Friday, April 9, 2010

Tom Scherman's Discovery Bay Sketches

Tokyo Disney Sea is largely considered as the most beautiful theme park in the world, and Mysterious Island is without a doubt one of the best aspects of the park. When it was built in 2000, Tom had unfortunately passed away but as you will see Mysterious Island design found its origin in Tom Scherman's work for another WDI project, Discovery Bay.

Tom Scherman left some original drawings drawings related to Discovery Bay. Here is what Rowland told me about why Tom was so interested in furthering the adventures of Nemo's Nautilus:

"Ten years before Tokyo Disney Sea, Tom and Harper Goff had an idea for a TV show and a Theme Park/Ride called Discovery Bay. It was Nemo's home base and there were to be lessons of travel, nature and physics involved.

Harper died before they could collaborate on the project, but Tom was still thinking about it and drew different versions of it over and over again. He also did, at his own expense, a pilot film preview of the TV show concept. It is a cult classic, but no one at Disney ever got to see it.

Tom drawings were done on napkins - his favorite medium - not only because he could do them while dining at a restaurant, but also because he liked the shading effects he could produce on the napkin's absorbent surface. The sketches simply took form in Tom's head. He could visualize the project from any angle, and then simply create it on a napkin!

The fact that Tokyo's Mysterious Island looks like Tom's ten year old drawings is a source of speculation as to which came first. Alas, now that Tom is no longer with us, that answer will probably remain a mystery."

Recently, a kind soul gave me more information about the collaboration between Tom Scherman and Harper Goff. As you will see, the legendary imagineer Tony Baxter was also involved in the project:

"Yes, Harper worked on it, but, the project was primarily Tony Baxter and Tom Scherman. In fact, most of the design work that TDS show-producer Steve Kirk and his team used in the final placement of Mysterious Island was directly inspired and/or lifted from the work that Tom and Tony did on the Port Disney project (Long Beach, CA) for the "Mysterious Island" installation there. Tom passed on far too early to work upon the DisneySea version of Mysterious Island, and Tony was not a member of the design team that was assigned to Tokyo DisneySea. But the work that created that installation rests fully upon the previous foundations laid by Tony Baxter and Tom, dating back to the mid-1970's"

So, quite a while ago, Tom did what he always did to jog his memory: he began to draw Vulcania Island, from what he remembered from the 1954 movie.

Here are some of these rare black and white drawings, beginning with an overall view of the volcano and the Nautilus floating in its lagoon.

Here is another one, a closer view of the Nautilus.

This next one shows the fantastic machines built by Captain Nemo as seen around the Vulcania lagoon.

Tom's drawings also depicted what would be years later the decor of the "Journey to the Center of the Earth" ride, like this setpiece that everybody walking around Vulcania's lagoon can see.

Not to mention this concept for the boarding area, as seen by TDS guests after they took the "Terravator" and arrive in the center of the Earth...

As we can see on the pictures below, Mysterious Island is not that far from Tom's concept-arts.

Now, the good news is that Rowland who own the rights on these drawings, is currently producing a set of limited edition lithographs, in a partnership with this website. It is a very limited edition, between 100 and 150 numbered sets, large-sized, all with a certificate of authenticity.

If you're a Nautilus fan - and who isn't? - this is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to own some of Tom Scherman's artwork and a bit of Tokyo Disney Sea history. To order one of these prints please go on the "Vulcania Treasures" section of this site or email me at: and we will forward your request.

Artwork: copyright Tom Scherman

Photos: copyright Oriental Land co

1 comment:

  1. If you have any interest purchasing limited edition copies of Tom's work, please Contact Tom's brother Rowland at for details.