“Basil vs. Ratigan” - The London tower clock face was a natural elements for a watch face.
From 1995 to 2000, I was a character artist drawing and painting original Disney character art in a shop on Disneyland’s Main Street.
“Little Hiawatha” - One of the first design I painted as a personalized order was purchased by a archer.
There isn’t now much written about the program. There once was an article on one of the online fan sites either MousePlanet or MiceChat, but it seems that server updates and web site re-designs have eliminated it. That then makes my account here a kind of oral history of something of which I was a part twenty years ago.
“Seven Dwarfs” - A lot of work. I would draw each in my shop portfolio as individual designs and removed the 7-character design.
The program was simple. Original art would be created and personalized for guests (a.k.a. customers) and reproductions of the art was then affixed to the faces of analog wrist watches.
“Jafar and Iago” - You can see how my designs were keeping important things like eyes away from the center peg for the hands.
The oral history passed to me has the mid 1990’s origin of this unique Park experience and souvenir/ keepsake with plussing (a.k.a. taking to the “next level”) the on-the-spot original character sketches done at special events. Typically at such events, Disney artists like Stacia Martin and Kevin Kidney, would sit in front of a painting easel, chat with guests and draw favorite Disney characters. The “plussing” part was the brilliant realization that reproducing art for a wrist watch could be done relatively quickly with a relatively portable color copier, computer and watch parts. Additionally, a gold-bezel wrist watchman can both be a keepsake and a fashion accessory. Consider that with similar at-the-time technology, how much more appealing a shiny wrist watch is over say a tee-shirt, beer stein or baseball cap.
“Darkwing Duck” - Quite popular at the time.
The experience was popular and in 1994 (I think) it was brought to Disneyland and Walt Disney World. In Disneyland, they created space for an artist against the street-facing picture windows, just inside the doorway of the then named New Century Timepieces on Main Street, U.S.A. For their own reasons, neither Stacia nor Kevin stuck with the in-Park version for long. Certainly a contributing factor was that in the Park’s implementation, the program was assumed by the Park’s merchandise department, and all merchandise has its character art reviewed and approved (at least in rough pencil form) by an art director if not fully created by that department’s staff of artists. Artists sitting at an easel, “on stage,” so to speak, do not have art directors.
“Mufasa and Simba” - Two characters drawn in different colors so that each could be used individually.
Now, in 1994, The Lion King premiered that summer, and hand drawn animation in a Feature-length film was at an all-time high in popularity. Failing to entice animators from the studios 40 miles away in Burbank to work even weekend shifts, Disneyland found talent in a short list of artists who did freelance work for Disney Publishing.
In 1994, I had an Associate of Arts degree in Art received from Cypress Community College. I also was no longer working in Disneyland’s west side (New Orleans Square and Critter Country) restaurants department, I did, however, have friends and family who did still worked in the Park and not surprisingly, I found out about the Original Art Watch program on Main Street. To put myself in a position to apply for an artist position, I re-hired into the Park where I worked at Bengal Barbecue in Adventureland. As a strategic move, this was about as good as moving from Ohio to Hollywood to be an actor. Ultimately, based on the strength of my portfolio and the program wanting to expand for the coming summer, I and another artist were hired on. It’s possible my 6 year history with Disney in restaurants helped. The artists already on staff were Ken Edwards, Charles Landholm, Gerald Martinez, David Scott Smith, Todd Wiesenhutter, and Joe Yakovetic.
“Baby Oyster” - A minor character in “Alice in Wonderland” that I started to sneak into other designs.
