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.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Artwork for the Children's Theater: T-Shirts & Posters!

Modeling my fashion line at a Children's Theater near me.  With my boys after a performance of "Disney's The Jungle Book Kids" wearing the cast T-Shirt with my drawing on it.
  When we first moved to North Carolina my son Presley was befriended by a classmate who had an interest in children's theater. Our family was invited to one of her plays; an original adaptation of "Alice in Wonderland". This was followed by seeing her in a production of "Disney's The Little Mermaid, Junior". At first Presley seemed very content as a spectator only, but at some point he was convinced to audition for an adaptation of "Oliver Twist". He was cast, and well he discovered that he really loved acting. Our corner of North Carolina has a very active community theater scene and he alternates between two companies-"Activate Community Through Theater" or "ACT" and the "Mooresville Community Children's Theater" or "MCCT".  I was eventually converted from a Parent Volunteer to a member of the Board of Directors of  MCCT.  It has been a fun experience being involved in the "behind the scenes" activity of the MCCT.  I have already shared some of the large paintings I've done and I also contribute graphic art for the needs of the productions; posters, logos, T-Shirts.

  If I search my memory far enough I'd have to say I wanted to be a cartoonist, this morphed into an ambition to be a production designer(stage/film/TV), which led to "a career in ARCHITECTURE". Being a person who "was Born 40" I haven't changed much over the years, I'm pretty much the same person I was when I was 6 calendar years old. Or to put it another way I draw in an architectural style heavily influenced by film/tv with a dash of cartoonist thrown in. I emphasize bold line work, heavy geometry and bold use of color.

See that little doodle hanging from that banner, I drew that! 

  For  MCCT's Princess and the Magical Pea I came up with a logo that looks like the famous stacked mattress canopy bed.  I wanted bright, punchy colors since it is a fairy tale and it is a children's theater production. I was just learning to use "Paper by 53" a very intuitive sketching app for iPADs. I can't recommend this enough, it's like having an unlimited supply of fresh Prismacolor markers at your disposal. I do all the artworks using this app. The logo went on posters, street banners and a T-Shirt. Presley played an orphan in the ensemble, we developed his backstory and he named himself  the very Victorian sounding "Ezra Preble".

Picnic with the Peanuts for "Your'e a Good Man, Charlie Brown", this my sketch and it is an original composition.  Not for profit, fair use, etc.

For MCCT's production of "You're a good man, Charlie Brown" a logo was needed for the related fundraising/promotional party that traditionally accompanies our plays. This was to be "A Picnic with the Peanuts gang". So I drew an original sketch of some of the gang having a Picnic with a joyful Snoopy dancing on the table. This ended up being on the cast t-Shirt.

Another one of my banner attachments, this one was hanging on Main Street (Mooresville), U.S.A.!

For MCCT 's "Disney's Jungle Book Kids" I designed an original artwork  that was adapted for posters, street banners, and the cast T-Shirt. I also did a large format lobby painting (I did a separate post on my paintings). I used jungle temple ruins as a frame and as a place for the show title. The characters were then arranged around this frame. Mowgli on Baloo floating on a river, Shere Khan hiding in the grass, Bagheera watching Baloo from above. Colonel Hathi in the distance and the Vultures on a tree branch over it all. Presley had 2 wonderful scene chewing parts, that of Col. Hathi: leader of the elephants and as "Bill, a Vulture" who hoped to eat the carcass of the man cub.  He also was in the Jungle ensemble as a tree, three parts in this one!

"Pencil & Marker" Sketch using Paper by 53 APP

I love drawing so being able to do these has been a real joy. These are my original compositions, done as a volunteer with a non-profit organization which held the appropriate licenses for the various theatrical productions. So no copyright infringement was meant.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Walking right down the middle of Main Street, U.S.A.

