Friday, September 30, 2011

D&M Archives : Hani El Masri, wonderful Designer, Illustrator, and former WDI Imagineer

Today, i would like to introduce to you Hani El Masri. Not only Hani is a highly talented designer and illustrator, but he was a WDI imagineer some years ago and did creative concept for many WDI projects.

Hani is Egyptian, but he was raised by French Jesuits in Cairo. Thanks to this, he spent most of his childhood reading european literature, and so, at the surprise of others WDI imagineers, he was familiar with the world of European tales, myths and architecture.

And, as an Egyptian, and after five years of academic studies at Cairo's school of Fine Arts - the oldest in the Middle East - he is of course also familiar with Oriental tales like the famous tale of "One thousand and one nights". So, it's naturally that in the mid 90's Walt Disney Imagineering asked for his help on the design of Tokyo Disney Sea's Arabian Coast.

In fact, Hani, it's more than twenty-five years of an award-winning creative career in illustration, graphic design, advertising and promotion of an unusually broad array of consumer products, as well as children's books and theater productions.

He arrived to the United States in 1987 and freelanced until being hired by Walt Disney Imagineering in March of 1990. We will have a look to his work for Walt Disney Imagineering, but while he was in California, Hani did some beautiful watercolor paintings like this one of Los Angeles Chinatown - picture above, on the top - who look also like a decor study for a Disney theme park...

Or this one of the San Juan Capistrano mission. By the way, this reminds me that San Juan Capistrano was part of the inspiration for some of the Zorro series decors...

In 1995 Hani was hired as a visual development artist by Dreamworks SKG - Steven Spielberg's studio - to work on the animated "Prince of Egypt", and stayed on for another two animation movies "El Dorado" and "Spirit". The September 11 attack was devastating for Hani, as he always dreamed of being a cultural bridge between Orient and Occident and thought his work on the 'Thousand And One Nights' could be of some help in this dream...
He then came back to live and work in Egypt in February of 2005 and was awarded Best Egyptian illustrator of 2004 by the National Council for Children Books, headed by Mrs. Suzanne Mubarak, Egypt First Lady, in may 2005.

At walt Disney Imagineering, Hani, as i've said, worked on many different projects, whether it was the Blizzard Beach concept - here two concept study for the Summit Plummet chalet and the Merchandise shop.

Or these boat concepts for Tokyo Disney Sea....

Not to mention this beautiful Nautilus artifact who was supposed to be placed outside on TDS Mysterious Island. The imagineers idea was that, when a guest will use the telescope to look at other places of the park, a green laser ray coming out of the telescope would have point the place the guest was looking at. Great idea, unfortunately never realized.

For Tokyo Disneyland, Hani - and it was one of his first work for WDI - did the concept-art for the Grandma Sarah Restaurant located in Critter Country.
He did also amazing concepts of "Critter Cars" that Tokyo disneyland wanted to use as photo-ops in the land. The first rendering below was inspired by the shape of an old Rolls Royce - totally transformed in a vehicle you will only see in a Disney theme park!

Hani also worked on the Disneyland Toon Town project and ended up designing Minnie's House and Goofy's Bounce House, and here is the concept for his Goofy's house...

And pictures of the model that was done inspired by Hani's concept art

This color rendering was Hani's concept for Minnie's house...

Here are the preliminary black and white study for Minnie's house

And, too, pictures of the model inspired by the concept arts

But there is much more to say about Hani's work for Toon Town... And here is something you've never seen before! At the end of 1990, Hani was asked by Walt Disney Imagineering to work on the creative development of a new project "Mickey Ville" which was supposed to be a new land for Tokyo Disneyland.

It was the first study for a "Toon Town", but much different than the one we know, as the architectural style was more "medieval". For a very good reason: this Mickey's Ville was supposed to be a tribute to Mickey's "medieval" cartoons, like "The Brave little tailor" or "Mickey and the Beanstalk".

Hani's team was under the direction of imagineers Yoshi Akiyama and Bob Weis - yes, the same Bob Weis who designed the Disney-MGM Studios and Disney's America and who is now in charge of the huge placemaking of Disney's California Adventure.

Here is a first rendering of the Mickey Ville project. For the design of this artwork, Hani was also slightly inspired by the architecture of Pinnochio’s Village.

At the entrance, guests would have find at the left of the porch a nice fountain with Daisy...

