Partners is a 1993 copper statue by Blaine Gibson depicting Walt Disney holding the hand of the most popular character he created, Mickey Mouse. The statue is 6’ 5”, seven inches taller than Disney himself. It is the central point of attention as people walk past it to enter a few of the Disney parks. Gibson took a year to sculpt this piece. He used a bust of Walt Disney, created in 1960, as his model for Disney’s half of the sculpture. Gibson, however, had to be a little more creative when sculpting Disney and Mickey’s conjoined hands. He referred to the 1940 film Fantasia for an example of the popular mouse, who shook hands with the composer of the movie, Leopold Stokowski.
There is speculation regarding Disney’s hand in the sculpture, which is raised outward. Many believe his arm is raised as if he is showing Mickey what has come of his dream. Gibson said, “I chose to depict Walt as he was in 1954. I think that was when Walt was in his prime. It was tough trying to match the media image of Walt Disney, the one the public knows, to the real Walt, the one we knew. I think Walt is admiring the park and saying to Mickey, ‘Look what we’ve accomplished together,’ because truly they were very much a team through it all. ‘Look at all the happy people who have come to visit us today.’”
Blaine Gibson (February 11, 1918 – July 5, 2015) was born on a small farm in Rocky Ford, Colorado. After graduating high school, Gibson attended Colorado University. When Gibson was 21, he applied for a position at Disney. He applied through the mail, requesting information regarding any job opportunities in Walt Disney Studios. He received a reply, explaining that an application could be made by mail, and to include a drawing in the application. His illustration, depicting a little boy milking a cow and squirting the milk into a kitten’s mouth, scored him a job as an effects animator for Walt Disney Studios in 1939. Drawing was the focus of his career for many years as an Imagineer at Disney.
He is most known for his animations in Fantasia, Bambi, Song of the South, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty, and One Hundred and One Dalmatians. After ten years, Gibson became an assistant animator to Frank Thomas. While Gibson was very successful in the art of animation, sculpting had always been his passion. He would design and animate at work, and take classes at Pasadena City College to perfect his sculpting techniques. Soon, Disney took interest in Gibson’s sculptures, and assigned him to the Disneyland Project. From there, Disney had Gibson sculpting everything. Some of his most noticeable works are the pirates in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride, the ghosts and ghouls of the “Haunted Mansion” ride, the birds in the “Tiki Room” attraction, and the children of the “It’s a Small World” ride. He also sculpted the busts of the presidents in the Hall of Presidents, excluding Barack Obama. After his retirement in 1983, Gibson was consulted on the bust of Barack Obama for the Hall of Presidents. He died of heart failure at age 97 on July 5, 2015.[self-published source?]
The original statue is located in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle in Disneyland. The statue was first unveiled in 1993 in the Disneyland park on Mickey Mouse’s birthday, November 18. The plaque below the statue in Disneyland quotes Walt Disney as saying, "I think most of all what I want Disneyland to be is a happy place...where parents and children can have fun...together." Partners was recreated for Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and placed in the park on June 19, 1995. The plaque below the statue in Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World uses a slightly different quote: "We believe in our idea: a family park where parents and children could have fun — together." There are now five locations for the Partners statue. The third statue was placed in the Tokyo Disney Resort in Tokyo Disneyland in April 15, 1998. The fourth statue is located in Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California in December 5, 2001. The final statue is located in Disneyland Paris in Walt Disney Studios Park on March 16, 2002.
|Disneyland Resort||Disneyland Park||November 18, 1993|
|Walt Disney World Resort||Magic Kingdom||June 19, 1995|
|Tokyo Disney Resort||Tokyo Disneyland||April 15, 1998|
|Walt Disney Studios||Burbank, California||December 5, 2001|
|Disneyland Paris||Walt Disney Studios Park||March 16, 2002|