Wednesday, September 02, 2009

A Look at Nature's Wonderland!

Today's post is a special treat for those of you who love Nature's Wonderland. And maps! Chris Merritt (the Imagineer who was the art director on the restoration of the Sleeping Beauty Castle walk-thru dioramas) generously allowed me to post a scan of this beautiful map of Nature's Wonderland that he made.

Chris said that this was done strictly for fun after being inspired by Sam McKim's souvenir maps of Disneyland, and wow, what amazing results! Here's what he wrote to me:

"I drew and inked the map sometime in the mid 90s - probably 1995 I think. Dave Mumford very graciously helped me out with some early track layouts that showed the exact animal and building locations - including the elevations of the various rainbow caverns designs (done by Claude Coats - a real hero of mine). I think maybe Dave wanted to see if I could pull it off. I inked the map - and showed it to my friend Leon Janzen, of The "E" Ticket Magazine. Leon and I had been buddies since I started going to CalArts in 1990 - and we used to hang out and talk theme park history, look at old videos, etc. When it came time for the Janzens to do a Nature's Wonderland issue in 1998, Leon asked me if they could use it - but since they had started printing in color, would I finish it off by coloring it?"


"I was a bit nervous to do this - but I got some help from my co-worker at WDI, Wes Cook. Wes was a real old pro - he was working with us on Tokyo DisneySea at the time (he designed the Caldera, which is the centerpiece of the Mysterious Island land there). Anyway - Wes is a real unsung hero - but was an amazing artist. Just so you know - he designed quite a few things for Sea World San Diego in the 60s (including the "Punchy's Hawaiian Punch Band" animatronics), worked for Sid and Marty Krofft on H.R. Pufnstuf (he designed the Wheely Bird among other things), designed the original McDonald's characters (Ronald, Grimace, Hamburglar, etc). One of his last big jobs was as the main designer of Seuss Landing at Islands Of Adventure. He was a hell of a character. So - after hours, he helped me with a color approach. I did the rainbow caverns section in fluorescent paints, so they would glow under a black light if you had one on the original."


I asked Chris about the materials he used to make the map: "I used a Japanese-style tiny nibbed pen back in the 90s (I use strictly rapidographs for inking now) for the line over non-photo blue col-erase pencil.For the color I used various pastels, fluorescent paint, and some markers."


And how long did it take? "... I have no idea. I am notoriously terrible at estimating how long it takes me to do something - but slowly over several weeks in my spare time for both the drawing and the color is the best I can come up with. It took a long time to work out the layout, and how to cheat it into a sort-of box shape."

I think we can all agree that he did an AMAZING job!


And as if that wasn't enough, I thought I would add scans of the Nature's Wonderland area from four different souvenir "fun maps". This first one is from Sam McKim's 1958 map, which is actually pre-Nature's Wonderland. At this time it was just the "Rainbow Cavern's Mine Train".


Ah, here we go! Here is the 1964 map with Mr. McKim's charming interpretation of Nature's Wonderland. Although it is (by necessity) much simpler than Chris' map, all of the essentials are there. I believe that this is the last year that Disney used Sam McKim's drawing for their souvenir maps. Or was 1965 the last year?


Here's a 1976 map, which I believe was painted by Colin Campbell (please correct me if I am mistaken). It basically appears to have been traced from Sam McKim's drawing, although the style is considerably different. This is the map that I remember owning as a kid, spending hours absorbing the details and imagining myself at the park.


By 1983, Nature's Wonderland was gone, replaced by the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. I like BTMRR, really... but I can't help wishing that it didn't have to replace what I consider one of Walt Disney's (and Imagineering's) triumphs: NATURE'S WONDERLAND!


MANY MANY THANKS to Chris Merritt, I am very grateful that he consented to let me share his fantastic artwork with you.

30 comments:

mr wiggins said...

WOW!!!! Awesome post, Major! :D

Chiana_Chat said...

Chris, this is awesome! I too love those maps and can't guess how many hours I have looked at them. So for the second time (Sleeping Beauty ala Earle being the other) you have a di-rect line to me heart here. And again I think you hit it just right. Thanks for sharing it, know I'll be looking at it a bunch!

In fact I still have a couple of those old maps. One I kept aside (yeah, even as a kid I thought to do that - maybe I should run an archive?) and the other I put on my wall at one point, and painted spots of that white/greenish glow-in-the-dark paint where it looked like light should be or would look cool. :)

Thank you too Major for this superb post!

