Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Mermaid Color Guide, 1969

Today I am proud to present some very rare vintage Disneyland artwork from the collection of GDB friend Mike Cozart! I keep imagining some giant warehouse (like the one at the end of "Indiana Jones") where Mike keeps all of his amazing goodies.

After Chicken of the Sea ended their sponsorship of the Pirate Ship in Fantasyland, they needed to alter some of the decorations, including the elaborate bas relief on the stern of the ship. It has a simplified "Mary Blair" vibe; one might think that more detailed paint was necessary, but I'm guessing that the sculptural details (hair, scales, etc) helped provide shadows that added lots of depth and complexity.

Very neat that the artwork was approved and signed by none other than John Hench!

I've been unable to find a truly nice shot of the mermaid after her redo - the vast majority of my images are pre-1969, and the relative few from after that date don't show the back. I do have this one picture from 1972, which I zoomed in on. At least it's something!

Here's a gorgeous photo, borrowed from Kevin Kidney's blog (with permission), the best shot of the original paint job that I have ever seen. What a thing of beauty!

Mike included details of two stamps on the back of the artwork, which is interesting.

The color guide was painted by Ken Chapman, who also was responsible for the famous Haunted Mansion attraction poster (based on drawings by Marc Davis of course)!

THANKS SO MUCH to Mike Cozart for sharing this cool artwork!


Nanook said...

YES - thanks so much, Mike, for sharing this artwork. It's so nice to see the metamorphosis of a project take shape.

And thanks to you too, Major.

Melissa said...


Chuck said...

Awesome, Mike. Thanks!

TokyoMagic! said...

Thanks for sharing that artwork, Mike!

I wonder how they altered the original Mermaid? Did they just take a chisel to her "top bun" and then sand down the diamonds on her body?

Stu29573 said...

Was she really wood, or was she, perhaps, fiberglass? I'm pretty sure meringue wouldn't have worked. Yes, I did have to look up how to spell "meringue." The lengths I go to for this blog!
Also, I prefer her as a redhead.
Fun stuff today!

Stefano said...

Thanks to Mike and the Major, seeing the design process can be as magic as the finished work.

Wonder why the bow mermaid was removed after 1969, when they kept a modified stern siren.

Also in 1969, Disney released a record album with 11 page book, "Misty the Mischievous Mermaid", which seemed like a promotion for a movie that was never made. In keeping with a tradition through Ariel, Misty too had red hair, styled in a very 60s flip that kept its shape underwater.

Jason Schultz said...

Thanks for sharing, Mike! By the time it was removed in 1982, very little was still painted: http://bp0.blogger.com/_3jV5FcVqpE8/R7ZXY02hkBI/AAAAAAAAANE/Gie0-QvMkRk/s1600-h/10.jpg.

JC Shannon said...

It was a really cool piece of history. Thanks Mike for sharing your art with us. I love a good Disneyland history story. When I get my Extinct Attractions Park going, the first day I will begin construction of my pirate ship. Instead of boring old sandwiches, I will serve up some frozen delights. Tuna popsicles, rocky tuna ice cream, and my world famous albacore split. Yum. Now that's an E Ticket if I ever saw one. Thanks Mike and Major.

"Lou and Sue" said...

I, too, prefer the redhead look! But they are both adorable mermaids.

I find it fascinating that no matter what the subject is, regarding Disneyland - whether it be a tree or fence or mermaid - there's always a Jr. Gorilla who has LOTS of interesting information to share about it. Or, in Mike's case, he usually HAS it! Thank you, Mike, for sharing this artwork!

Ask any mermaid you happen to see,
Who's the best blogger?
Major of GDB!

Anonymous said...

This is very cool stuff. "inside baseball" indeed.

Major, I thought we saw a photo of the back sculpt without color, or was that a Daveland post? I seem to recall the consensus was that it was wood, not plastic, but i am probably wrong.

I always thought the blonde mermaid looked like Tinkerbelle's sister, and that she was a good fit for the Clipper.

Red hair proto-Ariel is fine too. Interesting how much that character resembles the later movie version. Disney's institutional memory is vast, wide and deep.


Anonymous said...

Forgot to say thanks to Mike Cozart for sharing his personal collection!

And Kevin Kidney too for the excellent photo of the stern!

