Thursday, March 31, 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean

This week we set sail with some of the wildest fonts to ever terrorize the Spanish Main as we look at the typography of Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean. What can be said about this all-time classic that hasn't already been covered on many a Disney blog, book or fan site? 
On a personal note, Pirates of the Caribbean is my all-time favorite Disney attraction. I have many memories of my dad and I at Disney World late at night during the extended hours. We would end our nights continuously riding this classic, seeing how many times in a row we could get in. My dad loves to tell the story of how he could never keep up with me as I ran from the exit, through the gift shop and back to the entrance. The only time I would ever pause was to stop and purchase one of my MUSTS from the shop: a mini skull necklace which was made of plaster with a rhinestone “diamond” in one of the eyes. How I treasured it! Despite the countless times my parents had to buy that exact same necklace, I haven’t managed to keep a single one. I keep a weathered eye out on eBay from time to time, but have never seen one up for grabs.
The first Pirates of the Caribbean opened at Disneyland in 1967, and it was originally designed as a walk-through wax museum-like attraction. However, the plans changed when WED decided to incorporate some of the new animatronic technologies they had created for the World’s Fair. The attraction became an instant success. When Walt Disney World opened its gates in 1971, fans demanded that the show be brought to the Sunshine State. Disney World's Pirates attraction opened in 1973 with some slight modifications from the original. As we all know, most every park Disney has built from here on out has a version of this masterpiece.

When looking at the type used by designers, we see a wide variety in classification of display fonts. Most of the typography is based on classic 60's and 70's fonts with a few subtle nods to the sea fairing, scripty, pirate-looking fonts like Caslon Antique. It wasn’t until the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise that some of the typography changed, mainly at the Walt Disney World attraction, where we now see the font from the films’ titles now branding the attraction. Once again, we see our favorite font, Bookman Swash, along with some other notable 70's fonts like Columbus. Disneyland's attraction has a larger variety of typography as compared to the Walt Disney World attraction, so most of the fonts in this week’s study come from the Anaheim original.

The one thing I enjoy about the typography of the Pirates of the Caribbean attractions is the use of such dated and classic fonts. This one attraction features the works of such time-honored typographers such as William Caslon, John Baskerville and Ed Benguiat. If a Pirates attraction were designed today, I'm apt to say the designers would probably choose more aged and distressed fonts. To a type nut like me, the typography tells the story of when this attraction was created—it has a refinement that doesn't rely on gimmicks to enhance the story. It is truly one of my favorite font palettes within the Disney Parks. 
Well that about does it for this week’s case study. Tune in for more fun Designerland updates. Thanks for stopping by and have a great weekend.

Color Study


A new color palette has been added to the DisneyDesignerland Kuler account! Before you jump on over to check it out can you guess where this color palette is used?


Give up??? Find out the answer over at Disneydesignerland's Kuler page found here.

Check back for more random updates to Wonderful World of Kuler. See you guys back here on Friday for a new typography case study.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Retro 71

This week’s Retro 71 concept is my take on Disneyland's "coming soon" attraction sign for the Haunted Mansion. The sign, created by WED, was posted on the gates of the Mansion in the mid 60's. The simple wood cut sign featured the clever writings of Mr. Marty Sklar. This hand-painted sign featured a skull-bat icon at the top, with copy that advertised "post-lifetime leases” which included a "license to scare the daylights out of guests visiting the Portrait Gallery, Museum of the Supernatural, graveyard, and other happy haunting grounds."

I recreated this sign in Illustrator then changed up the body copy slightly—my version directs ghosts to contact Walt Disney World's Ghost Relations Department rather than Disneyland's. I removed the spider web icon from behind the text and placed a photo of Walt Disney World's Mansion from the early 70's that was taken through one of my all-time favorite filters in Photoshop. After that, I adjusted the Mansion photo in Illustrator to make it a vector object so that separations for screen printing films would be possible. The color palette consists of washed-out, ghostly grays and eerie whites. I have a few other color combinations for this shirt, but I feel the distressed texture and faded look lends itself to the established branding that is Retro 71. 

