31 May 2008

The right amount of earth

There are a few things, well, more than a few things actually, that I am not. I am certainly not an artist or an art critic by any stretch of anyone’s imagination, even the Dreamfinder’s. However, I do know what I consider to be good art and, by my standards, good art evokes emotion. One piece visible within the four parks at Walt Disney World that never ceases to induce that swelling feeling in my chest is the mural on the exterior of The Land pavilion in Epcot.

The almost identical murals, the right mural includes a small green tile on the left hand side of the sign as the signature of the artists, on the left and right sides of the entrance represent a slice of the Earth, and the various layers that compose our planet. Within these layers there are indications of oceans, civilizations, weather patterns, crops, and various land formations. The materials used in both of the one-hundred and thirty-four foot murals include natural materials such as marble, slate, glass, granite, and gold, and sets the stage for the introduction of the connection theme between us, the Earth, and how our lifestyles and cultures affect all aspects of life.

While the climb to the entrance of The Land pavilion may be innate to the design needed to create the correct visual lines from outside of the pavilion as well as to create the needed space inside for the various attractions and restaurants, it also increases a guests sense of the land around them. Though it may not be a message that hits anyone over the head, we have all been in the presence of other guests complaining about the climb. Whether they are tired from a long day, have difficulty with inclines due to health reasons, or just simply do not want to walk up the hill, this climb again presents the idea that nature affects us just as we affect nature.

Along with not being an artist, unlike the father and daughter-in-law team that created the mural, I am also not a fantastic photographer and photo editor. However, I did take some time to get up close and personal with The Land mural during a recent visit, an experience I highly recommend by the way, as the emotions in this piece grow stronger as you invest more time discovering its intricacies (plus it means you are tackling the incline at a slower pace), and came away with some pictures of all of the various sections for you to enjoy.

30 May 2008

Mobility is the byword of modern transportation

It would appear that someone inside of Walt Disney Imagineering has a thing for corvettes. The history behind this crate, found along the Rivers of America in Liberty Square, is actually three-fold: The man Zora Arkus-Duntov, the field of engineering and its applications to the Corvette, and the place of St. Louis, Missouri.

Zora Arkus-Duntov, born Zachary Arkus, was an engineer and a race car driver. As a driver he took place in the 1952, 1952, 1954, and the 1955 endurance race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. As an engineer Zora helped design the aluminum overhead valve heads for the Flathead Ford V8 engine, which not only overheating problems, its primary function, but also increased the horsepower that the Ford V8 was able to produce to over 300.

While at a GM event in New York in 1953, Arkus-Duntov saw a Corvette on display. While he was enamored by the outward design of the car, he found it to be lacking in technical ability. That is to say it lacked the power and performance of the sports cars being released in Europe. After writing to General Motors (GM) to explain what he loved in the vehicle, as well as a technical paper of determining a car’s top speed, he was offered a position as an assistant staff engineer with Chevrolet.

He immediately went to work, writing a paper labeled “Thoughts Pertaining to Youth, Hot Rodders and Chevrolet,” which set the tone for his future as we as the company’s. He added a small-block V8 and a three-speed manual transmission. These additions would launch the Corvette into history and bestow Arkus-Duntov with the title “Father of the Corvette,” even though he had simply modified a previous design. Zora would continue his work with the Corvette until 1975.

As for St. Louis’ status in the story, it’s simple, St. Louis is the location where Corvettes were produced from late 1953 until 1981. Prior to that, they were constructed in Flint, Michigan, and after 1981, they were built in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Though the crate may seem a detail out of time along the waterfront in the Magic Kingdom, the car is a classic, and those who love Corvettes know their passion is timeless. The Corvette may not have been the first automobile, and Zora Arkus-Duntov may not have been the first automotive engineer, but they both changed the landscape of the road, and it is that sense of determination and ingenuity, a trait shared by our fore-fathers of all Liberty Squares, which enables this crate to remain. Plus, I imagine that Imagineer who placed it there, really liked placing it there.

29 May 2008

Guardian of the realm of the snows

Today is the anniversary of the first completed ascension of Mount Everest, which took place on 29 May 1953. To celebrate, I thought I would pull out a few stories of Everest, which of course mention its most infamous inhabitant, from several of my favorite sources. Along the way, I also thought we’d take a gander at some of my favorite aspects from Serka Zong and Expedition Everest.

