D23 Expo has wrapped and boy is my body tired! I will have quite a few articles coming out about my experience at the D23 Expo, but I really wanted to do a good job putting together this article for you, as I was delighted at this panel. It took place at the same time as the popular Disney Princess panel, so I think many people missed it. And if you didn’t go to D23 Expo, you’re in luck! I took many photos and am super excited to bring you some incredible, never before seen stories, pictures and and concept art from this incredible panel about some of the projects Marc Davis worked on.
“When Walt Disney asked directing animator Marc Davis to “Take a look” at some of his attractions at Disneyland in late 1960, it began a second career for one of his top animators – who immediately began working for WED Enterprises, now known as Walt Disney Imagineering. Davis led the design efforts and strove to inject his trademark humor into attractions like the “Jungle Cruise,” “Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room,” “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Haunted Mansion,” “It’s A Small World,” “Country Bear Jamboree,” “America Sings,” and many, many other Disney theme park classics. Join Pixar’s Pete Docter and Walt Disney Imagineering’s Christopher Merritt as they share amazing and unseen artwork and photographs they have discovered in the process of writing a new book on this Imagineering Legend.” – From the D23 Expo Description
Pete Doctor and Christopher Merritt decided to write a book about Marc Davis, and so of course, they went to Alice Davis, whom both are friendly with, and asked her if they could go through his office and start cataloging what’s in there. (ALSO PS, HOW CAN I GET THIS JOB?)
Pete and Chris shared stories about their relationship with Alice Davis and Marc Davis. As you can see above, Chris was able to interview him before Marc Davis’ death in 2000. That’s Pete celebrating Alice Davis’ birthday.
They spoke about their book, and how excited they are to get it to us. After this presentation, I think you’ll agree, for the concept art alone, it’s going to be a very coveted book for any theme park design fan.
Here they joked about Marc’s many achievements, including his advanced vision of “selfies”.
One of the many pieces of incredible artwork they found in Marc’s office.
They found pictures from an event that had never been seen before. The Penthouse Club was a private club at Walt Disney Animation for men only. (there was also a tea room for women) but this was indicative of the gender discriminatory nature of the time, and the club was mostly for the oldest and best paid [male] members of the studio. The Penthouse Club threw a pre-opening party at Disneyland on July 4th, 1955. You can see Marc and Alice Davis on the Marc Twain, looking very dapper.
The two pictures below, never before seen, were taken by Marc Davis, two weeks before Disneyland opened.
In the 1970s, Marc and Alice became intrigued by the art and culture of Papua New Guinea. They made several visits to the island nation, collecting artifacts, tribal lore, and doing many sketches. Most of those artifacts and sketches are on display in the Davis’ living room, seen below. The Jungle Cruise in FL, is heavily inspired by this research.
Marc Davis, was obviously a great artist, but where he really excelled was in characterization. Adding personality to these animals, giving them clever scene work, can be seen in every attraction Marc Davis helped design. Below we see some of his elephant work.
Here is video I took from an Internal WED design lecture:
Pictures from Marc Davis’ personal collection:
They found many pieces of previously unreleased concept art. Mostly because it was filed incorrectly. The following pieces of art were intended for the Jungle Cruise at Walt Disney World.
The scene below may look familiar, but with a different set of characters.
An elephant graveyard was originally intended for Florida.
New Favorite Never Before Seen Character Alert:
Apparently this “man-eating plant” was designed, mocked up, placed in the model, AND written into the animatronic script, but Pete and Chris couldn’t find the animatronic, or why it didn’t make it into the Jungle Cruise. He’s so cute! With all his bones scattered around!
These frogs were also supposed to make it into the Jungle Cruise at Walt Disney World, but for reasons unknown, did not make it into the final version. They were able to locate the animatronics that were created, in the archives.
Below we have a picture and a video from Marc Davis on site at the Jungle Cruise when it was being refreshed in the spring of 1969.
Some wonderful candid pictures of Walt Disney working from Marc’s collection:
I love this one of Walt Disney in the mock-up of It’s a Small World.
What follows is some never before seen artwork from Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room.
These are some birds that didn’t quite make it to the Tiki Room, but were some early concept art for sillier birds with personality.
And here is Marc in another internal design lecture for WED:
Never before seen concept art:
So here we see someone programming the toucans and tiki drummer for the pre-show at Walt Disney World. And while Chris and Pete were reviewing these photos, they noticed something strange just to the left of his shoulder.
So they scanned the photo and brightened it up in photoshop and saw this animatronic behind them, but had no idea who it was, until they came across concept art.
