Joined: Sep. 2009
||Posted: Sep. 23, 2009, 6:04 pm
Disneyland Legend Was A Cut Above
A Personal Remembrance
If you happened to have visited Disneyland anytime from the 1960s to the 1980s, check your family photo album or scrapbook and you just might find an irreplaceable memento: a silhouette from the Silhouette Studio on Main Street. You might also consider relocating it to the mantle because chances are it was cut by legendary Disneyland silhouette artist Harry Brice.
Back then, a visit to the Silhouette Shop meant posing before a kindly gentleman sitting comfortably in a rocking chair with paper in hand and scissors at the ready. He would ask to see your profile and, after some light conversation for what seemed like mere seconds, your silhouette was finished; a personal souvenir from a talented master of a lost art. But I knew him to be much more than a Van Gogh with scissors; he was also a talented cartoonist and illustrator and possessed an amazingly creative mind.
I first met Harry while assigned to the Main Street Magic Shop in the mid-seventies. He had learned of my experience as a professional musician and composer and asked if I wanted to co-develop a children's educational program for a nonprofit organization. Harry's enthusiasm was infectious and I soon joined the project. The result was a live multimedia stage show featuring costumed characters and musical performances by some of Disneyland's finest entertainers. The show was performed for elementary school children throughout California.
Harry was always dreaming up new ideas and never missed an opportunity to share his latest brainstorm with me. He would reach into his briefcase (you rarely saw him without it), produce some design artwork and begin his pitch. One in particular was something he called, "Disney Dollars." He showed me the concept drawings he was about to present to some Disneyland executives. Disney Dollars became an instant hit with park guests and Disneyana collectors alike. Many consider trading with that fanciful currency essential to the Disneyland experience.
I last saw Harry in 1996 at a Main Street cast member reunion held at a nearby Disneyland resort hotel. I had anticipated his arrival, but was stunned to see him being wheeled into the room confined to a wheelchair. He had suffered a severe stroke that left him unable to move his right arm. As we spoke, he expressed his frustration in coming to terms with his inability to perform even the simplest artistic task. I searched for words of consolation but could find none. But then be began to share his excitement over his ideas for a new project and suddenly that flickering light of despair in his eyes ignited into a glow of exuberance.
I lost touch with Harry after that night. Last week I learned of his passing on September 5, 2009 at the age of 74.
For 20 years, Harry Brice brought smiles to a multitude of Disneyland guests while fashioning their likeness from paper. When I think of Harry, I simply recall the image of him strolling backstage behind Main Street carrying that ever present briefcase; like a wizard with his bag of tricks on a journey to some imaginary land. To the fortunate ones with their silhouette treasures, he will always be that kindly gentleman who possessed a rare gift of touching scissors to paper and creating magic -- and memories.