D23 Expo Design Challenge 2015
I created an artwork (seen at bottom) for the D23 Expo Design Challenge. It was chosen as one of only 23 total finalist pieces and was subsequently featured at the D23 Expo in Anaheim, CA.
To mark the 60th birthday of the Disneyland Resort, D23 - the official fan club of the Walt Disney Company - launched a major art competition. Artists from all over the country were encouraged to submit inventive re-designs of the Disneyland Resort's iconic Sleeping Beauty Castle. Only 23 Finalists would be chosen by a panel of judges which included Marty Muller, senior vice president, Global Creative, Yellow Shoes; Don Hahn, artist, film producer, and director; Adam Sanderson, Head of D23; and Steven Lavine, president, California Institute of the Arts. The artwork submitted by each finalist would be shown at a special gallery at the organization's biennial exposition event, the D23 Expo in Anaheim, CA.
Ultimately, at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, CA
Initially, I wanted to accomplish four goals with whatever artwork I created. First, I wanted to create an image with a clear narrative behind it. Second, I wanted to design something that would be appealing to both girls and boys. Third, I wanted to design something that was truly original. Fourth, I wanted to create something that would celebrate the entire legacy of the Walt Disney Company.
After developing several early concepts, one emerged which stood out from the rest. The idea was to anthropomorphize and mechanize the castle into a kind of friendly giant. This would be symbolic of the gigantic Walt Disney Company itself. The giant, I decided, would be pictured handing a balloon to a small child. This would represent the ways in which the massive company works to make individual and personal dreams come true on a daily basis.
First, I had to make sure that my idea was possible. Although I could vaguely imagine what an anthropomorphized Sleeping Beauty Castle might look like (the central tower as the head, the gate as shoulders, etc.), I had little idea of how this could come together practically and structurally.
To solve this problem, I designed a simple blueprint:
Using a technical program, I re-drew the Sleeping Beauty Castle by hand, using a human silhouette to keep everything to scale. Then, I rearranged each separate part of the castle into my cohesive giant character.
It was at this point in the design process that I decided the mechanical joints and inner workings should be vaguely "steampunk" in design, as I didn't want to undermine the fantastical look of the castle with modern machinery. Great attention was paid to how the castle would move if it were a real figure. It was also important that I use as much of the original castle as possible without resorting to cheap augmentations like fully robotic arms. Therefore, different areas of the castle had to be utilized as parts of the overall "body"; tower merlons became fingers, windows became facial features, and wall fencing became epaulettes.
The official rules of the challenge specified three separate phases of the competition. In the first phase, participants were asked to submit an original sketch of what would eventually become their finished artwork. Using the blueprint above for reference, I developed the following 18"x24" sketch:
The giant - who I nicknamed "Turret" - now took on life as a semi-realized artwork. Turret can be seen as though from a southwest vantage point (with a good view of the Matterhorn!), handing a Mickey Mouse baloon to a child as was initially conceptualized.
Making his appearance for the first time was the child's father. He was added primarily to make the child larger and more visible in the overall drawing. Secondarily, however, the father served to add a little masculine balance to what might have otherwise been a largely feminine piece, thereby satisfying the second of my four goals. Now, the picture's narrative developed into a father/son day at the Disneyland resort, an aspect of the story which would continue into the artwork's final incarnation.
To the sketch, I added several notes to indicate movement and structural functionality. I also added a thumbnail version of the original blueprint to show the development of the design.
Having completed the drawing, I submitted the sketch to the competition on April 27th, 2015. With the piece, I included a brief description of the story as explained thus far. I also named the artwork, "Big Magic".
On May 19th, 2015, I was notified by a legal representative of D23 that I had been chosen as a finalist, a status which was later confirmed on June 3rd, 2015. At this point, I was given directions as to how to submit a completed, full-color version of my submitted sketch.
To color my artwork, I used Liquitex® Professional Acrylic, watered down to the consistency of water-color paint. This allowed for the forgiving pliability and color-layering of the latter medium while retaining the technical control and vividity of the former.
The coloring process presented a number of new challenges, most notably the shadowing of the castle. Satisfactory shadowing can often be a matter of difficulty. However, shadowing a largely imaginary structure as complex as the Sleeping Beauty Castle while still maintaining a feeling of stylized realism? That was a whole other matter.
This being the case, I sought out the help of local artist and Steubenville Art Association Vice President Diana Holcomb. Diana generously afforded me an hour period in which we inspected every aspect of the drawing and evaluated both potential light sources and shadowing options. After examining all options, I decided that fixing a broad light source in the upper right hand corner would be best because it would light the face and major features, giving Turret a friendly look.
A great deal of attention was paid to coloring. For instance, the color of the boy's shirt matches the baloon, creating a natural eyeline between the two, and an aura of warmth was achieved by carrying the pink of the towers throughout the stone walls.
Finally, I completed and submitted, "Big Magic":
From August 14th-16th, 2015, "Big Magic" was featured in the D23 Design Expo Challenge artworks gallery on the Show Floor in the Walt Disney Archives Area.
As mentioned at the beginning of the post, I took on four personal goals when creating this artwork. I met these goals as follows:
Goal 1: to create an image with a clear narrative behind it
Looking at the finished piece, one can easily see that the Sleeping Beauty Castle has been tranformed into a giant, that this giant is friendly and (in the full scale version) that the father and son pair are happy to see the giant and receptive to him with their body language.
Goal 2: to design something that would be appealing to girls and boys
With its fairytale aesthetic and pink hues, the sleeping beauty castle perhaps naturally lends itself to the appeal of young girls. However, by mechanizing the structure into a friendly giant and by building the scene around a father and son duo, an appeal to young boys was hopefully also achieved.
Goal 3: to design something truly original
Though I spent a considerable amount of time researching, no other artwork featuring an anthropomorphized Disney castle could be found in any major forum.
Goal 4: to create something that celebrates the Walt Disney Company legacy
As mentioned, Turret - the name I gave to the castle-turned-giant - represents the massive Walt Disney Company. Turret can be seen giving a baloon to a young child, representing the company's efforts to make individual dreams come true on a daily basis. As the artwork evolved, a father charater was added. He supports the child as he reaches for the baloon, symbolizing the Walt Disney Company's commitment to family.
I was awarded the status of finalist/runner-up in a major landmark Disney competition and recognized by the Walt Disney Company. My artwork was featured at the D23 Design Expo Challenge in Anaheim, CA.
'Big Magic' detail zoom