If you haven’t yet seen the Disneyland Paris Treasures blog featuring the 1992 souvenir map created by imagineer Sam McKim, you should do so immediately. The maps I’m looking at today are a little less fancy, though I'd bet they had a substantially higher edition size…
If you’ve ever been to a Disney park (and chances are, if you’re reading this blog, that you have), you’ll know that free guide maps are available to all guests at the entrance. In 1992 the above watercolor illustration helped visitors find their way through the brand-new park while reassuring them with its simple charm… There were two problems, however: it was appealing but not very accurate, making it difficult to actually navigate the park’s winding pathways without consulting a series of additional maps in the multi-page guide. Also, the major expansion to happen in several phases during the following few years asked for a map that was a little easier to keep up to date.
This geometric design addressed both of those issues. Individual walkways were now drawn in and the flat background and simple shapes made it easy to add attractions as they were built. At the same time, the artwork was perhaps a bit too spare to fully do its subject justice. Also, while navigation by pathways became easier, navigation by landmark became more of a challenge with these extremely stylized representations… would you recognize the facade of “it's a small world” based on that map?
When the park’s major expansion phase ended with the opening of Space Mountain, a new map design was introduced, returning to a more illustrative style while keeping (or even improving) the previous version’s relative accuracy. On the downside, it wasn’t too flexible… but it didn't need to be; the changes that occurred during this map’s run (e.g. Cinémagique replaced by Honey, I Shrunk the Audience; Indiana Jones running backwards) had no visible impact on the park’s layout.
Only at the opening of the resort’s second gate, Walt Disney Studios, for the resort’s 10th anniversary a new map was created. This time, all-digital illustrations would solve all these problems at once, making sure the maps represented the parks faithfully (though none of these were actually to scale) and would do so for a long time. In fact, the maps introduced in 2002 are still in use today, twelve years and several expansions later, versus the previous maps’ one, two and seven years.