Jim said...

Chris- Excellent work. Your palette choices were so evocative of the McKim's orginal map that I thought I was looking at my vintage 1965 map. A technical question: Do you apply colors to the pencil layout before inking the line work? Or do you utilize waterproof ink and layer the washes over the top? And finally, have you ever considered a updated full park version? Pleeeeeeeeeze!
Thanks for sharing your work.

Thufer said...

excellent post. a great look at those maps.

Nancy said...

thanks to Chris for sharing your beautiful work, and thanks to David for a wonderful job of showing us all the awesome detail!! :D

Major Pepperidge said...

Wow Chiana, your old map sounds cool, why didn't I think of that?

Jim, I believe that Chris is currently traveling, so I will try to answer for him. He made a print of his original line artwork and applied the color to that (and he's never been entirely happy with it). As for him doing a full park map, don't hold your breath! Remember, he did this map for fun in his spare time. Now along with his job he has a wife and kids and has forgotten what spare time is.

Sereina said...

Love the maps!!!

Chris Jepsen said...

Outstanding work again, Chris! I'd love to see you do a "fun map" version of Knott's Ghost Town circa 1970. Or is that one of the gems awaiting us in your book?

Thanks for another great post, Major!

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. Love Nature's Wonderland.

Viewliner Ltd. said...

Fantastic post Major. Beautiful maps with great artwork.

outsidetheberm said...

Chris really is a master. And his upcoming Knott's book will reflect that, no doubt! It's going to be amzing.

Thank you, Chris - and thank you, Major!

Anonymous said...

Wow...what a post. Helped me re-live the caverns in my mind's eye. I always loved them when running the train on a hot day. We really lost something that I'm afraid is irreplacable in today's fast action, short duration and high capacity era.

George Taylor said...

Wow...

I was amazed when I saw the map in The E-Ticket.

It is fantastic!

Anonymous said...

Wow, this is the best. Thanks so much for these images.

I had that 1976 Map too, but it is now lost.

Vintage Disneyland Tickets posted a great scan of it some time back.

I love this and am glad you are doing it. All the best.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic post! I think I might still have my 1976 map, it hung on my wall until I was 'too old' for it. YOU FOOL what was I thinking!?!?

Thanks so much for your outstanding posts.

Chris Merritt said...

Thanks everyone - the kudos are very nice of you! I'm still unhappy with the color - I'd do it very differently now!

Jim - I used to use a non-photo blue pencil to get a rough, then very lightly erase just enough so I can see what is underneath (as the lead can gum up the ink line) - then go to ink. These days I use a very light non-photo blue pencil that I rapidograph & brush right on top on - that way the ink is waterproof. I can also get better line quality this way.

The color for this was done on top of a cold-pressed copy of the ink line - but these days (obviously) I'd scan it & do the color in Photoshop.

I'd love to do a classic Disneyland one - but have never been asked. Nina Rae Vaughn did some very nice ones in the 90s, though (I assisted her on about 1/3 of the Tokyo DisneySea fun map). I did do the "Pirate's Lair" one in the McKim style in 2007. Not sure if it is still handed out - but you can see a scan here: http://www.willcad.org/maps/dlr/misc/2008-03/dlr_pirates_2008-03_front.jpg

The chances of me doing a Disneyland one right now are slim - as I am in Singapore working on the new Universal park here...

Chris J - I actually have done a few Knott's fun maps - one for Bear-y Tales, Kingdom of the Dinosaurs, Wacky Soap Box Racers & an overall of the Roaring 20's/Airfield section. They are in black and white though - I don't know if I have scans on my hard drive or not - but I can look if you'd like.

All best & thanks to Major for posting it!

Chiana_Chat said...

Chris Merritt - would love to see any you'd like to share. I vividly remember & love the Knotts Bear-y Tales and Wacky Soap Box racers! Seems weird to me somehow, new parks like in Singapore while Knotts has languished. But, wish you lots of luck and fun there!

I'd also be interesting to see how you'd do the map posted here now. It looks great to me. Do you mean maybe a bit more... brown/green underlying palette? Just curious. :)

Chris Merritt said...

I guess I'd not have the overall colors (minus the caverns bit) be so similar in tone. I'd certainly tone down some of the background foliage and try to make icons like the Rainbow Ridge buildings and some of the animals pop a bit more...

