Artist Dorothea Redmond was well known at Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) for her skills as a painter and illustrator. “All the great art directors, like Bill Martin and Harper Goff, wanted Dorothea’s design illustrations,” Disney Legend and former Imagineering ambassador Marty Sklar once said.
Dorothea was born in Los Angeles, California, on May 18, 1910. After receiving her degree in interior design from the USC School of Architecture and attending Art Center College, Dorothea went to work for producer David O. Selznick.
At Selznick International, she contributed to The Young in Heart, Gone with The Wind, and Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca. Dorothea also worked at RKO with famed French director Jean Renoir, at Universal Studios, and at Paramount. An especially fond Paramount memory was the “great sets” of The Road to Bali with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. After working with Charlie Chaplin on Limelight and with Hitchcock again on Rear Window (1954), Dorothea joined an architectural firm.
Tired of “ten years of working weekends to meet Monday deadlines,” the artist joined WDI in October of 1964. Some of her first Disney work involved the transformation of Disneyland’s Red Wagon Inn Restaurant into the sumptuously appointed Plaza Inn. Working with art director John Hench, Dorothea transformed the Inn into a graceful dining facility that was one of Walt’s favorite spots to host guests.
Her next project was to design interior settings for New Orleans Square. Dorothea did many interior and exterior views of the area restaurants and shops, her evocative style bringing a rich reality to the finished work.
“A Dorothea Redmond watercolor painting is a wonder to behold,” Disney artist and historian Stacia Martin once said. “The exquisite detail coaxed from the elusive medium combines with a flawless sense of color and light to create not just illustrations, but living environments.”
Working with art directors Bill Martin and Bob Brown, as well as with Walt himself, Dorothea developed the interior paintings of the Royal Suite, a Disney family hideaway atop New Orleans Square, once the home of The Disney Gallery and currently the Disneyland “Dream Suite.”
Dorothea remained at WDI to work on the Walt Disney World project in Florida, where her work was varied and prolific, including moody studies for Fantasyland, renderings for an architecturally opulent Main Street, and Adventureland area development that communicated a feminine and ethereal mood of exotica.
“Her watercolor sketches were extraordinary placemaking,” Marty Sklar once said. “They expressed the concept so beautifully you felt you had already ‘been there’ in her restaurants and shop interiors, Walt’s suite for New Orleans Square, or along the promenade in Epcot’s World Showcase.”
She designed the elaborate murals in the entry passage through Cinderella Castle. The five fifteen-by-ten-foot panels were realized in a million pieces of multicolored Italian glass, real silver, and 14-karat gold, and were duplicated for Tokyo Disneyland a decade later. “She combines her knowledge of space and structure with a stylized storytelling experience evoking the animated film—yet giving it a new, illuminated elegance,” Stacia Martin later said.
Dorothea retired in June of 1974. Her work was later featured in the exhibit Casting a Shadow: Creating the Alfred Hitchcock Film, organized by the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, in collaboration with The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Margaret Herrick Library.
Dorothea passed away at age 98 on February 27, 2009 at her home in the Hollywood Hills.