BACKSTORY (January 1956–Present): The East Side of Main Street is where you will find this favorite shop. In 1955, Disneyland hired two specialists in silhouette cutting, Alex Degonslar (8/30/1899 - 8/7/1966) and Joseph Markay (5/21/1905 - 10/19/1968). Markay was better known as "Nemo" and he often signed his early silhouettes in this way. The two were interviewed in early editions of the "Disneyland News" newspaper and were featured in an episode of the Disneyland television series called "An Adventure in Art," which was broadcst in April 1958. Today, you can still get your silhouette hand-cut by this shop's talented artists. From the OC Register, August 14, 2012:
From a Disneyland office, two artists capture the profiles of babies, grandparents, dogs, cats, parrots, horses, goats, a hedgehog and even a vintage car. Sometimes they work from photos, but usually from the people themselves. Halos are sometimes placed above those who have died. Over the decades, the two have worked at the Disneyland Silhouette studio to create more than 4 million images, using surgical scissors to cut outlines of faces with black paper in a half-minute that are placed on white backing. The studio opened on Main Street, U.S.A. in January 1956, six months after the park opened. Bonnie Elliott has been here 38 years; Sylvia Fellows, 33 years. Two other artists have worked for shorter periods.
"I'm drawing with my scissors. It's very fun. It's like a game," said Elliott, 61, of Redondo Beach. The studio is one of the few deliberately messy places in Disneyland: Employees are told to keep the paper scraps on the floor. Fellows has created up to 434 images in a shift. Elliott has done 472 pictures in eight hours; she can do some in as little as 15 seconds. Artists cut two mirror-image copies at a time. Each head costs $9 each.
A Northern California pastor asked church members to get their portraits done if they went to Disneyland so his wife could put them in their house. So artists kept hearing from customers who wanted portraits for "the pastor's wife."
One day, a woman came in and said, "You know me. I'm the pastor's wife." She went on to collect portraits of 147 individuals and a dog. Fellows once cut the profile of a terminally ill child because her parents wanted to use the art for her grave. Others are replicated for tattoos or jewelry. Elliott had one couple get silhouettes when they were dating and later come back with their own children and then their grandchildren.
Mike Healy of Alamo in Northern California brought his two daughters. He recognized Fellows as having completed 13-year-old Gabrielle's portrait when she was 5. "I wanted to keep the tradition going on," Healy said. "Hopefully, their kids will get a chance."
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Recently, I was contacted by a reader of my blog who graciously sent me a scan of her Main Street Silhouette Studio portrait. Here is the story as Cherie remembers:
I went to Disneyland in 1960 on Thanksgiving Saturday when they had a special Date Nite. I was a freshman at UCLA and my new boyfriend invited me. It was a cold, gray, sprinkly day but I had so much fun. We danced a lot in the Carnation Plaza to great big band music. I had never been there after dark before.
I lived in the Valley and my mother took me and three girlfriends to Disneyland shortly after it opened. But this Date Nite was very special. And I cherish the silhouette.
THE STORY OF THE SILHOUETTE
Silhouettes by Alex, Lance and Valerie De Gonslar
The Silhouette Studio at Disneyland
Alex has appeared at many World's Fairs, International Expositions, and has cut Silhouette Portraits of Royalty, motion picture personalities, and political figures throughout the world.
Alex speaks French, German, Hungarian and Esperanto.
Sometime ago Alex appeared in a Walt Disney Television show to cut some silhouettes as part of a "History of Art" program, and recently on the "Mickey Mouse Club" television show..
Millions of viewers watched as the artists deftly maneuvered their specially made scissors around the jet black Silhouette Paper and in minutes create profiles of enchanting beauty.
Thousands of visitors to Disneyland have stopped at the Silhouette Studio on Main Street, U.S.A. to watch them work and have their own portraits cut. Silhouettes are an everlasting precious memento, and look most elegant in an oval frame.
The Silhouette Studio in Disneyland has a beautiful selection of oval frames designed specially for the Silhouettes' interior diameter 5 3/4 by 7.
If you would like to order one or more frames, you are invited to fill in the back page of this brochure.
You can also order additional copies of your Silhouette or have a Silhouette made from a photo.
Send us one of the original Silhouettes, or a clear side view photo, which will be returned with the order.
Price of copies - 2 for $1.50 (same person).
Thank you for visiting the Silhouette Studio in Disneyland.
