Ask a DisNerd – The “Partners” Statue

Greetings, fellow DisNerds!

The question for this week’s “Ask a DisNerd” segment comes from Confessions reader Tim, who sent the following inquiry:

“This pertains to the Partners Statue at Disneyland. Is there some significance to where Walt is pointing? Also what is the story behind the statue and how it came to be?”

 

“Partners,” as seen at Disneyland.

This is a great question, Tim. So great, in fact that I couldn’t answer it myself. The general consensus is that it was decided that there needed to be a tribute in Disneyland park, and later in other Disney Parks as well. The Partners statue was designed by Imagineer and Disney Legend Blaine Gibson. As for the the direction Walt is pointing: although there are many speculative guesses, the truth is that he’s just generally pointing out to the crowds and the structures, as if saying to Mickey, “Look at all the happy people who have come to visit us today.”

There’s a lot more to the story than just that, however. In looking up the history and significance to verify what I believed to be true, I came upon articles on the history of the Partners statue from Disney historian and MousePlanet writer, Jim Korkis. Instead of putting my own spin on things, I’ll include a few quotes from part one and part two of his articles, with a strong suggestion that you read both for some great reading.

“I have heard that the statue was designed so that Walt was pointing toward the future. Or, even more specifically, pointing to the future location of Epcot. Or, within the last decade, the story has evolved that Walt is pointing to the statue of his brother Roy at Walt Disney World to symbolize Walt telling Roy to carry on with the dream. I have even heard two different Disney park tour guides tell me that Walt is pointing towards the trains rather than the castle because of his great love of trains and the whole concept of the theme park began with trains.

None of those stories are correct. They are no more correct than telling guests that the bride in the Haunted Mansion threw her ring out of a window and it imbedded itself into the cement, or that Cinderella has her own horse and that it has ribbons on its tail on the carousel in Fantasyland. Yet, despite all the evidence to the contrary, these stories and others continue to take on a life of their own and people believe them and repeat them.

Now, more than ever, I think it is important to tell the story of the ‘Partners’ statue. When it was first installed at Disneyland in 1993, I talked with sculptor Blaine Gibson and he told me that Walt was pointing down Main Street and saying to Mickey at his side, ‘Look at all the happy people who have come to visit us today.’

While that is basically correct and Gibson has told others that same simple statement, there is always more to the story.”

Korkis also touches on Walt’s opinion of statues of himself, along with Lilian’s wishes. I wonder how she felt about the finished project, although I did overhear Imagineer Tony Baxter say at an event I once attended that the Disney family felt Walt wouldn’t approve of his statue in any form at Disneyland.

“In 1962, at the urging of his WED supervisor, Richard ‘Dick’ Irvine, Gibson sculpted a bust of Walt Disney as a ‘thank you’ gift for Walt. Blaine now claims he was tired, working on the project late at night, and that the foundry work was not very good and he couldn’t quite control what he wanted. In any case, when he presented it to Walt, Gibson claimed that Walt said, ‘What am I going to do with this? Statues are for dead people.’

Gibson wanted to destroy the bust and replace it with another, but it was kept at WED for awhile and then at RETLAW. Gibson kept the clay original in his garage and told me that ‘I couldn’t bring myself to put a hammer to it.’ He did a cartoon sketch of himself sculpting the bust and Walt saying, ‘That dummy thinks it looks like me.’

Years after Walt’s death, Gibson worked on a Cal Arts memorial medal that featured a head shot of Walt and Walt’s widow Lillian told him at the time that ‘she didn’t ever want a bust or a portrait or a statue of Walt to be done.’ “

So what was the actual inspiration for putting a tribute to Walt in the parks? Korkis continues:

“Officially, the idea was pitched that just two decades after his passing that Walt Disney was being forgotten. A new generation of children had grown up without seeing him on television every week. Examples of other forgotten innovative businessmen were shared, including how people might enjoy eating a Hershey chocolate bar but had no idea there was a man named Milton Hershey to thank for their enjoyment. It would be good business to spotlight the memory of Walt Disney.

Eisner eventually agreed, thinking it would help promote the brand, but there was still the challenge of convincing the surviving Disney family members, especially Lillian, that a statue would be a good way to remember Walt. The statue would be unveiled to celebrate Mickey’s 65th birthday, a significant milestone.”

As for the significance of the “version” of Walt we see in the Partners statue, as well as what Walt may be pointing or referring to:

“While working on the project, Gibson told another interviewer, ‘I chose to depict Walt as he was in 1954. I think that was when Walt was in his prime. It was tough trying to match the media image of Walt Disney, the one the public knows, to the real Walt, the one we knew. I don’t like to leave a sculpture until it has a feeling of life. I had done a bust of Walt in terra cotta while he was alive, but it wasn’t quite right. I hope this time I’ve captured that magical spirit of his. I think Walt is admiring the Park and saying, “Mickey, look what we’ve done”.’ “

Korkis also reveals that the placement of Mickey was quite the quandry, and the interesting tidbit that Marty Sklar wasn’t a fan of Walt pointing (as we should all know, we don’t point at Disney!):

