Saturday, August 28, 2010

Editor's Note: Today, part two of the tribute article to Imagineer Don Carson, always with great original artwork! Part one is just below.

A Tribute to Don Carson Artwork - Part Two

Here is the part two of my Don Carson artwork tribute! Last time we saw Don's artwork for Mickey's Toontown and Splash Mountain and after the opening of both Splash and Toontown, Don continued his work as a Senior Show Designer on various projects, including Disney’s America, Blizzard Beach, Tokyo Disney Sea, Typhoon Lagoon enhancements, and many more. Here is some of his artwork for Disney's Blizzard Beach.

Above Don Carson artwork for Blizzard Beach tower rental building.

Blizzard Beach was created as an alternative venue to the very popular Typhoon Lagoon. Don worked with various artists, including Hani El Masi, to develop a style internally called “Alpine Floridian”. This was a mix of tropical Key West design elements and the Swiss architecture you might find in a sky village in the Alps. Don created concepts for two Blizzard Beach fast food location. One was called "Avalunch"...

Don did also renderings for two Blizzard Beach fast food location. One was called "Avalunch"...

And the other one "Snack Shack".

Over the years, some of Don's very favorite jobs at WDI was creating quick concept sketches for Walt Disney World's “enhancements program”. These were small budget projects that were initiated to constantly improve the experience of existing parks. Each year a team of Imagineers would visit each of the parks and sketch up their best improvement ideas. These were often based on the needs of the park's Operations Department, but allowed for a lot of self expression on the part of the Show Designers. In the below example, "Let's Go Slurpin'“ was a concept for a two story food facility that would have been located in Typhoon Lagoon.

Or this fun photo location with Laguna Gator...

And also these "Tips/Events boards".

In the mid 1990’s Don moved his family from Los Angeles to Eugene Oregon to continue his design work for not only companies like Disney, but branch out to include work on computer games, interior, and product design. In early 2000 Don began working with various start-up companies in California's Silicon Valley. Here he worked to bring his knowledge of creating physical themed environments to the virtual world, and to the computer screens of a world wide audience.

Below is some of his "post-Disney" artwork for “During those initial years,” says Don, "I had the opportunity to work as the Art Director leading a team of artists designing the virtual world of There is self described as "A place where you can engage your imagination by enjoying shared experiences with others online". For me the work has touched every aspect of my artistic training and allowed me to be a land developer, graphic illustrator, and theme park designer all in one project."

During the next four years, Don created hundreds of concept sketches used as the basis for virtual 3D environments. Since this was such a new industry, the designers had to learn as they went along.

The first rendering is of a Tiki village concept...

This one below show a Tiki bar concept...

And this one "Tiki Pete's Shirt" is a retail huts idea.

Below, a "Salty Dog Tavern" concept realised for

Here is a book kiosk concept, always for

...and the final 3D rendering of it.

Always using the 3D computer rendering technique, some other artwork for

Don's work has come full circles as his designs for WDI put to use this computer design technique: "In recent years I have used the computer more and more to communicate concepts to my clients. After leaving Disney I desired to find a happy marriage between my conceptual, theme park, and theater design work via 3D computer design. As computers have become more powerful the potential to deliver concepts that are very close to the finished product is growing. Computers have also allowed me to work from my Oregon studio while remaining connected virtually to clients all over the world."

It's with this technique that Don did these early WDI "computer aided" concepts for Toy Story Mania! First, here is a "traditional" 2D black and white sketch...

...and the final "computer designed" 3D rendering.

Always in 3D, a Toy Story Mania show set facade.

You may have notice that on these two 3D renderings the vehicles don't look as they are in the final version, as these were early concept. But if you look again at the Monsters Inc Ride and Go Seek photo report posted laast tuesday, you'll see that the MOnsters Inc vehicles looks exctly like Don's early TSM vehicle concept above! one more proof that at WDI "a good idea never die"!

Below, another 3D Toy Story Mania rendering for a cannon concept.

"The past few years have been an adventure as I work to bridge the gap between concept and final product. Conceiving in 3D has allowed me to marry my design sense with tools that I can use to visualize an idea as close as possible to its eventual implementation." says Don. One thing is sure, these 3D renderings look absolutely great, i love them!

Don continues to work in the theme park industry for Disney, Universal, and other design firms, and always strives to bring a “Disney” sensibility to all of his work.

These last images below are some of Don's most recent work. By combining his experience as a theme park, video game, and now virtual world designer, Don is always working to push where environmental storytelling can take an audience. With luck you will see some of that Disney influence in these images as well.

For more information on Don Carson’s work, please visit his website at: where you will discover many more fantastic artwork from Don!