Well that about does it for today. Tune in this Friday for another theme park typography case study. Thanks for dropping in and hurry back!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Storybook Circus

In this week’s case study we'll be looking at a wall. What's so special about a wall you ask? Well a wall at Disney Theme Parks is usually hiding something truly amazing behind it: a new attraction, a refurbishment or even a whole new extension of Fantasyland. WDI has realized as of late that they're wasting valuable market space with just blank construction walls when they could be promoting, enticing and even teasing guests with what's about to come to the theme parks. Their solution to this problem was to theme these walls with various graphics and signage to really get the guests excited about what's to come. In this case study we'll look at one wall in particular, the Storybook Circus wall that's currently up between Fantasyland and the old walk way to Mickey's Toontown Fair.

Before we talk type, let's talk about inspiration. It seems I may have tracked down WDI's reference photo for the Storybook Circus wall. In comparing the photo with the Storybook Circus wall, I can find 13 similarities between the two, which leads me to suspect that the wall’s designer looked to this very photo for inspiration. Do you see the similarities?

We all know that I enjoy a good Slab Serif font, so when I saw this wall's teaser "billing" art I got excited. The overall graphic has a disjointed look: predominately type-oriented sections are broken up by large illustrated concept art. It’s my theory that the illustrated portions were done in Glendale and the typography portions were done by WDI in Orlando. Why do I think this? When studying type, there's a BIG difference between Glendale's campus and Orlando's WDI campus. As of late, it appears WDI Glendale has been using free fonts from such sites as and, whereas WDI Orlando tends to use professional, commercial fonts for their signage. The sections of the wall that are mainly type-heavy use a variety of classifications: Slab Serifs, Western, Tuscan, and Woodblock. These same classifications can be seen in Frontierland, which is fitting because they all have a Wild West look to them. Traveling circuses were extremely popular in the late 1800's and early 1900's—the same time period from which many of these “Western” typefaces originated. As for supporting my theory, it just so happens that all of the fonts featured on the Storybook Circus wall can be found in the Western section of the type foundry from which WDI purchased most of their commercial fonts.

In comparing the type with other vintage circus posters from the time period as well as the reference photo, the designer(s) paid a great deal of attention to detail. I hope that WDI continues the theme of a late-1800s-to-early-1900s traveling circus with the signage in this extension of Fantasyland. I'm excited to see what typographical wonders show up when this new section finally opens. Well that about does it for this week's case study. Tune in on Monday for an all new Retro 71 concept. As always, thanks for visiting and I hope to see you back real soon!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Color Study

A new color palette has been added to the DisneyDesignerland Kuler account! Before you jump on over to check it out can you guess where this color palette is used?

Give up??? Find out the answer over at Disneydesignerland's Kuler page found here.

Check back for more random updates to Wonderful World of Kuler. See you guys back here on Friday for a new typography case study.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Retro 71

This week’s Retro 71 concept is a simplistic design based on another souvenir bag from Disney Theme Parks. The bag I looked to for inspiration was used at Disneyland back in the early 80's, I believe. I had found the retro bag on the blog, Jungle is 101, and instantly fell in love with the design. More recently, two of my favorite Disney Consumer Product gurus, Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily, designed a limited edition ceramic version of a classic paper cup that featured the same design, which makes me suspect that souvenir bag could be from even further back, seeing how the ceramic cup was based off of a design from 1955.

For my take on this look, I simply replaced the icon of Sleeping Beauty's Castle with the classic retro icon of Cinderella's Castle. I kept the color palette similar to the bag design as I really enjoyed the color combinations. The clothing marker below shows the design on a simple white t-shirt however the real shirt would be a vintage ringer tee with yellow contrast banding around the arms and neckline. The simplistic design is fun and whimsical, and was classic enough to stand alone without any distressing or texture. 

Well that about does it for this installment of Retro 71. I look forward to seeing you back soon for my Designerland updates. Have a good week!

