Profile of an Imagineer: Bill Martin
Can you imagine getting a phone call asking you to help out with Walt Disney's newest venture, building a new theme park? That is exactly what happened to Bill Martin.
Martin was born in Marshalltown, Iowa on June 15, 1917. After studying at Los Angeles Junior College and the Chouinard Art Institute and Art Cent Center School of Design, he landed a job as a set designer for 20th Century Fox. Following his service in World War II he worked for Panoramic Productions and then returned to Fox Studios as an assistant art director.
He was working for 20th Century Fox when he got that unexpected phone call that would change the course of his career. Eager to expand his talent as an art director and set designer, Martin joined WED Enterprises.
So how exactly did you go about building a theme park?
Walt had one directive for his team of Imagineers on the Disneyland project,
All I want you to think about is that when people walk through or ride through or have access to anything that you design, I want them, when they leave, to have a smile on their face. Just remember that; that's all I ask of you as a designer.
Martin and other Imagineers toured amusement parks across the country, like Coney Island and Knottsberry Farms, looking for ideas as well as investigating things that are essential to the planning process, such as traffic flow. They would later combine those ideas with Disney studio's animated movies to create the attractions at Disneyland.
Apparently Martin's group of Imagineers had a tendency to brainstorm some pretty wacky ideas and Walt never knew what they would come up with next. One of their ideas was for a corset shop on Main Street called "The Wizard of Bras." I can only imagine Walt's reaction to that idea.
But Walt respected Martin's creative genius enough to name him art director of Fantasyland. He contributed to the designs of many attractions including, Sleeping Beauty's Castle, Snow White's Adventure, and Peter Pan's Flight.
Later in his career Martin was named the vice president of design at WED Enterprises and oversaw the master layout of Magic Kingdom. His projects included Main Street USA, Cinderella's Castle, and the utilidors beneath the Magic Kingdom.
Martin retired from Disney in 1977 but returned to consult on the construction and design of EPCOT and Tokyo Disneyland.