With the Roy O. Disney & Minnie statue looking down Main Street, U.S.A. from Town Square, Magic Kingdom, WALT DISNEY WORLD, Florida.  Note size of Castle and this is from Town Square.
  Frank Lloyd Wright called Architecture the "Mother Art"....because all other arts had to go through it, and so in that spirit I pull just about everything I love(Disney, Cars, Theater, Film, TV.) through this blog using that justification. I am obviously a huge Disney nut, I come by it honestly as I grew up in a Disney household. We went to Disneyland at least once a year, and my folks were always sharing Disney movies with us. Their Disney love went back to their childhoods too. My parents are from the same small mining town (Morenci, Arizona) and although they didn't  start dating until they had both ended up in Southern California they have known each other since childhood. My Mom and my Dad's sister were in the 5th Grade together and their friendship started with an outing to see a re-release of Walt Disney's Cinderella at their local theater.

Looking down Main Street, U.S.A. from about half way down, DISNEYLAND, California.  Note the size of the castle and this is almost 3/4ths down Main Street.
  My great Aunt was a school teacher in San Bernardino, California in the 50's and my Dad and his siblings would come visit from Arizona during breaks from school. Dad has tons of Disneyland stories from way back. My great Aunt took them on their first trips to Disneyland. He would talk of going when they had the circus...which was so short lived that it was only in operation over the Christmas holiday from Dec. 1955- Jan. 1956. That was how I was able to determine that he first went to Disneyland in it's opening year, not bad for some kids from a tiny town in eastern Arizona. Some of my earliest memories are of Disneyland, and I imagine it will be the same for my children, if you love it, truly love Disney I think it is something you can't help but pass on to your kids. Walt Disney became a childhood hero of mine, there was something about the story of a kid who likes to draw who goes on to do great things that was terribly attractive to this daydreamer. Our second son's middle name is Elias both as a tribute to my wife's family and to Walter Elias Disney.

Looking down Main Street, U.S.A. from Cinderella Castle across The Plaza, Magic Kingdom, WALT DISNEY WORLD, Florida. Note the flag poles and cupolas and generally fancier "gingerbread" architectural detailing on the buildings. 
  Southern California in the 50's is a place with a lot of transplants from the midwest and east and here they were living in this sort of magical desert with eternal spring and summer and ground that if you added water would grow anything.  I think Disneyland grew out of that, after living on the east coast for a few years now I can see how it generated feelings of nostalgia and reassurance to transplanted Midwesterners and East Coasters. A large portion of it is essentially a petting zoo of the rest of America, you have the small town Main Street that could be anywhere, the Rivers(and forests) of America, and Frontierland,  If you watch old episodes of Walt Disney's anthology TV show you will see in the shows filmed at Disneyland many more older people just taking the place in than you are likely to today.  At some point there has been a shift from being nostalgic about the settings of Disneyland to being nostalgic about Disneyland itself.

Looking down Main Street, U.S.A. across Town Square from in front of Train Station, DISNEYLAND, California. Note the size of the Castle and this is looking across Town Square.
  "Main Street, U.S.A." is that wonderful gateway to the Magic Kingdoms, it's been said that Disneyland is like a movie that the guest stars in, the tunnels beneath the train tracks are like the darkness in a theater right before the curtain pulls back and the credits begin. So "Main Street, U.S.A." acts as a kind of opening credits(which is why the names on the windows honor folks who designed and built and ran the parks).  It also acts as transition from the real world to the fantastic worlds of the rest of the park.

Looking down Main Street, U.S.A. from edge of The Plaza, DISNEYLAND, California. Note the brick, mansard roof/attics, awnings, fewer turrets & cuppolas.

  In the 1950's a Victorian turn of the century Main Street would have been something still fresh in many people's memories(as it was for Walt Disney). Southern California has many downtown streets next to a railroad line(sort of like "Main Street, U.S.A." but without the churros) like much of the country, but by the 50's they probably had been stripped of much of their charm. There was the spread of automobile-centric design, shopping centers with large parking lots ("strip malls"). You might find yourself parking in front of one store and because of the size of the parking lot getting back in your car and driving to park in front of another store in the same center.  The intimacy of the streetscape with sidewalks and shops lining it that you walk between was being lost. Disneyland had a part in reviving that tradition.

Horse drawn trolley and motor bus in front of Main Street Train Station, DISNEYLAND, California

  Today I think Main Street exists in the popular imagination not so much as a shared past but as a Disney concept.  But it is still a powerful concept and it's appeal can be seen in the spread and success of "Lifestyle" shopping centers.(Like "The Grove" in Los Angeles a newer shopping center that even has a Trolley going down an artificial street!) The secret is in a visually interesting place("Main Street U.S.A." buildings have tons of detail, cornices and molding and lights and trim around the windows/doors) with varying sights and sounds and being able to walk it comfortably. The Disney version of Main Street is idealized; it's not a false memory but the way things should be.

