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Behind The Masterpiece, 1967

Fans of Imagineering will no doubt recognize this artwork by the great Herb Ryman; said to be the first painting of Walt Disney World’s Cinderella Castle, it became an iconic image during the creation and promotion of Disney’s Florida resort. Much as he had done with Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle years earlier, Ryman provided the first inspirational concept pieces that would define the look and feel of the new theme park.

Now, from Ryman friend and biographer John Donaldson, come these slides which were part of Ryman’s own personal trove. The images, dated November 1967, show what was possibly the first Imagineering model for Cinderella Castle. Taken from a number of different angles, it seems clear that these images provided the reference for Ryman’s iconic painting.



How about that great Mickey logo on the wall, there?

Now, let’s have an anonymous someone come hold a bright light up to simulate the effects of the harsh Florida sunlight…


The Magic Kingdom at sunset…

This is the key image, though:

Featuring the notation “1″ on its white sleeve, this clearly seems to be the reference image that provided the basis for Ryman’s painting. This simple, early model would be transformed through Ryman’s skill into an image still famous today.

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7 comments to Behind The Masterpiece, 1967

  • Kris

    I don’t think that I’ve ever seen that model… Thanks so much for sharing! It’s a beautiful scale model, and I had no idea that they used that kind of thing in order to create the concept art.

  • Adam, "MarkTwain"

    Wow, November 1967… it really makes you wonder if Walt saw any artwork of Cinderella Castle close to the final product. With only 11 months between his death and this model, it certainly seems like a possibility.

    The Ryman rendering also makes the comparable Shanghai Disneyland rendering seem that much more bizarre.

  • I would have thought the concept art came first. It does make sense, especially seeing how they were playing with the light to get different shading effects for the final painting. Makes me wonder what they base the models on in the first place :)

  • RO93461

    As with Disneyland’s overview, there we’re many pieces of art and models that precede Ryman’s art and were incorporated into it. I remember him saying that he had an idea for a show element that would be a Cinderella and Prince glass slipper ceremony appearing in the balcony of the Castle, like a mechanical clock driven Glockenspiel. Something like that. He said that was part of his artwork, and you can see two figures suggested in that space on his painting.

    Eddie Sotto

  • The first concept of Cinderella Castle, a quick pencil sketch, was created by Herb Ryman a few weeks after Walt Disney died. From that, the scale model; and from that, the official, formal painting.

  • RO93461

    Very interesting John. Did not know that. I’m sure the Fox boys had a field day with those sketches.

  • SWW

    Awesome article. Those slides from the 1960s look like they could have been taken yesterday with a digital camera… so clear & sharp.

    Nice to learn a little of the history of the chicken-or-egg process in creating the castle.

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