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The Ryman Centennial: Other Ports Of Call

Ryman works on a concept painting for Euro Disneyland in 1988; his concept for the Indiana Jones Adventure is in the background

When Herb Ryman returned to WED Enterprises to work on EPCOT Center in 1976, he also helped with conceptual designs for “Oriental Disneyland” – the park that Disney was developing for Tokyo. Most of his work seems concentrated on World Bazaar, the covered area that would replace Disneyland’s traditional Main Street, U.S.A.

The Hub, Tokyo Disneyland

Note the huge expanse depicted in Ryman’s rendering of Tokyo Disneyland’s hub – the park was designed to be far more spacious than the typical Disney park. Also of interest in this piece is that it’s a mirror image of the actual park; Tomorrowland as depicted here is where Adventureland and Westernland are in the real park.

A more futuristic – dare I say contemporary? – concept for World Bazaar from 1976
A World Bazaar that more resembles the final design
A very rough sketch for the World Bazaar entrance
A portion of one of Ryman’s conceptual paintings for Meet the World

Aside from World Bazaar, Herb also worked on Meet the World; this attraction was a Tokyo Disneyland exclusive, although it was originally intended for EPCOT’s Japan pavilion as well. The show, which took place in an adapted carousel theater, took guests through scenes from Japan’s history through the integrated use of animatronics, film, and animation.

Ryman in Tokyo

After wrapping up his work on EPCOT, Herb traveled east once more to recreate some of his adventures from the 1930s. There was a special side trip, though, as Herb stopped in Tokyo to visit the newly-opened Tokyo Disneyland park.

Concept for the S.S. Admiral, a project for Landmark Entertainment

In Ryman’s spare time, he would occasionally work on projects for Landmark Entertainment. Gary Goddard, a former Imagineer, founded Gary Goddard Productions in 1980; it would be renamed Landmark Entertainment in 1985. Landmark has worked on many, many well-known projects over the years, for Universal and others, and in its early days it employed the services of many legendary Imagineers. Alain Littaye has a wonderful collection of their artwork on his site, and we have two of Ryman’s pieces here.

The first, above, is for the S.S. Admiral project in St. Louis. Below is one of Ryman’s pieces for “Phineas T. Flagg’s Power Plant,” an indoor entertainment project designed by Landmark for Six Flags. Lasting only a few years, this remarkable concept was located in a disused power plant on the harbor in Baltimore. Part of a failed attempt at urban renewal, the site was ironically used more than a decade later for the first ESPN Zone – which was shuttered this year.

I’ve gotta say… I wouldn’t mind a Phineas T. Flagg’s Power Plant 2.0.

Rendering for Phineas T. Flagg’s Power Plant
Concept for Euro Disneyland. Note the elevated train on the right, and that’s our pal Dick Nunis with the child on his shoulders.

Much of Herb’s last work for Disney was on the Euro Disneyland project, where he focused on Main Street, U.S.A. The original designs for this land, overseen by Progress Citizen Eddie Sotto, traded in Disneyland’s more rural midwestern Main Street for an urban, Prohibition-era design from the 1920s. The designs were fresh and very promising, but sadly they were pulled by Disney CEO Michael Eisner at the last moment. More artwork from this wonderfully atmospheric concept can be found at Disney and More.

As you can see, Sotto’s Main Street featured an elevated train that would give guests a view of the area from above. It would also feature a genuine 1920s speakeasy, hiding a swinging Jazz Age club in the secret room behind an innocuous florists’ shop. Another concept the Imagineers wanted to feature was a diner based on Edward Hopper’s famous painting Nighthawks. Sadly, this was all lost when the street’s theming was reverted to the turn of the century.

Ryman’s sketch of the Nighthawks diner; the speakeasy’s entrance was via the orange awning to the left

Ryman’s work on Euro Disneyland and other projects like the Indiana Jones Adventure would wrap up his career; sadly, he would never see their debut.

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7 comments to The Ryman Centennial: Other Ports Of Call

  • RO93461

    It’s strange to see the Power Plant and Main street in the same post as I worked with Ryman on both. Herb was loved by Gary Goddard, the project’s producer and a major collector of his work. I met Herb at Gary’s office and he looked at my sketchy storyboards and said “you know… they’re not very good” and then walked out. He returns with these insane paintings that Gary used to sell the project and they did. Herbs Power Plant overview hung in the lobby for years. It was stunning and reminded me of how great his work was.

    Vernian images of the completed Power Plant project were shown to Tony Baxter who hired me based on that early Steampunk work. Submarines, Laboratories, and future cities all in that 19th century style. No matter how cool it was in places,the project had fundamentally fatal flaws in many areas of it’s planning and inception that plague most location based entertainment projects. To Tony’s credit, he was able to see the creative potential of what was done and overlooked the under capitalized shows and flawed business assumptions. In his mind this was likely an audition to work on Discoveryland for DLP. I’m glad he was forgiving as t I would not have had a career at WDI! I was hired at WDI shortly afterward to work on DLP. None of it would have gotten Baxter’s attention if Herb had not set the bar high for us with his inspirational work.

  • Last project Herbert had in works, independent of Disney, was a theme park based on the writings of Beatrix Potter, to be built at Longleat, the Wiltshire ancestral estate of the Marquesses of Bath. This was at request Robert Jani, best remembered for having devised the spectacular, “Main Street Electrical Parade,” but would never break ground; given Bob’s untimely death, six months after Herb, from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis–Lou Gehrig’s disease.

  • Thanks for the stories guys! Eddie – I had seen Herb’s art for this project last year, but until I was researching this story I had no idea that it had actually been built. It would have been a nice easy trip for us when I was a kid – Baltimore’s not too far a journey from NC.

    Looking at the pictures I was able to find online (which were few) it looks like a great concept that was hampered by a low budget. A cool idea, though. I wonder why LBE ventures almost always fail. Have there been any successes? Even Disney keeps flopping at it.

    John – that’s very interesting about Beatrix Potter. So many wonderful unbuilt attractions. I was watching something recently about the Main St. Electrical Parade and wondered what happened to Bob Jani; it’s so sad to find he had ALS.

  • Other points:

    – I know people say it wasn’t spectacular, but I still love the concept of Meet the World. I wish there was more artwork for it in the public realm.

    – I freaking love that painting of the Hub at Tokyo Disneyland. Gorgeous.

    – I kind of like the rendering of the “Contemporary” version of World Bazaar, but if it were built it’d be super dated. I wish they could do a do-over on World Bazaar; DLP really licked this problem in an appropriate way.

    – I want to go to that Speakeasy really, really bad. Grr.

  • RO93461

    The Speakeasy was inspired by those in “Some like it hot” and “The Lemon Drop kid”

  • Fantastic. Some Like it Hot is one of my top 10 fave films and that’s exactly what I thought of when I heard about entering through the florist’s shop. Great stuff. I’ve always loved the concept of a sort of progressive themed experience like that… you go in one place, do the secret knock, the hidden passage opens up… Of course that kind of thing is hard when you’re dealing with Disney-level crowds.

  • RO93461

    It is so it was a large turntable with a wall mounted on it.

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