Herbert D. Ryman, whose drawings were used to persuade a group of New York bankers that Disneyland was a viable concept, died Friday of cancer at his home in Sherman Oaks. He was 78.
An accomplished artist who established design credits at most of the major studios during Hollywood's glory years, he had begun his career under Cedric Gibbons at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer shortly after graduating from the Chicago Art Institute in 1932.
Ryman first went to work for Disney in 1938, a time when the full-length animated films were in the planning stage--"Pinocchio," "Dumbo," "Fantasia" and others. He left Disney to return to other studios, but Walt Disney remembered his work and on a Saturday morning in September, 1953, the creator of Mickey Mouse summoned him.
As set forth in Bob Thomas' book, "Walt Disney, an American Original," the conversation went like this:
Disney: "Look, Herbie, my brother Roy is going to New York Monday to line up financing for the park. I've got to give him plans. . . . Those businessmen don't listen to talk, you know; you've got to show them what you're going to do."
Ryman: "Well, where is the drawing? I'd like to see it."
Disney: "You're going to make it."
Whether Disney, as suggested by some, locked the artist in a room for the weekend is not known. But by Monday, Ryman had come up with the now-familiar schematic aerial view that showed Main Street, the railroad to take guests to the various attractions and at Disneyland's hub, Sleeping Beauty's Castle.
Ryman performed similar functions for Walt Disney World, Epcot Center and Tokyo Disneyland, and he was contributing concept drawings for Main Street in the planned Euro Disneyland when he became ill.
An accomplished artist whose watercolors of the California coastline and portraits and paintings of the circus hang in many of Hollywood's most prominent homes, his work was summed up in a letter to him from Michael D. Eisner, the Disney Company's board chairman, shortly before he died:
"Thank you for the beauty you've brought to us all--The Walt Disney Company, the millions of park guests, the many people who have seen your work exhibited . . . and me in particular."
He is survived by a sister. A memorial tribute will be held at 2 p.m. Monday at the First United Methodist Church of Burbank.