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K & R - Erics path to Disney is an amazing ride.
Eric - "I graduated in Economics from UC Irvine, and then for two years tried to be a business man, with a three piece suit and that whole thing went to Art Center and got my degree in Car Design, Industrial Design. And ion my senior year I did a theme park attraction just for myself, for my senior thesis but I was graduating in car design. A couple weeks before, some Disney guy was walking down the hall and he looked in and said Hey, you want to work at Disney? and I said, No, I dont want to. I want to go to BMW in Germany and design some nice cars. So he said, Well, if you want to you could probably get a job. He gave me a card that said Imagineering Somebody else approached me a week later, so I thought, OK, so, Glendale or Germany? Long story short, I showed them my portfolio and I went to work at Imagineering."
Eric remembered his early days at WDI, "My first job was SQS, behind Pirates of the Caribbean here at Disneyland, for the first three months I designed a popcorn cart, designed ice cream, like, I worked on the ice cream carts a little. Id go through the park every day and ride the attractions, and think, God, this is a great job. Id look for graffiti on the Splash Mountain rocks , stuff like that, and report it Then I went up to Glendale to Imagineering and stayed there for seven years I still consult with them."
It was evident that Eric enjoyed his time at WDI, "I worked a lot on EuroDisneyland, Discovery land My first real job at Imagineering was the Tokyo Star Tours druids, because my degree from Art Center was in Industrial Design so I could do robots with my eyes closed (laughs). So, I had all those robot designs, like the talking bird they used in Tokyo That was a gas, you know? That was a great first gig. To do robots for Star Tours so that kind of put me on the map."
He then told a story that neither of us had ever heard before, how his work got into the gallery, " the most interesting thing Marty Sklar, President of Imagineering I had done a couple of these characters in my office for fun, and a friend of mine said Eric, you should sell that stuff, people would live this. And I said, Really? so I went to the Disney Studios - No - I went to every branch, they all said no. Everybody kept saying, Eric its so cool. I want one, I want one, I want one. for birthday cards and stuff. And I said, I know what Im going to do. Im going to down to Marty Sklars office after hours and Im going to put my paintings in his office. So, the secretary was down there, he had gone. And I said, Can I get in there and put this surprise him? I put it in his chair, on his desk, I leaned it against his walls. There were like eight paintings and sketches, Lady and the Tramp, Goofy, Donald, stuff like that. I was really excited, I mean, this is how you get big impact."
He laughed, "I was going to do it to Eisner, but didnt have the guts, and I couldnt get in there either So, I wanted to make it, ya know? When youre an artist you really want exposure, you really want to be discovered. So you really have to show some guts or youre never going to be, youre going to sit in your office. So the next morning comes, and Im sitting in my office, Im waiting for the big call - right? - I get a call from the secretary, Get down here right now, and get your stuff out of his office. He is not happy. I go down there like Im going to loose my job. And he goes, This is you? and I go, Yeah. And he says, Its not a good idea to do what you did. I said, "Im really sorry. and I apologized as I was walking out. And he said, nut, wait a minute. What are these things? and I said, Well, theyre just some fun paintings I did. Some characters. I changed them a little bit artistically. So, he said, What do you want to do with them? And I said, I dont know. What do you want to do with them?"
Eric remembered, "He goes, This is beautiful. This is beautiful art work. He says, I cant believe the guts youve got kid, for sticking it in my office. But, Im glad you did, because theyre wonderful and I want to do something with them. And I got a chill up my back. Because, this is the man, ya know? Marty. So he says, Let me make some phone calls and three weeks later I had a gallery showing at the Disneyland Gallery. Sold out there was a huge line I felt like a celebrity. And, ever since then - whew - its been selling out Its been busy and now - the whole gallery, wow. Its been a dream. A Cinderella story. A Cinder-fella story."
"So, anyway, Marty Sklar is really the guy that discovered me and really did this whole thing. Without him, I would have still been sitting in my office Hes a great guy, just talked to him yesterday. A father figure It was a roll of the dice and it could have gone either way and it went a little bit of both, but it took guts And now Martys the guy that asks me to be in the Herb Ryman show every year And now Im like an honorary guest in that whole equation. Man, Im very honored to be in such a place. Because Herbie really inspired me a lot while I was there before he died."
I like Eric. Hes approachable and open and unaffected by his success, just the kind of guy who wears the trappings of his talent lightly and is amused and - a bit - confused by all the fuss. He has a sense of fun and wonder and an intense curiosity he focuses into that artistic drive to create - a lot like the mouse hes created 100 images of. So, the next time youre at Disneyland, wander up to the gallery and take a look at the exhibit - it runs through September 8, 2002. Im sure that youll be able to find at least one of them that appeals to you - I found about 90.
"Its a Cinder-fella story" as Eric explains his career.
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