The Art Corner: The New Do-It-Yourself Spot at Disney Springsby Gregg Jacobs, contributing writer
I visited Walt Disney World's Disney Springs a few months ago, and a new sign stopped me in my tracks. It said "The Art Corner" and sat atop a building in the Marketplace section, near Goofy's Candy Company. As a collector and fan of Disney artwork, I had to fight the urge to run and check it out right then and there (my very talented niece was singing in a concert in the Marketplace amphitheater, so priorities took over).
To begin with a bit of history to explain my crazy reaction, the first Art Corner was a Main Street USA shop that opened with the original Disneyland in Anaheim, CA way back in 1955. This was a time that original production cels (hand drawn and painted images actually used in production of Disney's animated shorts and features) weren't prized collector items, but rather discards from a movie production.
For the shop, Disney brought out thousands of these cels from old boxes at the studio and sold them to Disneyland visitors for (gasp!) as little as $1. This is where I wish that the movie Back to the Future was real so that I could go back in time with a couple thousand dollars in my pocket… but I digress. The original Art Corner lasted for about a decade at Disneyland and the venues for selling Disney art slowly morphed into Disneyland's Disneyana Shop and the current Art of Disney stores.
With the advent of computer-generated imagery (CGI), the need for production cels went away, so no more were made. Existing cels were all bought up by collector vultures such as myself (my last original production cel purchase at a Disney venue was way back in 1995), so while there's still tons of great Disney artwork available, the vintage artwork from Disney itself was no more.
So my curiosity was piqued when I headed to The Art Corner, and what I found was both unexpected and yet consistent with a recent trend in Disney Parks merchandise. Disney has gotten knocked around a lot in recent years for the sameness of its product offerings, and one way they've gotten around that is by letting you, the theme park guest, make custom goods that you have input in creating.
A great example of this is the D-Tech line of products, where you get to select an image from a wide array appear on your smartphone case or MagicBand. You can even add your name or other wording. You input your choices into a kiosk screen, wait a few minutes and poof, you get a one-of-a-kind custom Disney souvenir.
These custom goods form the basis of most of what's available at The Art Corner. At the venue, you work with cast member "artisans" who will help you design your own product. As per the Walt Disney World website, "art and entertainment worlds merge at this limited time pop up shop—work alongside artists to create one-of-a-kind caricatures, custom-marbled silk and hand-drawn names embellished with illustrations."
Let's take a look around the shop and at what it has to offer.
Getting a caricature done of yourself or a family member has been part of the theme park experience for a long time. Essentially you will sit for an artist, who will draw a cartoony image of you. Artists might exaggerate one of your features, in a funny way, and depict you engaged in one of your favorite activities. At The Art Corner, Disney has a station to create these and a talented Disney artist ready to work with you.
You can choose to include one or more people in your drawing and choose just a drawing of your face or of your face and body. Prices range from $25 per person for a face-only drawings in black and white to $40 per person for a face plus body in color. You can also buy a frame for $20. The examples they had on the wall were well done and what you'd typically expect to find at a caricature offering. I didn't really see any Disney characters represented, but an artist I asked said he would do them upon request, so if you want to see yourself as Mickey Mouse or Ariel, go for it.
Artistic marbling allows you to print onto a custom scarf. This one is very interesting, and may strike a chord if you're familiar with paper marbling. According to Disney, in this experience, you learn the ancient art of Suminigashi, and work alongisde a professional artisan to create custom-made silk items.
The experience is a form of silk screening, where you select colors and one of many different patterns available that you can see displayed at the shop. You then work with a cast member at a silk screen machine to make your chosen style appear on a custom scarf.
There are several different choices in scarves:
- A small scarf runs for $39.
- You get two matching head scarves for $49.
- For a "deluxe experience" and a large scarf, it will be $59.
- If you want to skip the custom experience and just want to choose a large scarf, you can have one for $25.
Finally, we have the name works. Again, you can work with a talented Disney artist who will take your name and turn it into a work of art. The letters of your name are taken, with your direction, and turned into a work of art through either cartoons and colors or abstract lettering,
For the standard price of $35 to $65, depending on which options you choose, you get up to 8 letters. If you happen to have a really long name, you can buy extra letters for $5 each.
The art exhibit there the day I visited was by an artist named, Mikel. His medium of choice: coffee. I'm not kidding. He doesn't use paint to create his works of art, but rather paints with reduced coffee, up to 150 cups per piece of artwork according to the description in the shop. The results is creative works in a sepia-like tone.
The works really are striking and kind of cool. For me at least, they resembled eerie landscapes, and the coloring was beautiful. The works come in various different sizes and are available for sale. The largest was entitled "Turning Point" and costs $1,000.
You may have noticed in Disney's description above that the shop is a "pop-up shop" occupying a space at the marketplace for a limited period of time. While the duration the shop will be there isn't set in stone, I asked a cast member who told me it was set to be there for at least a year, which would bring it through next winter.
I'm all for variety, and I like the way Disney is giving its guests multiple ways to be creative and make their own souvenirs. While I may have preferred a shop that sold original production cels for $1 for my own selfish reasons, there's a lot to like here whether you're artistic or not.
If you are artistically inclined and want to bring some of the experience home with you, there is also a variety of art supplies available for sale such as sketchbooks, paint sets and caricature kits. There are also books by various artists.
Even if you aren't feeling particularly artistic, The Art Corner is still worth a visit. There is some interesting artwork there for viewing or purchase that you don't have to create yourself.