The idea of the Disney Orphans in my mythology grows from childhood contemplations blown into dark terrain through currents of fear that have probably existed in the universal consciousness for as long as history documents. In the '80s, there was a recurring threat of apocalypse just as had existed in the decades before and followed the decades after.
There's always been a Mayan Calendar or Y2K looming in our futures. Growing up in Southwest Florida with occasional rumours of Cuban missiles pointed at my living room, I found myself more than once contemplating my apocalypse survival plan. Naturally, this plan meant walking through the post-apocalyptic wastes to Disney World in Orlando.
The look of the typical Disney Orphan came to me in a last-minute attempt to throw together a Halloween costume. I was living with my ex-girlfriend at the time and one of us had made a joke about bootleg Disney merchandise.
At this point, the look wasn't meant to tie into the Disney Orphan mythos, largely because there really wasn't much of a mythos in existence. The whole thing was pretty much glued together by a dumb joke about using my ex-girlfriend's black bra as bootleg Mickey Mouse ears. While this was the joke that motivated the costume, it was the only part that I can remember didn't actually work.
I made my own creepily distorted Mickey Mouse t-shirt, my own Mickey Mouse tights, generic Mickey Mouse pins, etc. but in the end I had to use a genuine pair of Disney-issued Mickey Mouse ears because, despite my best efforts, my ex's bra just couldn't be moulded into a convincing hat.
However, I really loved the look of the costume in its final result and began affectionately calling it the Disney Orphan. It's as if the story behind the Disney Orphan mythology was slowly being remembered the more I looked at myself in that attire. It was such an easy and visually-appealing costume for me that I found myself returning to it for several consecutive Halloweens.
These were the seeds of the Disney Orphan mythology. So what is a Disney Orphan? Like much of my artistic work, the definition is fluid and hard to pin down, so it's easiest to site the Disney Orphans appearances in my work. At their most basic, the Disney Orphans form a tribe of feral children who live in an alternate reality post-apocalyptic Disneyland/Disney World.
While this Disneyland has many similarities to both of the American theme parks, there are very obvious differences, such as a recurring crocodile display where the Disney Orphans execute adults, other outsiders, or Disney Orphans that are found guilty of some crime against the tribe.
The first painting I did after moving to Los Angeles, Disney Orphan Detainee, has a lot of stylistic difference from my other work. I had never excelled at painting in school so I always avoided it in favor of drawing, but at some point around 2006, I decided to give it a shot for the creative mistakes that the challenge was sure to offer. The 2 or 3 paintings I completed that year aren't in my possession.
I went on a hiatus afterward and it wasn't until sometime in 2008 or 2009 that I started work on Disney Orphan Detainee. It was to depict the execution of an unfortunate adult to the crocodiles. I worked on this painting sporadically for several years, never fully immersing myself in it and once it was completed in 2012, I hung it on my wall and went on another painting hiatus until October 2013. While Disney Orphan Detainee is primitive compared to my other work, it still managed to color the world of the Disney Orphans and further reinforce their place in my mythology.
My goth-psychedelic-new-wave-glam rock group Peppermint Pumpkin recorded a song originally titled "Disney Orphan Detainee" but eventually shortened to "Disney Orphans" that further explains the concept of the Disney Orphans while blurring the lines of reality since the lyrics make references to Disney World attractions (EPCOT) as well as Florida-specific geography (the Everglades).
This maybe would just prove that the Disney Orphans reside in Florida, but an upcoming illustration of a Disney Orphan with the Matterhorn Bobsleds in the background confound this. This simply reiterates that the Disney Orphans reside in an alternate dimension where the theme parks are merged as well as the geographies and attractions of Florida and California (Califlordia?).
Disney Orphan - Space Mountain: post-apocalypse, pre-color...
A lot of my inspiration for the Disney Orphans comes from a recurring interest in feral children in pop culture that I absorbed as a child growing up in the '80s and '90s. There were the classic marooned school children from Lord of the Flies, the post-apocalyptic desert-dwelling children from the Mad Max series (particularly the character of Scrooloose from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome), vicious children of sci-fi films and literature such as Logan's Run and Barbarella, and even the character of Gau from the video game Final Fantasy III.
My latest illustration, Disney Orphan - Space Mountain is the first in a series that will depict Disney Orphans standing before each of the iconic mountain rides. Space Mountain is aesthetically my favorite of the mountains but also in a lot of ways the most severe so it was only natural that I started with it.
This is not the first time that Space Mountain has appeared in my artwork as I often use it as a twin symbol of the optimism of adventure and conquering fears. I won't even pretend to expound on any symbolism within this particular illustration because I feel the image says it all as straightforward as possible. This is just a window into a post-apocalyptic alternate dimension: plain and simple.