Sunday, January 30, 2011

Retro 71

This week’s Retro 71 shirt concept is taken from another one of my favorite Walt Disney World Resort brochures.

The shirt design (recreated in Illustrator) comes directly from the front cover of the 1983 EPCOT CENTER map. This brochure is one of the most extravagant park guides that the Walt Disney World Resort has ever created. The graphics within the map are stylized in a simple, yet futuristic way. Some say the color palette is retro, but I believe the brochure’s designers looked to those spotlights that cast the brilliant color combinations upon Spaceship Earth at night for their inspiration.


 What really sets this brochure apart from any we see today is the interactive element. Considering all the emphasis on interactive products in today's theme parks, it's amazing to see that back in 1983, they could make a simple map so interactive, not to mention fun. Within the map there's a wheel that guests could spin to see what each pavilion had to offer. I wish they would continue to produce keepsake guides today that would also end up collector’s items down the road. Granted, a brochure this complex would cost more money to produce than the standard double-sided, folded single-sheet. Clearly, having Kodak as a sponsor for the 1983 EPCOT brochure expanded the budget.

As of late, Disney Theme Park merchandise has been capitalizing on the retro theme in their EPCOT merchandise. Each year it seems they release another fun, nostalgic shirt design, so I figured I'd better throw in my design before my concept becomes passé. Anyway, hope you guys enjoy it. Next week’s Retro 71 concept is something completely new and kind of exciting. I look forward to seeing you then.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Big Thunder Mountain

In this week’s case study, we look at one of the wildest rides in the wilderness, Big Thunder Mountain.

A Disney park wouldn’t be a Disney park without Big Thunder Mountain. Big Thunder was designed by an Imagineer I truly admire, Tony Baxter. I've had the pleasure of meeting him twice and have even dined with him on one occasion. It was a dream come true to spend a good hour plus with someone I felt I could truly relate to. After dinner, as we parted ways, he said he looked forward to hopefully working with me one day. I almost died. It's still one of my dreams to work under him, like a humble apprentice shadowing a great sorcerer.

What's great about Big Thunder Mountain in type take is the use of some amazing fonts and typefaces, which happen to be some of my all-time favorites. The typography used in this land pays homage to a time when the bold was big and the wide was wild! Throughout this land, you can find variations of such classic type specimens as Slab Serif, Antique, Clarendon, Latin/Antique Tuscan, Tuscan and Egyptian typefaces.  These fonts were all popular during the 1800’s when gold was discovered in Southwest America, turning Big Thunder Mountain and the small community of Tumbleweed into a thriving mining town. These typefaces are known for their distinct weight and serif treatments.

In typography, a slab serif is a kind of serif typeface characterized by thick, block-like serifs. Serif terminals may be either blunt or angular. Because of their bold appearance, they are most commonly used in large headlines and advertisements and are seldom used in body text.

You’ve probably seen these types of fonts used in other places around the parks. Adventureland has a few scattered here and there, mainly within the Jungle Cruise queue. Using these same styles of typefaces for a tour down the Nile River was actually quite accurate, because slabs aren't just for the Wild West. Slab serifs, which are also known as Egyptian/Egyptienne, were so named not because they look like something inscribed in the halls of the great Egyptian pyramids—they where called so because when King Tutankhamun was discovered, the newspapers, handbills, and posters of the day used these big, bold typefaces to draw reader attention to Howard Carter’s discovery. Slab serifs also have their place in the steampunk genre as they evoke an Industrial Revolution-era feel. With that said, you could probably think of a few other lands where this classification of type would fit nicely.

Well that's it for this week. Tune in next week for more adventures in terrific type and thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Retro 71

This week’s Retro 71 apparel concept is another gone-but-not-forgotten attraction from the Magic Kingdom, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I have fond childhood memories of my dad and I hitting up this E-ticket late in the evenings while jumping back and forth from Mr. Toad. The lines were always so short . . . ah, hindsight. When the Nautilus took its last voyage back in 1994, it came as no surprise to me. I was, however, shocked to see it replaced by a simple playground. Once again, thank goodness for progress and the new Fantasyland expansion. There IS a great big beautiful tomorrow!!!

The shirt design is simple and appropriated from an attraction poster that was featured in The Art of Walt Disney World by Jeff Kurtti and Bruce Gordon.  According to the Disney Park Attraction Posters blog, this particular poster was never used in the parks—it was only a mock-up and never made it off the drafting table. I can't see why, though! The poster is simply amazing in detail and complexity. It is completely hand-illustrated (because it was only a comp). I love the stylized look of the attraction name formed from coral, and how the dynamic use of implied movement conveys the flow of seaweed under the ocean. I also enjoy the custom type treatment of “Fantasyland” in the poster. How cool is that logo? It's Victorian, it's steam punk, it's sleek, and it’s Jules Verne.

