Designing Costumes for a new kind of Cast

These 1954 costume designs for Disneyland cast members were drawn by Renié Conley, an accomplished Hollywood costume designer. Walt Disney knew appropriate costumes for his themed lands were essential to the show he was presenting to his guests.

Main Street costume design

According to Imagineer John Hench, Walt’s philosophy, which became ingrained in the Imagineering ethos, was “attention to infinite detail, the little things, the minor picky points that other companies just don’t want to take the time, the money, the effort, to do right.”

Front gate costume design

Conley had been a costume designer with RKO Pictures since 1937, which worked together with the Disney Studio to produce and distribute a number of films. In 1954, she was asked to develop costume concepts for Disneyland. These early drawings would provide the creative foundation for the thousands of costumes needed for the park’s cast members. In a newspaper interview years later, Conley said:

“Walt Disney was wonderful to work with. He is the only director with whom I worked who had the absolute last word. All of us could talk for days…but when the decision was made, Walt was the one to do it.”

Mad Tea Party costume design

In 1963, Conley won an Academy Award for her costume designs for the movie Cleopatra. A window on Main Street, USA above the Carnation Cafe is dedicated to Conley in recognition of her significant contribution.  

Renié Conley window tribute on Main Street, USA

Decades later, cast member costumes remain a subtle contributor to the Disneyland show. In an interview with Walt Disney biographer Bob Thomas former President of WED, Bill Cottrell, explained why focusing on costumes and other thematic elements were such a priority for Walt:

“He knew that they were not going to make money because they couldn’t carry enough people. But they were part of the concept that the main gate establishes a certain show for people. And not everything has to make money. You pay to get in the place and so what do you see? Everyone’s in costume. And the streets are clean. And you have flowers. And you have these vehicles that a few people can ride and so forth.”

Design People

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