Poster Art of the Disney Parks book review

Poster Art of the Disney Parks
Poster Art of the Disney Parks

Poster Art of the Disney Parks was a book I knew I must have as soon as I heard it was announced. I have always loved the classic travel posters one used to find in travel agents’ offices and I even have some in my own home. This amazing book is the work of Imagineers Danny Handke and Vanessa Hunt, but includes plenty of history of quotes and artwork from Disney legends to satisfy any Disney history aficionado. You’ll find an introduction from recently retired Imagineer Tony Baxter, as well as artwork from likes of Rolly Crump, X. Atencio and Herb Ryman.

The book features poster art from dozens of attractions starting with concept artwork for Disneyland from the 1950s and going up to the newly refurbished Disney California Adventure in 2012. In addition to the two California Disney parks, included are posters from the Walt Disney World parks here in Florida, Disneyland Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland as well as Tokyo DisneySea. It is great to read about the history of how the parks started and how Walt Disney wanted to invite guests into the park like he was welcoming them to a theatre show.

 

Here is an excerpt from Chapter One, Here You Leave Today:

“The Imagineers looked to several different poster styles for inspiration, including national park, military recruitment, magic show, WPA (Works Progress Administration), and World’s Fair posters. The final result was heavily influenced by graphic artist Bjorn Aronson, who had experience designing travel posters before coming to WED Enterprises (WED, the initials for Walter Elias Disney, was the name Walt originally coined for Walt Disney Imagineering in 1952.) Travel posters were large, silk-screened graphics desplayed at train depots, bus stations, and airports that could be read quickly and easily in a fast-paced society. The style involved a well-balanced arrangement of flat colors with an emphasis on light and shadows. Aronson designed several of the original attraction posters in 1955 and 1956 with this approach. These posters were consistent in style and themed to their represented lands and time periods. The silk-screening printing technique helped make these large posters bright, colorful, and more importantly, attention grabbing.”

As I read through the book and admired the poster art, I found myself gravitated to the artwork of Bjorn Aronson more and more. It seems I have seen more of his posters than any of the other artists in the book, and to me they represent the clean aesthetics of mid-century modern. Perhaps you’ve seen his work, and haven’t even known it. Some of his original artwork inspired the recent Churro shirts produced by DesignerLand’s Richard Terpstra. Look at the original poster art and you will see the similarities.

Poster Art that inspired the churro shirt
Poster Art that inspired the churro shirt
Churro Shirt image copyright Disney
Churro Shirt image copyright Disney
Peoplemover
Peoplemover
Alice in Wonderland is one of my favorite attractions in Disneyland
Alice in Wonderland is one of my favorite attractions in Disneyland

I also love how you can see poster art for attractions through the years and their changes. It is interesting that some of the Matterhorn posters from Disneyland show it in Tomorrowland and others in Fantasyland. The artwork does welcome you to the show in the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland as you enter under the train station. This is to show you, much like coming attraction posters at a movie theater, what lies ahead. It is a great way to whet the appetite of guests and show all the amazing experiences in store.

Several different Matterhorn posters
Several different Matterhorn posters
Process of making a poster
Process of making a poster
Sinbad's Storybook Voyage featuring Chandu the Tiger
Sinbad’s Storybook Voyage featuring Chandu the Tiger
Table of Contents
Table of Contents

The book also takes you through the process of making a poster and how you add one color at a time to the silk-screening process. I enjoy how interviews with the artists and Imagineers are interspersed with the incredible, and often full page, color posters throughout the book. The glimpse into the design process is fascinating to me and I appreciate all the work that goes into something that the average guest will only see for a few seconds at most.

Red Car Trolley poster inspiring the shirt
Red Car Trolley poster inspiring the shirt

Of the newer artists of poster art, I tend to appreciate the work of Greg Maletic. His newest work can be seen in the fantastic posters for the reimagined Disney California Adventure. In the book Greg talks about how he drew inspiration from each of the corresponding decades that the attractions he was designing posters for came from. The Red Car Trolley poster to the left inspired the shirt I got last summer, which you can see in my collection here. For instance, Grizzly River Run he said was supposed to evoke the feeling of a 1930s National Park Service poster. Cars Land, on the other hand, came straight out of the car culture that was burgeoning across America, and of course Route 66, in the 1950s. I love how his work is reminiscent of Bjorn Aronson’s, but distinct enough to be Maletic’s own style.

Poster Art of the Disney Parks is a great book for anyone who is a fan of Disney art, parks, or history. This is a unique peek behind the curtain to see some of what Imagineering does and their creative process. I could not be happier with this book as it was everything I was hoping for and more. It is so gorgeous at around 150 pages, including many of those full page color posters. Looking through the book again, I realized I had seen some of these original Disneyland attraction posters at One Man’s Dream in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. You can see my previous post about them here. If you haven’t had a chance to pick this book up, I would encourage you to do so. I have seen it for sale in the parks and also on Amazon. Do you have this fantastic book already? What are some of your favorite elements?

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Author: Betsy

Scorpio. Passionate about movies, music, sports, Disney and my friends who are more like my family. Fiercely loyal and competitive. My thoughts are my own.

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