Thursday, February 08, 2018

California Adventures

Our oldest son Presley was so excited when he was tall enough to ride The Tower of Terror that he posed for a picture with the Tower and years later asked me to draw a sketch of that picture for him.

Its hard to believe it has been 17 years since the second theme park opened at the Disneyland Resort, it still seems like a "new" park to me. When we went to Disneyland on our first date in 1998 they had started the demolition of the original  parking lot, and I remember driving along the blocked off parking lot and being sent to a surface lot just south of the Disneyland Hotel behind what is now the Paradise Pier Hotel. We would end up going to Disneyland for New Years 2001 and you could see that they were nearly finished, it was very exciting that in just over a month the new park would open.   Disney's California Adventure park opened on February 8, 2001, we probably made it there by March or so, May at the latest as that is our anniversary and before we were pass holders we would try to go every year around that date.

Paradise Pier in 2016, soon to be "Pixar Pier"...the 3rd version of the "Classic" California Boardwalk at Disney California Adventure Park

It was still very new, and not crowded, I was not following the development very closely and did not really know what to expect. Jon Jerde's Universal City Walk had been a pretty big deal and we covered it in Architecture School, but I don't remember Downtown Disney receiving similar press. I had really liked Universal City Walk's collage like homage to Los Angeles Boulevard culture, it seemed a more organic way to represent "California" and it felt like a "City". The Craftsman vocabulary at Downtown Disney was beautiful and worked especially well in concert with the Grand Californian Hotel to give it a "Resort" vibe. As that Architecture was traditionally used for residences I felt at the retail scale used at Downtown Disney it did not "feel" like a real "City" the way City Walk did. I suppose I have softened a bit on that as I like Downtown Disney but it was never a place we went to outside of Disneyland visits but we would go to City Walk independent of visits to Universal Studios Hollywood.

The new Esplanade "plaza" between the park entrances was very nice and an elegant "front porch" for the the theme parks. It took a little getting used to to make a hard turn to face Disneyland from the Ticket Booths after being used to approaching it straight on, but everything at Downtown Disney and the Esplanade was done to a high level of detail, that it largely remains to this day is a testament to it's quality. On our first visit to then new "Disneyland Resort" I'm pretty sure we purchased Park Hoppers and spent the morning at California Adventure  and the afternoon/evening at Disneyland...that would end up being our usual touring pattern for nearly every visit.

 I remember they had a new "Disneyland Resort" logo that did not use the famous script. and it was jarring at first. It made some sense to give a "separate" identity to Disneyland Park (which still used the classic script) versus the Disneyland RESORT (which used the new logo incorporating the "Disney" signature letters). We had gone to Disneyland Paris in the summer of 2000 and they had a similar more "corporate" logo. I believe there was some push back on not using the Disneyland Script for the whole resort and they eventually got rid of the new Disneyland Resort logo and now use the classic script logo for both the original park and the resort.

I think our overall impressions were that portions of some areas were really detailed (Hollywood Backlot Street, Pacific Wharf, Paradise Pier Bay, Golden State Rec Area, Condor Flats) while some areas were really sparse and lacking (Sunshine Plaza, Studio Backlot, Bay Area, Paradise Pier Midway, Crazy Roadside area of Paradise Bay, Bountiful Valley Farm), and that there was not enough to do.

While somewhat critical of the park, we never hated it or thought it was awful, in fact there was much we liked. We became quite fond of it as it was a nice break from the Disneyland crowds! After seeing on TV all of the amazing stuff they were doing to Walt Disney World throughout the 80's & 90's it was so exciting getting some "new" stuff and a "Resort" to go with what was one park, a parking lot and at the time an older hotel.