And Major for collecting it all in one spot!


Bu said...

Great photo, story and artwork. it looks like Chicken of the Sea wanted to see more skin since Ms. Mermaid went from a one piece to a couple of shells! And it looks like the 2021 logo that she went back to a one piece. Ahhhh....the details! It was sad to see that boat go, but there wasn't a lot of "boo hoo's" at the park. That ship had termites holding it together- or that was the word on the street anyway. It WAS a BIG boo hoo to all of us to see Skull Rock go! That was one of the coolest things in the Park- (in temperature and style.) At night it was especially extra cool. When I went to the Euro Disneyland construction site I was sooo excited when my gal pal drove me to see the NEW skull rock!...and I have to laugh...everything was just a giant ball of mud!...in fact...it was alllll mud...there was no semblance of a rock of any type. It was like the Matterhorn when the Matterhorn was a pile of dirt. LOL. Mermaids are awesome, and are a big part of Disney culture- everyone loves Ariel, but hardly anyone refers to "Splash"...Touchstone's first movie and it was a BIG deal at the time- as the company was finally making some $$. I visited Dave Smith at the studio one afternoon when they were filming Splash and went on to the set where there was a giant fish tank and a soggy mermaid fin in there...it was actually kind of gross looking and the fish tank was all foggy and not clean...looked like a dead tuna in an old jar in your backyard. "The magic of Hollywood". Dave was a very kind, generous and soft spoken guy- who showed me all sorts of treasures when they were kind of in a big pile of stuff in his very small and exploding warehouse in the Roy O. Disney building. We walked all over the campus and the lot that day...I think he took me to lunch in the commissary...and I wish I had a recorder as he had many stories to tell! We kept in touch through my employment and we would always say our hello's at company functions. This was before email so all communication went through interoffice envelopes or phone calls. He was a genuinely nice guy with a wonderful sense of humor. He could dispel all of the mythical stories that went around at that time! (you think there are a lot now...) Re: Chicken of the Sea: The Van Camp family were the owners of the cannery- located in Terminal Island in the Port of LA. Around the corner from Marineland (kind of) I walked past their house on my way to school. I thought it was the Van DE Camp family back then...Van DE Camps was a pastry/cake company....when I found out the Van Camps were all about tuna and other "yucky" things- and not sweets, I quickly lost interest in those Van Camps! Their house was nice though :) I drone on...thanks for reading if you got this far....

K. Martinez said...

Wonderful post today. I love pics, videos and text showing/explaining the process of what it takes to create, design and build the things we love at the Disney theme parks. Especially when it comes down to the minute details like this. Thanks for sharing your artwork with with us, Mike.

Anonymous said...

Mike Cozart & Major- Thanks for providing & posting these cool pictures. The sculpted "fantail" artwork was very impressive. From what I have read, most or all of it was plaster. There is some information in the comments in this blog post (caution- there are pictures of the ship meeting its demise)-


Is there any information as to what happened with the mermaid figurehead, after it was removed?


Melissa said...

And her heiress, if course, is the Ariel figurehead in the Magic Kingdom:

Chuck said...

That story about the loss of the stern details always makes my heart hurt.

Thanks for sharing the color details, Mike!

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I am mostly jealous that Mike has this in his personal collection!!

Melissa, for sure.

Chuck, I am going to offer Mike $25 (in CASH), how can he resist?

TokyoMagic!, I was wondering that too. I assume she was fiberglass, but they can sand and patch fiberglass pretty much like wood. I miss that top bun!

Stu29573, I can’t say for certain, but I would bet dollars to donuts that she was cast in fiberglass after being sculpted in clay - that’s how they did the figurehead version of the mermaid. And I wouldn’t have known how to spell “meringue” either!

Stefano, I have wondered the same thing! Why not just repaint and modify her? But she was completely removed. I wonder if she wound up in a dumpster? It hurst just to think of it. Or maybe it went to the Chicken of the Sea headquarters. “Misty the Mischievous Mermaid”, wow, I have never heard of that one!

Jason, ah yes, I remember that photo now. Not sure how I feel about that paint job. Why is the turtle’s shell tomato red? Probably because whoever painted it didn’t realize what it was.