East side of Main Street, U.S.A., DISNEYLAND, California. Note how the windows are slightly smaller as you look at each floor of the buildings.  In reality this is a two story building, but the window detailing makes it look as much as four stories tall.  This is what is meant as "Forced Perspective"
  I've always loved "Main Street, USA", having been a fan of model railroading, and after all what is Disneyland but a slightly larger model railroad. It is said that it is(very) loosely based on the impressions Walt Disney had of his hometown of Marceline, Missouri. This is really only true in that it recalls the small town downtowns found next to many railroad depots. The buildings were Art Directed by Disney Artist Harper Goff who worked in the architectural details of the buildings of Fort Collins, Colorado (his hometown) into those he designed for Disneyland.  Fort Collins was a colorful, prosperous town with buildings that have a lot of "gingerbread" detail, with turrets and cupolas you see at Disneyland. Walt's Marceline was far more modest, with much simpler brick buildings.   

Looking down Main Street, U.S.A from Town Square, DISNEYLAND, California.  Note size of Castle and this is from Town Square.
Looking down Main Street, U.S.A. from in front of The Emporium, Magic Kingdom, WALT DISNEY WORLD, Florida. Note the size of the Castle and this is from just past Town Square.  Also note how much more architectural trim and detail there is, more turrets & cupolas, and flagpoles.
  At very quick glance the Main Streets at Disneyland and Walt Disney World seem the same.   While they both try to portray an idealized turn of the century "Anywhere, U.S.A." environment, the scale, character, and detail are very different.

"Main Street, U.S.A." at Disneyland

  At Disneyland, Main Street is a small town, the buildings while charming and detailed are not particularly grand.  It evokes middle America with liberal doses of Victorian (Second Empire) Architecture.  Second Empire architecture has mansard rooflines(those sloping upper floors with roof surfaces but still with windows) and turrets or towers. A very popular style in the late 1800's.

Main Street Train Station from entry plaza("Esplanade"), DISNEYLAND, California.  Note tall clock tower at right, subtle wood trim details and dormers.
Main Street Station from Town Square, DISNEYLAND, California.  Note clocktower to the east, stairs leading up to station, window dormers.

  There is a simple but elegantly composed railroad depot at the head of the street. The depot is my favorite building on Disneyland's Main Street. It has an asymmetrical composition with the tower situated on the East side of the building.

Opera House, Main Street, U.S.A., DISNEYLAND, California
 There is a handsome opera house on one side of a Town Square and on the opposite side is a handsome Town Hall with a charming fire station where Walt Disney kept a second floor apartment.

Disneyland City Hall, Main Street, U.S.A., DISNEYLAND, California
Fire Station, Main Street U.S.A., DISNEYLAND, California.  The second floor of this building housed a small private apartment for Walt Disney and his family.
  The street continues towards Sleeping Beauty Castle in the distance past The Emporium on the West and the Main Street Hotel on the East.  Along both sides of the street are various storefronts of different composition but still in various Victorian Styles.

The Emporium, Main Street, U.S.A., DISNEYLAND, California.  Note the stone detailing, awnings, third floor mansard roof and the tower. 
  These buildings are famously built using "Forced Perspective" in that the first floor is built nearly full scale, and each floor above is slightly smaller in scale so that the building seems taller than it really is because the smaller windows higher up make you think they are farther away.  The overall effect is that you think you are surrounded by 3 story(and taller) buildings but they are really only 2 stories tall.  The Castle uses the same trick to look like it is 100's of feet high while only being about 77 feet tall.  At Disneyland the Castle looks small, or to put it another way it looks really far away.  