Maybe it was slightly underwhelming because there were so few unique rides and because the place making was very disjointed. There was not a clear diagram of how the park was organized the way Disneyland was. The spine of the park was called "The Performance Corridor", I guess it is as clinical as "The Hub", but somehow it didn't quite work. The postcard entry and Golden Gate Bridge was clever but it led to a largely empty plaza and the "sun and wave wall" did not have a lot of presence as an felt like there was no was just a series of places stretched out along wide walkways. The collage/juxtaposition approach of Universal City Walk(important to note is a shopping center and not a Theme Park), where disparate elements abut each other without attempt to recreate a specific time and place was in use in a lot of places in the park. Sunshine Plaza for example had simple metal storefronts and also a somewhat accurate portrayal of a train station but then the train was clearly set into the ground and there was no where for the train to go.

The collage approach can work as architecture, but it is not the way a Disney Theme Park is traditionally presented. Disney Theme Parks attempt to recreate specific environments with a logic to them. California Adventure had elements that didn't seem logical like a Golden Gate Bridge over a walkway, or a train to nowhere, a 1990's modern "Animation" building in the middle of a 1920's Hollywood Street. Is Hollywood Backlot a movie studio or a trip through old Hollywood, or both? It was not always clear. It was that lack of clarity which made the place come off as a Six Flags or Cedar Fair type park even if the environments were highly detailed. 

The raft ride was done well and the Rec Area right adjacent to the Grand Californian was very successful, I really loved the way the walkway was done as if it were a road through a National Park complete with road barrier. But then you had wonderfully detailed "Painted Ladies Bay Area" facades for bathrooms and no attraction.


There were so many shops and places to eat but too few rides. Soarin' Over California was magnificent, and California Screamin' was fun, it seemed pretty wild for a "Disney" Coaster. We went on the very strange Superstar Limo, the style of the ride was very cartoony and the DC Follies/Max Headroom style characters were creepy. The premise had potential but the execution was bizarre, I have enjoyed the Monsters Inc. version much more.

On only one of our visits was the backlot food court open, it was a set of eateries themed to classic LA Ciro's, and The Coconut Grove, Trocadero, etc., I thought that was really neat and have never seen it open ever again. I really loved The Muppets show and it was new to me as I had not yet been to Walt Disney World. The Animation exhibits were top notch, we spent a lot of time there.  Overall though we enjoyed it; I suppose it was a mixed bag, but since we had park hoppers we filled the rest of our day at Disneyland. 

Presley meeting Goofy in front of the Frank Lloyd Wright Bathrooms
Around the time of our oldest son's second birthday we became pass holders and would visit both parks much more frequently. We stayed at the Paradise Pier Hotel several times and appreciated the quiet vibe of the place and were always given park view rooms without an up charge. I fondly remember watching the Electrical Parade travel "The Performance Corridor" from our rooms! 

Theme Park View no charge upgrade every time in those uncrowded days

Building the Grand California DVC in the foreground there

The tortilla factory was a favorite of ours especially when they were handing out flour tortillas. I suppose what we most enjoyed was how laid back and uncrowded it was. 

When we moved away from California they were just starting to put up the barriers for Buena Vista Street & Cars Land.  We have since been back to see the new "Disney California Adventure"...and have enjoyed it. The new Buena Vista Street is a wonderful counterpoint to Main Street USA and brings a lot of energy and life to the entry of the park.

With Presley & Ryker on "Route 66"

Cars Land is of course fantastic, both Radiator Springs and Radiator Springs Racers. Racers is the perfect combination of dark ride and thrill ride, it is one of the best Disney Rides I have ever been on, I think of the "Modern" attractions Indiana Jones is the only thing that comes close to it for detail.