SILHOUETTE-ING WITH CINDI
Silhouette artist, Cindi Harwood Rose, started cutting silhouettes at Disneyland in 1969 and eventually at Walt Disney World, breaking park records by doing over 600 people in one day at Disney World in 1971! She still does silhouettes today and thanks both Roy Disney and Jess Rubio for believing in her talents, even though she was only a teen at the time. She paid for her entire college degree by cutting silhouettes. Below you can see a silhouette done by Cindi of music legend, Liberace, from Disney World. Her sister, Holly Harwood, also cut silhouettes at Disney World, and a photo of them together in their Disney Main Street costumes can be found on Google. Holly battled cancer and finally passed; in her memory, Cindi cuts silhouettes and donates proceeds to cancer survivors through The Holly Rose Ribbon Foundation. The money goes to children who lost a parent to cancer as a scholarship for college, for free reconstruction for breast patients, for children's activities in hospitals such as clowns, book-reading, art projects, and her silhouettes. She can be reached at silhouettesbycindi.com or Cincere@wt.net. Many thanks to Cindi for sharing her amazing stories! Here they are in Cindi's own words:
I actually earned every penny of my college education cutting silhouettes for Jess Rubio in amusement parks (he owned the concessions at Astroworld in Houston), and each summer and December at Christmas, he would send me to Disneyland to relieve the other silhouette artists so they could get a vacation. I would stay in a "guest home" in Orange County, normally with an employee, and they were always shocked that the girl from Texas could out-produce the Disney artists in California. Call it Texas charm, or that I love silhouettes, or that I am the fastest silhouettest in the North, South, East, West, or plain Disney magic...to me, it is a "dream come true!"
I worked 14 hours a day, 5 days a week for Disney World, the fastest silhouette artist they ever had and the largest producer—600 people days! The most anyone else had done were 400 people days. I was the only silhouette artist when Disney World opened in 1971 and on my days off either Vincent (still at Disney World) or Rico (Prosperoso) would take to the stand. They never equaled my production—400-600 silhouettes each day! I think it is the energy of the love I have for the art, which is magic in itself. When I first worked, Roy Disney and Jess Rubio would check the trash at night to make sure my work was done in one cut! I was the only person allowed to have curly (frizzy) hair—no make-up which is fine, and I don't need—as that was natural for me, and Greta (in charge of grooming) approved my hair. It was not the Disney look, but working 12-14 hour days, I would leave for the park showered with wet hair, and by the time I arrived and went through wardrobe, it was dried in a natural blonde little curly bob, which you can see in the magazine article below from "Blue Peter," the most popular TV show at the time on BBC TV.
Here is a cute story about Disneyland—I went to work my first day (during Christmas holidays to give the artist there in 1969 a two week vacation) and I was walking down the street to get to wardrobe. The guard stopped me and told me that I did not have a 25 year pin on, and was not allowed to walk on that side of the road! Then, when I got to work, someone joked that I was "A Texan" and was a "fast draw" with my scissors, comparing it to a gun. Roy Disney even greeted me with Jess Rubio (he could not walk well) and I was so excited. My first day there, I did more silhouettes than the other artists had done; they said it was because I would say, "Hi Ya'll" to everyone, and that even in California, Texas hospitality was appreciated! We were paid 25 percent of what we did, and the silhouettes were $1 for one and 50¢ for a duplicate copy. Thus, I was able to pay for my whole college education by cutting silhouettes at Disneyland and other parks owned by the Disney lessors. There was an art manager in the park, named John Raya, and he did silhouettes and caricatures as well at Disneyland. At the time, Disney instructed me, "If they have a double chin, leave it off; the guest is always right." These things I remember and always have my bright, shining Disney personality whenever I hand-cut silhouettes which is very often.
I still have my first manual from Disney World—what a treasure! I also remember Rico Prosperoso very well; he was from the Philippines; half Asian, half Hispanic. His beautiful works are published by Dover Books. His silhouettes had an Oriental style; they did not look like the people as they were very elongated, but his castles, butterflies, etc. are amazing! I remember they let him dress out of costume, unlike me, who had to wear "Main Street" which was not pretty, especially the flat shoes, that I found embarrassing! Rico would come in dressed like a Spanish matador, and he would cut out gorgeous fairy-tale silhouette scenes, then burst out laughing like a coyote—the loudest laugh you ever heard! And then, the whole shop would start laughing as well as all the "guests" around. I always had a huge crowd around me, as I was taught how to display my work (by Jess Rubio): first show the people, then turn to your right and show the crowd, then sway the pasted silhouette to the left, then back to the people—showmanship! They did try to show me how to flip my scissors in the air as I cut silhouettes, but I did not master that, and I don't think any good silhouette profile artist could do that, but Rico could-- à la food chef style! Below are some of my elaborate scenes that are quite modern, and Rico's work done by my side at Disney World, that he published while I was there through Dover Books for everyone to use; they are not copyrighted. He would be honored to have something written about him, as Dover did not put anything about him in their books other than his name on the cover. He was like perfume; when he came by, there was happiness and laughter and magic! I stopped working for Disney in 1972, after 5-6 years for the Disney Theme Parks...pre-college, college, after-college.
My days at Walt Disney World were long. VERY long. Each morning that I worked in the park I would shower at home, eat my breakfast too fast, and then make the long drive from Winter Park to Orlando. Once I arrived I would park my car, get on the tram to wardrobe, get the uniform (each day a new starched color—burgundy, green, or mustard) with the horrid flat shoes that we had to buy, and then change in the wardrobe department. I would walk through the tunnel to the shop (no one could view us in costume walking on the streets of Disney World) arriving by 9:45 a.m. to start work and then ending my day there at 12:30 a.m.
