WonderGround Gallery and Doing Art for Disney

Jerrod Maruyama's most recent work featuring the characters from Star Wars
Jerrod Maruyama’s most recent work featuring the characters from Star Wars

WonderGround Gallery is aptly named.  It truly is a WonderGround for diverse talent, mediums, and styles of great Disney art.  Located in Downtown Disney Anaheim with a brand new satellite location in Walt Disney World, it is a fan favorite.  Not only do they have original pieces of artwork available, but also various prints, postcards, mugs, shirts, and magnets showcasing the various art.  The Disney Nerds blog has covered this “hidden treasure” before and we’ve featured exclusive interviews with Jerrod Maruyama who has created a line of artwork under the moniker “Hipster Mickey.” And now I was fortunate enough to be able to interview Michelle Harker who is Manager, Disney Theme Parks Merchandise Marketing.  She was so gracious about giving up her time to answer some questions about this “wonder” – ful place at the Disneyland Resort.

J Scott Campbell's most recent release with a Star Wars theme
J Scott Campbell’s most recent release with a Star Wars theme

Hi, Michelle! Thanks so much for being willing to let me interview you about the amazing art in the WonderGround Gallery. I noticed you have a wide range of talent doing work for the gallery. I first stumbled in because I saw one of J Scott Campbell’s pieces in the window, and I knew him from his work in comic books, but since visiting I’ve also really enjoyed Jerrod Maruyama’s terrific Hipster Mickey designs (and other great work like Star Wars and World of Cute) and April Whitney’s gorgeous work. All of them come from very different backgrounds. How do you find such diverse talent?

Our merchandisers are always keeping their eyes and ears open for new talent. Artists can often be sourced by teams visiting galleries, events, art walks or word of mouth (other artists), etc.

Love the Hipster Mickey merchandise!
Love the Hipster Mickey merchandise!

How do you choose which designs go on which products? How do you develop a line of merchandise that fits an artist’s rendition?

The process to determine what items go on which items, is based on the art, the layout, the approvals and whether or not it tells the right story for the piece. We always love to see the artist’s work appear on derivative product like mugs, magnets, tees, etc…

I noticed that not every piece, particularly in one corner of the gallery, is Disney oriented. How do you choose which non-Disney pieces get featured?

We love for our Guests to see works that are themed to Disney as there is certainly a passion for it, but also what the artist does and is able to do. It creates more appeal to a broad range of Guests who may love the art, artists, etc… but maybe don’t want something Disney related.

What advice might you give to a beginning collector about how to build a collection that will retain its value? Is it worth it to buy one or two originals or should you start off with less expensive prints? And what is a glicee anyway?

Find the piece that you treasure, when you do that, it’s almost priceless. Certainly there is often more value with original pieces since they are limited to one, but they aren’t always the most affordable and I think there are many different ways for our Guests to actually enjoy the art, however they can afford to get it (i.e. original, print, mugs, postcards, etc.) It’s really more about creating that tangible memory of that special moment when you came across it and decide you can’t leave without taking something magical home with you. In regards to what a giclee is… it’s a type of screening process that is used to create prints of an original piece. Giclee’s can appear on different mediums, i.e. canvas vs. paper, etc… and typically will have an edition size associated with them.

What would you tell a person who was dying to do artwork for Disney? Any advice you could give? Do you take submissions of artwork? What are some good ways to get noticed?

Do what you love. Take risks. Find new and innovative ways to reach and build your own collector base. There’s never really a way to say yes, they’ll be found or not, but I think each artist finds their own fans and following and gets noticed for the hard and beautiful work they do. As for submissions… no, we cannot accept any submissions at all. Work hard and in time you never know.

With all of the wonderful artists you’ve worked with and all the pieces you’ve seen, do you have any favorites? What pieces might adorn your walls and why?

That’s so tough! I would love to say that I do, but with all of our artists, they all have such different styles, mediums, looks, audiences. I’m pretty sure each time a piece is released it appeals to me somehow, just as it does to all of our Guests. I think it’s fair to say we all have pieces that touch our hearts for different reasons.

Thank you so much for taking the time, Michelle! I really appreciate it and know you’re a very busy person. All of us Disney Nerds love it when we are able to gain insight about this fascinating place!

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5 thoughts on “WonderGround Gallery and Doing Art for Disney

  1. Nice Article. I Googled this after receiving a Wonderground Postcard. I am “wondering” how the artists who are creating art, that does not contain Disney intellectual property will ever get noticed. Are the illustrations that contain Disney property done by the employees there? We all know we cannot create art containing protected Disney icons… Can you tell me more about how this collection is curated? I would love Disney to see my work, beginning with my Retro Christmas cards – https://www.retrochristmascardcompany.com/
    Cheers! Diane Dempsey

    1. Hi, Diane!

      From the artists I’ve met, they do commissioned work for Disney for which they receive payment but at WonderGround Galley, they also feature the non-Disney art of their artists-in-residence so they do get quite a bit of exposure. The illustrations seem to be done exclusive by contract with artists who do other work outside Disney as well. While Disney does have their own artists working in the parks, they also contract with other individuals. It seems most of these artists are recruited by Disney staff. Since I’m not one myself, I could be off, but that’s what I gathered from our interviews. Hope that helps!

  2. I am looking to purchase some of the older Wonderground Gallery Jasmine Becket Griffith postcards. Where do I begin? Do you or anyone you know have extras that they would want to sell?

    1. Wow, that’s a great question. Once they sell out or stop producing a card the only options I can think of are secondary markets like eBay. I can look through my collection, but is there one in particular you are looking for?

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