The Father of Fantasyland

Disney artist and Imagineer Bruce Bushman was born on this day in 1911. Bushman, pictured here with Walt Disney, was a lead designer of the original Fantasyland as you can see by his concept art on the walls. 

Bushman was first hired by the Disney Studios to work on Fantasia on April 5, 1937.  He’d later go on to design the majority of the artwork associated with the Mickey Mouse Club, including the sets, props, and logos. In the years leading up to the 1955 opening of Disneyland, Bushman was one of the many Disney artists tapped to help design and build Walt’s theme park. The Disneyland prospectus that was used to attract financial investments included a number of Bushman’s concept drawings for Fantasyland.

Fantasyland concept art by Bruce Bushman included in the Disneyland prospectus

In addition to his design work, Bushman was a liaison with the Arrow Development company that built most of the ride vehicles used in the Fantasyland attractions, including The Casey Jr. Circus Train. As Disney Legend Ken Anderson put it: “We did the little circus train, and we had a beauty. Bruce Bushman had worked and worked to get the design just right on this train.”

Casey Jr. Circus Train concept art by Bruce Bushman

Bushman designed the 70-foot tall canopy to top off King Arthur Carrousel, which was a refurbished merry-go-round, and had it look like it was made of fabric even though it was actually aluminum. The canopy is “supported” by vertical lances and shields. Bushman designed each shield and included artwork associated with the Knights of the Round Table. However, because there were more shields than authentic artwork he was forced to improvise. His solution was to include the coat of arms from his wife’s family, as well as those from a number of fellow Disney artists. 

King Arther Carrousel concept art by Bruce Bushman

As the design of the Dumbo attraction progressed, Walt wanted to to make sure the elephants were large enough to accommodate adults as well as children. To make sure they could comfortably fit, Walt looked to Bushman – who was a tall man – and told his team to use him as their model for ride vehicles. Walt said to Bushman “If it fits you, it’ll fit anybody.” 

Dumbo concept art by Bruce Bushman

Two of Bushman’s early concepts were never developed. In his Monstro the Whale attraction concept a small craft is swallowed by Monstro and travels through his body in a canal past exhibits, then lifted to his throat before exiting down a watery chute into a pool of water. In his crocodile ride concept guests enter on foot through a large crocodile’s mouth and wind up in an underwater aquarium with a view of different types of exotic fish. 

Monstro the Whale attraction concept art by Bruce Bushman

Bushman also originally proposed the Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride attraction as a roller coaster that narrowly dodged obstacles as it sped along. According to author Sam Genneway, Walt thought it sounded too intense and opted for a less exhilarating version. 

The look and feel of Fantasyland today, in Disney parks throughout the world, are heavily influenced by the art and design work of Bruce Bushman. 

Design People

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