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Topic: Disney design guru John Hench's book: Reviews< Next Oldest | Next Newest >

RichKoster Offline

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Posted: Nov. 10, 2003 2:13 am/pm Quote

Disney design guru John Hench pens book about his life and work

Quick quote:
Every workday, John Hench drives to his office at Walt Disney Imagineering, where he helps design the attractions at Disney theme parks on three continents. Hench is 95.

He doesn’t look it. With his clipped mustache, courtly manner and patrician appearance — an Ascot tied neatly at his neck — he resembles a character actor in a 1930s movie.

For generations, Hench has been a revered guru of Disney artists and engineers with his knowledge of what works and doesn’t work to please and entertain millions of ticket buyers.

Now, after years of resisting it, Hench has finally produced a book about his life and work.

"Designing Disney: Imagineering and the Art of the Show," written with Peggy Van Pelt, has just been published. It’s a big-format volume replete with Hench’s drawings and paintings.

Hench took time off to write the book, but that didn’t stop him from doing an occasional job for Imagineering, such as designing ferry landings for the forthcoming Disney park in Hong Kong.

Hench’s history with Disney goes back to when the studio was basking in the huge success of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and planning a heavy schedule of animated features. He created background paintings for “Dumbo” and “Fantasia” and won an Academy Award for special effects in 1955 for “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”

When Walt Disney started planning for Disneyland, one of the first artists he enlisted was John Hench.

“Except for Walt (Disney), John is responsible for the design and ideas in the parks more than anyone else,” says Martin Sklar, vice president and principal creative executive of Walt Disney Imagineering. “Even today, people come to him constantly about colors and sculpting. He has few peers in the world in the psychology of color.”

Hench’s color sense is legendary. Against his arguments, a CEO of a big corporation insisted on white for the walls of a new EPCOT attraction. Finally, Hench said, “Well, I have 34 shades of white. Which one do you want?”

The other day Hench could be found in his office putting the finishing touches on his oil painting of Mickey Mouse on his 75th birthday. Among his other duties, Hench is the official portraitist for Mickey’s significant birthdays — 25th, 50th, etc.

[...]

One day in the early 1950s, he was passing Walt in the hallway. Without stopping, Walt said, “I want you to work on Disneyland, and you’re going to like it.”

[...]

Disney died in 1966 during the early stages of planning for Walt Disney World. However, “In a sense, Walt guided us because we knew what he would like,” Hench said.

“After Walt died, Lilly (his widow) said that he had told her I had never let him down. Funny, he never said that to me.”

Full details.

Order Designing Disney: Imagineering and the Art of the Show from this link through Amazon.com and you'll help the Disney Echo!


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gheb53 Offline

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Posted: Dec. 05, 2003 1:30 am/pm Quote

I've been a Hench fan for 20 years and a Disney collector for 35. I own 11 of Hench's works. My interest was kindled in 1985, when, after being introduced to Marty Sklar, I was given a tour of WED Enterprises, now Imagineering, by Hench. Thereafter, I skewed my collecting in Hench's direction. For more than a year, I have anticipated the appearance of Hench's 75th birthday painting of Mickey. Still no word on when or how it will emerge. Very frustrating.

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RichKoster Offline

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Posted: Dec. 06, 2003 8:27 am/pm Quote

Yoo Hoo, Greg / gheb53!

Even though it was way back in 1985, I'm sure all the Disney EchoEars would appreciate if you could write about that tour of WED Enterprises you received and about meeting John Hench and Marty Sklar. I know I'd sure enjoy reading it!
:nod:

I'm glad you joined the fun here, Greg! Here's a pair of Disney EchoEars for you as my thanks for being a part of the Disney Echo now:


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RichKoster, Disney Echo modEARator
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RichKoster Offline

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Posted: Dec. 10, 2003 1:54 am/pm Quote

Yoo Hoo, Greg!

Thanks so much for posting about that remarkable tour you had. Disney EchoEars, you can read it here.
:clapping:

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gheb53 Offline

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Posted: Dec. 11, 2003 11:20 am/pm Quote

John Hench, despite his 95-plus years, is one of Disney's best kept secrets. Although Hench's name appeared in the credits of many of the great Disney films in the 1930s and 1940s,  he was always considered a man behind the scenes.
           He was not among Walt's Nine Old Men (who were selected rather haphazardly and didn't include some of animation's giants). Hench rarely got credit in articles and books about the Disney success. He now may owe his fame  to his ability to age while still breathing.
            Now comes a book that may at least make Hench an asterisk in the glory days of Disney. Hench co-authored with Peggy Van Pelt "Designing Disney, Imagineering and the Art of the Show." The 152-page volume is list priced at $35, although it is widely available at about 30 percent off, or below $25.
            For those enthralled by Hench's work over the past few decades, the book is glorious.
            The more than 200 art pieces in the book cover primarily designs for attractions in the various Disney parks. The strength of the book is Hench's ruminations about why this color was chosen, or what that color does for the eye, or why this design is more human-friendly than that one. Hench has become known as the Disney color man, the person from whom Disney employees get advice when they pick colors for a project.
            Hench's continuous references to what is best for the guests extends the tradition Walt Disney began more than three-quarters of a century ago. Hench persistently refers to design and color elements that make the guest's visit more desirable.
            At times since Disney's death 37 years ago, especially recent times, it has seemed the Imagineers – the folks responsible for designing the parks and rides – occasionally have lost sight of that consideration. Hench points out, for example, that nothing could appear in the park that would disturb the time element. If Main Street's motif was 1890s, you wouldn't use a vacuum cleaner there while guests were on hand. In fact, you would avoid any work of almost any kind while guests were in the park. That doesn't seem to be the case any more.
            One surmises that Hench's presence at Imagineering transfers some of the honored traditions to younger professionals. A big concern is whether the transfer sticks well enough to ensure that Walt's vision heads into perpetuity.
            It is a testament to Hench that the book's preface came from Frank Gehry, the man who designed the Experience Music Project in Seattle and many other famous projects, and the forward came from Marty Sklar, long-time Imagineering kingpin. Sklar pointed out he and Hench had 111 years together at Disney.
            "No matter how I stretched it, with my paltry forty-seven years, I continued to be 'the kid' in the company of the master," Sklar wrote.
            For the Disney enthusiast who just enjoys riding the thrill rides, Hench's book may not be meaningful. But for those who love the rich background, the thinking that went into the parks and rides, these 152 pages are a treasure trove.

Code Sample
NOTE: Link to where Amazon.com has the book for sale was added by RichKoster. Sales of ANY item via that link helps the Disney Echo.


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Greg / gheb53
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RichKoster Offline

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Posted: Dec. 11, 2003 8:04 am/pm Quote

Yoo Hoo, Greg!
Thanks for writing your review of the book. :clap:

If any other Disney EchoEars are familiar with John Hench's book, please add your comments here, too!
:thumbsup:


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5 replies since Nov. 10, 2003 2:13 am/pm < Next Oldest | Next Newest >

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