To start out, let’s go back to the very beginning:
“Tibetans believed that man originally emerged from the highlands surrounded by the tallest mountains on earth. To them the holy mountain Kailas is the center of the world. A thought entered my mind: Did the yeti legend figure in the myth of man’s creation?”
-Reinhold Messner, My Quest for the Yeti p. 38

“Mount Everest, called Peak XV upon initial identification, was renamed in 1865 by the British after the then Surveyor-General of India, Sir George Everest. It is, to the residents of Nepal, Sagarmatha, the “Summit of Heaven.” Everest is the throne of Migyo Lang Zang, the tiger-riding goddess who warns against the overly developed self, the too-much me. Locally it is known as Jomo Lung Ma, “Goddess of the Wind,” or Chomolungma, “Mother Goddess of the World.” Records suggest that this was the name preferred by Sir George.”
-Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain: The Journey Begins p. 6

Mount Everest, having secured its place in history, began to create stories amongst the indigenous people of the region. A fierce protector who cast a terrifying presence, but more often than not could not be found by mere mortal men, the yeti:
“In 1921, Colonel C. K. Howard-Bury was leading the first expedition to climb the north side of Mount Everest when he saw dark shadows flitting over the slopes at 19,500 feet. Later, at the precise spot where he had seen the strange creatures, he found gigantic footprints.”
-Reinhold Messner, My Quest for the Yeti p. 43

After many years had crept by, the idea came forward to bring Mount Everest to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Surprisingly, this concept did not come years after the park had already opened to the public, but actually several years before Disney’s Animal Kingdom was even announced:
“And Everest has these ancient roots, this actually, let’s see if I have this image here, this is painting from, I did this, 1991. And it is a view from, pretty much, where Flame Tree is now, looking out across the water to what Everest is now, only that’s Bhutan, instead of Nepal, and the safari village, that was Asia, moved on to the side of Asia, instead of on the side of the island.”
-Joe Rohde, Disney’s Animal Kingdom 10th Anniversary Presentation, 22 April 2008

Returning to our base camp, Serka Zong, one cannot help but feel that, even if they have never visited the true area surrounding Mount Everest, they are walking in the shadows of the great mountain itself. This is, in all respects, due to the hard work and dedication of the Imagineers and horticulturalist that molded the space where Serka Zong and Expedition Everest now reside:
“Landscape architects incorporated characteristics from Bhutan, Mustang, Sichuan, and Katmandu to capture the diversity of the botanically rich region. More than 900 bamboo plants, including 4 species of giant bamboo, 10 species of trees, and 110 species of shrubs were planted to evoke the lowlands surrounding Mount Everest.”
-Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain: The Journey Begins p. 17

28 May 2008

We are here to change the world

I have many full-time jobs, from preschool teacher and husband, to son and Disney sponge. I have spent most of my life in cities and urban areas. Though I know my way around a trail and campsite, it would be a stretch to say that I am a Great American Outdoorsman. Alongside that, though I have encountered the occasional coral snake or other predatory animal, I’m lucky if I know if a particular animal is an omnivore, herbivore, or carnivore. Yet, all of that aside, and despite the fact that I shall almost certainly never seen a majority of the vast, open, and wild places on this earth, I am convinced that we must act responsibly to conserve what remains, educate those who can help, and continue to seek out new ways in which to support our home. It is, after all, the only one we’ve got.

Walt Disney World has a few guidelines for Wildlife Conservation Action that may just have a few ideas you and I can install into our daily lives.