Jonathan, I wish I had some sculpting ability, I’d love to try to sculpt a small version of that bas relief (the original one, that is). And you need to serve something called “Tuna Surprise”. “What’s in it?”. “IT’S A SURPRISE!”. Mostly floor sweepings and a can of old tuna, little do they know. Aw, thanks for the nice words!

JG, Early on the back sculpture looked like carved wood, but I don’t believe that it really was. I am only guessing, however, maybe somebody out there knows something more than me (it could happen!!). Chicken of the Sea has redesigned their mermaid so that she is generic and amateurish looking. I didn’t really think about the resemblance to Ariel, but it is definitely there. Yes, thanks to both Mike and Kevin!

Bu, I think the mermaids (the fake ones, not the living breathing human mermaids) were actually topless. Missing some details, but still pretty surprising for Disneyland. I wonder if they ever got complaints from the Puritanical guests? I have heard that the boat was in dire shape, but they built it once, couldn’t they do it again? And use more permanent materials?? I’ve seen pictures of the Disneyland Paris Skull Rock, it didn’t look like a pile of mud - it looked much more like layers of rock that had weathered into a skull shape. But you saw it in person! Cool that you got to go behind the scenes for “Splash”, that was a big movie for Disney. Maybe their first PG film? Not sure about that. I used to walk past the Archives when I worked at the studio, but never even tried to go in. I figured they weren’t going to let me walk around and open cabinets! It was neat eating in that historic commissary though.

K. Martinez, it’s kind of surprising to me how simple the color guide is - but I guess by that point they had it down to a streamlined process. I wonder if there were other different color suggestions out there? Maybe they wound up in the trash!!

DW, oh, plaster, I didn’t even think of that. Makes sense - probably cheaper, and used by movie studios regularly for sets. Yes, those photos of the pirate ship being destroyed are heartbreaking! I’d love to know what happened to the figurehead. Is it in some Imagineer’s den?

Melissa, aha! Thank you for that link! I had no idea.

Chuck, me too. I’d love to know how they managed to screw that up so drastically.


Glad everyone enjoyed seeing this piece. I was happy to share it. The details of the ship like the figure head and aft detail for chicken of the sea sponsorship was sculpted in clay by imagineer Chris Mueller - who also sculpted the famous Haunted Mansion Gate plaque. Before Disney , Mueller did a great deal of sculpting for Hollywood - including the design of the Creature From The Black Lagoon. The final pieces were done in old style “goop and cloth” Fiberglass . To alter the design details could have been sanded down , filled in or details planted on as needed. Fiberglass is lightweight and sturdy - for a time anyhow. Even under primers and paints , it would eventually get brittle baking in the hot California sun. Much of the original 1955 wood on the galleon had been replace with concrete and Fiberglas. And there had been plans early in the New Fantasyland development to rebuild the ship ( slightly smaller ) and skull rock Grotto as a separate ticked attraction ( tickets still existed when it was being planed ) it would have also featured snack service in the area but not a restaurant - in plans it’s label “ pirate juice bar” the design was also proposed for inclusion at Tokyo Disneyland and WED hoped that Oriental Land Company would say yes and would be paying for its design and development - and Disneyland could get the same thing at a much cheaper cost. But OLC declined it.
It’s hard to imagine Disney being strapped for money , but it was in the early 80’s as EPCOT CENTER , TOKYO DISNEYLAND , and NEW FANTASYLAND were all underway at the same time - but Disney was . Lots of things that were completely designed and blueprinted to be constructed were ultimately left out of NEW FANTASYLAND. Interestingly Chris Mueller who did the ship detail sculpting came out of retirement to to sculpting for EPCOT CENTER - especially for World Showcase - and so much of the details done for WORLD SHOWCASE were used on the facades of NEW FANTASYLAND.

As to what became of the Chicken if the Sea Mermaid figurehead : I don’t know. Sometimes details or props that were made for an attraction’s sponsor are sent to them if that’s specified or if they request it - usually anything like that after the end of a sponsors lease is in the way or “toxic waste” to Disney ( or any studio) I’ve seen notes on rehab drawings by Harvey Gillet - he arranged corporate sponsorships for Disneyland in the 50’s thru 60’s and he sometimes would hand write things like “ return to GD” , “save for Sunkist “ , “ return sponsor ID” etc.
but things have also been junked.