“There were several different compositions that were considered. One featured a young Mickey running ahead and pulling Walt along. It was rejected because it seemed awkward for Mickey to be dragging Walt forward. Another featured Walt with the rolled up blueprints of Epcot in his right hand and using them to point forward. Yet another had Walt with an opened handed wave (at the suggestion of Marty Sklar who didn’t like the concept of Walt pointing) while in Mickey’s hand was a small black globe with two mouse ears. One image that popped up in several sketches was Mickey with a one-scoop ice cream cone……(Gibson said) ‘Marty [Sklar of Imagineering], [Disneyland President] Jack Lindquist, [Imagineer] John Hench and I had a meeting about the ice cream cone and there were two concerns. First, we felt that it made Mickey appear a little too immature, and, second, we felt it might favor one lessee, like the Nestle Company or Carnation. John and the rest of us finally agreed to have Mickey’s arm at his side.I liked the way it came out…and design-wise it worked with more emphasis on Walt.’ “

As I stated above, I really hope you take the time to check out and read the complete story from Korkis. His articles are full of great Disney history, as is his book, The Revised Vault of Walt: Unofficial, Unauthorized, Uncensored Disney Stories Never Told, available for purchase through Amazon.

I hope this answers your question, Tim! Thanks for asking about one of my favorite places to visit in Disneyland – regardless of whether or not Walt would have approved, it’s a great monument to a great man who achieved so much through hard work and determination.

Keep your questions coming, dear readers! We’ll be back with another “Ask a DisNerd” in two weeks!

Creating Magic – Who Inspires You?

3/8/13 12:00 PM PST – The contest portion of this blog post has now ended. The winner will be announced once he or she has been notified and has responded.

 

3/8/13 12:16 PM PST – Congratulations, Melanie! You have won the drawing and your choice of DVD or Book! Thanks for entering, everybody! Looking forward to another giveaway in the future!

 

Hello, dear readers and fellow DisNerds! Today’s blog post will be a little different, as instead of focusing on any “Limited Time Magic” promotion within Disney Parks, I’m turning the table to discuss the magic that lasts longer, and open up the conversation with all of you.

More often than not, when looking at the Limited Time Magic events, the ones that appeal to me the most are tied into company history; to those magical moments that resonate and inspire me. From the history of The Golden Horseshoe and Wally Boag to Disney movies that teach positive lessons about love, there’s so much to be celebrated regarding those who created the magic.

Of course, Walt is the first person that comes to mind as far as someone who truly inspires in the Disney universe. The man, his vision, work ethic and stubborness created an amazing world with a mix of fantasy and reality that have been unmatched.

And for that, I thank him.

But he’s not the only one. The Sherman Brothers, Robert and Richard are a huge personal influence, and a huge reason I love the music of Disney. The animators and songwriters behind the 80’s and 90’s resurgence of Disney animation brought Disney to the forefront in a time when animation was not looked upon favorably, and for that I am eternally thankful. Imagineers have done amazing things at Disney Parks worldwide and continue to truly create the magic. John Lasseter and the team from Pixar have brought amazing storytelling to the forefront, managing to make us laugh one minute and reach for the tissues to dry our eyes the next. If that’s not a definition of making magic, I don’t know what is.

A little closer and more personally to me, there are people in my life who have inspired me in my love for Disney as well. My wife, my fellow Disney fan, for her continuous support. My daughter, whose enthusiasm for Disney is unmatched, perhaps even by me. My friends who have encouraged me and shown me that I’m not the only DisNerd out there.

Then, there’s you, the readers and followers of this blog. The fact that you follow me here as well as on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest…well, that means the world to me. It keeps me writing, to share my love of magic. I thank you all for reading, and it means the world to me.  Therefore, I’m going to throw a little bit of my own “Limited Time Magic” out there. As a thanks for those follows, which have hit 200+ followers on Facebook and 100+ followers on Twitter, I’ve got a little giveaway planned for one lucky reader (Sorry, immediate family of mine. You’re not eligible).

What do you have to do to enter? Simply reply to this entry in the comments section with your answer to the following question:

Who inspires you when it comes to Disney and creating magic?

The answer is all yours. It can be a celebrity, imagineer, friend or family member. I’d just love to see your answers.

From all of the responses posted on this blog between now and 12:00 PM PST on Friday, March 8th 2013, I will choose one random winner (For an explanation on the random choosing process, please check the explanation on my previous giveaway here). The winner gets to choose ONE prize from the list of the following pieces of media:

Waking Sleeping Beauty DVD

The Boys: The Sherman Brothers DVD

Walt & El Groupo DVD

Frank & Ollie DVD

Walt: An American Original book by Bob Thomas

Designing Disney book by John Hench

The Vault of Walt (Revised) book by Jim Korkis

Who’s Afraid Of Song Of the South book by Jim Korkis

Quite a few choices, as you can see, but all books or DVDs I personally recommend that show or tell about the people, many times behind the scenes, creating the magic. You win the drawing, you get to pick your choice!

I look forward to reading your responses as to who inspires your Disney magic!