The poster that was actually used in the parks was based off of Disneyland's poster, with the submarine modified to match Captain Nemo's from the movie, but when compared to the “lost” poster, I find this version a little lacking. The poster that never made the cut reminds me more of those deep-sea adventures late at night with my dad.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

It's a Small World

This week we look at a Disney theme parks time-honored classic: It's a Small World! So climb aboard and let’s sail with the happiest set of typefaces that ever sailed!

When it comes to Small World, people tend to love it or hate it.... personally, I love it. I love it even more now as an adult, especially as a designer. As a child I tended to focus on the children from around the world, the fun yet repetitive theme song by the Sherman Brothers, and the copious amounts of glitter (be honest, who doesn't love glitter?). But now as an adult, I'm more intrigued by how this one attraction is a perfect example of the elements and principles of design.

One of the primary designers of It's a Small World was artist, designer and Imagineer Mary Blair. I believe Mary's success was due to her understanding of classic design elements and principles, along with her stylistic approach and background in fine art. Her style was somewhat avant-garde for the time and if she were at WDI today, her style would still be considered innovative. To be honest, I don't think anything would get green lit if the storyboards looked like some of Mary's concept treatments . . . my how the times have changed!

Over the years, from the original Small World designed for the 1964 World's Fair to Hong Kong Disneyland's version, It's a Small World has used a variety of fonts and typefaces to brand itself. From posters to merchandise, the stylistic approach in terms of type has changed over the years. Italics, bolds, curls, serifs, sans serifs and display fonts have all been used in conjunction with this attraction. Currently, a whimsical childlike display font sets the tone for the main signage. I believe this is a custom typeface designed in-house by Disney's design team. Sometimes designers will design just the characters needed to spell out the attraction name for the logo or signage—they usually never create the entire alphabet, punctuation marks, numerals or glyphs (there are exceptions and we'll discuss that later on when we look at the Indiana Jones case study).

Lucky for us, we have typographers who are Disney dorks!!! These typographers, paying homage, have created entire fonts (including some amazing glyphs) based on their appreciation and love for Disney attractions. Their designs come close in matching what you see in the parks—they are usually about 95% accurate and could fool most any viewer. Disney has even gone so far as to purchase some of these re-imagined fonts to go back and use in the parks.  As a designer and Disney dork, I could only imagine the thrill of walking into the parks and seeing a font of my creation in use.

Aside from the main signage of It's a Small World, the only other type treatments seen on or near the attraction are closure signs that pop-up from time to time, and the final show scene of the attraction itself. The last show scene consists of various languages bidding riders farewell. What better way to use typography than to match the good-byes in a font found from that native country?

Well that about does it for this week. Tune in next week and thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Retro 71

Today's bonus post is yet another concept for retro 71 – River Country. The long gone, but not forgotten, "old fashion swimmin' hole." With the news of a new resort being positioned on the shore of Bay Lake near Discovery Island, the first water park of Walt Disney World will soon be no more. Actually, we all know River Country has been no more since September 1, 2001, when it ceased operations. Those of us who grew up with River Country were a little saddened when Disney announced in 2005 that it would remain permanently closed.

Evolution, my dear friends. River Country did, after all, usher in Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. With these two new mega, world record setting water parks there was no way the simple yet quaint River Country would have stayed in operation. Why drive a pinto when you can drive a mustang?

Maybe all hope is not lost? I would like to believe WDI would/will somehow revive River Country or pay subtle tribute to it. Not as a park extension, but perhaps as a re-themed pool area for the new resort. We shall see. I'm not even sure if Disney has started clearing ground yet. If not, I wish Disney would hire Teddy Smith to come and create another stunning short video like he did for the abandoned Six Flags in New Orleans. His video tribute to the amusement park was hauntingly beautiful and simply stunning. If you haven't seen it jump over to Youtube and check it out. Also, some gorilla expeditioners swam out to River Country a few months back and snapped some amazing shots of the swimmin' hole. The photos pulled on my heartstrings.


However simple the design maybe for today's posting I'm actually rather proud of it. Completely recreated by hand, not to shabby, eh?!?! I always find it hard to recreate Mickey Mouse or any of the other Disney characters in illustrator. Not because I don't know how but simply because no matter how much fine tuning the design gets it never feels good enough. I believe it's because I hold Disney animation in such high regards.

