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The Ryman Centennial: A Whole New Disney World

Herbert Ryman was working on Disneyland projects right up to the time of Walt’s death in 1966, doing quite a bit of artwork for both the New Orleans Square and New Tomorrowland expansions. It seems only natural, then, that Herb would begin work on Walt Disney World when development began on the new resort. Much of Walt’s attention before his passing was devoted not to the Magic Kingdom park, but rather to his city of the future – EPCOT. Tragically, Walt seems to have died without seeing much artwork for the Magic Kingdom; this sketch of Cinderella’s Castle from January of 1967 is one of the first pieces of art done specifically for the new project.

Sketch of Cinderella Castle by Herbert Ryman, 1967

It doesn’t seem like Herb did very much art for the Magic Kingdom itself; certainly, it’s hard to find nearly as many renderings for early Walt Disney World as one can find for Disneyland. One section that Ryman worked heavily on, though, was Liberty Square. Based on many of his original designs for the unbuilt Liberty Street at Disneyland in 1956, the area featured the Hall of Presidents – itself based on an attraction originally intended for Disneyland. Herb had presented ideas for this attraction to Walt way back in 1954, and he was pleased to see the concepts take shape decades later in a format very similar to his original design. Ryman’s renderings for Liberty Square are wonderful, full of detail and excitement that makes the actual area seem rather lifeless by comparison.

Rendering of Liberty Square’s “Concord Bridge”, 1969

Ryman did a magnificent rendering of an alternate concept for the Magic Kingdom’s Haunted Mansion which you can find in the art book A Brush With Disney.

Oil painting of the Richard F. Irvine, 1971. This painting might be familiar if you’ve stayed at the Dixie Landings resort at Walt Disney Room; prints of it and other Ryman pieces are featured in various guest rooms.
Sketch of proposed covered bridge in Adventureland, never built
Concept for Tomorrowland Entrance, 1970
Perhaps the most famous piece of art for Cinderella Castle, this was painted in 1969 and was featured prominently in much of the park’s early marketing and on numerous souvenirs

Ryman left WED in 1971; the official story is that he retired, but it seems that instead he was ushered out. He flew to Orlando on his own dime to attend the opening of Walt Disney World, and after that took a long journey in Europe to see how things had changed since his adventures there in the 1930s.

Herb would return to Disney, though, in 1976. This time, he would be working on a project that would utilize all his skills as an artist and draw extensively on his life experiences and far-ranging travels – EPCOT Center.

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5 comments to The Ryman Centennial: A Whole New Disney World

  • RO93461

    Herb loved history and especially Liberty Square. He mentioned the bridge that you use to enter and said that you could have built any bridge, but why not do some research and do based on the one Paul Revere crossed on his famous ride? “Bad taste costs no more” was one of his famous sayings. Effort and passion for your subject can be sensed. Herbie told me once in reference to Napoleon and France, that just being in those places was where history “grabbed him by the throat”.

  • Mabatioh

    I really like Mr. Ryman’s work and would love to purchase prints of his renderings. Is there any way to purchase prints of his Disney works? Thanks.

  • RO93461

    There were some major works that were produced by the Disney Gallery in large litho form and in posters. Ebay is a good source for that. There are books on him as well with more art like “A Brush with Disney” and sells originals and some books from time to time to raise funds.

  • Brian Greer

    The concept art for different Disney elements was something I just never paid enough attention to in the past. Now I love looking at it. Wonderful stuff.

  • RO93461

    FYI tidbit. Herb Ryman told me that he wanted the balcony in the WDW Castle was to be a place for a Cinderella “glass slipper” ceremony, probably as a glockenspiel.

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