Disney Orphan - Matterhorn

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.


Disney Orphan - Space Mountain

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. 

What's in that bag, young man?


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. 

I've actually seen worse bootleg Mickey Mouses (Mickey Mice?) since moving to LA...

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. 

Early works - Disney Orphan Detainee...

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

Disney Orphan - Space Mountain


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.