Designerland Update

Update: Yours truly has sent off his official D23 Fan Art Contest Submissions. For those of you who might not know, D23 is calling for entries for their Fan Art Contest for this upcoming D23 Expo. The theme of this year’s show is 101 Dalmatians in honor of the 50th anniversary of this time-honored full-length animated classic. Members can submit up to three different concepts in hopes of getting selected as one of 25 artists by Disney Archive Officials to showcase their artistic skills at the D23 Expo.
I really enjoyed participating in the first D23 Fab 5 Fan Art Contest. All three of my concepts were accepted into the show but I only picked one to fine-tune and send out. The reason I only picked that one is that I already had a piece that had been accepted into the D23 Donald Duck Tribute Contest. Also, it costs a bit of money to actually buy all the materials needed to pack the paintings up and ship them from Indiana to California, and sadly, I could only afford to send two paintings out. You might have seen my work if you attended the first D23 Expo. If not, here are my 2009 D23 paintings for your viewing pleasure.

Unfortunately, I did not win that coveted Duskster award, but my painting was published in the Winter 2009 D23 issue, so I still felt pretty honored. My Fab Five entry went on display in one of the Disney Archive offices for a short stint, which was rather flattering. I'm excited and hopeful that my concepts will be accepted into this year’s show. I will keep you posted—keep your fingers crossed for me.
Speaking of shows, I also got accepted into the 2nd Annual Unofficial Haunted Mansion Tribute show held by Halloween Town at the Parlour Gallery in Burbank. I've been working hard on my painting over the past week, and am really excited to showcase my work with some of the best macabre artists around. After the show opens, I'll be sure to post my painting on here for you folks to see. Until then, my concept will remain unseen.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride

This week we're merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily on our way to nowhere in particular as we look at the terrific typography of the Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.
Mr. Toad's Wild Ride is one of the classic dark rides of Fantasyland. It's one of the last remaining attractions from Disneyland's opening day back in 1955. The attraction is based on the Disney short, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, and loosely based on the classic tale of The Wind in the Willows. Disneyland wasn't the only park to feature this attraction—Walt Disney World had its own version which was much larger and boasted a two track system. Sadly, on September 7th of 1998, Winnie the Pooh evicted J. Thaddeus Toad, Esq. from Toad Hall. To this day, fans are still upset over the loss. Thaddeus, however, still roams around the park to this day. You can see him handing over the deed to Mr. Owl in The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh; a few retro t-shirt designs pay homage to the attraction, and at one time you could see a grave marker dedicated to the loss of the beloved character over at the Haunted Mansion’s pet cemetery.

As with any attraction in Fantasyland, you’ll notice the heavy hand of Fraktur, Blackletter, Gothic, Medieval and Old English fonts, which is fitting to the themes of fantasy and fairy tales, not to mention Mr. Toad. The classic novel of The Wind in the Willows is set in a pastoral version of England, the country from which many of these type classifications originated. Amongst the classic typography of the attraction, designers incorporated wacky and fun display fonts to carry out the theme of a wild ride. Unlike Walt Disney World's version, Disneyland's typography consists strictly of classic font specimens and doesn't incorporate the silly and fun display fonts. When WDI remodeled Disneyland’s Fantasyland back in the early eighties, all of the classic dark ride attractions received new facades to better fit their respective themes. It appears Tony Baxter nixed any crazy display fonts that broke the theme and tight integration of the story. 

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride will always be my favorite classic Disney dark ride. I have fond memories of me and my mother speeding through Toad Hall and the British countryside. Each time I visit Disneyland, it's one the highlights of my trip. Well that does it for this week’s installment of typography from the parks. Tune in for another fun Retro 71 concept and a few new Kuler palettes. Thanks for stopping by and have a swell day.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Color Study


A new color palette has been added to the DisneyDesignerland Kuler account! Before you jump on over to check it out can you guess where this color palette is used?

Give up??? Find out the answer over at Disneydesignerland's Kuler page found here.

