I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the expansive lobby of Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel. It’s my haven and resting point at the resort, a place to break away during a day of running from one attraction to another during a visit to Disneyland or Disney California Adventure. And it’s also my pick for an ideal space for meeting co-workers as we prepare for a day in the parks.
On this very special trip, I have the honor of meeting with the creative masters behind one of my favorite Disney films — The Little Mermaid — in the hotel lobby. Glen Keane and Mark Henn, both the supervising animators behind Ariel, and Andreas Deja, the supervising animator of King Triton, are gathered there. When I meet them they are chatting together as old friends. And after working together on The Little Mermaid more than 20 years ago and now getting to see their characters all come to life as a Disney park attraction, they have plenty to talk about. Since The Little Mermaid, the three animators’ work can be seen just about everywhere, from films such as Aladdin and Tarzan to Tangled and the upcoming Winnie The Pooh.
After our introductions and a conversation about the traffic congestion on the 5 freeway from Burbank to Anaheim, we make our way into Disney California Adventure and wait outside the construction walls of The Little Mermaid — Ariel’s Undersea Adventure. Even before we step into the construction space, the animators are already in awe by the architecture of the building. “King Triton!” Andreas yells, as he points to the large Triton statue that is centered on the attraction’s arched entrance. A few minutes later, Larry Nikolai, show designer and creative director, Walt Disney Imagineering, donning Imagineering’s signature hardhat and vest, pops his head out of one of the construction walls and motions for us to go inside. We’re about to go fathoms below and into an under-the-sea world in the making.
You can the read about the whole attraction walk-through with the animators in the spring issue of Disney twenty-three, written by Tim O’Day. Below are some additional photos that did not make it into the spring issue.
Ethan Reed, senior show animator, gives master Disney animators Glen Keane, Mark Henn, and Andreas Deja a first glimpse at the “Kiss the Girl” scene in the The Little Mermaid — Ariel’s Undersea Adventure. Ethan worked countless hours on getting the movements between Prince Eric and Ariel just right.
Imagineer Larry Nikolai guides animators Andreas, Mark, and Glen through the still-under-construction attraction.
Andreas, Mark, and Glen in awe with how beautifully the Imagineering team translated their carefully crafted and beloved animations into an immersive attraction.
Glen, Mark and Andreas share stories about the production of the animated feature with the Imagineering team.
Mark Henn holds one of the Imagineer’s early renderings of the attraction.
Glen Keane is all smiles during the behind the scenes tour of the attraction. He looks forward to taking his granddaughter on the ride as soon as it opens.
Andreas meets an old friend, shouting, “He’s alive!” Andreas was the lead animator of King Triton and was thrilled to see the character come to life off the screen and paper.
Photos by D23′s Heather Ikei