It has officially been declared “Herb Ryman Month” here at Progress City; the veteran Disney artist and Imagineer would have been 100 years old this June 28th.
An on-and-off member of the Disney family from the days of Fantasia, Ryman was working on concepts for the Euro Disneyland project at the time of his death in 1989. Herb had a successful art career outside of the Disney domain; he had worked in the art department of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer during the golden age of Hollywood in the 1930s, and would remain a successful freelance artist and painter throughout his career.
For Disney, Ryman contributed the iconic first rendering of Disneyland in 1953, which Roy Disney used to sell the idea of the park to financiers in New York. He also painted the first official rendering for Walt Disney World’s Cinderella Castle, and would do similar work for the Tokyo and Euro Disneylands. Most relevant to Progress City, Ryman produced scads of concept pieces for EPCOT Center in the 1970s and 80s. If you can picture, in your mind’s eye, any of the iconic renderings of the Future World or World Showcase pavilions, the odds are decent that Ryman was responsible. Ryman famously painted Spaceship Earth – in both gold and silver variants – as well as Horizons, France, China and several others. He also did a great deal of work on the never-realized Equatoral Africa pavilion; his efforts there lead to a friendship with author and pavilion consultant Alex Haley.
These international paintings were informed by Ryman’s travels; he circled the world on steamships in the 1930s, spending a great deal of time in Indochina. Later in life, he would go on safari – art safari, naturally – in Africa.
He was one heck of an artist.
So we’ll be bringing “Herbie” up quite a bit this month; hopefully we’ll be able to see some cool art from a true genius who was lost to us far, far too soon.
And, one more thing.
In preparation for the Ryman Centennial, I happened to notice that Herb’s page on Wikipedia is embarrassingly sparse. This is especially egregious when you compare it to his sister Lucille’s page, which is disproportionately detailed. Perhaps she has a better agent.
While Wikipedia is hardly something to get too concerned about, I think it would be a nice token gift for Herbert’s 100th birthday for all Progress Citizens to chip in and give this beloved Imagineer a detailed and scholarly online biography worthy of his talent. So get going, my studious Disney fans – Wikipedia is a collaborative enterprise so I encourage you to spread the word around and get as many people as possible to contribute. By the end of June, I think it’d be pretty cool if a Disney newbie could surf onto Wikipedia and learn a little bit about the great Herbert Dickens Ryman.