What you are about to see is a lost haunted mansion ghost. Never before seen until this panel. This is a the “Squeaky Door Ghost”. This was a ghost that was planned for haunted mansion, like the hat box ghost for the east coast, but it didn’t end up making it to the final version. It’s a 1930’s spook house ghost in a french maid outfit. “I’d love to see us put this into the attraction in FL” – Chris told us.
Now transition to Pirates of the Caribbean. “Marc was a master of staging” – Chris Merritt
Found in Marc’s desk drawer, these are hand written notes from when Walt asked him to mock up the wax museum version of Pirates of the Caribbean. It goes on for 40 pages. He went to the museum and checked out lots of books on Pirates and he drew up characters from the real history.
“When we were doing research in the library we said, let’s check out all the books Marc checked out, and for sure, Marc referenced this:
Early concept layout of the Pirates Wax Museum walk through:
“The idea was that you were gonna go down into this sub basement of New Orleans Square and you would see these tableau’s and little vignettes that Marc designed where lights would come on and off and the figures would animate but not to the level they did in final attraction” The following artwork was meant for the wax museum attraction.
As they attraction morphed into a boat ride with animatronics, Marc pulled from his early drawings. So while we lost Anne Bonney, celebrating her treasure, he used the dead skeletons pirates from that early artwork for the beach scene on the actual attraction.
Just like when they did animation, they often used live models to work out the movement correctly for the animatronics. This actor was photographed acting out the work of the original pirate on the ship in Bombardment Bay (Barbossa is there now)
You can see he has Marc Davis’ artwork as a reference off to the side
Prior to digital media and even taped media, when Pirates debuted at Disneyland it used a “can system”. Each disc controls one movement (such as an elbow bend) on each animatronic. So each animatronic would have several cans that would be recorded for them. They worked similar to vinyl records, where grooves in the can would would control the movement. They would make them out of paper or cardboard initially and then send them to the machine shop to make a permanent version. This concept came out of old mechanical music box mechanisms. They are located in their mock up version at the studio and not on the actual attraction being built at Disneyland.
These are pictures from Arrow Development of the imagineers and Walt developing the boat flume for Pirates of the Caribbean.
This beautiful concept art is how Marc Davis intended Pirates in Florida to end. He apparently wasn’t fond of how Disneyland’s pirates ended and wanted Florida’s to end with a big bang. Let’s not talk about what’s there now.
Here is Marc talking about Pirates in another internal design lecture for WED:
Switching gears, here are more never before seen concept drawings from Marc Davis’ office of an incredible concept that he wanted to put in Fort Wilderness campground at Walt Disney World. The Fort Wilderness Funhouse:
The idea was the funhouse was haunted by the original owners, seen in the portrait below, and it was sort of a Bed and Breakfast in the woods.
It would have traditional funhouse rooms that were slanted and silly. A Mirror maze and many silly gags.
As well as gags, like this pool table and this shark tank. Unfortunately, this concept was never realized.
This is concept art from a Silly Symphonies dark ride that was never realized:
Here is another concept that never made it to the public. Marc Davis became fascinated by kachina dolls. They are figures, carved, typically from cottonwood root, by Hopi people to instruct young girls and new brides about katsinas or katsinam, the immortal beings that bring rain, control other aspects of the natural world and society, and act as messengers between humans and the spirit world. He wanted to do a Kachina Doll diorama to overlay onto the Grand Canyon Diorama on the train.
They were able to find a tape and sync it to the concept art to show us what this unique overlay would have looked like:
Another fun attraction we’ve never seen before: The Yestermorrow Time Machine proposed for Walt Disney World
Attraction was weird. Lots of 90’s modernism mixed with ancient gods and fire.
Which brings us to my personal favorite concept attraction that never made it to Walt Disney World, the Western River Expedition. This was to be where Pirates of the Caribbean stands today at Magic Kingdom. One of the reasons I love it, is probably because it features Mary Blair concept art. But I also have a love for the west and how it was created.
Mary Blair Concept Art:
LOOK AT THESE COLORS:
Marc Davis working with Mary Blair:
Here is concept art from an attraction called Garden of the Gods from 1960, that was to be placed where the motorboat cruise was located. It would tell the story of the Greek Gods and be a lovely little walk through land with water and fire features. I’m sad this one never came to light.
So what do you think? What’s your favorite concept art that never got developed? Did you enjoy this peak into Marc Davis’ office? Let me know in the comments!
And stayed tuned for the many articles I’ll have coming about my experience at D23 Expo!