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.
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.
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.
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.