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Disney & Marvel Bring Walt’s Weirdest Idea to Life

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Sketch by Rolly Crump, 1965, for Museum of the Weird

Walt Disney‘s imagination has proven to be an infinitely fascinating place, one that we’re still exploring even some 47-plus years after his passing.

A new collaboration between Disney and Marvel aims to maximize on continuing to bring to life, and further develop, creations from Walt’s imagination that were only partially drawn, fragmented or simply never finished. Disney Kingdoms, a brand new Marvel imprint, launches in January 2014, and will take us on adventures inspired by theme park rides and attractions — many of them never constructed in real life.

Museum of the Weird was one such Disneyland design —  announced to the world as a future attraction on Disney’s Wonderful World of Color in 1965, but never constructed. It was meant to be adjoined to the Haunted Mansion and be exactly what it sounds like — a curated collection of mystical, fantastic, truly weird fictional objects. Unfortunately, Walt passed away in 1966 the following year and the Weird project was shelved.

Rolly Crump was the Imagineer that designed the Museum. Crump, a Disney Legend, is a phenom even by Imagineer standards. He began in animation, then went on as an Imagineer to design Disney’s Haunted Mansion, The Enchanted Tiki Room, and other attractions and key elements at the Parks that are now permanent fixtures in our collective imaginations. His career, in and out of Disney was expansive, progressive, fanciful, wild and wholly original.

Leave it to a collaboration between the Disney Imagineers and Marvel Comics to let us finally experience the Weirdness that he and Walt imagined together. Seekers of the Weird — based on those original Crump designs, is the first series of the Disney Kingdoms line.

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Seekers of the Weird #1, cover drawn by Mike Del Mundo

Brian Crosby was part of the present-day Imagineer team — which also includes Josh Shipley, Jim Clark and Tom Morris — who adapted those Crump designs, in joint force with a Marvel creative team including comics writer Brandon Seifert, artist Karl Moline and editor Bill Rosemann.

Crosby, a dad of four, says the idea for this Weird and wonderful collaboration came about at an Angels Game, of all places. “I was actually at the baseball game with other Imagineers and Marvel Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada,” says Crosby, “and we got talking — wouldn’t it be interesting if Marvel did something with Disney? And that led to us thinking — what if we thought about that idea in reverse? We were all really excited, but weren’t sure how far Joe was going to run with it.”

“Museum of the Weird,” continued Crosby, “has been one of those attractions that Walt was involved in that has had a certain mystique around it. It always sounded really cool. Rolly Crump’s sketches and models which he built at the time were very intriguing. My favorite concept was probably the Candleman, which was nothing more than a sketch, but made me wonder, why is he always melting? Rolly’s drawings were a goldmine.”

Crosby went on to say that the Disney Kingdoms line in general, will give Disney Theme Park icons the “Pirates of the Caribbean treatment.” Many people do forget that the entire “Pirates” franchise was based on a theme park ride. Says Crosby, by giving that kind of focus to never-built or undiscovered theme park rides and attractions, “whole storylines and characters as compelling as Jack Sparrow will emerge out of it. That’s where we’re having fun.”

Crosby says working with Marvel is a “different and unique challenge,” and one of mutual respect. He says “the four of us,” referring to himself and the other three Imagineers on his team, “are such tremendous fans of Marvel and so excited to be working with them. Likewise, they’re such huge Disney fans over there. They’re excited to play in our sandbox and vice versa.

Marvel editor Bill Rosemann adds, “the creative process between ourselves and the Imagineers has been a daily exchange of questions and ideas brainstorming everything from the main character designs to the book logo. Needless to say, for this lifelong Disney fan, it’s been both an honor and a thrill.”

Sketch by Rolly Crump, 1965, for Museum of the Weird

Sketch by Rolly Crump, 1965, for Museum of the Weird

In terms of adapting Rolly Crump’s original designs, Crosby said the team wasn’t trying to copy his design aesthetic, but take the characters they’d created for the series, two teenage heroes named Melody and Maxwell Keep, (along with a character aptly named Uncle Roland) and set them within some of the hallmarks of what Crump did. “In the context of a comic book, we’re pushing the boundaries of color and logic sometimes which I think is really fun — and the boundaries are limitless in terms of what we can do with these stories.”

We asked Marvel’s writer Brandon Seifert what other works, if any, he referred to as inspirations or guiding forces for The Weird. “I wanted Seekers of the Weird to be for ‘all-ages’ in the same way that something like the Pirates of the Caribbean movies are — appropriate and fun for kids, but also something adults can get behind. So I’ve thought about those movies a lot, as well as things like Star Wars and Doctor Who. And because of the sort of ‘modern fantasy mixed with legendary artifacts,’ I’d definitely say Indiana Jones and Harry Potter are touchstones too.”

Says editor Bill Rosemann of the Weird storyline, “Melody and Maxwell Keep are forced very quickly to abandon the comfort of everything they know and embark on a dangerous journey through a series of challenges that question everything they thought they knew about their family and themselves — sort of like what everyone has to do when they grow up!”

Experience the Weird-ness Yourself:

The first issue of Disney Kingdoms: Seekers of the Weird  will be available at comic shops worldwide on Wed., Jan. 15th 2014. Available the same day in digital format on the Marvel Comics app (for iPhone®, iPad®, iPod Touch® & AndroidTM devices) and online in the Marvel Digital Comics Shop on January 15th, 2014.

Or if you don’t have a comic shop near you print subscriptions are available.

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