After Peter Ellenshaw’s success with his wonderful Matte work and special effects on Walt Disney’s live action movies, such as Treasure Island, The Story of Robin Hood and Sword and the Rose - Fred Leahy, (the future production manager on 20,000 Leagues under the Sea) asked him if he would be interested in working at the Disney Studios in Hollywood.
Ellenshaw was uncertain; he later described the offer as like, ‘a risky handshake deal’ - a vague promise of work. He had to consider his wife Bobbie and his young son Harrison. But he was ambitious and work in England was becoming increasingly hard to find. So after a great deal of thought he sent a message of acceptance to Leahy, sold-up and set of by ship to America.
The journey by train to Los Angeles was a long one and on arrival, Ellenshaw took a taxi to Hollywood, mistakenly thinking that the Disney Studios were based there. They were in fact at Burbank.
Eventually he met up once again with Fred Leahy who took him to meet Walt Disney. When the legendary film producer saw him he stunned the artist with the comment, “Hi Peter! What are you doing here?”
Disney went on to explain that production on 20,000 Leagues had been held back until they had adjusted the story line. Peter Ellenshaw was in a state of shock. He had sold everything to work for Walt in America.
But Disney turned to Fred Leahy and said the ‘magic’ words, “We’ll find something.”
One of Ellenshaw’s first assignments, in his new office in the upper floor of the Animation Building, would also be one of the most historic. It would be to paint for Walt Disney a ‘conceptual rendering of something called Disneyland.’ So Ellenshaw, a former graduate of the Royal Academy of Arts, took up his paintbrush and a 40’’x 90’’ piece of fiberboard from the animation department and went about creating the first ever, full colour view of the magic kingdom.
The complete tableau was unveiled on Walt Disney’s weekly television program ‘Disneyland,’ on October 27th 1954. But Peter Ellenshaw’s iconic image was not only shown to television audiences, it was also printed on all the early postcards, souvenir booklets and used to encourage potential investors in the theme park from all around the world.
Peter Ellenshaw also contributed to many of the new theme park’s attractions, including TWA’s Rocket Ship To The Moon, X-1 Satellite View of America and the first Circle-Vision Theatre Show.
(For more on the work of Peter Ellenshaw click on the label opposite)