I'll try to break into my external hard drive later today & look for those other maps. Unsure if I have them here or not - but I copied a lot of data over before I moved here. In any case, Major will have to agree to put them up...

Major Pepperidge said...

Chris, you know that I would be happy to post anything you were willing to share!

I knew the Nature's Wonderland map would be a hit...!

StoryBookLand said...

Major,
I never had a chance to experience Nature's Wonderland. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad had been added by my first vist as a kid.
Major, I am a bit embarassed to admit that I have been enjoying your blog for about 2 years and have never said a word. I am a humble Disneyland enthusiast and I would give anything to travel back in time to experience the attractions of yesteryear. All I can think of to say now is, "Thank you, thank you" from the bottom of my disney lovin' heart! Because of you and Chris, I was able to turn on my Disneyland 50th Anniversary cd collection, (jump to Nature's Wonderland, of course)open Chris' map and follow the ride as it would have been experienced back then. Not gonna lie... a little choked up. Very Special! Sniff.

Ok, I'm ok now :)

I know that you say that you will run out of pictures someday,(please don't) so I want you to know that you always bring a smile to my day with your awesome pictures and your coocky sense of humor. I have learned so much more about Disneyland than I ever thought I could.

Many thanks and much respect,
StoryBookLand

Nick Brown said...

Major, thanks so much for putting the whole map up. I would so like a more detailed scan of the entire map!

That 1983 map is puzzling -- did BTRR exist before they put in Big Thunder trail to Fantasyland? Or did this artist sketch come out before BTRR opened? I remember an old Disneyland map that showed Independence Street (or was is Edison square) in detail ... but it was never built!

Chris, pretty plea$e would it be po$$ible to obtain a high-den$ity $can of your complete map?

Chris Merritt said...

Yes - but no need for all the $$$$$$!

Anonymous said...

This is amazing!! Chris you should sell prints of this. I would love to have one. Any chance of that happening?

Regards,
Marcel Bonner

Major Pepperidge said...

Wow, thanks for your amazing comment, StoryBookLand! I enjoy doing the blog, but knowing that it makes people like you happy definitely gives me inspiration to keep on going. I think I've got enough stuff to continue for a while (but not forever, unfortunately!).

Chris, seriously, if you printed out a large, high quality (think Disneyland "fun map" size) version of your map, I'll bet you could sell more than a few of them!

Fellow Calartian said...

Wow, this is great! I rode the Mine Train so many times in my youth I can still summon the sights and sounds (and even smell of the Rainbow Caverns) pretty vividly with a little help... And this beautiful work sure did the trick. So glad you did this Chris. And ditto Storybookland's sentiments Major for such a consistently outstanding blog.

Kevin said...

That Chris Merritt is a real talented guy--I'm taking a keen interest in following his career!

Matt Hunter Ross said...

Chris - excellent work! I'm a big fan!

These are the kinds of projects that get me so inspired to not only visit the park (and reminisce of the "better" days), but to strive to work in the field myself.

Thanks so much for sharing this incredible map! Although time is obviously short for you, you should consider creating a blog that showcases more of your work. Lastly, I too would happily pay you for a high-res copy of the map - great work, and good luck at Universal!

Major: Thanks so much for the great post - showcasing the maps through the different eras. Very cool! Keep up the good work!

Nicholas Tucker said...

Amazing!

Mike Kendall said...

Around 1965 I was at my uncles house where he was painting the Disneyland map.. All I can remember it was huge, so huge he told me it had to be taken out the second story window back to Disney imagineering to be turned into the fold up map we all loved to look at as kids(and yes I have a copy still to this day, but I should have him sign it, a piece of history)...He once brought his litho copy of his painting of the Disney Japan .. I don't know if that was for a map or just a painting for Disney, but he painted himself in the picture riding in a hot air balloon over Disney japan.. I know he told me, (which map I can't remember) he would fly over the resort with a photographer and have him take the pictures he would then go back and let his imagination go to work...My uncle Colin Campbell

Bob Weaver said...

Chris,
Thanks for doing such a fantastic job on the map and making it available for us. Mine Train thru Nature's Wonderland is my all-time favorite attraction of Disneyland. I can only hope that they will rebuild it someday. Your map is a work of art in and of itself.