Check back for more random updates to Wonderful World of Kuler. See you guys back here on Friday for a new typography case study.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Retro 71

This week’s Retro 71 concept is based on one of the early Walt Disney World Resort logos. The logo depicts Cinderella Castle, the Contemporary Resort with the Monorail, and a sailboat, which I assume is sailing on either the Seven Seas Lagoon or Bay Lake. I've always enjoyed this logo, and I fell even more in love with it when 2719 Hyperion posted the logo as a desktop wallpaper download back in 2007. The color palette that designer Dan Cunningham used was simply amazing.

Using the wallpaper, I recreated the logo in illustrator, put a few outer strokes on it so that it could stand alone, and added some distressing and texture. I think it reads well in t-shirt form, what do you guys think? 

 Well that does it for this week’s concept. Come back soon for more vintage vacation apparel, typography from the parks and our new feature, the wonderful world of kuler. Thanks for dropping by.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Color Study


A new color palette has been added to the DisneyDesignerland Kuler account! Before you jump on over to check it out can you guess where this color palette was used?

I'll give you a hint: it's an early color palette that has since then be revamped. 

Give up??? Find out the answer over at Disneydesignerland's Kuler page found here.

Check back for more random updates to Wonderful World of Kuler. See you guys back here on Monday for a new Retro 71 concept.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


It's a two-for-one typography treat this week as we look at the gone-but-not-forgotten Disney Skyway, so let's jump aboard for a one-way trip into this week’s case study!
The Skyway was a simple gondola lift attraction that ushered guests back and forth between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. The first Skyway was built at Disneyland and tunneled through the icy slopes of the majestic Matterhorn. Disneyland wasn't the only park to feature this attraction: both Walt Disney World and Tokyo Disneyland had Skyways of their own. Sadly, the Skyway at Disneyland was closed in the early 90's, and like falling dominoes, Tokyo Disneyland closed theirs a few years later, followed shortly by Walt Disney World.
The Skyway still has some presence in the parks, but that's all about to change shortly. The Skyway station still sits to this day in Fantasyland at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Walt Disney World's station is about to undergo a major refurbishment to house larger restrooms, feature lush landscapes and possibly some water features as well. I'm looking forward to what the Imagineers have in mind, but I’m also hoping they'll retain a subtle nod to the original attraction.

Now on to the type. Let's start by looking at the Fantasyland Skyway first. Like all attractions in Fantasyland, the Skyway used decorative display fonts such as Old English, Blackletter and Fraktur, which all combine the themes of English/European fairytales with a Swiss edge to convey the theme of a gondola taking us high into the snowy alps. Once again, the designers have used more German-based fonts to represent Switzerland. Swiss typography does get featured—just not in Fantasyland.
The Tomorrowland Skyway Station used only one classification of fonts, sans serif. The main font used on the signage was the classic typeface Helvetica, which was designed by typographer Max Miedinger back in 1957 in none other than Switzerland. Various weights and sizes where incorporated on the signage along with another popular yet overused typeface, Impact. A few decorative futuristic fonts made their appearance later on in the years. One specific typeface was used to brand Walt Disney World's second gate.

I miss the Skyway—it was a great way to get off your feet for a few minutes and get a bird’s eye view of the park. It was a small thrill as well—I remember being scared as a child that the cables would snap. I even miss those out-of-place pylons positioned right in the middle of Fantasyland. One thing I do not miss is seeing the unfinished tops of the show buildings within the park—it was the first time I had ever seen the illusion revealed. Ever since, I've been interested in the art of illusioneering, if you will, which has been perfected by those mad geniuses over on Flower Street.
Well that about does it for today. I look forward to seeing you back on Monday for a new Retro 71 design. Thanks for stopping by and have a great weekend.

Color Study

This week I'm rolling out a new feature for Designerland: The Wonderful World of Kuler. What's Kuler, you ask? Kuler is a program designed by Adobe that allows designers to create special color palettes, save them and share them with others through extensions in the Adobe Creative Suite. With a BFA in painting and a few color theory courses under my belt, I'm obsessed with color. You didn't think typography was the only thing I enjoyed, did ya?  My goal is simply to highlight the various color palettes used within the parks. Without further ado I give you our first color palette, Walt Disney World's The Haunted Mansion facade.

