by Toby Swaford, K-12 Education Coordinator
As the winter weather finally rolls into Fort Collins, it may be time to spend an evening or two enjoying some family entertainment. As you plan out your night’s entertainment, why not investigate some films with a local connection? Sure you could schedule a film festival featuring locally born actors Jon Heder or Jake Lloyd, but how many time can you watch Napoleon Dynamite or Star Wars, Episode One: The Phantom Menace? To really enjoy your movie watching experience, I suggest taking a look at some of the work of our very own Harper Goff.
If the name doesn’t ring any bells, you’ll probably still recognize some of Goff’s contributions to popular culture and entertainment. Harper Goff drew heavily on his childhood memories of growing up in Fort Collins when he helped design the look of Main Street, USA in Disneyland. Certain buildings were influenced by the design of historical Fort Collins structures, including Disney’s Town Hall, which is patterned after our now demolished Court House building, and the Disneyland Fire House, which shares design features with our old Fire House located on Walnut Street.
Before joining the Walt Disney Company, Harper Goff was employed at Warner Brother’s Studios where he had served as an artistic director and set designer for such classic films as Casablanca, Captain Blood, Sergeant York, and the 1935 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. For Walt Disney, Harper Goff is perhaps best remembered as designing the film look of 20,000 leagues Under the Sea. His iconic Victorian era diving suits and the Nautilus submarine would go on to win the Oscar for Best Art Direction in the 1954.
Unfortunately, Harper Goff was not allowed to accept the award. Goff wouldn’t become a member of the Art Director’s Union until later in his career and, as a non-member, was inelligible to win. Instead, John Meehan, who had simply carried out Harper Goff’s amazing designs for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, was given the award.
Harper Goff would later be credited for Creative Production Research on another submarine based film, Fantastic Voyage produced in 1966, featuring a stunning journey through the human body aboard the miniaturized vessel, the Proteus. That film also won the Oscar for Best Art Direction. In 1971, Harper Goff would create the look of the original film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory, featuring Gene Wilder.
Goff also had some on screen appearances over the years in television series such as Dragnet, and in films like Hit Parade of 1951, and Pete Kelly’s Blues. You can find a complete filmography on the Internet Movie Data Base.
While occasionally appearing as an actor, Goff earned most of his screen time as the banjo player for the Fire House Five Plus Two. A musical act comprised of Disney artists, the band appeared on many specials and variety shows. Check out Harper Goff’s toothsome grin in this clip with the band performing Everybody Loves My Baby. If it doesn’t get your toes tapping on a cold winter’s night, then nothing will.