We left California in 2009 and from what I understand the parks have gotten more and more crowded since, but for a while there we really enjoyed our slower paced California Adventure.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Adventures in Adventureland

My father worked nights when I was growing up, he had a 4 day 10 hour a day schedule and was off every Friday. When I got up to go to school he would be sleeping and when I got home from school he had left for work except on Fridays. Both he and my Mother love what I would call old movies, now of course old movies is a relative term and while it is true they loved old movies, a lot of the movies they loved weren't old to them they were the movies from their childhood. It's exactly how my son loves "old stuff from the 1980's"...stuff from the 80's isn't old...oh wait... The 1980's when I grew up was the golden age of the VCR, for most people being able to record shows and sporting events was a big deal. Since my Dad missed nightly television he would leave instructions for me to tape programs while he was at work. Dad was pretty particular about what he wanted recorded (thankfully he preferred to watch sports live so he never put that burden on me) , and it was mostly movies from the 50's. I also had to record "The Wonder Years" for him. Honestly as I think back it was mostly movies from the 50's and The Wonder Years. So I never really knew what he had in store for me, it wasn't every night or anything like that but it was fairly often. I'd get home from school and he'd have left notes around the house , multiple notes! The TV would have a sheet taped over the screen "Channel 11, 8PM", and a video cassette would be blocking the front of the VCR and maybe the remote control was sitting on top of the cassette. If that wasn't enough he would tape a note to the bathroom mirror "Channel 11, 8PM", there might be another note on the refrigerator "Channel 11, 8PM", it all depended on how badly he wanted a particular show. We did not have cable growing up (my Dad still does not have cable) but it was okay because we lived outside Los Angeles and in the 1980's the local non network affiliated channels filled prime time with movies, especially KTLA 5, KCOP 13 and KTTV 11. Dad wanted his programming commercial free, which meant I had to watch this stuff attentively so I could pause the tape during commercial breaks, I had a pretty good record of not falling asleep at the switch. Most of the time I would groan at being subjected to what I was sure would be some moldy oldy but to my surprise (nearly every time) it turned out I would really enjoy the show. This was the way I was introduced to one of my most favorite movies...Alfred Hitchcock's North By Northwest starring Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint and James Mason. This movie has classic cars (well they were new at the time), fantastic Architecture, and a thrilling, clever plot. Another such film I was introduced to was the 1951 film "The African Queen" starring Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn.

Don't be fooled into using the bathrooms ahead on the right, there is a "secret" bathroom in the Tiki Room to your left!

The African Queen is one of my folks most favorite movies (that they both love), it is about a scruffy skipper and a very polished Missionary forced to go on an adventure through the jungle on a strangely familiar little boat. They experience trials & tribulations including wading through leech infested waters and end up having to face hostile Germans during the time of World War I. I was expecting it to be torture, but to my surprise it was actually a fun adventure 1980's self might have described it like an old tymey Indiana Jones movie. It felt very familiar to me and I remember finding the overall setting and aesthetic to be very Disneyland Jungle Cruise, and the African Queen (Bogie's Boat) was a dead ringer for one of the Jungle Cruise boats.

This is not a sketch of a Jungle Cruise boat like it is in a previous post, in this post this same drawing is a sketch of "The African Queen", can't you see the leech infested water?

Of course the Jungle Cruise being like "The African Queen" was all very intentional, what with Disneyland opening in 1955 I would imagine this movie would have been very fresh in the public consciousness. A lot of Disney fans complain about "Intellectual Property", that is to say attractions based on specific film franchises taking over the parks. While it is true that the latest attractions are based on film properties, were the original classic attractions really all that divorced from previous film & literary genres? Disneyland was a revolutionary experience because it allowed the visitor to walk through a movie set environment.  This was nearly an entirely new concept(nearby Knotts Berry Farm predates it of course but it was limited to one world..."The Old West"). The individual lands reference the shared iconography of contemporary films (The Western, The Sci-Fi Flick, The Jungle Movie, The Good Old Days, etc.). While not necessarily "Intellectual Property" in the literal sense (except for say the works of Mark Twain or in Fantasyland) the settings are familiar to the patron because they recall types of movies. The Disney bench was not as deep as it is today where it seems like they own literally nearly everything. Vintage Disneyland built upon recognized film genres though, it is for that reason that Indiana Jones can be plopped down between the Jungle Cruise and the Swiss Family Treehouse years later and a sense of harmony is maintained. I think what has changed is that for the audiences of today it is not enough to engage in a type of story, they want to engage in specific stories (The world of Harry Potter, or Star Wars, etc.) So I don't automatically worry that new attractions are linked to "Intellectual Properties". As long as you get to live in a fantastic world for a few moments and it is made to a certain level of detail and sophistication it will mostly likely be consistent with Disney quality.

