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Still an Art of Disney?

Monday, 13th November 2006 at 23:24

It was a landmark of Walt Disney Studios. It had a warm and varied scheme of colours. It was a tribute to the real Disney Animation headquarters. And then they painted it blue. But, once the initial alarm bells stop ringing and you take a look at the entire Toon Studio project, it actually looks pretty good. Or does it?,

First things first – when you see the “new” Art of Disney Animation for the first time, it’s truly bizarre. Infact, I can’t think of a single other instance when a landmark Disney building has had its colour scheme so drastically altered, it’s like painting the castle… well, blue. Disneyland California’s rusty Space Mountain springs to mind, but luckily it’s not that bad.

Stepping onto Disney Bros. Plaza with the new Studio 5 in the distance, you immediately begin to realise the thinking behind all of this. The major problem of Walt Disney Studios, and the key thing this “placemaking” work is actually trying to address, is that guests just can’t differentiate between the lands. Backlot stands out due to its industrial grey image, and Front Lot is separated, literally, by Disney Studio 1. The rest of the park (as much as we love it), though, merges into a giant mass of yellow buildings, large entrance signs and lots of asphalt.

So, in addition to new trees creating a dividing entrance, a drastic new colour scheme for Toon Studio seems obvious, and the first results are quite pleasing, especially against the nice ochre Autumn trees…

The old yellow animation mural perhaps looks out of place against its new blue surroundings, but the pinky-red bricks surrounding the entrance doors have been a surprising success, adding more of a “Toon” theme to the building and matching the existing signs around the area. Since these photos were taken last week, all the bricks have been painted this colour – you can see a photo here.

Unfortunately, if you were in the park last week and looked a little closer at Art of Disney Animation, it looked like anything but an artform. Did the old Ink & Paint department go crazy here? Not only was the front section of the building (which already strangely featured a more pale blue than the rear) sporting as thin a coat of paint as possible, but in various blackspots you could also see random patches and stripes of thicker paint.

These photos reveal a strange secret of the transformation of the building – unlike the buildings of Front Lot currently undergoing refurbishment, they aren’t repainting Art of Disney with a white basecoat before applying the blue. It’s all just going right on top of the yellow, hence the pretty awful state of the building for over two weeks during the busy Halloween period.

Last week, the wall near the toilets at the rear of the building featured a few strange spots of lighter paint (and still apparently does), whilst the low sun of the Autumn months doesn’t give a pleasant reflection off the walls of this circa-2002 Disney product.

So you’re longing for the old yellow colour scheme again now? Well, if you waited around a few hours last week your wish would have been granted, for one last time! As night fell, the bright lights on the building showed just how thin the paintwork at the front really was – the entire façade returned to its old yellow glow! Truly a quite remarkable effect.

The nearer you got, the more the new blue colours flooded through. Despite being caused by the bad paintwork above, this effect was actually rather impressive in reality. Colour-changing buildings – the next step in Imagineering? It’d be perfect for Toon Studio, but, with more paint progress made on this project since, it was probably only temporary.

Luckily, the past few days have been kind to the building, which now (judging by photos at least) appears to feature a thicker and more vibrant coat of blue paint around its frontage as well as queue canopy columns repainted to a more pleasing deep blue. But, whilst there’s hope, the paint isn’t perfect – those patches at the rear remain, and the yellow mural still appears out of place.

You can see photos of the old Art of Disney Animation colours here. It’s true that once you’ve got used to the new colours, they grow on you rather quickly. Whilst the yellows contrasted nicely with the blue Sorcerer’s Hat and fit perfectly into the Imagineer’s “warm colours for a cold environment” motto, the blue has its own charms.

Can it still be considered a “work of art”? Whatever you think, one thing definitely seems certain – this is still very much a “work in progress”.

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