Original Disneyland concept art shows park origins, growth

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Tomorrowland was originally going to be called World of Tomorrow. Frontierland was Frontier Country. Lilliputian Land never became a reality at Disneyland. And no one could have foreseen a “Star Wars” land opening in 2019.

Walt Disney spent a marathon weekend in 1953 brainstorming ideas for the new family amusement park he envisioned called Disneyland. There would be a train station and an old-fashioned Main Street square. The park would have a princess castle and a pirate ship, maybe even a rocket. Disney wanted to get investors on board, so he described the various elements he imagined to artist Herb Ryman, who translated them into a hand-drawn map — Disneyland’s first.

That original concept art could fetch as much as $1 million when it goes up for auction next month, auctioneer Mike Van Eaton said.

Collector Ron Clark knew the map was special when he acquired it 40 years ago from a former Disney employee who’d been friends with Walt Disney. Clark says he felt a “spirit of presence” as soon as he saw the 3 ½-foot by 5 ½ -foot ink and pencil drawing on paper affixed to a tri-fold poster board like a science fair display.

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“It had this aura,” he recalled. “It just kind of puts you in awe that this is the piece that came out of Walt Disney’s mind and this is what came about: this park, these parks worldwide, the passion people have for it today and the happiness of hundreds of millions who have graced these lands.”

Clark started collecting Disney items in the 1960s. He saw a small silver spoon in a Disneyland souvenir shop and plunked down $10 for it. When he later saw that same spoon show up as a collectors’ item in a Disney fan magazine, he was hooked.

“I have an affection for the man and what he created. It’s just brought us and our family such joy,” said Clark, who still holds an annual pass to Disneyland and makes it out to Southern California from Utah at least three times a year to visit the park.

“All 20 of our grandbabies are Disney-fied,” he said.

Clark’s collection focuses on the dawn of Disney. The earliest piece is an Ingersoll watch from 1928 and the most spectacular is the map. But with his 70th birthday approaching, Clark wanted to see about finding a more permanent home for his prized piece of memorabilia.

“It was always my desire to somehow return it to Disney,” he said. “I wanted it to go home. For 40 years, that has been my wish.”

Disneyland spokesman John McClintock wouldn’t say if park officials will be among the bidders when the map goes up for auction June 25.

He was familiar with the piece, though, calling it “a very speculative drawing.”

“It was drawn to make people think this is going to be a great park,” he said.

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts still produce concept art for new park features. The company released a full-color image last year…

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