The sketch: the gateway to Adventure beckons...will you answer it's call? Sure but first let me get a Dole Whip and hey while we are here lets catch the Tiki Room, we can use the "secret" bathroom while we are at it. The shows over...oh no it looks like we have been dumped into that solid mob of people between here and the Pirates of the Caribbean. Well not in my sketch, I tend not to draw a lot (or any) people....they get in the way of the buildings.

Looking backward at Tomorrowland

Tomorrowland was my favorite Disney land when I was a kid, and I have a big soft spot for it today.  I was always a Trekkie, a Star Wars Fan, and a Space Program Fan so it was a big thrill to walk around in a world of Tomorrow.  I often suspect that my passion for Mid-Century Modernism is an outgrowth of my love for Star Trek, Disneyland, and the Brady Bunch.  Star Trek: The Original Series had a very thinly veiled Modernist aesthetic, complete with pedestal furniture and angular minimalist sets. Disneyland had the wonderful Tomorrowland of 1967 with its space age spires reaching for the sky. And The Brady Bunch, well the Father was an Architect with a groovy Frank Lloyd Wright-ish home that always captivated me.  As for the Space Program, I vividly remember the first Space Shuttle launch and Space Shuttle toys were among my favorites.

Tomorrowland grab bag of memories: Riding Adventures Through Inner Space and being so sure we were going to be shrunken down in the Mighty Microscope. Being equally convinced I had flown on a Mission To Mars...and why shouldn't I believe it, after all my older brothers assured me they had seen my rocket leave while they were in line for Space Mountain (I was not tall enough for that one at the time). For some reason we usually ended up at Tomorrowland in the late afternoon, when I think back it is always with a western sun. Usually we had taken the Monorail over to the Disneyland Hotel and gone to see the Toy Store and the remote control boats in the Hotel Lagoon. One time I rode in the monorail bubble behind the driver with my brother, that was a real treat, as much as I liked the "Lear Jet" Monorails I really missed the bubbles!

My sketch here tries to capture Disneyland's Tomorrowland circa 1984...the Peoplemover is still solid colored. I have a very clear childhood memory of being so happy looking at the three flag poles atop the Carousel Theater building, with the combination of the smell of the chlorine from the Submarine Voyage and the gasoline from Autopia heavy in the air. Overhead the Skyway whisking folks off towards Fantasyland through the Matterhorn. You can see the Rocket Jets spinning around, Peoplemovers and Monorails snaking around each other, all so fantastic. And the sounds, the goose like "honk-honk" of the Monorail, the steam whistle of the Disneyland Railroad, Is Harold growling at the screaming Matterhorn Bobsleders as they pass through his ice caverns?

Friday, June 02, 2017

Desktop Doodles

Sometimes you just need to doodle!

Deep in the darkest jungles of the Orange Counties (California & Florida, how cool is it that both Disneyland & Walt Disney World are in Orange County?)

There is a scene in the film "Pleasantville" where the Jeff Daniels character (the man who runs the diner) explains that his favorite thing in the world is to paint the Christmas decorations on his store windows. From this he realizes that his favorite thing to do is to paint, that is to do art. When I was in Junior High I was convinced by my Social Studies teacher to apply to be in"Leadership/Student Government". I really just wanted to be her Teacher's Assistant, but she would not sign my TA application unless I also submitted an application to Leadership/Student Government. I guess her(Mrs. Miller, 7th Grade Social Studies, Kolb Jr. High School, Rialto, CA)plan worked, as I was accepted into Leadership, never became a TA and stayed active in Student Government for several years.  Since I could draw I found myself the head of the "Publicity Department", which is to say I was the head poster maker. My Jeff Daniels Pleasantville moment, that time of the year I always could not wait for was the run up to the annual Disneyland field trip! Kolb Junior High School had a yearly trip to Disneyland, back when private parties were much more common at the Magic Kingdom. In those days there were "off season days" when the park would close early to the general public and would be open in the evening for special events.