1 – Seek out information about conservation issues
Subscribe to wildlife conservation magazines
Contact local chapters of conservation groups to find out what they’re doing in your area
Watch wildlife shows on television
Attend public hearings concerning wildlife and habitat issues
2 – Spread the word to others about the value of wildlife and wild places
Encourage your family, friends and neighbors to reduce, reuse and recycle
Teach children to respect nature and the environment
Sponsor a neighborhood “plant a tree” party
Ensure schools have a balanced environmental education program
3 – Look for and purchase products that are friendly to the environment
Use only organic fertilizers — they are still the best
Pull weeds instead of using herbicides
Don’t buy products that are manufactured at the expense of important habitats, such as rain forests
Try to use phosphate-free laundry detergents and dish soap
4 – Create habitats for wildlife in your backyard
Put up birdfeeders, birdbaths, and birdhouses in your backyard
Build a bat house — one bat can eat up to 600 insects per hour
Plant a butterfly flower garden
Create a small pond in your backyard for aquatic wildlife
Confine domestic pets so they do not disturb wildlife
5 – Reduce, reuse, recycle, and replenish
Recycle everything you can: newspapers, cans, glass, foil, motor oil, etc.
Use cold water in the washer whenever possible
Don’t leave water running needlessly
Take unwanted, reusable items to a charitable organization or thrift shop
Lower your thermostat by one degree per hour for every hour that you are away or sleeping
6 – Choose your pets wisely
Leave wild baby animals where you find them — only their mothers can care for them properly
Some pets have a very long life span — parrots (75-100 years), tarantulas (15-25 years), tortoises (75-200 years). Be sure you are ready for the commitment
Some animals have special care needs; be sure you are aware of these and can provide the care and costs that are required
Veterinary expenses for wild or exotic pets can be high
Some animals in the wild may carry transmittable diseases
Many exotic animals were taken from the wild illegally
7 – Support conservation organizations through contributions and volunteerism
Join a conservation organization
Volunteer for a beach or river clean-up
Volunteer at your local zoo or aquarium
Contribute money to conservation programs such as the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund
Have a bake sale to benefit conservation organizations
While we are sure to talk about many of the options above as we continue this discussion of Conservationism (butterfly gardens, teaching, volunteerism, reusable materials, etc.), one brief note I want to make today is about donating to organizations like the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF).

First off, let me say that I understand many of us, myself included, do not have enough disposable income to write checks of substantial amounts to charity, especially those like the DWCF that do not count as charitable contributions, and especially not in this economical climate. As well, I have no binding ties to the DWCF, other than it is an organization that my wife and I attempt to assist when we have the ability to.

So, let’s say that you do have the money to help, that you wish to contribute to an organization that is doing good works in the world, you have researched all the available options, found the right group for you, and that group happens to be the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund. Fantastic, but, how much is enough, and where does your money go? Recently, the DWCF released information pertaining to what they are able to do with various funding:
1 Dollar can purchase thick socks for forest rangers to wear on patrol in Africa
5 Dollars can purchase fuel to operate research trucks and boats
10 Dollars can fund a workshop to train teachers on wildlife in Ecuador
25 Dollars can allow a child to attend a conservation camp in Zimbabwe for three days
50 Dollars can provide a month’s supply of batteries for flashlights used to explore caves for bats
100 Dollars can rent dive gear for a research team to study and map coral reefs

As you can see, it doesn’t take much to help change the world.

Welcome curious friends

I thought I would write today about something that bridges two subjects, each covered in resplendent fashion elsewhere, as both a homage to two friends of the Main Street Gazette and as a showcase for a brilliant piece of Disney history. The two blogs I speak of are Disneyana World, which is currently on hiatus until June 6th, and Princess Fee’s DF’82.

Medallions have commemorated many occasions, both ingenious and non-event events, within the history of the Disney theme parks. Below is one such medallion. It was bestowed upon Cast Members in a nondescript dark blue envelope to coincide with the opening of EuroDisney, now Disneyland Resort Paris. Alongside the medallion was a letter from Judson Green explaining the medallion’s, EuroDisney’s, and each individual Cast Member’s significance in the history and future of the Disney Company.

Though Disneyana World may currently be idling, be sure to check out all of the astonishing pieces of Disney memorabilia available for you to gawk at there. As for DF’82, I do not believe you could find a finer Princess than Fee to give you a personally guided tour of Disneyland Resort Paris, I know George and I already have our bags packed!

27 May 2008

Utilizes knowledge without end - Part II

Yesterday readers were left with a few trivia questions from The Ultimate Disney Trivia Book. As promised, here are the answers along with a dash of history.

