Hand in hand with Partners statue
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 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.
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