Disney Legends: Marvin Davis

As the Disney Legend’s website says, the Disney Legend award was created “To acknowledge and honor the many individuals whose imagination, talents and dreams have created the Disney Magic” There have been 216 Disney Legends awarded since the inception of this award in 1987. Many of the names on this list are known to most Disney enthusiasts, but for every well-known legend, there are 10 that you might have never heard of. These are their stories and this is the story of Marvin Davis.

When I was looking through the list of Disney Legends I came across Marvin Davis. At first, I misread and thought it was Marc Davis, but no, there’s Marc further up the list. When I first looked at Marvin Davis’ Disney Legend write-up I was very intrigued. Mr. Davis appears to be a true example of the thin line at the Disney Studios between the Movies and the Amusement parks. Marvin Aubrey Davis was born in Clovis, New Mexico in 1910. He attended UCLA and USC and graduated with a degree in Architecture. And then the next logical step? A job with 20th Century Fox working on such movies as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and the Asphalt Jungle as an Art Director. After a couple of years in the motion picture industry, Dick Irvine, a friend of Marv’s from Fox, hired him on at W.E.D. Enterprises. ‘Marvin developed the first diagrammatic plan for Disneyland and remembered that on August 8, 1953, Walt dropped by his office and picked up a No. 1 carbon pencil and drew a triangle in the middle of the plan and said, “That’s where I want the railroad to run.” While Walt had the idea, it was up to Marvin to make it workable.With a degree in architecture, it was Marvin’s job to translate Walt’s ideas into workable site plans. Marvin was the one who scaled the park to match the acreage.’

Marvin did most of the layout that Herb Ryman used to create his concept art of what Disneyland was to look like. After the park opened up he showed his versatility by moving back to the camera side of the company in movies and TV. He worked for the Disney company as Art Director on such movies as Follow Me Boys, Big Red and Moon Pilot. He worked on all of the Disney TV shows of the 50’s and 60’s; Zorro, The Mickey Mouse Club, Davy Crockett and Disneyland/Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color. He won an Emmy in 1962 for Wonderful World of Color. Mr. Davis returned to WED in 1965 and was working on the Florida Project. “In addition to the master plan for the theme park, Marvin contributed to the design of such resort hotels as the Contemporary, the Polynesian, and the Golf Resort. “ Marv was responsible for the design of Main Street and the External views of the Haunted Mansion. He also worked on early plans for Walt’s dream community EPCOT. He was quoted, when discussing Walt and his ideas for the Florida Project, “…he(Walt) designed the whole traffic flow around EPCOT on a little napkin.” After Walt’s death, Marvin still felt it his responsibility as project lead to present the plans that had been completed for EPCOT to Roy Disney. ‘When Marvin Davis presented his plans to Roy, they were met with a sad, simple, answer. “Marvin,” Roy Disney spoke, “Walt’s dead.” So was the city known as EPCOT.’ The entire EPCOT project reverted to the EPCOT Center that opened in 1982.
Mr. Davis retired from the company in 1976. He was inducted as a Disney Legend in 1994 and passed away in 1998. For all he has done for the Disney Company in so many ways, Marv was honored with a Window on the Main Streets of both Disneyland and WDW’s Magic Kingdom.
He shares the window over the Bank in Disneyland with Dick Irvine and the one in Florida says; Walter E. Disney Graduate School of Design & Master Planning “We Specialize in Imagineering” Headmaster, Richard Irvine Dean of Design, John Hench Instructors Edward Brummitt Marvin Davis Fred Hope Vic Greene Bill Martin Chuck Myall.
The Walt Disney Family Museum has a great interview with Mr. Davis with video clips of many topics. Please check this out.
One other interesting note, Marvin was married to Marjorie, daughter of Bill Cottrell, a Disney executive for over 40 years and niece to Lillian and Walt. Marjorie had actually co-starred in a couple of the early Alice series of live-action/cartoon’s Walt had directed.

Ed Mazzilli

Hello all! I have been going to WDW since 1976 and can't count the number of trips along with some cruises. I love all things Disney, from the parks to the studios to the history of what made the Walt Disney Company what it is...Walt himself.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: