A Friday Visit With Jim Korkis: Totem Poles at Disney World
By Dave Shute
TOTEM POLES AT DISNEY WORLD
By Jim Korkis
There’s two areas with particularly authentic totem poles at Walt Disney World: in the Wilderness Lodge, and in the Canada Pavilion at Epcot.
DUANE PASCO AND THE WILDERNESS LODGE
In 1994, the Disney Company hired Duane Pasco to carve the two 55-foot-tall totem poles for the lobby of the Wilderness Lodge Resort.
Though not a descendant of Pacific Northwest Indians, Pasco is considered one of the most adept among the handful of Canadian and American master carvers working today doing such work.
“These totem poles measure 3-feet wide at the top and 5-feet wide at the bottom and each is constructed of two 27-foot sections spliced together,” Pasco said. “The choice of characters and their placement were the choice of Disney World’s consultants.”
“I made very detailed drawings for this project because there were to be three assistants helping me: Pat Huggins, Loren White, and Scott Jensen,” he said. “I drew front, side, three-quarter views and lots of cross sections. In this way the client, the contractor and all the carvers can see exactly what the end product should look like.”
“The goal in designing the totem poles was to use legend and lore that was common among many tribes of the Northwest Coast but not necessarily specific to any one tribe,” wrote Pasco’s wife, Katie.
“This was easy to accomplish because the figures and the stories they represent remain fairly consistent. Characters on the Disney poles are pan-coastal in nature, with a particular attempt to portray figures not associated with inherited stories or family crests.”
It took six months to complete the two poles.
Pasco and his assistants began cutting away material with chainsaws. For finer details they used adzes, knives and other traditional carving tools.
The poles are made from four old-growth red cedars each about five feet in diameter at the base. The big cedars had to be hollowed out and there was considerable rot inside that had to be removed. Pasco reinforced the centers by splicing in new wood.
After the poles were carved, they were finished with Thompson’s Water Seal and then painted. The installation, which took place January 1994, took five days. The poles are flanked by stone walls and tied to steel I-beams.
DAVID BOXLEY AND CANADA AT EPCOT
In 1998, the Disney Company employed Tsimshian artist David Boxley from Alaska, noted for his decades-long creation of totem poles, to carve an authentic 30-foot totem pole for the Canada Pavilion at Epcot.
During the carving process, the log was laid on its side on a raised platform in front of the pavilion, where Boxley worked and interacted with the guests until it was erected next the Trading Post on April 1998.
This beautiful totem pole tells the tale from the Pacific Northwest Indians of Raven and Sky Chief.
When the Trickster Raven came to earth, the people lived in the dark without shadows and without the sun, moon, or stars. Raven began a search for light. He noticed Sky Chief kept a bright light in his home hidden away in a box.
Raven transformed himself into a pine needle that floats into a stream just as the Sky Chief’s daughter is taking a drink. She unsuspectingly swallows that needle and Raven becomes a baby in her stomach and is born to the delight of Sky Chief.
Sky Chief brings out the box to show his “grandson” the golden ball of light. Raven grabs the shiny ball, turns back into his true form and flies up into the sky where he tosses the light so all people can enjoy the sun, the moon and the stars.
I suspect most guests are more eager to locate the two small green Hidden Mickeys under the bending elbow near the top of the pole.
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Come back next Friday for even more from Jim Korkis!
In the meantime, check out his books, including The Vault of Walt, Who’s Afraid of the Song of the South?, and The Book of Mouse, and his contributions to The easy Guide to Your First Walt Disney World Visit, all published by Theme Park Press.