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The little boy peered over the wooden wall separating him from the artist and watched intently as brush strokes full of colorful gouache (opaque water color) were added to the figure of Mickey Mouse with a delicate touch.
"I like your drawing, it’s pretty good," the boy said in a quiet whisper as though he was too shy to speak in a louder tone.
The artist heard him and put down his palette. Focusing his full attention on the child who was only a little taller than the edge of the wall that divided them he said, "Thanks, do you like to draw?"
The little boy silently nodded his head.
"I bet you can draw Mickey Mouse too then."
"Not as good as you. I want to be an artist when I grow up."
"He draws all the time," his Mother interjected into the conversation, "on everything."
The artist laughed, "Do you do that Sean? Hey, I used to do that too when I was a kid. It got me into trouble sometimes, but look where I am now. So, do you think you want to work at Disneyland like I do when you grow up?"
"Uh huh," the boy nodded.
"Well, you just keep practicing Sean, only don’t draw on the walls okay? And the next thing you know you’ll be sitting in this chair one day drawing Mickey Mouse just like me. You promise me you’ll give him art supplies, won’t you Mom?" The artist said to the boy’s mother.
"Oh I do, you wouldn’t believe how many crayons he goes through."
The little boy looked puzzled, "How does he know my name Mom?"
"Hey, I heard that," the artist said, "It’s on your birthday sticker." He pointed to the festive pink and white sticker stuck to the boy’s chest. "So, today’s your birthday, huh?"
The boy smiled a big smile and nodded yes.
"How old are you Sean?"
"Wow, you’re getting old, aren’t you?"
The artist laid down his brush and turned off the light illuminating his artwork. He got up and moved to open the gate that separated him from the little boy.
"Come on Sean," he motioned to the child to follow him, "You come with me."
The artist headed through the jewelry shop toward the Emporium.
The little boy looked at his mom for permission, "It’s okay, go ahead," she prodded.
"We’re gonna do something for your birthday, come on," The artist motioned to the boy.
I smiled as I watched the little boy follow the artist into the Emporium. I knew something wonderful would take place, another one of those "feel-good" stories. I knew this because, you see Dear Readers, the artist in question that evening was my friend, Jonathon Petersen who, until recently when he left for acting classes in the East, was employed as one of the artists that create the one- of- a- kind watches in Disneyland’s New Century Timepieces watch shop.
I followed Jonathon and the little boy, the boy’s family, and a few others into the middle of the Emporium where a crowd quickly drew around.
"Attention everyone. May I have your attention?" Jonathon loudly proclaimed. He turned slowly around, announcing like a carnival barker for all to hear, "Today is Sean’s birthday. So let’s make it special for him. I’d like it if everyone would join me in singing Happy Birthday,....."
Everything stopped and all eyes focused on the little boy standing in the middle of the room.
"Sean is eight years old today, so everyone come on... help me wish him a happy birthday! Okay, on the count of three.... one... two... three!
The entire population of the Emporium began to serenade the little boy who, even though he clearly enjoyed the attention, was rapidly turning a bright shade of pink.
I stood by and watched, filled with that warm fuzzy feeling you get when something wonderful happens. Even though I am quite prejudiced because I think Jonathon is a terrific person, I do have to say it was definitely one of those magical Disney moments.
The boy’s mother leaned close to me and said, "Is he a friend of yours?"
"Yes," I replied.
"He’s really nice, this is making Sean’s birthday."
"Yes, Jonathon’s a super guy. Does your little boy have an autograph book with him?"
"I hope you don’t mind me saying then, that you ought to get one. He’s a terrific artist and he’ll sign a really nice autograph in your little boy’s book if you have one. It would be a wonderful birthday souvenir."
The birthday serenade came to a close, bringing the house down with applause. I would imagine it was a birthday that one little boy will never forget. As the crowd began to disburse, I made my way back to into the watch shop to the artist desk to tell Jonathon what a nice thing I thought he did. The boy and his family were already there watching Jonathon draw a special birthday wish in the boy’s brand new autograph book.
On a balmy end of summer night, it was the perfect finish to a day at Disneyland. I imagine that it was just one of the many special moments that happened at the Magic Kingdom that day, but if you stop by the New Century Timepieces watch shop you can watch the artists create magic every day. In fact, you can have them create magic just for you.
That’s what my family did for me a few years ago for my birthday. They plotted and planned and ordered a watch from Disney artist Todd Wiesenhütter. On my special day, I was surprised to find a package containing a wristwatch illustrated in colored pencil of one of my favorite characters. It was quite a delicious surprise and won huge points for my family.
New Century Timepieces is always staffed with a Disney artist who will create a custom made watch just for you. I have seen the made to order watches at Walt Disney World (at Disney’s MGM Studios) and I can tell you Dear Readers, that for the most part they do not compare to the watches created by Disneyland’s watch artists. The last time I looked at the watches at WDW, I found them to be little more than colored in comic book-style artwork, fine for what they are, don’t get me wrong.
But, here at Disneyland it’s done a little differently. There are several artists, each with his own repertoire of characters. Each artist has a book of all the original designs they have created and from these books you, Dear Readers, can choose what you like. When you place an order you can ask for colors to be changed or some sort of personalization added.
For example, when my favorite show at Disneyland ended, I knew I wanted some memento of the enjoyment I derived from watching that show. I ordered a watch to be done by my friend Jonathon to commemorate the show, Festival of Fools. Jonathon had a picture in his book that he’d designed of Clopin, the character who was a big part of Festival of Fools. I asked that he paint that picture for my watch but with a few changes including the starting and ending dates of the show and confetti falling, as it so often did during Festival of Fools. The result was a beautiful pocket watch that is most treasured. In fact, the artwork was so gorgeous that it replaced the original Clopin design in Jonathon’s book.
As with my watch, the art for each order is specifically created by the Disneyland artists. The watches are not inexpensive but what you get for your money is the original artwork (hand painted in gouache or drawn in colored pencil) that is created, signed, and dated by a Disney artist, and a gorgeous one of a kind watch. It’s kind of like paying for the artwork and getting a watch thrown in for free. At the prices of most Disney artwork today, I rather think that’s a bargain. Single colored watches are priced at $200.00 and full color watches are $500.00.
Before we leave the New Century Timepieces shop and walk back out on to Main Street Dear Readers, let me just add that if the price of a custom watch is too dear for your pocketbook, there is an alternative. From time to time the watch artists create a watch in limited edition form. While these watches vary in cost (usually not more than $200 and as low as $95.00), and edition size, you still get beautiful artwork (not original, but a high quality copy) and a lovely watch. They are created for events like Disneyland’s birthday or to mark the anniversary of a much loved attraction like the Haunted Mansion (as was done for the 30th anniversary in 1999), or are just of a favorite character. Each watch is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity which documents the artist, the medium used to create the artwork, the edition size, the title of the artwork if there is one, and the production dates.
So, the next time you’re at Disneyland, stop into New Century Timepieces, enjoy the sight of Disney artwork being created before your very eyes, and don’t forget to say hello to the artist of the day. But please, Dear Readers, don’t bother him too much, he has magic to create!
All character art on this page is © Disney
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