From The Three Caballeros: In the opening sequence Donald Duck is celebrating his birthday. What is the date??
ANSWER: Donald's official birthday, 9 June 1934, stems from his first appearance in The Wise Little Hen. However, in 1945’s The Three Caballeros the calendar date states that Donald’s birthday is Friday the 13th.
From The Happiest Millionaire: How many children do the Biddles have, and how many alligators does Anthony J. Drexel Biddle own?
ANSWER: The Biddles’ three children are Cordelia, Tony, and Livingston. Anthony J. Drexel Biddle has amassed a whopping dozen, or twelve, alligators from Florida. Though it may seem like a stretch to talk about the alligators’ personalities, they have them, and Anthony is most fond of the alligator George.
From Disney on Television: Who taught us how to spell “encyclopedia” on the Mickey Mouse Club??
ANSWER: Jiminy Cricket. Rather than expound upon the finer points of his lesson, here is a copy that all of us can view.
From Resorts/Other Attractions: Where can you find Big Bertha??
ANSWER: Big Bertha is a stand up band organ, including instruments like pipes, drums, bells, cymbals, castanets, and a xylophone. Bertha can be found at 1900 Park Fare in the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa (which was referred to as the Grand Floridian Beach Resort back in 1993).
From Euro Disney: What country came in second in the bidding war for Euro Disney?
ANSWER: Spain. When the time came to select a site for Euro Disney, Disney had four options. Two along the Mediterranean Sea in Spain, another along the Mediterranean Sea in France, and the site that eventually became known as Euro Disney in Marne-la-Vallee, France.

26 May 2008

Utilizes knowledge without end

The Ultimate Disney Trivia Book, written by Kevin Neary and Dave Smith (yes, that Dave Smith), is full of 999 tricky trivia questions. The book was followed by three sequel books as well. The book covered not only characters, cartoons, and films, but also presented questions from Disney parks around the globe. The answers may have changed over the years, but that only endears the book to me more, because it now serves as a bit of a time capsule. The original Ultimate Disney Trivia Book was published in January 1993.

Below are a few of the trickier questions from the book. Feel free to take a guess or two, or whip out your own handy dandy Ultimate Disney Trivia Book. Come back tomorrow and we will not only have the answers, but a little bit of the story behind the trivia. Enjoy!

From The Three Caballeros: In the opening sequence Donald Duck is celebrating his birthday. What is the date?
From The Happiest Millionaire: How many children do the Biddles have, and how many alligators does Anthony J. Drexel Biddle own?
From Disney on Television: Who taught us how to spell “encyclopedia” on the Mickey Mouse Club?
From Resorts/Other Attractions: Where can you find Big Bertha?
From Euro Disney: What country came in second in the bidding war for Euro Disney?

25 May 2008

Don't get technical with me

Today is the 31st Anniversary of a little film called Star Wars. These films, along with Indiana Jones, were as much to blame for who I became as an adult as Walt Disney World was itself. Several years ago I was fortunate to run across a copy of The Star Wars Portfolio by Ralph McQuarrie at a silent auction. The auction ran for several days, and I made sure I was on hand for the final hour, ensuring my ability to outbid anyone immediately who tried to steal this jewel out from under me. No one came, the portfolio was mine, and the fact that I was so intent on claiming this portfolio only served to further my propensity for geekiness to family and friends. But perhaps I should allow the portfolio to speak for itself.
"Ralph McQuarrie would never have guessed he would one day be doing space-fantasy artwork. Nonetheless, it was in his blood at a very early age. “It was part of my life ever since I was a little kid,” he remarks. “I can remember drawings I did then of logging trucks with extra wheels and greater proportions, and fantastic versions of scientific equipment. So when George [Lucas] asked me to do these things, I felt it was what I was meant to do all along. It is the most fun and comes easy to me.”

McQuarrie, born June 13, 1929, in Gary, Indiana, was influenced by his grandfather, who did watercolors, and his mother, who drew and painted. It wasn’t long before he settled on a career in art. He took an art major in high school, studied technical illustration, and then went to work for the Boeing Company. There he met people who had studied at and recommended the Art Center School in Los Angeles. After two years in Korea, he enrolled at Art Center as an illustration student.

The ease with which McQuarrie understood the highly technical visuals required for STAR WARS is partially explained by his earlier work for CBS News Apollo coverage as well as for Boeing, Litton Industries, and Kaiser Graphics. His work for CBS, doing artist’s renderings of the capsule’s travel through space – making visible what could not otherwise be seen – generated quite an interest in McQuarrie’s work. He was soon approached about doing animation background paintings and movie-poster art.

Some production paintings McQuarrie had done for Hal Barwood and Matthew Robbins brought him to the attention of director George Lucas in late 1975. Very soon after, they began discussing production paintings for STAR WARS. Lucas suggested that McQuarrie approach the work from the point of view of “ideal” portrayals rather than feel restricted by what could actually be achieved in filming the situations represented in the art.