Soon River Country will cease to exist and all I will have left are a few photos from my childhood and my memories. Memories of looking out onto Bay Lake – the skiers, parasailers and speed boats, the ferry ushering to and fro; a bustle of activity and excitement. Feeling the warm Floridian sun beating down on me with the gentle breeze blowing across the lake, waves will continue to crash gently on the shore and seagulls make their calls. In the far off distance, on past the Contemporary Resort, I can still see the spires of Space Mountain beckoning adventures yet to come later that night. 


River Country. It's a hoot. It's a holler! It's a water jamboree!
River Country. Gone but not forgotten. You're in all our memories! 

The Wedway Peoplemover

This week’s case study is the Wedway Peoplemover. As well all know, the Peoplemover was rebranded back in 1994 and reintroduced as the Tomorrowland Transit Authority (TTA). Then, in 2010, it was magically changed back to the Peoplemover. Well…sort of. The name today is the Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover. I still call it the Wedway or the Peoplemover for nostalgic reasons.

For this case study I focused mainly on Disneyland and the Walt Disney World Resort's Peoplemover prior to 1994. Call me a traditionalist, but personally, I prefer the early Tomorrowland look (right down to the even fonts) to what is now present in the parks.

In the world of fonts nothing says “Tomorrowland” like sans serif typefaces. Back when Disneyland, and even Walt Disney World, were being built, sans serif typefaces where used to convey simplicity, modernism and the future. Sans serif typefaces are fonts that lack the small features called "serifs" at the end of the strokes. The term comes from the French word sans, meaning "without".  All sans serif typefaces have relatively little stroke contrast and are highly legible as display, and with added spacing, are successful as text. Today, however, more sci-fi themed display fonts are being used throughout the land. Because sans serif fonts are plentiful in today's world, simply using one would not convey the same message as it did back in the day.

I began looking at both Wedway Peoplemover attraction posters before starting my font hunt. What is interesting about Disneyland's poster is that the designer used a typeface similar to that of the attraction’s sponsor, Goodyear, seeing how it utilized the propulsion system of rotating Goodyear tires. If you jump over to the Disney Park Attraction Posters Blog you can see a comp of Disneyland's original Wedway poster. Notice the main typeface of the Peoplemover does not resemble the Goodyear font at the time of it's conception.

 Walt Disney World's Peoplemover opted for new technology. Instead of using tires, they used state-of-the-art linear induction motors. Disney World's attraction poster uses the display font, Geometric Stencil (originally designed by the famous typographer Paul Renner), but manipulated it to look like it has been italicized.  Designers sometimes use italic fonts to imply movement or speed with their diagonal stress.  This was a simple but effective solution by the designer.  However, some may consider the use of italic fonts to convey that something is fast or speedy to be a sort of designer’s crutch. This same type treatment is then used for Disneyland's Peoplemover through the Super Speed Tunnel poster by Jim Michaelson, which was designed a few years after the creation of Disney World's Peoplemover attraction poster.

Signage and fonts are limited when it comes to the Wedway Peoplemover, but through my research and various closure signage I was able to design this simple yet futuristic case study poster. Well, that's about it for this week. Once again thanks for visiting and see you back here next week!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Retro 71

Today's bonus post is another concept design for my faux apparel line, Retro 71. Retro designs have their place in the world of Disney, especially in the consumer products division. As for theme park merchandise, they've really begun to exploit this with the vintage Epcot Center and the recently revamped classic Mickey Mouse shirts.  Disneyland's merchandising department releases more products with the flair of nostalgia than Walt Disney World's, which is most likely due to the annual passholders vs. first time vacationears debate.

Once again playing with the idea of retro (hence the name Retro 71), I recreated the Fantasyland logo from the 1981 Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom brochure. I replaced Merlin, who was used in conjunction with the logo, with a vintage image of Tinkerbell.


Out of all the logos Disney has ever used to brand Fantasyland, the 1981 logo has been my favorite by far. The type treatment is simply stunning. The 1981 brochure is one of my all time favorites and I still have a copy from my childhood to this day—you can't imagine how many times I would open up the center spread map and just stare at it and dream. The watercolor washes of the "Licorice Pizza" style artwork would whisk me away to vacations yet to be had, adventures yet to come.

