After animating all day at The Walt Disney Studios, Blaine Gibson would go home at night and sculpt; it had been a favorite hobby of his since childhood. Then, in 1954, Walt Disney happened to see one of Blaine’s art exhibits, which featured several animal sculptures, and recruited him to work on special projects for his new theme park, Disneyland.
Blaine was somewhat ambivalent about being diverted from his goal to establish himself as one of the Studio’s foremost animators. As he recalled in 1995, “I didn’t think it was that important, but then I was told Walt was expecting me to work on these projects. So I said to myself, ‘what the heck’ and went [to Walt Disney Imagineering]. I was never sorry after that.”
Born February 11, 1918, in Rocky Ford, Colorado, Blaine attended Colorado University, but left school to join The Walt Disney Studios in 1939. While working as an in-between artist and assistant animator, he took evening classes in sculpture at Pasadena City College and studied with a private instructor. Among his animation credits are Fantasia, Bambi, Song of the South, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty, and One Hundred and One Dalmatians.
When first assigned by Walt to the Disneyland project, Blaine divided his time between sculpting and animating for the Company. In 1961, he transferred full-time to WED Enterprises, joining the design and development division to supervise the newly created sculpture department. Ultimately, Blaine went on to make a name for himself in 3-D animation, creating hundreds of sculptures from which Audio-Animatronics® figures and bronzes were produced for exhibits at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair and Disney theme parks around the world. Among his credits are contributions to such attractions as Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, and the Enchanted Tiki Room.
He also directed the sculpture of every U.S. President, up to George W. Bush in 2001, for The Hall of Presidents at Walt Disney World.
After nearly 45 years with The Walt Disney Company, Blaine retired in 1983. He continued to consult on such projects as The Great Movie Ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida. In 1993, the same year he was named a Disney Legend, Blaine created a life-size bronze of Walt and Mickey Mouse standing hand-in-hand. The statue, called “Partners,” is located at the Central Hub in Disneyland and at Disney parks around the world. Blaine subsequently created a life-size bronze of Roy O. Disney—Company co-founder and brother of Walt—for display in Disney theme parks.