I would start off by saying, "Hi, would you like a silhouette?" to everyone around, and when they said, "No, so and so would not sit still," I would reply, "I can do it, but if you don't like it, you don't have to take it," I would proceed to do it, and they took it. Thus, my amusement park record, which I recently read was over 400 a day for current employees, whereas every day was 400-600 for me. I guess if the others have only 8 hour shifts we could be equal, but maybe they could not work double shifts 5 days a week!
At the end of each shift, I cleaned and swept the scraps (somewhat) that we were supposed to leave on the floors, stack the papers, empty the wheat paste (or cover it to use the next day), and then take the foggy hour drive home, crashing into a deep sleep immediately. Since I didn't wear any makeup (no lipstick or nail polish), all I had to do before bed was brush my teeth. I always cut my own hair so that was easy, too. For meals, I was able to get good food in the park for $3.50 (that was the cost for employees): chicken almandine, frozen green beans with hollandaise, beef burgundy, and fried fish & chips. It was the same as the food at The Castle, but cheaper for employees. That was my lunch and dinner. I would get very tired from my schedule, so for one break a few times a week, I would go to the nurse's station and lay in the bed. I would eat my own peanut butter and jelly sandwich while I walked underground to get there, resting for 20 minutes once I arrived. I was going on 6 good hours of sleep, so the break was very Winston Churchill!
Above left are two modern silhouettes that I did and one from a page of Rico's from Dover prints (you can find his work on-line) and the other from 1972, of Abraham Lincoln that I did as a sample at Disney World, and then one by my precious sister, Holly Harwood (later Skolkin). I am not sure why, but in "those days" and I noticed recently still, at Downtown Disney, many "character" silhouettes are on display, such as fisherman, cowboys, army people, and they do not look like real people, which is a mistake of many silhouette artists. The real art was a "history" of the era, as it predates the camera. That is why my work is modern, and I stay up-to-date on fashion, or a person's style statement. My work is real, and the art is supposed to be "intuitive" where we capture more than features…we capture personality! I know that I do, as people from over 40 years ago have always told me that my work had an impact, and that they learned much about themselves from it. It is more than black and white, for me it is LIGHT and LOVE! Please view my video (you can use it) Rocking Paper Scissors, and you will know what the art means to me—the unity of man. Silhouettes know no prejudice or skin color, they see your positive light, not your shadow. They should never be done from a shadow; the real Disney silhouette artists do it from sight, and they do it right!
Many silhouette artists give everyone the same face. A great silhouette artist would not do that, neither would a great portrait or caricature artist; they would make you as you, your handprint profile!
Above is one of my sister Holly's silhouettes; she also worked at Disney World and Disneyland during college vacations—to give the California artists a break and to work at my side in Florida, doing silhouettes. She worked for Rubio Artists in his Houston location, Astroworld (no longer open, it closed in 2005), doing silhouettes. Holly died of breast cancer 2 years ago, and on-line there is a story about the two of us at Disney World doing silhouettes in our Main Street costumes in front of the Magic Castle!
DISNEYLAND LINE NEWSLETTER, APRIL 27, 1978
Of Shadows and Smiles…The Main Street Silhouette Studio
When Walt Disney first conceived his Main Street entryway to the Magic Kingdom, he desired that each details, each characteristic trait of that turn-of-the-century period be recreated in the most authentic manner. One of the most prominent examples of this duplication of 19th century life lies within the door of the Main Street Silhouette Studio. Today an almost obsolete art form, the craft of cutting profile likenesses found its roots in the mid-18th century. Étienne Silhouette, a French finance minister, originated the commercial production of the craft. During that time, the privilege of personal portraiture was reserved for the very elite, and Étienne began his campaign to generate the production of the "poor man's" portrait…the Silhouette. Eventually this innovative art form caught on even in the wealthy circles and became one of the most popular portrait devices in Europe.
The invention of the camera cast a lasting shadow over the art of silhouette creation, and today only about 25 full-time silhouette artists exist in this country. Harry Brice is Disneyland's artist in residence, and tells an interesting tale of how he came to be an artist of such rare talents. "I was being interviewd by Disneyland's former artist lessee, and he asked me if I'd had any experience with silhouette portraits. I didn't even know what a silhouette portrait WAS, but told my interviewer that I was experienced int he field. Within a week, I had taught myself the craft, and was working in the Sihouette Shop."
Since that time over 10 years ago, Harry has become an accomplished duplicator of Disneyland guest profiles. 60,000 silhouettes were created by Harry last year alone, and it's been estimated that he's the "fastest snip in the West"…and the world at 30 seconds per portrait. Harry has scissored some unusual profiles, as horses, cats and dogs are now a part of his repertoire. One of his most memorable portraits is a silhouette of a departed husband, described th Harry by the man's widow.
Although Harry is the shop's full-time artist, Laurie Myers and Bonnie Elliot share the responsibility on party nights and during the summer and peak seasons. A Silhouette Cart in New Orleans Square
relieves some of the pressure during the busier periods.
More than artistic talent, however, is required to be a creative silhouette cutter. Showmanship, patience and an infinite sense of humor are prerequisites to the success of the craft. And in every aspect of this art, Harry and his staff of artists are a difficult group to over-shadow.