A Comparative Analysis of Two of the Most Important Disneyland Artifacts
Published May 27, 2017
It All Started With A Map…
The Van Eaton Galleries, in Sherman Oaks, California, have on display, for a limited time, the “Original 1953 Disneyland Presentation Map“. It is scheduled to be sold at their auction on June 25, 2017. Consequently, it has been drawing (no pun intended), a lot of attention from media and the Disneyana community. Unfortunately, some media, not fully understanding its very intricate history, are describing Van Eaton’s map as the “original 1953 Disneyland map.” This is not correct, as the first map of Disneyland is a sketch on vellum kept inside Disney Archives at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California.
Disney Archive’s sketch, however, did serve as the source image for Van Eaton’s presentation map. Both maps being created at the same time in 1953. So instead, media should have described Van Eaton’s map as the “original 1953 Disneyland presentation map“. It’s an error for sure, but small in the eyes of the media. As they are simply ignoring it (no retractions to be found). Nevertheless, the missing word “presentation” in article headlines is sending some Disneyland historians and enthusiasts into a convulsive frenzy. Despite that Van Eaton Galleries’ website has their map clearly stated as follows.
“This is the original hand-inked and hand-colored presentation map of Disneyland, created between September 26th and 27th of 1953 by Walt Disney and his artist Herb Ryman. Walt and Ryman worked at the Disney Studio over that weekend in order to complete this map in time for Walt’s brother, Roy Disney, to take the map to New York. Roy used this map as his main presentation piece in order to get the financing needed to build Disneyland.” – Van Eaton Galleries
So what then is the difference between the first drawn map and the original presentation map?
That first drawn map of Disneyland was a pencil sketch that artist Herb Ryman made on vellum paper – a translucent medium that is sort of like tissue paper. This first map was hand sketched by Herb while Walt explained his grand vision of Disneyland – which occurred during the famous “Lost Weekend” over September 26th and 27th of 1953. This vellum map was also “lost” but then found by the Disney Company behind a filing cabinet in a Walt Disney Imagineering office in Glendale, California (which is strange since these offices didn’t exist until the 1960’s, seems like these maps really know how to get around). Van Eaton presents on his site an image of Disney Archive’s vellum map and specifically notes the following.
“This is an image of the original pencil drawing Herb Ryman drew in order to create the final colored presentation map… created on thin vellum paper so that the black lines could be transferred to the final version that they put on the presentation board. A common misconception was that this pencil illustration on vellum was taken to New York for the presentation; however, this pencil illustration was only the first step in creating the final colored presentation piece which was taken to New York and later displayed at the Disney Studio.” – Van Eaton Galleries
The original presentation map of Disneyland is what Van Eaton currently has in his possession to be sold at auction in a month. It was created the same “Lost Weekend” as Disney Archive’s vellum map, as it was the presentation map that Roy needed to show to investors in New York that following Monday. The image of the vellum sketch was transferred to the presentation map and consequently further colored by Herb Ryman, to ensure it would be ready and in outstanding condition for Roy’s meetings. But how that transfer of the image took place has not been widely discussed. Which we believe has created a lot of confusion surrounding how both maps came to exist and are ultimately related to each other.
The rest of this article is to understand exactly that process. To help highlight the rich and important history surrounding this original presentation map. I can best compare it to the discovery of the Orangewood Album. Another Disneyland artifact missing for more than 60 years that was most likely owned by Disneyland’s first employee and General Manager, C.V. Wood. A collection of more than 600 photographs that includes not only some of the earliest known images of the park but also the earliest known developed photos of Disneyland (hand developed by Mell Kilpatrick in his home). Ranging from the first days of construction in 1954 up to the July 17, 1955 opening day and a few weeks beyond.
Comparative Photo Analysis of Disney Archive’s 1953 Original Disneyland Map and Van Eaton’s 1953 Original Disneyland (Presentation) Map
It’s obvious these two maps are related yet were created for different purposes. But what do keywords like “brown lines”, “vellum”, and “diazo” really mean in the realm of document reproduction? To understand how these two maps came into existence, let’s briefly review the whiteprint method.
Whiteprint (read this if you want to know how Disney transferred Herb Ryman’s sketch on vellum to Roy’s presentation map)
In the 1950’s, and decades earlier, whiteprint was a common method for creating large document reproductions of art and engineering sketches. It was also known as the “blue-line process”. Named for the visual blue lines that would result from the transfer of the lines of the source image to the reproduction document. Though this process has now been outdated by modern printers, it was far advanced in its time. Considered to be simpler and involving less toxic chemicals than the blueprint process.