Okay, so this is not my is from a children's book...but it is a depiction of showing up in a school bus to Disneyland.  Just like for the annual Kolb Junior High School Disneyland trip...except it was at night and we were not cartoon characters...but otherwise very accurate.

Now our school was never able to rent the park just for us, but somehow we were able to piggy back on another organizations event. Specifically I remember we attended one year the same night as the employees of the TRW Corporation. This yearly event was probably the social highlight of my year, tons of kids went, and there were bus upon bus caravaning from Rialto to Anaheim for the event. It seemed like a pretty long drive at school bus speeds...maybe 70-90 minutes? We would gather at school at dusk, board the busses and head those days Rialto-Fontana-Rancho Cucamonga did not melt into each other and there was no 210 freeway so we took a lot of surface streets through the barren abandoned vineyards to get to the interstate. But it didn't matter it was always so exciting going to Disneyland. I don't remember how long the parties were...I suppose we got there around 7PM and stayed until 12 or 1AM? I remember the school bus parking area was fairly close to the turnstiles and of course this was before California Adventure (I was in Junior High from 1989-1992).

I have enjoyed drawing Sleeping Beauty Castle since I was in elementary school. This is a drawing I did recently(not in Elementary School) using an iPad app, it is more than a doodle...but it has the same fantasy scale and detail I tended to include in my Junior High posters and my "napkin" doodles.

In order to drum up enthusiasm for the event and to pre-sell tickets I would draw tons of posters to put all over the campus.  Since I was a (and of course remain) a huge Disney nut my specialty was drawing Sleeping Beauty Castle. I have loved the castle as far back as I can remember and learned how to draw it more or less by memory by 5th or 6th grade. In fact I had to teach the class some sort of lesson as a school assignment in Elementary School and I picked teaching the class how to draw Sleeping Beauty Castle as my subject.  Although I did not know it at the time I was using what "The Simpsons" called the "Lombardo Method"(from the episode where Marge takes up painting..."Marvelous, Another triumph!") which is the technique of breaking down the subject into basic geometric shapes. This way you can use even a rhombus to draw an adorable bunny or in my case a fairy tale castle! I wish I had saved or photographed these drawings and the Jr. High posters. I drew from memory various vignettes of Disneyland. They didn't correspond to scale or actual reality(for example the mountains or castle might be much larger than in real life) but they captured the "feeling" of Disneyland. Some of my subject matter was the monorail riding along Harbor Blvd near the giant Disneyland sign, or maybe a view of Space Mountain, and of course many sketches of the Castle.

A fanciful view of "The Rivers of America", doodled in spare time using the mixed media of office supplies(recycled xerox paper, hi-lighter markers, and felt tip pens)
Lately I have taken up doodling these "back of a napkin" style sketches of my happy place. And all these years later they still recall my junior high posters...scale is a bit off, somethings are not in the right place...but the feeling is there. Being doodles, I sketch them from the details aren't quite correct...maybe a real Jungle Cruise Launch doesn't have that smokestack or the awning is a little different. The Mark Twain has three full decks and not two(or maybe not I didn't check), they are just little exercises to pass some time while a computer boots up or a file saves. So they are drawn on scrap Xerox paper and use markers and highlighters...all just for fun.  The full color sketch is a "Paper by 53" iPad app drawing...that took a little more time, but it is similar in spirit so I included it here.

Cinderella Castle doodle from Walt Disney World as seen from Tomorrowland .