In line with its origins with special events, the artist on Main Street drew and colored with art pencils. As a medium, color pencils are portable, cleaner than pastels and don’t require the drying time of wet media. Reviewing all of that in the portfolios in Timepieces, I was confident that I could handle that. What newly had been introduced coincidental but not related to my hiring was painting. I understand that water color painting was something Joe suggested to bring to the program which would plus the value of the art. A skilled painter can cover areas faster with paint than with color pencils. And mixing colors in paint allows more flexibility than with color pencil. Suddenly, I had to learn how to handle painting and do it on-stage with a time limit. I was less comfortable with painting. I chose to employ a manner of layering water colors to achieve what I wanted, a technique I used with harder, less waxy color pencils. I was never fast with paints.
|“Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket” - I painted this featuring a wooden clock face with Roman Numerals behind the characters.|
In that first summer, the watch program tried out setting up a station in the then Disney Gallery in New Orleans Square for extra day shifts. I believe simple geometric logistics hurt this venture. The Timepieces location could accommodate up to four-times as many on lookers as being placed in a corner of one of the Gallery’s rooms.
“Jiminy Cricket” - I never got to paint this for my shop portfolio, Jiminy pulled from off of Pinocchio’s hat. If there was something clever about the dial positions, I can’t remember or decipher it now.
The other new hire was Orlando De La Paz. As I remember things, Orlando parlayed the Watch program into getting freelance work as an artist with Disney Publishing. Having secured that relationship, Orlando recommended that I try the same. Entirely believing that it would not gain me better than a “thank you for applying,” I met with David Pacheco, Disney Publishing Art Director at the time. David had me work on a test pack. That lead to in-house freelance with Publishing. That lead to being hired on staff in 1996 as a character artist with Disney Consumer Products in Burbank.
“The Three Caballeros” - indicating hat options.
By comparison, Orlando departed Timepieces that first summer. I kept up with weekend shifts for five years into 2000. In that time, there were a few additional artist hires, including Jonathon Peterson and Fritz Lutes. Ladies’ styled watches were tried, but the faces were too small to effectively show off the reproduced art. Pocket watches were tried, but weren’t poplar despite the larger faces. By virtue of not being employed directly by Disney, in the first couple of years the artists dressed in their own clothes. Later, they would don the same costumes as shop Cast-Members (a.k.a. employees). I also experienced the one-summer-and-done Light Magic “not a parade” street spectacle from behind a Main Street window! All Cast-Members wear name tags, and here I earned what is my third of four “one year” pins. To help you with the math, for four years I worked in Burbank during the week and in Anaheim in Disneyland on weekends.
“Belle” - James Baxter’s design was one of my favorite to draw.
Possibly as a trickle down effect of the popularity of smart phones, New Century Timepieces became the Fortuosity Shop in 2008, that included a reduction in the selection of clocks and watches for sale. In 2012, the Artist Watch program ended at Disneyland with the five featured artists, Charles, Eric Scales, David, June Valentine-Rupee and Todd re-trained as cel painters and relocated to the new Disneyana (formerly the Disneyland Bank).
“Belle and the Beast” - Although approved, this never got entered into my shop portfolio. I drew the characters full for a possible limited-edition pieces, but I intended only for a waist-up shot for personalized orders.
The Original Art Watch program was a unique artist experience. There I was a Disney fan, drawing official Disney character art on which I could sign my name.
Program: Original Art Watches
Location: New Century Timepiece, Main Street, U.S.A., Disneyland Park, Disneyland Resort, Anaheim, CA
Program Start: 1994
Program Close: July 2012
Price, Monochromatic Artist Watch: $250
Price, Full-color Artist Watch: $500
Artist Watch package: 1x original personalized Disney character art, color pencil and/or gouache paint on hot pressed water color paper signed by the artist,
1x artist’s auto biography,
1x fully printed portfolio folder,
1x men’s size wrist watch with leather strap,
1x watch case.
Location succeeded by: Fortuosity Shop (Oct. 3, 2008 - present) (disney-pal.com)
Location Preceded by: Disneyana (1976 -1986),
Hurricane Lamp Shop (1972 -1976),
Upjohn Pharmacy (1955 -1970) (disneymamas.com)
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by Michelle Harker
@ Disney Parks Blog
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