Until February of 2014, I had never been on Disneyland's Matterhorn Bobsleds, writing it off in the back of my mind as a gently roaring no-man's-land that was probably far too scary for someone like me. When I'd visit Disneyland, my eyes would pass its peak without hesitation, a briefly illuminated thought of sleds dropping from it's craggy peak in the back of my mind. It didn't threaten me because there was no chance I'd ever face it.
But that fateful day in February, riding high on a free trip courtesy of a friend, I was finally goaded into taking my place in the bobsled. But as the little girls in the line promised my wife and me, the Matterhorn wasn't scary. That evening, it was reborn in a gentler light, especially when compared to the mystifying freak-out of Space Mountain or the horrifying frigid free-falls of the nightmarish Matterhorn of my mind's creation.
Followers of this blog know that last year, I embarked on my own personal Mountain Challenge in which I rode all four of Disneyland's mountain-themed roller coasters in one day. While this feat may seem ridiculous to most of the world, it was actually a major point of facing fear for me. In this portrait of the Disney Orphan that reigns over the Matterhorn, I tried to capture a hint of that fear with the gentler, wintry beauty that the Matterhorn Bobsleds eventually revealed to me.
As mentioned in my previous Disney Orphan blog, the Disney Orphans are a Lord of the Flies-style tribe of feral children that inhabit an alternate reality post-apocalypse Disneyland. Disney Orphan - Space mountain was my definite first choice as Space Mountain is so unlike the other 3 mountains in its futuristic design.
After some deliberation, I chose to take on the Matterhorn as the second mountain for a few reasons: 1. the novelty of the Matterhorn Bobsleds since it was the last of the mountains for me to ride, 2. the history in the Matterhorn since it was the first of the Disneyland mountains to be built, and 3. the seasonal weather (I started the illustration right before Christmas 2014).
Also right before Christmas, I watched Disney's animated film Frozen, made curious by the hype of 10-year-olds and disdain of their parents. Despite most of my peers being either ignorant of the film or outright disliking it, my inner child was entertained and some of that energy poured into this illustration, probably contributing to the soft, gentle aspects.
In between sips of mint hot chocolate, I poured a lot of energy into capturing details of the Matterhorn, trying to recreate its natural rocky, snow-covered veneer. I experimented with negative space in attempts to sketch the waterfalls and the snowy peak. Unlike most of my illustrations, I chose not to ink the details of the Matterhorn, wanting a soft, natural look.
However, I had always imagined the Matterhorn as looking cold with lots of grays, blues, and whites (much like the color template of the tiles that the Disney Orphan is walking upon). So, as I tried to recreate the Matterhorn, I was surprised at how rustic and earthy the rock facade of the Matterhorn actually looked. Though grays and blues are subtly incorporated into the facade, that earthy brown is the base color.
At times, this bothered me during the painting process but in the end, I feel it is a reverent portrait of the Matterhorn and still captures its arctic majesty and ominous iciness. I also had trouble referencing the actual look of the area where patrons line up. Though this is an alternate reality Disneyland, I still wanted to capture some semblance of the traditional look of the Matterhorn Bobsleds including the split line experience.
I completely fabricated the colors of the line and its weird ticket house structure to reinforce the chilly vibe of the illustration. I also alluded to the Disney Orphan influence with some of the Matterhorn ticket house's plaques missing, the window blinds torn out revealing dark space, and a graffiti Mickey Mouse skull insignia.
The Mickey mouse skull insignia is one of two important differences in symbols between the Disney Orphan who presides over the Space Mountain district and this Disney Orphan who presides over the Matterhorn district. The Space Mountain Disney Orphan incorporates a stitch-mouthed Mickey Mouse design as his icon and makes use of a cryptic symbol of a red crescent moon punctuated mysteriously by a red star.
This symbol is often used to form the ears of his Mickey Mouse icon. However, the Matterhorn's Disney Orphan makes use of a simple Mickey Mouse skull icon and a symbol showing an eye with a hypnotic spiral iris that spins out into another spiral design outside of the eye. The meaning of these occult symbols are known only to the Disney Orphans themselves.
It can be assumed that the orphans presiding over Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain make use of equally cryptic yet different symbols and Mickey Mouse icons.
Finally, the state of the vegetation surrounding the Matterhorn is simply a reminder that the Disney Orphans are survivors of the apocalypse. Even the evergreens have taken on a polluted yellow with the bushes around them succumbing to a diseased gray. They're not quite dead but possibly mutated, unable to continue as they were prior to the apocalypse.