Ever wish you could score some awesome merchandise featuring Disney Parks attractions of yesteryear? Enter: amazing flash sales from the Disney Store. These sales, with their limited window of availability, pay tribute to the past while also pushing things forward, with their terrific designs and subtle aesthetics. The latest Disney Parks-related flash sales are coming in the form of YesterEars, a new initiative that sees separate decades of past Disney Parks awesomeness get their due. The first three shirts in the YesterEars line, which celebrate Walt Disney World in the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s, go on sale today and stay on sale for a week (from one Throwback Thursday to another). And I was lucky enough to talk to Richard Terpstra, the graphic designer responsible for them.
“We wanted to create an overall product line based on nostalgic designs. We’re really trying, with the YesterEars collection, to pay tribute to these attractions or old merchandise that was sold in the parks,” Terpstra said of this new series. “It is hard to find reference for what was sold in the parks because this was before we had awesome databases of all of our designs, so we really looked for as many photos or things that the archive might have. When we find those, we’re really going to bring those back.” I asked if Terpstra could give a hint for what’s to come from the line. “We have a lot of designs that we’ve been looking at,” Terpstra teased. “We’ve searched our archives for old designs. There will be something for everybody going forward from whatever decade that you remember the best. If we see a strong, positive reaction to YesterEars, it will only continue to grow.” Knowing what Terpstra and his talented team have planned, I’m very interested in seeing where YesterEars is headed—and you should be too.
The first design is the logo for the Walt Disney World Preview Center, a true relic of classic Disney cool. The Preview Center, which opened in mid-January 1970, was the first Walt Disney World building to be opened to the public. It opened “along Interstate Highway 4” on the shore of Lake Buena Vista, and acted as the “information headquarters for the new Vacation Kingdom.” Inside the building was a theater that had a 625 square foot model of the park and a brand new film. As the film played, various portions of the model were illuminated and the first five years of the parks operation were laid out in surprising detail. The Center was open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and also housed artist renderings of the park and aerial photographs of the site, which would officially open in the fall of 1971. What made the model of Walt Disney World even more fascinating is that it depicted things like Space Mountain (which wouldn’t open until 1975) and tantalizing, unrealized projects like the Venetian and Persian hotels. Pretty cool, huh?
Richard used an actual original design from the Center for this shirt. Making it almost identical to a shirt that you could have picked up at the Walt Disney World Preview Center, back in 1970. (Not that it was an easy feat.) “We really worked with the archives out in Burbank in finding some vintage reference from the Preview Center. The art that we used is directly from an advertisement for the Preview Center,” Terpstra explained. “So we really just leveraged that art, that vintage asset, and we wanted it to go on a vintage silhouette shirt, so we opted for the baseball-style Henley shirt with the three-quarters sleeve. We put a little bit of distressing on it so it felt like something that you maybe bought at that time. We thought it was fun and a great way to kick off the series, because that’s what people saw before there even was a park!”
It is a great way to kick off the series, especially because there are also tons of lovingly drawn Disney characters—everyone from Mickey, Donald, and Goofy, to Winnie the Pooh (Pooh from this period always had a honey pot on his head), the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland and King Louie from The Jungle Book (which was released a few years before the Preview Center opened).
For the ‘80s shirt in this batch, where else do you go but the fabulous EPCOT Center? This gorgeous shirt takes its cues from the Journey Into Imagination attraction that premiered shortly after EPCOT Center opened, on March 5, 1983. Journey Into Imagination, much like its current incarnation Journey Into Imagination with Figment, allowed riders to take a magical tour through the strange and wonderful landscape of human creativity. It was led by the kindly Dreamfinder and his purple dragon chum, Figment, and was whimsical and hilarious (and quite technologically advanced, as well).
In the big centerpiece sequence for the attraction, ride vehicles would rotate around the Dreamfinder and Figment as they piloted an enormous, steam punk-y blimp that they used to collect dreams. (This was an amazingly complex show element that remains one of the coolest bits of Imagineering magic, and totally unforgettable.) It’s that blimp that takes center stage on this incredible tee, which it turns out is just like one sold at the Park once upon a time.
“That is an actual replica of a shirt sold in EPCOT from the ‘80s. We worked really hard on finding the artwork that was on that shirt and we tracked it down,” Terpstra explained. “We put it on the exact same shirt. It’s really what you would have found in the park at that time. It was in that same ringer-tee style.” Terpstra said that Steven Miller, who readers of the Disney Parks Blog will be familiar with, actually owned that shirt when he was younger–and has the photographic evidence to prove it. And that’s part of what makes these shirts so special–you might have seen them on an auction site or viewed a mock-up on a blog. But now you can actually wear a brand new version of them.
The last shirt, celebrating a moment from the Magic Kingdom in the ‘90s, ties into the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter attraction. In it, guests were invited to view the latest technology from X-S Tech, an evil, futuristic corporation known for its cosmic villainy. Guests were supposed to be viewing a mundane example of the company’s new teleportation device, but instead of the cuddly alien that was supposed to be beamed out, guests were faced with a terrifying monster. It was an amazing bit of sensory overload and an ingenious use of the former Mission to Mars building. And for this shirt, Terpstra has emulated the iconic X-S Tech logo, setting it against a starry backdrop.
“When you’re challenged with finding a really cool shirt from the ‘90s and from the Magic Kingdom, the first place I would go to is Alien Encounter. It was a great attraction and it had such great branding and Walt Disney Imagineering did such a great job with their storytelling for that attraction,” Terpstra said. “It was such a hoot.” Instead of going to Burbank Terpstra had to dig around closer to where he’s based in Florida. “We looked at some of the signage and I worked with some partners at WDI here at Walt Disney World in their graphics department and we were able to find some of the original signage. We just emulated that signage as best as possible.”
And instead of being a 1:1 replica of something that was sold in the park, they wanted it to feel like it could have been sold in the park. “There were a couple of T-shirts for Alien Encounter that were sold that we had found in our merchandise archives. But we went with the signage. In the past it was mostly the alien and more of a souvenir look,” Terpstra said. “We wanted to go more graphic based, since it was a tribute to the whole attraction and not just the alien. But that was our approach, like, That could have been sold back in the ‘90s.”
There’s an additional flourish to the design on the back of the shirt, which sports the Intergalactic Convention Center logo—an element that was not only important to Alien Encounter but to the overall vibe of 1995’s new Tomorrowland refurbishment. “Oh we had to sneak that in there!” Terpstra explained when I asked about that element. “That was another great storytelling element that WDI included in the attraction. It was hard for me to edit that design down.”
You can buy all three shirts for a week starting today, at the Disney Store. And expect more fun from YesterEars very, very soon!