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

"This is my art and it is dangerous! Do you think I want to die like this?" OR ADVENTURES IN SET DESIGN

Castle courtyard from "The Princess & The Magic Pea" This is my set and from the top of that tower it seems very, very dangerous.

For those who might not recognize the title of this post it is a memorable line spoken by "Delia" (played brilliantly by Catherine O'Hara) in the classic movie Beetlejuice. She plays Winona Ryder's stepmother, and seems to consider herself a tortured artist forced into exile in the country. There is this funny scene in the movie when her grotesque giant sculpture pins her to the wall while being moved by a large crane and in a panic she let's out that declaration. This line frequently came to my mind when I was painting high atop a set piece I had designed.

"Princess & The Magic Pea" set without cast

Concept Sketch

I've written many times how much I love movies/TV, etc. and wanted to be a set designer when I was in junior high and high school. It was in the late 80's and early 90's when Tim Burton's Batman movie first hit the scene, that I started to make the connections between set design and architecture. I also was a big Starlog magazine junkie, "before the internet" magazines like Starlog, Fangoria, Cinefantastique were where you went to learn about how the movies were made. Tim Burton's movies have always been very architecturally rich, and in fact his production designers (Bo Welch & Anton Furst) were trained as architects. Beetlejuice, Batman, Batman Returns, I was just a huge fan of all these films and I would read interviews with Welch & Furst and figured out that getting a degree in Architecture could be a great start to a career as set designer. Once I was actually in college I found myself moving away from that ambition and ended up persuing a more traditional career in architecture(hence the name of the blog!). But it remained an early ambition and I have now had several chances to design sets for my son's plays!

Castle staircase and tower set piece with my favorite cook

Castle staircase and tower set piece concept sketch

The first play was the "Mooresville Community Children's Theatre" production of "The Princess and the Pea", and my son Presley was cast as a cook in the royal household. The play would need flexible set pieces with multiple levels at the request of the director. The director was wonderful, very supportive, she laid out a slideshow with what she was hoping for, and I hoped I was able to touch on most of it.  The technical director had a real can do spirit, he simply would not reign me in, no matter how upfront I was about not knowing the practical side of building for the stage. And some how he pulled it off...we ended up with 2 large mobile set pieces and a large fixed platform. The fixed platform was used as a dock, a dais, a castle hallway, it was really wonderful to see how the director staged everything, my intent was to give her pieces with flexibility to be used as multiple locations without my knowing exactly what each piece might be. So the elements suggested hallways, chambers, there were balconies, and a stairway. Depending how it was staged you might have a courtyard or a great hall, and the kitchen doubled as an apothecary.  There were archways and platforms so the performers could really move in and out of the set.

Rotate the tower staircase and you get a magic balcony and a not so magic chamber

The backdrop was three large heraldic banners that my family helped me paint(My wife Monica did the lion, Presley helped with the crowns and the baby sat in a chair and supervised. We did them on our kitchen floor.), beneath the banners were a set of columns and arches.  The largest set piece was a staircase to an enchanted balcony on one side and on the other side of this set piece was a royal chamber. Above the Royal chamber was the enchanted balcony(only a magic fairy would be seen using the balcony).  The enchanted balcony had a fanciful wrought iron railing and a cupola for the fairy to reside in...she was overseeing the play and was literally elevated over all other characters. I wanted to give the set the feel of being a castle with a village so I introduced a tower, this would double as a cupola for the fairy. It was high over the stage at the top of that tower when I was painting it that I kept hearing that Beetlejuice line in my head over and over. The top of that tower nearly reached the rafters. The set was built to hold several kids all over it, but it repeatedly held my 6'-4" frame too! The second movable set piece would be a kitchen/apothecary with a balcony above. This balcony was less fanciful being a wooden baluster type. The idea being that the kitchen set piece is more rustic than the Tower/Enchanted Balcony piece. The other side was the famous mattress stack/canopy bed.

