Orlando Sentinel

Hand in hand with Partners statue

- Dewayne Bevil Theme Park Ranger

As golden statues of characters are being added to Walt Disney World theme parks, another sculpture remains standing at the Magic Kingdom. Partners, the larger-than-life representa­tion of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse, has been in the hub near Cinderella Castle since 1995.

As part of our Disney World at 50 series, which publishes on Wednesdays on OrlandoSen­tinel. com, we share facts about Partners, its maker and its history.

It’s not a small world

The copper Partners statue is oversized, making Walt at 6 feet, 5 inches tall. (He was about 5-foot10 in real life). Disney and Mickey

are on a pedestal, making them that much taller, which allows visitors to have good photo opportunit­ies with the castle in the background. The duo was spruced up this summer ahead of the 50th celebratio­n, which officially gets underway Oct. 1.

The Disney Fab 50 statues in the immediate area of Partners include Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Goofy, Pluto, Chip and Dale.

A Blaine Gibson production

The statue was designed by Blaine Gibson, an animator and sculptor who knew Walt Disney personally. Blaine did animation on early projects including “Fantasia,” “Bambi” and “Peter Pan.” When Disneyland opened, he really got into figures, so his handiwork can be spotted in attraction­s such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion and “it’s a small world” (And, formerly, the Great Movie Ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios).

He also made the busts for Hall of Presidents, having a hand in every figure through Barack Obama. He also crafted the Abraham Lincoln figure for the “Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln” attraction for the 1964 New York World’s Fair.

Gibson, who died in 2015 at the age of 97, said he made the statue to be Disney circa 1954 when he would have been about 52 years old.

“I think that’s when Walt was in his prime,” Gibson said.

A detail you might have to squint to see: The necktie has an interlocke­d S-T-R symbol, which stands for Smoke Tree Ranch, a place near Palm Springs, California,

where Disney owned land.

We all scream

According to Imagineers, an early clay model of Partners included an ice-cream cone in the hand of Mickey Mouse.

“When we reviewed the statue, we decided it looked a little bit too much like Walt was taking his child out for a walk, so to make Walt and Mickey look like partners, we took away the ice cream cone,” Jonathan Friday, Walt Disney Imagineeri­ng creative director, said during a video walkthroug­h of Walt Disney Imagineeri­ng’s sculpture studio. It was posted on the official Disney Parks Blog last year.

At least it wasn’t a Mickey bar.

The at-home version

A 9-inch replica — less than a tenth of the size of the original — was sold by shopDisney for $160. It has since sold out.

The statue has been parodied a couple of times in the “Wonderful World of Walt Disney” cartoon shorts. In the episode called “Big Good Wolf,” Mickey presents a small statue of him and the supposedly reformed character

to Big Bad as a gift. It’s inscribed “Wolfie — World’s Goodest Wolf.”

In the increasing­ly bizarre “Game Night” episode, Donald Duck daydreams about being as beloved as Mickey, and one scene includes a statue version of Donald alongside a larger, posed-as-Walt duck in front of a castle. These episodes can be seen on the Disney+ streaming service.

And the rest

The first Partners statue was installed at Disneyland in 1993, followed by the one at Magic Kingdom two years later. Their inscriptio­ns are different because the first one made reference to Disneyland and that wouldn’t make much sense in Florida. But on both coasts, there are Walt Disney quotes about parents and children having fun together.

There also are Partners statues at Tokyo Disneyland and at Walt Disney Studios Park in France plus a non-park one at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California.

At Magic Kingdom, there’s another Blaine creation featuring a Disney … but it’s Walt’s brother, Roy, sitting on a park bench with Minnie Mouse. The work is called Sharing the Magic and it’s typically

located near the flagpole at the park entrance, although sometimes it’s relocated to nearby spots. Currently, it rests near City Hall on Main Street U.S.A.

This series

This story is part of the Orlando Sentinel’s “Disney World at 50” series — a year’s worth of stories leading up to the 50th anniversar­y of the historic opening of Walt Disney World on Oct. 1, 1971. Find more stories, photos and videos at OrlandoSen­tinel.com/WDW50.

Order our book

Order your copy of “Disney World at 50,” the Orlando Sentinel’s new hardcover keepsake book chroniclin­g the 50th anniversar­y of the opening of the most magical place on Earth. Supplies are limited. Order your copy at OrlandoSen­tinel.com/DisneyBook.

Email me at dbevil@orlandosen­tinel.com. Want more theme park news? Subscribe to the Theme Park Rangers newsletter at orlandosen­tinel.com/newsletter­s or the Theme Park Rangers podcast at orlandosen­tinel.com/trav el/attraction­s/theme-parkranger­s-podcast. For more fun things, follow @fun. things.orlando on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

 ?? JOE BURBANK/ORLANDO SENTINEL ?? The Partners statue fronts the redecorate­d Cinderella Castle as preparatio­ns begin for the 50th anniversar­y of Walt Disney World.
JOE BURBANK/ORLANDO SENTINEL The Partners statue fronts the redecorate­d Cinderella Castle as preparatio­ns begin for the 50th anniversar­y of Walt Disney World.
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 ?? JOE BURBANK/ORLANDO SENTINEL ?? Magic Kingdom visitors stroll by the statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse holding hands in March.
JOE BURBANK/ORLANDO SENTINEL Magic Kingdom visitors stroll by the statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse holding hands in March.

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