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Friday, July 5, 2019

DISNEYLAND Anniversary Month: Herb Ryman

When Walt Disney first began talking about his plans for a theme park, his biggest hurdle was trying to explain what his Magic Kingdom would be like. Would it be like a carnival or a fair? Maybe a recreational area? It soon became clear that Mr. Disney would need a visual guide to show financiers, bankers and others just what DISNEYLAND would look like. Pressed for time, Walt turned to the one person he felt was up to the task- Herb Ryman.

Herb Ryman wasn’t working for Walt Disney Productions at the time. After serving as the art director for several animated features, Mr. Ryman had grown restless and moved over to Twentieth-Century-Fox where he could design actual, practical sets. By the early 1950’s, Herb’s skillset had grown to become ideal for a project like DISNEYLAND. Walt Disney just had to convince him to join this admittedly risky endeavor. Herb was a bit skeptical when Walt first described the project to him and asked to see the plans. Of course, they didn’t exist outside of Walt Disney’s head; Herb discovered that Walt wanted HIM to create the first draft. Herb agreed as long as Walt Disney stayed to supervise. Thus began the “lost weekend” in which Walt Disney described the DISNEYLAND of his dreams and Herb got it all down on paper. That historic map is pictured below. 

By the end of the weekend, Walt Disney had the map he needed and Herb Ryman was sold on the idea of joining DISNEYLAND, Inc. Herb would go on to design so many familiar icons such as Sleeping Beauty Castle and the Golden Horseshoe. A tribute to him is planted near the beloved castle that he designed.