I love the notion of simplicity when it comes to design, especially in apparel design. Today's market is over-saturated with highly designed, over distressed shirts: case in point, Affliction and Ed Hardy apparel. Granted these companies have made their mark—not to mention money—on the over designed, everything-but-the-kitchen-
sink on a shirt look. Personally, I feel a backlash is impending when it comes to apparel design. Currently we're beginning to see the “less is more” concept. The trend right now is large, oversized printed designs with the use of creative fonts and sayings. Also, we're seeing color usage at a minimum – only one or two colors are being used which drives the cost down in the manufacturing process. As for Disney, they have a multitude of designs when it comes to theme park apparel in order to reach a broader demographic. I just hope to see more retro designs in their upcoming product lines in the near future.

Look forward to seeing you back here this Friday! Once again thanks for visiting and have swell day!!!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Jungle Cruise

This week's case study is the world famous Jungle Cruise. When talking type treatments, the Jungle Cruise is a prime example of how fonts can really help "plus" an environment and support the storyline in further detail.

Most, if not all, the typography found on the Jungle Cruise has been hand rendered/generated. Back in the day you couldn't just jump on dafont or myfonts and easily find a distressed, aged, vintage or hand painted looking display font. Disney designers had to painstakingly paint all the copy by hand, then distress it to achieve that worn look. The process sounds amazing and is still carried out to this day for certain projects.

So if the fonts have been created by hand, how can we find the ones designers used throughout the attraction?

Well, you see, most of these hand rendered/generated fonts have characteristics of the original in which it derived from.  If we pay close attention these characteristics act as subtle clues that will help in our detective work. If you look at the main sign for Disneyland's Jungle Cruise, we begin to notice certain details such as triangular serifs, sharp pointed terminals, extended legs that drop down into the descender line and so on. These character characteristics are specific to various classifications in the world of typography such as Slab Serif, Latin, Egyptienne, Arts and Crafts, Spurred Serif, etc. These classifications reflect time periods, themes and so forth. Still with me? Good.

Most of the logos used for attractions within the parks have also been manipulated by designers. Logos usually are meant to be one of a kind and extremely unique. In order to make a logo unique designers sometimes start with a base or root font. The designer will then take that font into illustrator (or by hand) and begin to manipulate it so that it becomes unique and not so off the shelf. With the above characteristics and some basic history of type we can assume the font used for the Jungle Cruise sign isn't something we can just readily find as we see it on the marquee of the attraction.

Through my research I have come close to finding a few commercial fonts that may be the root/base font the designer used as reference. Some of the typography throughout the attraction is straight forward, while some is completely one of a kind. Next time you're in line, try to count just how many different fonts are used; the number is overwhelming. . .but not as overwhelming as Main Street USA!

Thanks again for visiting! Be sure to tune in next Friday for the another installment of the font case study posters where I'll look at another amazing Disney attraction. See you real soon!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Retro 71

So when I'm not tracking down fonts or studying graphic design used in the Disney Theme Parks, I tend to focus on theme park merchandise and Disney Consumer Products. I've had the opportunity to work with (not for) Disney Consumer Products in the past and enjoyed it a lot. . . especially studying all those fabulous style and packaging guides. Now seeing how apparel design is what I do for my day job I decided to combine my love for Disney Theme Parks and apparel design in one.

So far I've created 12 concepts for apparel all based on retro Disney. What can I say, I'm a sucker for retro?!?! My first design was based on an annual passholder logo that depicted the Disneyland logo, The Epcot Center logo and the Walt Disney World logo. 

I love getting into Illustrator and recreating these logos, not only to build my Illustrator/Creative Suite skills but also to challenge myself to see how close I can come to the original. 

In order to really capture the retro feel I was going for I decided to distress the logo with a vintage texture. Now I'm not BIG on distressing and grunge texture seeing how it's overused in today's design world and I look at it as a crutch for some designers. Just cause you throw a grunge font or a distressed texture on something doesn't mean its a good design nor is it trendy or current. But seeing how I wanted this shirt to look like it was made, purchased and worn in the mid 70's then discarded to a random thrift store, then ends up back into the hands of a true Disney fan...I figured the original design would show some wear and tear. 

Not only through the distressed texture, but with the use of water based inks (inks that are soft to the touch) and no underlays (the colors would blend into the main color of the t-shirt) the design would really come off as vintage.

The colors of this concept were chosen to reflect a Floridian evening sky, the sun setting in the west and those amazing color spots beginning to shine upon Spaceship Earth. Some of those color combinations are simply amazing!!!! Well that will pretty much do it for today.

Tune in this upcoming Friday for the next installment of the font case study posters where I'll look at another amazing Disney attraction. See you real soon!