Disneyland’s Best Souvenir Doesn’t Come With Ears
There are a couple of tell-tale signs someone’s been to Disneyland: The Mickey ears. The happy snaps. The seemingly unending sugar high.
But while it’s possible to purchase all manner of Mickey- and Minnie-eared paraphernalia at the park’s many (many) gift shops and stalls, there’s also an opportunity to walk away with something far more, well, you: a personalised Disney silhouette.
Located on Main Street, USA – the glowy and fully functional shopping and restaurant precinct just behind the park’s iconic Cinderella Castle – the tiny Disney Silhouette Studio is easy to miss, but the line snaking out the door is less surprising once you’ve seen the magic happening inside.
Here, artists with years of experience masterfully craft stunning portraits from simple black construction paper in under 60 seconds. No outlines, no messing about. Just a pair of craft scissors moving at breakneck speed.
On the day I visited, the artist, Nancy – who’d worked at Disneyland’s now-closed portrait studio for more than a decade before moving over to the Silhouette Studio – was crafting an incredible silhouette of the youngest in a family of four or five siblings as he slept in his pram.
“No, no. Don’t wake him,” she said, waving his mum away. “It’s easier when he’s still.”
I wondered if she’d ever found this difficult as I watched the scissors glide across the paper. Adding a Peter Pan-esque tuft of hair to his fringe, the silhouette was done, glued to a pre-prepared cardboard frame, and it was onto the next.
The next being me.
I was instructed by Nancy – whose attention to detail was astonishing, given the fact that it was after 9pm – to sit in profile, a metre or two in front of her. Out of the corner of my eye, I watch as her scissors whizzed around the paper.
“Do you ever sketch the outlines first?” I asked.
“Why would I bother with drawing them? I can see you just fine.”
Dubious about how my silhouette would turn out, I sat still for the remaining 30 seconds or so it took her to finish.
“Oh my God,” I breathed as the finished product was revealed to me. “It’s… Me!”
You know that feeling you get when you see a photo of yourself and it looks different than how you expected? As if maybe you’d never looked the way you thought you did? This was the total opposite of that feeling. I was genuinely astonished by how a few simple additions, like the sticky-outy tuft of hair at the nape of my neck or the slight bump in my nose, captured me exactly as I saw myself, and all in less than a minute.
After leaving the studio, I must have unwrapped and re-wrapped the silhouette studio staff had carefully packaged up half-a-dozen times, just to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. I showed it to everyone I could when I got back home, holding it next to my face and asking excitedly, “Don’t you think it just looks so much like me?”
Today, it hangs proudly on my bedroom door, and I still get a little kick every time it catches my eye.
Best of all, it only costs around $13 (US $9.99) to sit for your own silhouette, and you’ll get two copies to take home. And, trust me, it’ll occupy a spot on your shelf long after the Mickey ears are gone.