Another balcony and below a more utilitarian chamber to suggest a kitchen or an apothecary

In keeping with my Architecture background the set was very "tectonic" there were many building elements, they weren't necessarily arranged as an actual building but they suggested a physical 3-D environment, and not a backdrop with flat pieces in front of it.  The set pieces ended up being very large and heavy (approximately 8' x 8' each). They would be moved back and forth and rotated by a team of dedicated parent volunteers. This was tough work, but I think it added a lot of production value and spectacle, I recall hearing gasps from the audience when certain elements came into view, and of course when the mattress was revealed.

Concept sketch of the bed, I neglected to take a picture of the final product! This was on the other side of the Kitchen/Apothecary/Balcony set piece

The production team was great, the parent volunteers invaluable, especially as a set construction and painting crew.  We lost work time due to a blizzard, and ended up having to build alongside rehearsals.  The theater had acquired years of deconstructed set pieces in storage. Among these pieces were some arches and platforms that we salvaged and used as the framework of our set. I was very proud of how much we were able to reuse, and in fact some of that material has been reused in other shows. It was a great thrill to finally take a stab at set design and fulfill a childhood ambition.

Psychiatric Help: The Doctor is Real In

This past December I was called upon to design and build props and set pieces for the "Activate Community Through Theatre" production of "A Charlie Brown Christmas".  This was a live-action version of the holiday TV classic.  Presley played Pig Pen and I designed an over sized bass fiddle and dirty snow man for him.

Pig Pen and his Bass

Pig Pen can make a dirty snowman. Actually my wife and I made the snowman, the mailbox and Pig Pen too

I also designed the famous psychiatric booth and decorated doghouse. The Christmas decorations were re-purposed to decorate the Christmas tree at the end of the show.  We incorporated working lights attached with velcro so that the kids could first decorate the doghouse and then later use the same decorations on the Christmas tree.

1st Place! 

It is popularly believed that Snoopy's Doghouse is always red...but in fact in this particular episode the doghouse is blue! So in staying accurate to that I painted the doghouse blue and the psychiatry booth pink and red(again to match the way it was presented in the TV special).  Various props were needed and provided, my wife Monica(also an architect by training) was a full partner on this job and was invaluable, especially when it came to building and painting all of this stuff to meet the deadline.  She has a great eye and is more of a perfectionist than I am which just pushes you to do better.

How far can you see from the top of a tree?  I finally designed (and helped build) a treehouse for my son....
Concept Sketch.  The branches were originally out stretched but then the treehouse would get stuck in the wings, so the branches were moved and the treehouse still came out great.  Improvisation is an important theatrical skill, even for the technical crew!
Following on the heels of this job was the design of the sets and the drawing of projected backgrounds for the "Mooresville Community Children's Theatre" production of "The Magic Treehouse: The Knight of Dawn".  Presley had a dual role on this show playing both the lead "Jack" ( a time traveling boy ) and the "Prince of Floren" (an impostor).  The story follows a brother & sister who use a magical treehouse to travel to the middle ages.  I designed a time traveling treehouse, a castle facade and drawbridge and a series of projected backgrounds for this play.

"It was a dark and stormy out for that castle behind you!"
Rehearsal in front of the castle
Showtime in front of the castle.
The Great Hall
The Armory

The Treehouse came out really good, the technical director came up with an interesting way to do the tree bark- he stretched pieces of fabric to suggest the knarled tree bark. I left open 2 sides of the treehouse so we could see the kids.  It was rolled out as needed and then tucked in the wings when not on stage.  The castle facade was a rolling piece with a drawbridge.  It was augmented with a projection to appear part of a larger castle facade.  We reused a lot of the raw material from "Princess and the Pea", which has been reused repeatedly.  There were a variety of castle settings needed for the background projections- facades,  a courtyard, a great hall, hallways, an armory, a storeroom, moats & catwalks of the castle, magical forests and a dungeon. This was a fun project, and I have two castle shows under my belt now.