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Art at Walt Disney World

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Cinderella’s Castle at Walt Disney World

If you’re ever judged for your love of Disney tell them to “suck it and the Disney Universe is a perfect place to immerse yourself in the world of ART HISTORY!!”

I was delighted to be a last minute invite on my friend Kimber’s Walt Disney World trip where she and her brother would be running a half marathon while I got to sleep. 

We stayed in the Art of Animation hotel, which now feels extremely appropriate in the context of this blog, and also where I encountered my first and perhaps tiniest art history nod! Hidden in an ad on the elevator for the hotel’s food court were Princess Ariel and Flounder trying to sell me some pizza by borrowing from Andy Warhol’s pop prints. It’s like they combined the food aspect of Campbell’s Soup Cans and the repetitive color-blocked portraits into one delicious way to get me to spend $10 on a single slice of pizza. MMMMMM, yummy!

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As we made our way down Main Street, U.S.A., one of the windows caught my eye and there, right smack in the middle of Florida (or Marceline, Missouri depending on how much you wish to suspend disbelief), was The Fortune Teller by Caravaggio plucked from the Musei Capitolini in Italy. The window decorators clearly know their art history, picking the perfect painting for a window full of other mystical knickknacks.

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As a rabid Disney fan, I’m always curious to know how classic attractions that are featured in several parks differ. The Haunted Mansion ride is one of them and while completely different on the outside and in the queue, it's nearly the same on the inside save for one room. This new stairway room was added during the 2007 renovations and we think M. C. Escher would approve! 

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If you didn’t know, there are four separate theme parks (in addition to other areas) that make up Walt Disney World and it’s kind of overwhelming … So, we’re jumping straight over to Hollywood Studios where the Mona Lisa, who looks more like a creation by Arneson than Leonardo da Vinci, is waiting for us to eat some spaghetti. 

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In a completely different dimension is the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror where you should definitely drop on by! I was made aware of this painting when some fellow hotel victims noticed a weird mark under the tree that looked like someone had been hanged. Creepy! Turns out it was just a well placed scratch, but the work did remind me of other landscape artists like William Keith and Albert Bierstadt. Special thanks to the two other guests who used their phones to light the painting so I could take this crappy picture.

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The last Land we’re going to is Epcot (sorry Animal Kingdom, work harder on those art history parodies!) where there are the most art references simply because it’s about the rest of the world. 

There are galleries galore featuring works from their prospective countries: The American Heritage Gallery features work by Alain Leroy Locke; Impressions de France with views of Versailles, the Eiffel Tower, the Arc du Triomphe, and more; the Gallery of Arts and History takes you through Morocco; the Bijutsu-kan Gallery is about the history of anime; the Mexico Folk Art Gallery; and the Stave Church Gallery with Norwegian folk art.

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Did you guys know there is an actual ride inside the giant golf ball? I had no idea, I thought it was just made for fun … shows how much research I did for this trip. Anyway, Spaceship Earth isn’t about space travel at all (that’s Mission: Space) it’s a time-travel adventure through humanity’s greatest accomplishments in communication. We start with the cavemen and move quickly through ancient history. 

We first spot artists in the Renaissance. We aren’t told who this particular artist is and I don’t recognize the statue, but Michelangelo is the best sculptor of the bunch so we can pretend it’s him!

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Here’s an unnamed painter who isn’t painting anything that looks like what the Ninja Turtles did:

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And finally one we all know! Michelangelo painting the Sistine Ceiling. 

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Fun fact: Disney is a huge fan of recycling so they borrowed the already molded faces from the Hall of Presidents to make many of the male characters here. The guy standing up here is President William Taft dressed as an Egyptian scholar!

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Play the game of spot the President when you’re there: Teddy Roosevelt is a Roman Senator, Zachary Taylor is a centurion, John Tyler is a Turk, Franklin Pierce is a scholar, John Adams is a writing monk, Andrew Jackson is the printer pulling the tray, James Buchanan is Gutenberg, and Dwight D. Eisenhower is the mandolin player. 

Lastly, we can walk over to France, which is currently in the middle of the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist movement. 

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The column was plastered with posters of Édouard Manet, Pablo Picasso, Mary Cassatt, Paul GauguinHenri de Toulouse-LautrecPierre Auguste RenoirHenri Matisse, and Georges de La Tour.

Nearby is a fake street artist selling their wares. There’s a tiny Thinker statue and they happened to have a box of canvases with self-portraits by Berthe Morisot and Paul Cézanne and one of Claude Monet‘s paintings of a train station. 

It was an amazing trip and I can’t wait to go back and see what other art references I can find! Phew, so much work to do!!

Oh, and here are my wonderful friends with their surprisingly heavy medals!

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Text and photos (unless otherwise stated) by Lauren Dare

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Lauren Dare

Sr. Editor

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