But Mickey Ville also would have include a "Mickey's Music Store" with chimneys who looks like pipe organ. Inside the music store, CD’s, sheet of music, and all kind of merchandise items related to music would have been on sale.

Also envisioned, a "Minnie's Candy" house, which looks like a real candy house, and was supposed to be.....that’s right: a candy store.

Another interesting concept was this "Donald's Dock" where Donald's house and boat were mixed all in one.

In fact , Donald’s dock would have been the departure point where guests would have embark in small boats for a little cruise on a small river all around the village.

But the project also include this beautiful Mickey's Theatre - artwork above, on the top. Because the Oriental Land executives knew how popular Tokyo Disneyland is, they wanted a big theatre,. So, instead to design one big facade, Hani and the imagineers thought it would have been more interesting if all the facade was designed like a little village. With on the right side the house of Mickey and Minnie - not to forget Pluto’s doghouse.

And in the front, another cute fountain, with Minnie on the top.

The entrance of the Mickey’s Theatre was on the middle of this little village facade...

And inside the theatre, guests could have watch old Mickey’s cartoons - like “Plane Crazy”, Steamboat Willie”, etc..but also others animated shorts with Pluto, Donald, etc...

By the way, when i saw this Mickey's Theatre artwork, it reminds me the facade of Mickey's Philarmagic theatre at Hong Kong Disneyland. I remember when i was at HKD being surprised by the architecture, but may be HKD imagineers took their inspiration from this concept - who knows?

To come back to the Mickey Ville story, and always back in 1990, another team lead by Tony Baxter and imagineer Joe Lanzisero was working on another Toon Town concept, this time for Disneyland, Anaheim. And it seems that when the executives of Oriental Land Company heard about it, they decided to wait and see how this "other" Toon Town will look once it'll be built at Disneyland.

We know the end of the story: Toon Town opened at Anaheim, everybody loved its great "cartoon" style, and so did the Oriental Land executives who decided to build it at TDL.

This marked the end of the Mickey Ville project, and Hani moved from one team to another to work with Joe Lanzisero's team where he created the Toon Town concept-arts you saw above.

Hani left Walt Disney Imagineering some years ago and is now living in Cairo, but we will have a look today to his latest - and incredible - creation and how an Imagineer change his medium. First i have to tell you that Hani when he still was at WDI was lead designer on Arabian Coast for the Tokyo Disney Sea project. What is less known is that Hani designed an incredible concept for the Sindbad attraction and i will probably do an article one day about this "Sindbad attraction that never was". Unfortunately WDI choose another concept, closer to an occidental/hollywoodian vision of the legend of Sindbad, and soon after that Hani left WDI.

But the famous tales of 1001 Nights has always been one of Hani's favorite and since then Hani wanted to give a grand tribute to one of the most famous collection of stories in the world. In January of 2009 the idea - and the project - took shape when Hani began to design what will be a huge Egyptian tapestry, a work of art.

Inspired by Classical Folk Tales the Thousand and One Nights and executed in the traditional blind stitch patchwork technique of Egypt called Kheyameya, this one of a kind unique tapestry was finished recently and is now available for purchase. The piece stands an impressive 5 meters tall by 8 meters wide (16.5 feet x 26.2 feet), weighs 45 Kilograms, and was composed with a staggering 102 unique colors.

The scene of the tapestry is dedicated to the opening story of the Thousand and One Nights, The story of the stories, and the circumstances that led Scheherazade to tell the king her nightly tales, not just to save her neck, as it is thought, but also to cure him from his blinding jealousy.

And how do you create such an impressive and huge tapestry, you ask? Well, like anything in art it all starts with an idea, a sketch, a line drawing and then a full color painting. Here is below the "line" only version...

...and the final painting with colours. The pictures are in high-res and i strongly recommand to double-click on the pictures to explore this fantastic scene in details.

Then the Kheyameya workers began to create the patchwork. By the way, the word Kheyameya has its origins in the Arab word for 'tent' (Khaymah), you are probably familiar with it from the name of the famous twelfth century Persian poet and scientist Omar Khayyam, since his family made tents in Nichapour, Persia.

In the wider Middle East, the craft consisted not only in the fabrication of large tents, but also decorating the inside walls with traditional patterns since the main use of these tents was to host large family gatherings and social events like weddings,
religious celebrations and funerals.

