In a great piece of history telling, Yesterland dives into the urban myth that the iconic sculptures for the Swan and Dolphin hotels were accidentally incorrectly placed by the construction helicopter during construction leading to a forced name change for each hotel. After all, why would the Dolphin Fish be atop a building covered in leaves and the Swan on top of a fountain like design.
Turns out there is a very interesting backstory to it all created by the hotel’s designer Michael Graves. Yesterland interviews Jim Korkis, Disney historian, to get to the bottom of this urban legend and, as often happens, the truth is more interesting than the fiction.
The Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Hotels were commissioned from Michael Graves by Disney CEO at the time, Michael Eisner. There was a bit of a love hate relationship between Graves and Disney, but Eisner was of the belief that using iconic architecture would elevate Disney’s status.
Graves had a love/hate relationship with the Disney culture. He freely admitted that seeing a four-foot mouse walking around in the parks was just “wrong” as far as he was concerned and had no favorite Disney film. So when it came time to design the hotels, he steered clear of classic Disney imagery, preferring to create “new” characters that would then be folded into the Disney legacy.
I don’t think that quite worked out like Graves thought it would. Visit Yesterland to get the rest of the story, including how the actual designs fit into the story and characters Graves create.
Btw, I agree with Werner, Disney needs to find a place in their organization for Jim Korkis. He’s one of their strongest assets and more useful on the inside than out. Re-hire him please.