Whiteprinting is accomplished by utilizing the diazo chemical process. There are two critical components in this method – a chemical sensitive to light called diazonium salt and a colorless chemical that can combine with diazonium salt to produce a color. Different paper materials can be coated with a mixture of these two chemicals and water. That coated material is known as the diazo sheet and serves as the paper that will reproduce the image.
The paper that the image source is originally created on is translucent. In the 1950’s it was common for this translucent master to be on vellum paper, especially for artwork by Herb Ryman at the Walt Disney Studios. As it’s a medium that Ryman has used for other works of art he created for Disney. The vellum paper sketch could then be placed over a diazo sheet and both sheets exposed to UV light. The light would pass through the translucent vellum paper except where there was an image, or in this case where there was pencil sketching.
At this time at the Walt Disney Studios this could be accomplished by using a diazo duplicator through which the original document could be laid on the diazo paper and both could be fed through the machine at the same time while being exposed to the UV light. The speed at which the documents were pulled through and the amount of UV light exposed could be controlled. Thus allowing for very precise document reproduction.
In the first chamber of the machine, the light would move through the original document where there was no image and neutralize the light sensitive diazonium salt on the diazo paper. These areas on the diazo paper would turn white, leaving the areas not exposed to light with a subtle tan color.
The original image is now removed from the diazo sheet to allow the diazo sheet to be fed into the last chamber of the duplicator for completing the development of the reproduction. Ammonium hydroxide fumes fill this chamber to reduce the acidity and create an alkaline environment. This allows the azodyes, acting as couplers, to react with the diazonium salt in a chemical reaction that turns the unexposed areas of the diazo sheet from the light tan color to a darker color. If the lines didn’t develop with enough clarity, the process could be repeated.
Usually only one or a few documents would be reproduced this way as the ammonia fumes were dangerous and took time to ventilate. One of the known issues with this process was that the lines reproduced onto the diazo sheet could fade over time as UV light from other sources like the Sun were exposed to it. So it was common for artists, like Herb Ryman, to then draw over the diazo sheet to provide darker, more permanent colored lines to complete the reproduced artwork. Additional coloring and effects could also be applied during this time.
Through understanding the whiteprint process that was used by Disney during the time the first map of Disneyland was created, we can now explore the relationship between Disney Archive’s vellum sketch and Van Eaton’s presentation map.
Comparative Photo Analysis
If Van Eaton’s Disneyland presentation map was created from Disney Archive’s vellum sketch, then we would expect to find evidence that the whiteprint method, or a similar method, was used. By comparing close up images of both maps we can do exactly that.
By comparing Disney Archive’s vellum sketch map (left) to the Van Eaton presentation map (right), we can see the existence of the transferred brown lines. The brown lines of Van Eaton’s map match exactly the pencil lines of Archive’s vellum sketch. An unmistakable pattern of what appears like the letters “OM” can clearly be seen on both maps along the shore of what will be the Rivers of America, just north of Tom Sawyer Island. Several other noticeable markers can be seen that match up between both maps, showing that the image source used to create Van Eaton’s map was the vellum map that sits in Disney Archives.
We know from the whiteprint process that only a few document reproductions could have been made this way prior to Roy’s presentation in New York. And we also know that the lines drawn over the brownlines of Van Eaton’s map are in the style of Herb Ryman, as well as the coloring around the brownlines. Herb Ryman recalls this entire process in the book “A Brush with Disney, An Artist’s Journey, told through the words and works of Herbert Dickens Ryman“. Ryman remarks the following regarding the map.
“It was just a carbon pencil drawing with a little color on top of it, but Roy got the money – so I guess it turned out all right.” – Herb Ryman
Indeed, Herb Ryman recalls the final piece, the Disneyland presentation map that was in color, created from the original pencil drawing. After all, this was the goal of the Lost Weekend – to create a map that Roy Disney could present to potential investors, including those he had a meeting with in New York, that following Monday.
More than sixty years later, we are finally getting a more complete picture of the steps that were taken over one weekend that would lead to the creation of two maps but one theme park. With the Van Eaton auction of the Disneyland presentation map a month away, one wonders what this map will fetch in monetary value. The historical value is obviously immeasurable. Personally, if I had the option of owning either the original vellum sketch or the presentation map, I would surely choose the latter. Which should not be surprising as it is commonly animation production cels that are considered far more valuable than their preliminary sketches. The analogy can’t be lost when comparing Archive’s vellum sketch to Van Eaton’s presentation map.
As it was the presentation map that gave those outside the Disney Studios the first view of Disneyland. That would convince investors to take stock in this new idea of a family-friendly theme park. The map that the public would eventually see Walt leaning next to in magazines and on TV. That countless artists, engineers, and imagineers would use to guide their work in the design, construction, and operation of the park. It might be safer yet for media to refer not to this map as the original map or original presentation map, but perhaps as the map that changed the World.