The first four or five paintings had been done when STAR WARS was still in the development stage through Twentieth Century-Fox. George Lucas felt that McQuarrie’s painting would not only be of interest to Twentieth, but, by helping them to visualize his ideas, would also dissolve any hesitation on their part to go ahead with making the film.

The production paintings were of incalculable value when it came to discussing STAR WARS; production design and costuming. They reflect various changes in visual concepts as well as the evolving story line. The ideas of not only George Lucas and Ralph McQuarrie are concretized here, but also those of production designer John Barry and model designers Joe Johnston and Colin Cantwell.

Mc Quarrie’s paintings were done in a combination of opaque gouache and acrylic on illustration board mounted on hardboard."

Carol Wikarska
Director of Publications

Luke is fighting Darth Vader in what was to have been a scuffle aboard the Rebel Blockade Runner soon after Vader’s Imperials captured the Rebel ship. Luke is wearing a kind of breath mask because Vader’s troopers apparently cut through a panel to get in, allowing the air supply to escape.
The Darth Vader costume – a grotesque breath mask and all sorts of other life-support systems, computer readout, black cape and armor – was partly inspired by the impressive image of a Samurai warrior. George Lucas, in keeping with the idea that Vader’s whole being was to be mysterious, wanted the character to be entirely in black.

The Tusken Raiders, or Sandpeople as they are sometimes called, were conceived of as marginally human. They wear layers of clothing to protect themselves from the environment, and a moisture collector under the chin to sustain them as they roam the wastelands of Tatooine. These horribly vicious creatures and the Banthas are seen concealing themselves in the wreckage of some unfortunate spacecraft.

Here we have an incipient confrontation as the small group of fugitives try to escape the Imperial Stormtroopers. Chewbacca is carrying the Princess, Han Solo can be seen in an earlier costume design – a blue outfit with a cape; and Luke is in the background. McQuarrie envisioned the hallways as being lit indirectly, through thin slots. Defying standard principles, the light would radiate from these narrow spaces at 360 degrees, while the slots themselves would be detectable only from particular angles. It would be a testament to the genius of these people that they discovered a key to the universe that permitted them to harness an incredible energy in this manner.

Lucas described to McQuarrie the prospect from the cliff when Mos Eisley spaceport is first in view. Luke Skywalker, clearly seen as a girl in the painting, was a girl at this point in the development of the story. C-3PO and R2-D2 can be seen behind a winged landspeeder. This elaborate vehicle became somewhat more streamlined in the film. The full bubble was retained, but was always kept open to a half-bubble for convenience in filming.

The beautiful, eerie red planet, Yavin, is seen from its fourth moon, the stronghold of the Rebel Alliance. Another moon is seen in the distance. The bright emissions of distant spacecraft glitter through the fog which surrounds this heavily jungled moon. The lone figure situated high above the ground in this serene environment is a Rebel lookout.

This painting represents R2-D2 and C-3PO first arriving on Tatooine after their narrow escape from the Imperial Stormtroopers via a Life Pod (which can be seen in the background). McQuarrie used a photograph of the Oregon coast to guide his painting of the landscape, following the line of the cliff and replacing the ocean with sand dunes.
C-3PO was inspired by the beautiful robot seen it Frtiz Lang’s classic silent film Metropolis, but Lucas wanted it to look more male then female. McQuarrie’s C-2PO looks much more graceful and slim than the ‘droid was to become in the film. The problems of a person moving in all of that equipment made it necessary for C-3PO’s body to be bigger and to have larger joints.
Lucas wanted R2-D2 to be like a small tripod which would move by throwing one leg outward and pitching itself forward like a man on crutches. But the problems of getting R2-D2 to move in that manner couldn’t be solved, so he had to be made to glide forward or hobble about.

The main characters are assembled here just prior to lift-off at Mos Eisley. They are in costumes like those in the film.
The Mos Eisley “pit,” which houses Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon, is quite a bit more sophisticated here, with huge mechanical lifts on tracks, than it is in the film.