On a side note: there is a kind of architectural detail plaster Disney ( and at one time real buildings) used in the early days and it has a composite in it to add strength and it can be done similar to Fiberglas- but isn’t as strong for large flat expanses . But for example the corbel brackets on the Haunted Mansion were made from that architectural plaster and over time were slowly replaced with Fiberglas . By the BIG mansion overhaul in 1994/95 any plaster prices were replaced with Fiberglas- New Orleans Square’s was replaced once the early 90’s.

MAJOR: 25.00 huh? Wound you consider 30.00? If you knew how much similar type vintage WED art I had at one time ..... but sold or trade so much of it over the decades to fund my attraction poster addiction. Some pieces I really regret having let go..... especially for how little I let them go for - compared to what they are selling for now as the show up again at auctions like Van Eaton , Hollywood Treasures etc.... And signs and props too.

I was lucky to be working with Disney when Eisner and Pressler were forcing long time employees were being forced to retire - and I was meeting so many of them from Disneyland and WDI . And many had been saving things - lots of things ...... and they wanted to get rid of it as many of them started retirement or moved outta state . I don’t think there was EBAY then - if there was no of us knew about it . Despite of what I did let go , I’m happy with what I saved , but there’s always that other thing a collector is looking for ..... that remains elusive you hope shows up at a garage sale or something.

Anonymous said...

Major, I think the mermaids in the Peter Pan film and the dark ride were topless, but they are all posed 3/4 facing away, or otherwise screened so no harm was done to the audience psyche.

I believe that the old Submarine Voyage also included some topless mermaid models back in the dark underwater part of the tour, but they were not close to the portholes and only in low light, so again, no scandals arose, AFAIK anyway.

The young ladies playing the live Submarine Voyage mermaids wore modest costumes, of course.


Major Pepperidge said...

Mike Cozart, thanks for the confirmation that the figurehead (and other bits) were sculpted by Chris Meuller and cast in fiberglass. I know that those plastic resins do not last forever and will get brittle, especially (as you said) in the hot sun of SoCal. I didn’t know that they’d replace much of the original wood with fiberglass and concrete over the years, but it makes sense when you think about it. It seems weird that the proposed smaller pirate ship and grotto would have been a ticketed attraction - tickets for a dining area? Unless something else was going on there too, a live show of some kind, I guess. I sure remember many times when Disney was not the gigantic megalith that it is now, and there were lots of times when it did not have tens or hundreds of millions to spend on attractions. Such a shame that we didn’t get that other version. And I think that the big concepts almost always get whittled back to a fraction of their original size and scope. I’m guessing that the mermaid figurehead was a lot larger than she looked in photos, maybe there was just no good place to put her, though you’d think that the company would have loved to display her in some way.

Mike Cozart, alright, alright, $30 it is! You drive a hard bargain! I am sorry that you sold off so much of your good stuff, but you did get posters after all, and that ain’t nothin’. I’ll bet the value of the posters has increased tenfold compared to what you paid for them! Your timing was good for getting good stuff, though it makes me sad that Eisner and Pressler forced old-timers to retire. Probably without their pensions that they’d hoped for their whole careers. I’ve heard some pretty ugly stories of the way long-time employees were discarded weeks before they would have qualified for pensions.

JG, I think you’re right, and I also think the mermaids were wearing flower leis and maybe starfish on their… um… well, you know. Now that I think about it, there was a mermaid figure for auction in the Richard Kraft collection, and it was indeed topless, though again, a lack of detail probably made it acceptable.


MAJOR: yes it was planed as a ticketed attraction with a snack / juice bar - something like Tom sawyers island but much smaller in scope. This idea was later expanded in concept as Adventure Isle at Disneyland Paris a decade later - and now Tokyo Disneyland ( Disney Seas) is getting a similar attraction now .

JG said...

Major, I spent a few minutes researching on Daveland. Did not find any pics from the ride, but did find some Disney promotional shots of the mermaid figures.



As you point out, there are no costume elements on the figures, but the physical detail is muted and their hairdos work wonders.

The text accompanying the photos notes that they are an upgrade to the attraction. I vaguely remember now that they were posed by a treasure chest, trying on jewelry and admiring themselves in the mirror.

There's also a funny story there about one of the live mermaids having a "wardrobe malfunction" and having to be escorted off with a towel.