The History Behind the Partners Statue in the Disney Parks

by | Dec 19, 2023 | Disney History, Disneyland Parks, International Parks, Walt Disney World

We’re sharing the history behind the iconic Partners Statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse found in the Disney Parks

As we celebrated Walt Disney’s 122nd birthday earlier this month, the magic continued with the unveiling of the new Walt the Dreamer statue at Dreamer’s Point in EPCOT’s World Celebration. The statue is a symbol of Walt’s visionary spirit and represents his dream of the Florida Project.

As much as this statue is a beautiful ode to Walt’s legacy, it isn’t the first of its kind at Walt Disney World. Let’s take a closer look at the iconic statue that started it all: the Partners statue.

The Partners Statue in the Disney Parks

Magic Kingdom’s Partners statue was first revealed back in 1995. Located just in front of Cinderella Castle, the statue shows Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse, symbolically hand in hand, capturing their creative partnership, as well as their shared legacy.

Walt Disney World’s Partners statue is in fact a replica, as the very first one actually debuted at Disneyland in 1993 to commemorate Mickey Mouse’s birthday.  

The Creator Behind the Partners Statue

The Partners statue was sculpted by Disney Legend Blaine Gibson, a former animator and Imagineer. He started as an animator at The Walt Disney Studios, working on films such as Fantasia, Bambi, and Sleeping Beauty. In the evenings, Gibson spent time sculpting at home as a hobby. In 1954, Walt took notice of Gibson’s sculpting talent after seeing one of his art exhibits featuring animal sculptures. Recognizing his talent, Walt enlisted him to work on projects for Disneyland.

partners statue disney

Photo by Dom Tabon

Gibson initially split his time between animating and sculpting for the company, before transitioning full-time to Imagineering. Gibson supervised the sculpture department and crafted hundreds of sculptures, ranging from Audio-Animatronics to bronze figures. Gibson left his mark on several beloved attractions, including Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, and the Enchanted Tiki Room

Gibson retired from The Walt Disney Company in 1983 but continued to consult for various projects on the side. In 1993, his contributions to the company were recognized when he was bestowed the prestigious title of Disney Legend. That same year, Gibson crafted the Partners statue.

Creating the Statue

The creation of the sculpture took approximately one year to complete. It’s based on a bust that was originally crafted back in the 1960s by Gibson, however, he did have some assistance with the design thanks to Disney Imagineers Marty Skylar and John Hench. The Partners statue aims to capture Walt Disney in what Gibson considered his prime — the mid-1950s. It was during this time that Walt Disney started to become a very recognizable figure due to his weekly television show. When it came to sculpting Walt’s face, Gibson based Walt’s facial expression on imagining how he might have looked while watching people enjoy his park.  

Despite Walt’s actual height of 5’10”, the statue presents him on a grander scale at 6’5”. To have Mickey made to scale and to capture the two of them holding hands, Gibson used the scene when Mickey shakes hands with the orchestra conductor in Fantasia to assist with this process. 

Other Park Statues

The Partners statue was completed and first installed at Disneyland on November 18, 1993. Replicas of the sculpture were later installed at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom (1995), Tokyo Disneyland (1998), Disneyland Paris (2002), and the Disney Studio in Burbank (2003).

The Partners statue isn’t the only bronze figure on display at Magic Kingdom, though. Gibson was also charged with creating a life-size statue of Roy O. Disney and Minnie Mouse sitting on a bench. This was installed in Town Square on October 1, 1999. A copy of this statue can now be found at Disney Studio in Burbank. There is also one located in the World Bazaar at Tokyo Disneyland. The name of this tribute to Roy and Minnie Mouse is called Sharing the Magic. 

Photo by Mike Billick

Every bronze statue, whether it’s Partners or Walt the Dreamer, is a symbol of Walt and his dreams. The next time you explore the parks and come across one of these figures, let them serve as a reminder of the man who started it all, his dreams, and his legacy. 

Posts by Amanda Pemberton

Amanda is a librarian and contributing writer for WDW Magazine. She loves research, writing and all things Disney, and she especially loves when she can combine all three of these passions together. You can follow Amanda on Instagram @amandakpemberton.

Authored by
Amanda Pemberton

Amanda is a librarian and contributing writer for WDW Magazine. She loves research, writing and all things Disney, and she especially loves when she can combine all three of these passions together. You can follow Amanda on Instagram @amandakpemberton.
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