Also, if you like Don's artwork, i strongly recommand you his book called "SKETCHBOOK: Concepts from the Virtual World" available on and even for the Amazon Kindle! It's probably one of the first sketches book available for Kindle, very affordable - $3.16 - and if you own a Kindle, you will enjoy it immediately as you download it from Amazon!

I hope you enjoyed these articles about Don Carson artwork, and i send my best thanks to Don for his precious help in the making of these articles.

Artwork: copyright Disney-WED Enterprises , Don Carson,

Friday, August 27, 2010

A Tribute to Don Carson's Artwork - Part One

It's with great pleasure that I introduce today in my Imagineers articles series Don Carson.

Don Carson initially trained as a commercial illustrator at the Academy of Art College of San Francisco. Launching a freelance career in the early 1980’s, Don quickly discovered he disliked working as a commercial illustrator, and much preferred designing for environmental and theatrical projects. This style of art allowed him to communicate ideas through conceptual drawings, and were not merely selling a product or illustrating an editorial.

Don also had a childhood love for Disneyland later that manifested as a series of beautiful sketches of different areas of the park. These sketches were created for a proposed book to be called “Attention to Detail, A Disneyland Sketchbook”. Although this book was never published the work created for it became the foundation of his portfolio, which led to his being hired as an Imagineer.

Here are some of the sketches from that proposed book, from the top: Adventureland, Treehouse, Fantasyland.

In 1989, Don was hired as a Show Designer for Walt Disney Imagineering and was initially assigned for two weeks to work on the Splash Mountain attraction for the Magic Kingdom in Florida. These few weeks eventually turned into two years, as Don took on the role of lead designer for the project. Include with the artwork below some photos of the finished buildings. It is always interesting to see just how close the final land came to those very early concept sketches. Don told me: "That is one thing I really loved about working for WDI, they bend over backwards to make the final product as close to your design as possible".

Below, Don Carson artwork of the Briar Patch shop for WDW Splash Mountain.

This next rendering was done for a Critter House, always for WDW Splash Mountain.

Don also designed a WDW Splash Mountain wishing well... well as the Splash Mountain-Frontierland train station.

Below, Don's rendering for a "Critter Elixir Wagon" to be located at the exterior of Splash Mountain.

During the production of Splash Mountain, Don started work with Imagineer Joe Lanzisero on the beginning phase of what would become Mickey’s Toontown for Disneyland California. Unlike his work on Splash Mountain, Toontown worked with a team of designers, including Hani El Masri, Andrea Favilli, Marcelo Vignali, Maggie Parr, Chuck Ballew, Jim Shull, and Judy Chin. Don became the Senior Show Designer responsible for the Downtown portion of the new land, and eventually participated in the construction phase of the attraction

At the top of this article, the rendering of Don Carson's vision for Mickey's house. Below a picture of the house built in Toon Town.

Below, an early concept for Toontown when it was still under the working title of Mickey Land. As you can see the rolling slope of the street was supposed to go up and down. Considering the problem of accessibility for some guest, the idea was later turned into the flat land you see today.

The rendering below is a Toontown elevation for the island building located in the downtown portion of the land. Some of the buildings designed by Don made it into in the final Disneyland version of the Toontown we know, others not.

Since the buildings in Toontown do not follow traditional right angle construction methods, all concepts needed to be done as both flat elevations and three quarter view sketches. Below are examples of the Barber Shop (not found in the finished land) and the Fireworks Factory. The black and white sketches were used to create construction drawings while color sketches helped communicate the desired final look for the structures.

The next rendering is of the now famous “Roger Rabbit Car Toon Spin” facade.

Although the Toontown Powerhouse facade did make it into the finished land, the elevated track depicted in the concept sketch did not. The original intent for the Roger Rabbit attraction was for it to take place on two stories. As part of the attraction, vehicles would pop out of the Powerhouse facade on a second story and crash and careen through the Glass Factory and Gag Warehouse facades. This second story feature was later cut, but the second story balcony that would have supported these vehicles remains in both the Disneyland and Tokyo parks as you will see in the pictures below.

This next rendering is for the Goofy Gas Station.

This last sketch was one of the very first done for the project and depicts a "Piano Movers" truck, which unfortunately did not make it into the park.

Don worked on many other projects for the Disney parks, including these Adventureland themed elements, like this Elephant God, in fact a penny pinching machine - the arms of the elephant god would animate and give the illusion that it was pressing your penny! It was build at Disneyland, Anaheim

Same for this Adventureland truck with an Indiana Jones theming, which was also built.

I love this next one! Don's design for the entrance of a Hook's Tavern at WDW Magic Kingdom, with lamps based on a design that appears in Disneyland's Peter Pan attraction.

In part two of this tribute to Don Carson's artwork, we will have a look at the other projects that Don did participate during his career at WDI. Don't miss it!

All artwork by Don Carson and pictures: copyright Disney - WED enterprises