There are actually tons of colors used within the character paint for the Mansion, so these are just a few of the colors present within that spectrum. I hope to showcase a few other palettes used within the Haunted Mansion further down the road, so stay tuned.

So the next time you’re having trouble picking out colors for a project, be it a brochure design or painting your home, just jump on over to Kuler. To access the color palettes within CS, simply open Kuler in your extensions and search for “disneydesignerland”. I hope you all enjoy this new feature and get some use out of it—I know I will! 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Retro 71

This week’s Retro 71 concept is based on the Magic Kingdom logo from the 80's. 
This logo is my personal favorite ever used to brand the Happiest Place on Earth. The logo uses the classic font Bookman Swash, which we all know by now Disney loved in the early years. Designers have manipulated it to create a unique, one-of-a-kind logo. 

When it comes to logo design, you can't just pick a simple font and typeset it—you really need to change the font and make it your own. The goal is to make it almost unrecognizable, especially to other designers. Case in point: the apparel company Juicy Couture recently filed a lawsuit against another apparel company for stealing their logo. However, the Juicy Couture logo isn’t even a one-of-a-kind logo—it's a simple text typeset in a standard variation of a classic, free font. Juicy Couture can't copyright a classic font. If they could, that would mean no one could ever use said typeface without suffering legal consequences. Juicy Couture should have either hired a professional typographer to design a font just for them, or paid a graphic designer to plus the existing font. With no modification to the font whatsoever, it really comes as no surprise that another company would design a similar logo. Disney would never stand for such complacency. 
As for this week’s design, the color palette is a simple, one-color print in yellow placed on a red shirt. The shirt itself would probably be more of an eco heather red made by Alternative Apparel instead of a solid red. I felt the color combination was accurate to how Disney used the logo on their theme park brochures and signage. Again, texture and vintage distressing implies the retro theme that runs throughout the entire Retro 71 apparel line.

Well that does it for this week’s Retro 71 installment. See you on Friday for another thrilling journey into the wonderful world of park typography. See you then!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Matterhorn Bobsleds

Guten Tag, y'all! This week we’ll take a brisk look at the typography used throughout Disneyland's Matterhorn Bobsleds. Walt Disney came up with the concept for the attraction while visiting the Swiss Alps on vacation with his family. Once back home in the states, Walt tasked his Imagineers with creating a Matterhorn of his own. Stepping up technology, as Imagineers do, the Matterhorn was the first roller coaster to implement a tubular steel continuous track system. This innovation ushered in a whole new era of thrill ride capabilities.

Many of the typefaces and fonts used throughout the attraction are derived from English, German and Irish lineage . . . while the actual Matterhorn is located in Switzerland. Regardless of whether or not it is completely accurate, the typography does give an air of authenticity to the overall theme.

Most of the typefaces used on the signage are display fonts. The signs feature a few classic Serifs and italicized Sans Serifs to convey the speed of the bobsleds barreling through the icy slopes of the mountain. However, the two most prominent classifications are Blackletter and Calligraphic.
Blackletter typefaces are heavy, bold, angular fonts derived from medieval script writing, and are Disney’s fonts of choice for most anything and everything in Fantasyland. Blackletter typefaces can break down even further into five subcategories: Bastarda, Fraktur, Quadrata, Rotunda, and Textura.
Calligraphic fonts are hand-drawn fonts. Typically gentle and light in weight, these are designed to mimic the traditional quill-and-ink flowing script found in early monastic manuscripts. Two main variations appear throughout the Matterhorn Bobsleds: Uncial and Jackboot. Uncial fonts are more consistent with what you’d expect from calligraphy. While most are Irish-based, some can be traced as far back as the late Roman Empire.  Jackboot fonts are bolder, heavier variations that are crisp, sharp and usually italicized. These make for a perfect transition between the themes of Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. 


While the typography used may not be historically accurate in terms of origin and locale, Disney designers knew what they where doing. These interesting and unique typefaces blend together into a font palette that truly evokes the Swiss Alps.

Well that does if for this week - thanks for dropping by and I look forward to seeing you back on Monday for a new Retro 71 concept. Auf Wiedersehen!