"Main Street, U.S.A." at Walt Disney World(Magic Kingdom)

  The "Main Street, U.S.A." at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World is like the entire resort; much, much bigger.  The time setting is still the same but we are no longer in a small, modest town. Magic Kingdom Main Street is a large, prosperous, East Coast resort town.  It is horse country meets seaside resort (Upstate New York, Cape May, New Jersey) and every building is larger and more ornately detailed. The designers came from 20th Century Fox where they had done the amazing production design for the "Hello, Dolly!" film musical.
  In a previous post I detailed the extraordinary arrival sequence to the gates of the Magic Kingdom. Since Magic Kingdom is on the shore of a large lagoon and lake and arrival is by ferry boat or monorail the buildings were scaled to be seen from a distance.  Cinderella Castle is enormous and is visible from across the water, but as you get closer and closer it somehow manages to disappear!

Main Street Station from entry plaza, Magic Kingdom, WALT DISNEY WORLD, Florida.  Note the central clocktower with much more elaborate and formal "gingerbread" detailing.  
   At the head of Magic Kingdom Main Street is the handsome and imposing Main Street shares the same colors and overall effect of the Disneyland station but here you will find a symmetrical composition.

Main Street Station as seen from Town Square, Magic Kingdom, WALT DISNEY WORLD, Florida.  Note: Stop counting the Dwarfs and note the elaborate metal structure in place of California's open staircase.  All of the detailing is much richer and elaborate which suggests that WALT DISNEY WORLD Main Street, U.S.A. is a larger city, a "sophisticated" East Coast Resort and not a perfectly respectable middle American hamlet.
Same view seen from night, with the Seven Dwarfs out of the way we can now see that Main Street Station has both covered and exterior stairs(needed for the harsher Florida climate and because this is meant to be a more substantial station for a more prosperous town than the one represented at DISNEYLAND.)

  There is a highly detailed tower at the center of the building. The station is based on a real depot that was in Saratoga Springs, New York; a horse racing resort town.  I believe the centered/symmetrical design gives the station the size and presence that allows the Castle to be obscured. You lose sight of it enough to be surprised by it later.

Magic Kingdom City Hall, WALT DISNEY WORLD, Florida. This is a much more imposing structure than the one found at DISNEYLAND.  The columns are beefier, and there is more stonework detail just about everywhere.  The directive at WALT DISNEY WORLD was more, more, more.
  Town Square is flanked by a grander City Hall and Fire Station, and in place of the Disneyland Opera House is an extremely elegant and ornate "Town Square Theater".  It has a dramatic 2 story porch and is modeled on resort hotels from the time period.

Town Square Theater, Main Street, U.S.A., Magic Kingdom, WALT DISNEY WORLD, Florida.  This is modeled on a hotel, which is why you see balconies along the second and third floors.  While the architectural detailing is heavily Victorian with curlicues and gingerbread the massing of the building and the double height porch recall the riverside elevation of George Washington's Mount Vernon.

  This is probably my favorite building at Magic Kingdom Main Street, it has lots of gingerbread decor but it also recalls the grand piazza of George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate.

The Emporium seen from in front of City Hall, Main Street, U.S.A. Town Square, Magic Kingdom, WALT DISNEY WORLD, Florida.  Note again the use of a a double height("2-story") porch with paired columns and gingerbread detailing.  This style is often associated with great seaside resorts of the late nineteenth century and is not the sort of architecture you would find in your average American town.  

  The Emporium at Magic Kingdom is also noticeably more spectacular than it's Disneyland counterpart, it also having a dramatic 2 story corner tower and arcade.  Many of the buildings at this Main Street have these giant 2 story porches.

The Emporium, Main Street, U.S.A., Magic Kingdom, WALT DISNEY WORLD, Florida.  Note again the 2-story porch, complete with giant gazeebo corner entrance. Compare with the handsome but far less ornate DISNEYLAND Emporium.
  Once you clear the Town Square you immediately notice the magnificent Cinderella Castle. Cinderella Castle is almost 200' feet tall, but it looks and feels like it is 1000' tall thanks again to the use of Forced Perspective.  The Castle at Disney World is over 100' feet taller than the castle at Disneyland, it's even taller than the Matterhorn.

Cinderella Castle as seen from about 2/3rd the way down Main Street.  Magic Kingdom, WALT DISNEY WORLD, Florida. This is approximately from the same spot on  DISNEYLAND's Main Street as the second picture on this post.  

   None of this is to suggest that Disney World is better than Disneyland but just to illustrate how it is different and not as many assume simply an East Coast Disneyland. I have found that I love them both!