Friday, August 14, 2009

Tom Scherman Tribute Part 2 : Tokyo Disney Sea Artwork

Hello, everyone. Tokyo Disney Sea is largely considered as the most beautiful theme park in the world, and today i will explain to you how you can own a piece of its history. More precisely: of Tokyo Disney Sea Mysterious Island origin. I've presented to you in previous articles the great Nautilus specialist Tom Scherman, and today's article is all about his rare Discovery Bay drawings. As we will see, the design of Tokyo Disney Sea Mysterious Island found its origin in these drawings.

First, we have to thank Rowland Scherman, his brother who own some of Tom's original drawings and provided his artwork for this article. Here is what Rowland told me on why Tom was so interested in the Tokyo DisneySea project:

"Ten years before Tokyo, Tom and Harper Goff had an idea for a TV show and a Theme Park/Ride called Discovery Bay. It was Nemo's home base and there were to be lessons of travel, nature and physics involved.

Harper died before they could collaborate on the project, but Tom kept at it and drew different versions of it over and over again. He also made, at his own expense, a pilot film preview of the idea. It is a cult classic--but no one at Disney ever got to see it.

The drawings Tom made were on napkins--his favorite medium--not only because he could do them while dining at a restaurant, but also he liked the shading effects he could produce on the napkin's absorbent surface. The sketches simply took form in Tom's head. He could visualize the project from any angle, and then simply create it on a napkin!

That Tokyo's Mysterious Island looks like Tom's ten year old drawings is a source of speculation as to which came first. Alas, now that Tom is no longer with us, that answer will probably remain a mystery."

Well, recently i had more explanations about it, as i received an email from somebody who very kindly gave me more informations about the collaboration between Tom Scherman and Harper Goff. As you will see, it seems that imagineer Tony Baxter was also involved in the project:
"Yes, Harper worked on it, but, the project was primarily Tony Baxter and Tom Scherman. In fact, most of the design work that TDS show-producer Steve Kirk and his team used in the final placement of MYSTERIOUS ISLAND was directly inspired and/or lifted from the work that Tom and Tony did on the Port Disney project (Long Beach, CA) for the 'Mysterious Island' installation there. Tom passed on far too early to work upon the DisneySea version of Mysterious Island, and, Tony was not a member of the design team that was assigned to Tokyo DisneySea. But, the work that created that installation rests fully upon the previous foundations laid by Tony Baxter and back to the mid-1970's"

So, quite a while ago, Tom did what he always did to jog his memory: he began to draw Vulcania Island, with what he remembered about the 1954 movie and the WDI imagineer's ideas for the TDS park.

Here are some of those black and white very rare drawings, beginning with this one of the overall view of the volcano and the Nautilus floating in its lagoon.

Here's another one, a closer view of the Nautilus, including one of TDS boats.

This other one shows the fantastic machines built by Captain Nemo as seen around the Vulcania lagoon.

Tom's drawings also depicted the decor in the Journey to the Center of the Earth ride, like this setpiece that everybody walking around the lagoon would see.

Not to mention this concept for the boarding area, as seen after riders took the elevator to arrive in the center of the earth...

As we can see on the pictures below, Mysterious Island is not that far in concept from Tom's work.

Now, the good news is that his brother Rowland own the rights of these drawings and is currently producing a set of limited edition lithographs. It is a very limited edition, between 100 and 150 numbered sets, large-sized, all with a certificate of authenticity.

If you're a Nautilus fan - and who isn't? - this is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to own some of Tom Scherman's artwork and a bit of Tokyo Disney Sea history. If you want to know more, feel free to send Rowland Scherman an email at:

If you have trouble to contact him by email - sometime my own messages were blocked as spam - please email me at: and i will forward your request to him.

Thanks to leave a comment or discuss this article on D&M english forum on Mice Chat

Artwork: copyright Tom Scherman

Photos: copyright Oriental Land co


DisWedWay said...

Alain, Tom also worked with Oscar winning Sci Fi "Time Machine" creator, Gene Warren. So they had a lot in common when Tom purchased that movies actual Time machine at the 1971 MGM auction which I attended. Tom was a very focused designer.

DisWedWay said...

Tom's brother Rowland should know that Tom did present his movie pilot to us at WED in the late 70's. We actually had a sceening of it several times back in our audio visual department, and it was to be shown to then Disney President Ron Miller for a possible weekly Saturday TV show. I don't know if that ever happened. The set in the pilot I believe was filmed in Tom's apartment near WED, which you have shown.