This painting provides the feeling of the battle above the Death Star, from an enemy pilot’s point of view.
The targeting device in the cockpit was originally conceived by McQuarrie as being a radar location indicator, registering what was behind and around the pilot, out of sight. The pilot would rely on eye contact up front. In the film, however, the device registered the target in front and did not show what was behind the pilot.

The main purpose of this painting was to capture the atmosphere of the battle over this monstrous space station.
The open core apparent in the Death Star structure represented McQuarrie’s concept of a laser cannon: a large power source, accelerators and condensers would all collect around the core, focus their terrific energy, and fire out through the bottom. At other times, spacecraft could come and go through the top. In the film, however, the planet-destroying laser beam was focused through a dish-shaped structure on the Death Star surface.

McQuarrie envisioned the Cantina as a primitive place framed by irregular archways and decorated with torn banners. It had a central gallery and a skylight over the bar. There wasn’t much in it that would indicate this was part of a society that had a lot of technical expertise. Lucas liked the feeling of it, but wanted occasional hints of mechanisms and technical sophistication, and McQuarrie added these effects to the painting.
The small balls which appear to be floating in the painting are called “seekers.” The seeker eventually became the device for training Luke to use the lightsaber. But in this painting, it was a kind of automatic police force programmed to dispense, in its cold fashion, the death sentence. It would float around until it found a person condemned by the Empire to die, then execute him.
Luke, in a bit of trouble with an unhappy alien, wears a costume much like the one Han Solo wears in the film.

Y-wing fighters are being unplugged from their ground system in the Rebel hangar at Massasi. For the figure at left, McQuarrie used a World War II photograph of a Navy pilot running across the flight deck with a clipboard in hand, changing the uniform but capturing the gesture. The pilots have helmets which are capable of life-support, working automatically whenever a malfunction in their aircraft occurs. The fighters are designs by Colin Cantwell, revised by Joe Johnston.

George Lucas wanted to show the scale of the Death Star trench in relation to the fighters as an aid to the special effects people doing the miniatures.

Here, McQuarrie developed what was known as the “Lash La Rue” scene in the depths of the Death Star. The retractable bridge and chasm, over which Luke and the Princess were to swing on a thin cord, were thought to be somewhat close to the center of the battle station. All structures were to radiate from a central core in ever-widening circles.

The Sandcrawler, a junk-collecting operation, is a very large and rusty old vehicle containing many storage rooms. McQuarrie envisioned a toothy front with a scoop that moved up and down like a present-day garbage truck. Lucas later came up with the magnet arrangement by which R2-D2 is taken into the behemoth vehicle.
McQuarrie depicted the Sandcrawler against cliffs because the story, at this stage of its development, called for it to be hit by falling rocks, which knock it off track; during this commotion, the two robots were to have escaped. (The control devices which, in the film, restrain the robots, had not yet been conceived.)

Princess Leia honors those who saved the Rebel Alliance with an impressive ceremony at the Massasi stronghold. Ben Kenobi, who was originally still to be alive at the end of STAR WARS, can be discerned in the small group walking down the center aisle. McQuarrie felt the banners would be indicative of a royal atmosphere.

This painting is another view of the Death Star hangar. The Empire brought in strange ships, like Han Solo’s, and did readouts on them. The lights and windows in the back are part of the research and repair area.

This is an action “atmosphere” sketch of the hail of laser fire.

Lucas wanted a row of elevators in the Death Star and McQuarrie made them individual tubes along one of the walls of the many deep canyons in the Death Star.
There are a variety of robots, mutations, and oddball characters here, as throughout the film, filling out the concept that the nature of a galactic civilization was that they adapted in a variety of modes to the various environments.
The large spaces may have helped air circulation, by McQuarrie also speculates on the need for psychological space on such a space station.

On the fourth moon of Yavin, Rebel troops at Massasi ready themselves for battle. McQuarrie felt this Aztec-like ruin might be made of large, unthinkably dense stones with the property of minimizing gravity. The lights of small fighter spacecraft are visible deep within the structure.

McQuarrie explains this painting as a necessary compilation of elements – the ships and the big hangar in the Death Star. Casual figures are present merely to establish scale.
McQuarrie notes that this painting elaborates on a design which is basically John Barry’s. Marry made additional changes before the set took on its final form.

This painting establishes the massive proportions of the Death Star in relation to Han Solo’s Corellian pirateship. It is here seen being pulled into the Death Star hangar by a powerful magnetic tractor beam.