Disney Imagineer Collin Campbell passed away on Saturday, April 2, 2011.
Campbell, an employee of WED Enterprises, the division of the Walt Disney Company directly responsible for creating the iconic Disney theme park attractions, was involved in many aspects of the design of Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and the international Disney theme parks. Campbell’s distinctive paintings of the Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Haunted Mansion were an intrinsic part of the conceptualization and design of those bedrock Disney attractions.
Campbell was also instrumental in the design of Walt Disney World’s EPCOT Center, working on popular attractions such as the Horizons Pavillion at the park. “Collin developed the wonderful early scenes with (futurist illustrator) Albert Robida’s vision… on to the Art Deco home with robots vacuuming, cutting hair and cooking,” said Imagineer George McGinnis, the Horizons show designer.
As a member of WED Enterprises, where the early Imagineers often wore many different creative hats, Campbell might have been found one day working on a minature model of the “Wicked Wench,” the pirate ship featured in a climactic battle scene in Pirates of the Caribbean, and then another day painting a Rococo-style landscape on the inside of a harpsichord lid for Walt Disney’s secretive Club 33 hidden inside Disneyland – a club Walt was never able to visit himself, sadly enough.
While Campbell’s concept paintings were plentiful and a major contribution to WED’s work, he may be best known for his illustrations for the “Haunted Mansion” story-and-song record album, which featured the voice of a young Ron Howard and introduced legions of youngsters to the mystery of Disneyland’s new Haunted Mansion attraction back in 1969. “It’s truly sad. I love the artwork on that album. I used to take page after page and try to draw the pictures myself,” recalled a fan on a facebook memorial to Campbell.
“He worked along with the other Imagineers on the building of many Disney projects around the world. He will be dearly missed,” recalled Mike Kendall, Campbell’s nephew. And in fact, the current generation of Imagineers did recently pay homage to Campbell’s work just prior to his death. As is the case with many of the Imagineers who originally worked on the Haunted Mansion, Campbell was recently awarded a faux “tombstone” in the Walt Disney World Haunted Mansion queue. Campbell’s reads, “Campbell – He died in the fall / It’s a fact not withstanding / but the judges admired / his form in the landing.”
While some might consider the release of such an epitaph so close to Campbell’s death a macabre coincidence, one suspects that Campbell himself probably views such a tribute from beyond with a twinkle in his eye.