Today, across the Middle East this craft is disappeared due to changes in our modern lifestyle. Fortunately Kheyameya has survived in Egypt, as an entire section of medieval Cairo has morphed into another tradition of home furnishings. From wall hangings to bedspreads, tablecloths and pillowcases, the colorful pieces artistically and painstakingly hand stitched with traditional geometric patterns, ancient symbols or skillful combinations of both, are everywhere in Egyptian homes and have become some of the best tourist souvenirs you can buy in Cairo bazaars.

The work itself begin with a line drawing. The line work then enlarged to the right size on blueprint paper and the lines are patiently perforated to create a stencil.
The stencil is in turn transferred to the base canvas using a simple dusting technique and the little dots are clear enough to be the guide for redrawing the patterns onto the fabric.

Next, every shape is assigned a different color and neatly covered with a colored piece of fabric, usually a cotton twill, linen, silk or muslin, which is blind stitched to the background canvas in a thread of the same color as the swatch.
By the time the tedious work is finished, the result is delightful, lively and extremely durable

The result of the finished tapestry is spectacular as you can see on the picture at the top and on these close shots showing details of the tapestry.

The work lasted nine months and on the next picture Hani arrive at the work-shop and is amazed by the magnificent work.

On this last picture, Hani El Masri stands near the now finished tapestry.

As i've said this is a one-of-a-kind piece of art and the tapestry is now on sale for a price of $150.000. No need to say that the buyer better have a huge room in his house but the tapestry could be perfect in the huge lobby of a luxury hotel or - why not - inside a theme park decor!

You can see more pictures on Hani's web site HERE and anyone interested by this beautiful Egyptian tapestry will find on the site a link to contact Hani.

You can also see some of his work for animation on Hani's site, where all the renderings you saw today and yesterday were previously posted.

Artwork by Hani El Masri and copyright Disney and Walt Disney Enterprises Inc.

Tapestry pictures and artwork: copyright Hani El Masri

Many thanks to Hani El Masri for his great help in the making of this article.

WDW 40TH Anniversary - 1971 LIFE Grand Opening Original Issue

Forty years ago, on October 1st, 1971, Walt Disney world - Walt's big dream - was opening. LIFE photographers were there and the legendary magazine did a special issue. I've found back for you this rare original issue and here it is with, above, the LIFE memorable cover as well as the original picture from the photo shoot with 1500 WDW cast-members and characters!

The next pictures are the pages of the article itself which began with two pictures on double-pages, including a fish-eye photo of the Magic Kingdom! Click on each to see them in larger size.

The other pages were mostly showing the now unfortunately extinct Mickey Mouse Revue or the Country Bear Jamboree. The Mickey Mouse Revue went then to Tokyo Disnryland where it is also now an extinct attraction.

The LIFE issue also included an AD for WDW! And it seems that at that time pets were allowed in the resort!

This reminds me that if you don't own yet the "Art of Walt Disney World" book it's a total must for any Disney fan. It includes plenty of rare WDI artwork and you can read the review i did about it HERE and also order a copy on the D&M Amazon Store HERE. No kidding, folks, it's a great book so don't miss it while there is still some copies available.

And if you are at WDW this Saturday for the 40th celebration i wish you all the best for this happy day!

Pictures: copyright Time-Life

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Rare Swiss Family Treehouse Artwork

The Disney Parks blog has posted this nice early artist rendering of the Swiss Family Treehouse, one i don't think i've ever seen before. Attention Magic Kingdom Park fans! Starting now and in honor of WDW upcoming 40th anniversary this Saturday, they’re also running "a new series of header images on the blog that offer a peek back into the time of the park’s design and construction. This set of images, which ranges from artist renderings to early construction photographs of the park, include a handful of shots that even we have never seen before. Extreme Disney fans also may notice artwork and sketches by Mary Blair and Herb Ryman added into the rotation."

It's undeniably a good idea - although it would have been even better to include these rare artworks in an article instead than in the rotative header, but don't forget to have a look at this the next time you'll go on the Disney Parks blog.

In tribute to WDW 40th Anniversary Disney has also posted two videos, the first one is a video from 1965 of Walt Disney officially announcing the big plans during a conference in downtown Orlando.

...and the second one is showing some rare footage of WDW Magic Kingdom construction!

Artwork and videos: copyright Disney