At this year’s D23 Expo, there were no big presentations from the Parks & Resorts division as there had been at previous expos. The stated reason was that Parks and Resorts was coming off of some major expansions – Cars Land and Buena Vista Street at the Disneyland Resort, and New Fantasyland at Walt Disney Resort — and that other projects were not at an appropriate place for any new announcements to be made.
Instead of a big splashy arena presentation, Parks & Resorts was represented by an extensive Imagineering pavilion on the show floor. The pavilion was themed (at least externally) to look like Imagineering’s headquarters building, with banners announcing an open house.
Inside, the pavilion was almost a show floor unto itself … a series of exhibits that in some cases were focused on specific projects, and in other cases to specific disciplines within Imagineering.
This is a pavilion where I could have easily spent a full day, but the Expo schedule was so jam-packed that I unfortunately took it in on two way-too-brief visits. I tried to take lots of pictures, but in looking at other blogger’s write-ups I realized I missed a lot; this was definitely a pavilion that rewarded careful scrutiny and taking your time, and not just dashing through on your way from one presentation to the next.
Before sharing all the pictures, I have to mention the most striking exhibit within the pavilion, which is one where no photography was allowed. It was a series of drawings or paintings by some of Disney’s best-known Imagineers, tracing the evolution of the concept of Disneyland. (Although I wasn’t able to take photos in the exhibit, all of these images are available online in some form, so I’m including some images found on the web below).
In the first of 3 rooms, we saw some drawings by Harper Goff that are the earliest drawings of what would evolve into Disneyland. This was before Anaheim, when the park was targeted for a small area of land adjacent to the studios. While the drawings look nothing like Disneyland, you can see certain ideas, such as Rivers of America, were there from the earliest concept.
In the second room, we see perhaps the most famous Imagineering drawing of all time — Herb Ryman’s original pencil sketch of Disneyland. This was not one of the many reproductions, but the actual original. I believed that I had seen this before somewhere … perhaps in the Disney Gallery? — but after seeing it here, now I suspect I had never before seen the original. The reason I suspect that is on this drawing, you can very clearly see the paper is not flat — indentations are very obvious where Herb shaded in areas vigorously, and I had never noticed that before on any version of the drawing I had seen.
In the final room, we set Peter Ellenshaw’s painting of Disneyland, done about a year before the park opened. One of the amazing things Ellenshaw did with this painting is to use some black light paint that was around for use in some attraction, and go over the entire painting dotting in streetlights, lights in windows, and other details that could only be seen under black light. We were told the painting has never been shown to the public this way; and were then able to view the painting under normal lighting (Disneyland by day) and then under black light (Disneyland at night). I think if Imagineering were to find a way to reproduce this, they could have sold one to just about every person that toured the exhibit — I know I would have bought one!
Now, on to the Imagineering pavilion photos.
One of the first things seen when you enter the pavilion is a model of Disney Springs … a major rework of what is currently known as Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World
We saw a model of the Space pavilion that has recently been discovered in the archives. (I think — unless this is another manufactured artifact to tie in to the Tomorrowland shenanigans. Who can tell what’s real and what is planted fabrication anymore?)
One of the famous never-built projects is Tony Baxter’s Western River Expedition. Here are some models and concept art pieces from that project.
Model for a never-built International Street area at Disneyland
When Stars Wars was being filmed, the fake title Blue Harvest was used for the production. The Orange Harvest boxes obviously are a hint to the under-development Episode VII. And if that clue was too subtle, R2-D2 certainly makes it plain.
Early concept model of Spaceship Earth (EPCOT)
Early concept model of The Land Pavilion (EPCOT)
More shots of Imagineers and props from around the exhibit .. and there is much, much more that I didn’t capture, this is really just giving a bit of overall flavor of the pavilion.
The Imagineering Pavilion was one of the highlights of the show floor — and one of many things at the Expo that I wished I had more time to explore.