strong that when the Pirates of the Caribbean movie came out this idea resurfaced and TSI was turned into Pirate's Lair.

Working with Eddie was one of the highlights at Imagineering. His imagination and energy was infectious, and his ability to ideate with a pen really did teach me the importance of moving quickly to visualize the entire project.
Pirate Girl
Pirate Girl Ships Figurehead

Pirate Island's Ship's Figureheads


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The Lost Art of Disneyland's Toontown

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 Did you know that part of the Roger Rabbit Ride queue line and pre show at Disneyland was going to be outdoors?

Yep! It was the 1990s, and I was one of the four principal designers of Disneyland's Toontown, and the lead designer for the Roger Rabbit Ride.

(I found hard copies of these drawings in an envelope, inside my flat file while looking for images to put in my website, )

The assignment was tricky, I had to figure out how to entertain the people in line, without audio animatronics that move... because all that circuitry can't be exposed to the weather or temperature changes. Everything needed to be a static visual gag, so I created a series of drawings that worked as funny gags... but would entertain the guests by allowing them to use their imagination to piece together the happenings... like a detective. So, I designed this queue line to look like an old 1940s construction site.

We needed to create a queue line, but rather than just have a standard queue line I found a way to thematically use the water tower's pipes to get-crazy and create the various stanchions that separate the guests in order to weave them around. What if the stanchions themselves are part of the theme, and guests were in it? 

Eventually, the queue line was moved indoors, and we have the queue that exists today. So naturally none of these ideas were built, and I might add none of these drawings have seen the light in 30 years. Enjoy

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The Great Muppet Movie Ride... that never was

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In 1990 I was working at Walt Disney Imagineering as a show designer, and I had the unique opportunity to work on the Muppet Movie Ride with Jim Henson. When Jim passed away suddenly, the entire project Muppet Studios (AKA Muppet Movie Land) was shut down.

My office mate at the time, legendary Imagineer Eric Robison, really liked this drawing… so I gave it to him. All these many years later he kindly mailed it back to me.

I took the prismacolor drawing and placed it on my drawing desk. A 33 year round trip.

It’s prismacolor on velum, mounted on illustration board.

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