In 1965, when Walt Disney moved into active planning for his “city of the future,” he needed artwork to get his vision across. To help sell the project to the Florida legislature and state officials whose permission he needed to create a new type of governmental district to govern his property in central Florida, Walt once again turned to Herb Ryman. Ryman, whose sketch had sold the Disneyland concept to financiers a decade earlier, joined the team that was toiling in secrecy to convert Walt’s dreams into some concrete and relatable vision.
As you can tell by glancing at our masthead, these were events for which we hold some interest here at Progress City.
A while ago I asked Imagineer George McGinnis if he’d ever worked closely with Ryman, and while they never worked directly together their artistic paths did cross thanks to EPCOT. Says McGinnis:
My first day on the job, 6-6-66, the project given me by Marvin Davis (Sr. Epcot Designer) was to design the modal split access between the Monorail and Walt’s “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow” WedWay Peoplemovers. (Interesting to note in his film Walt didn’t mention “Monorail” — he use the term “Rapid Transit”. Probably he had in mind GE’s sponsorship.)
Walt wanted [McGinnis's original Peoplemover design] enlarged for additional capacity. My immediate boss, Roger Broggie, walked into my office and found me working on the larger WedWay and asked, “Why I are you working on this?” I answered Walt asked me to do it. He quietly walked out. This helped me to understand Walt’s way of working — everyone worked for Walt and people respected this.
I worked over one of Herb’s concept paintings for Walt’s EPCOT presentation, adding the larger WedWay (PeopleMover) Walt had asked me to design. I also used the larger WedWay in my painting for the same presentation in October 1966 to Florida’s governor.
We never heard from Walt after this on account of his illness that took his life in December.
While EPCOT city never came to be, some of its ethos rubbed off of the Florida property and on the theme park that bears its name. A few design concepts remained, too; EPCOT’s international shopping district was a revival of the old “International Street” expansion once planned for Disneyland – it would survive, in altered form, as EPCOT Center’s World Showcase.
Says McGinnis of those days:
I don’t think I ever worked directly with Herb, but our offices were close together and we had many conversations. I was always surprised how freely he spoke his opinions of WED operations.
Last thing he was working on was the Japan [Disneyland] concept and the day he left working at WED — he was in and out for projects — he stopped by my office to bid farewell, not knowing if and when he would be back. He passed away and John Hench remarked, “It is hard to imagine WED without working with Herb.”
Hard to imagine, indeed – and somewhat interesting to hear that from Hench, towards whom many of Ryman’s freely-spoken opinions were directed!
Special thanks to George McGinnis for sharing his memories for this article.