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“When you wish upon a star…”

As a boy, few things captured my imagination like my family’s frequent visits to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. My grandparents lived in the nearby town of St. Cloud, and whenever my family went to visit, we naturally had to make time for a few days at America’s favorite fun land. During my visits in the 70’s and 80’s, I fell in love with the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT Center, and the various hotels, especially the Polynesian and Contemporary Resorts. It’s no wonder then, that to this day, I have a fascination with all things Walt Disney World. Influences from my vacations have creeped into my art, and others have led me to new friends who share a simlar love for retro Disney.

One such friend is a talented designer and illustrator named Greg Maletic. I first met Greg online while I was doing research for my EPCOT Network Nodes icon set. Greg is a huge retro Disney fan and has produced several astounding, faux attraction posters including If you had wings…, Disney’s Swan Boats and Tomorrowland. Greg recently made these posters available as downloadable PDF files that you can print and hang on your own wall. All he asks in return is a picture, so head on over and check out his amazing free artwork. Greg has done “official” poster art for Disney as well, and hopefully one day he’ll be able to make these prints available for public viewing. I share Greg’s love for Disney’s attractions, both current and extinct, and he recently told me he has plans for several new posters. They can’t come soon enough!

Greg’s work inspired me to attempt my own retro Disney attraction poster, and the result was my 20,000 Leagues desktop picture that I originally released over at the Iconfactory a few years back. With the site redesign of 2006, the desktop got lost in the shuffle, so I’ve decided to make it available on the new Goodies page. The desktop comes with a compaion for those with multiple monitors and captures the feel of the original 20,000 Leagues attraction that was sadly closed in 1994. Many rides and attractions have come and gone over the years at both the Magic Kingdom as well as EPCOT. Imagine my dismay when I vacationed in 2001 only to find that EPCOT’s Horizon’s was no more, and changes had been made to The Universe of Energy and Communicore.

I understand the need to keep rides at the park fresh and interesting, but a big part of me misses these attractions that will never be experienced again. There are sights, smells, music and narration to these rides that the children of today will never know. Fortunately, a successful online company called Extinct Attractions has specialized in DVD’s of Disney’s lost rides. I’ve bought several of their documentaries, and they are great for trips down memory lane. My friend Louie was recently at EPCOT and told me that they had closed Spaceship Earth for renovations. I can only hope it doesn’t eventually join the extinct attractions club, it is one of my all-time EPCOT favorites.

For many of us who visited Disney World as kids, our memories will forever be filled with laughter, fun and wonder. Visiting the park is like meeting an old friend who picks you up when you need it most, but is a little different with each encounter. As artists, I think this is why we try to re-capture some of the Disney magic of days past. It’s a small way to connect with others from our generation and look back fondly on our childhood. Every time I walk into the Polynesian Resort Hotel, or even just look at its mascot, the kid in me smiles. I’m sure Walt would say “That’s the whole point.” Indeed.

UPDATE: A hat tip once again to Cabel for pointing me at these ultra-cool retro ad posters for PIXAR’s upcoming film WALL•E. They have that same feel as the classic attraction posters of days gone by. Some of these would make really great desktop picts.

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