The H. Goff Cartography Shop

As you navigate your way around Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, Florida, take time to check out this cartographic gem in Fantasy Land. As well as browsing collections of antique maps you can gently connect with a little Disney magic.

The H Goff Cartography Shop

Most of the people who pass this way pay little attention to the H. Goff Cartography Shop. A few use it as a respite from the heat but most are rushing to swell the lines at the Little Mermaid Undersea Adventure opposite. The shop itself sells prints of antique maps but more than this it is the details in the architecture of the building that should pique your interest.

Harper Goff

The proprietor of the Cartography Shop is stamped clearly on the sign that adorns the entrance ‘H. Goff’. In real life, Harper Goff was an artist, a musician, actor, and a Disney Imagineer. Born in Colorado in 1911, he attended art school in Los Angeles, then moved to New York creating illustrations for a magazine such as Esquire and National Geographic. When America joined the Second World War, Harper moved to Virginia. Working at Fort Belvoir he developed camouflage schemes for the US army and navy. After the war Harper moved to the Warner Brothers as a set designer, creating sets for well-known movies including The Charge of the Light Brigade.

Harper’s Work at Disney

In true Disney form, the relationship between Disney and Hoff began at a model-making shop in London in 1951, where they were both trying to buy the same model train-set. Walt got the train-set but asked Hoff to contact him once he was back in the States. Hoff started working for Disney in Los Angeles as part of the artistic team of the Walt Disney studios. He is best known for his work on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea designing the Nautilus and its interior rooms. The movie won the Best Art Direction Oscar in 1954 but it was given to Goff’s assistant because at the time Goff did not have a Union Card (in 1954 the Union passes a by-law that required that the awards could only go to Union card carrying directors). In 1971 a new attraction, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, was added to the Magic Kingdom. The attraction was based on H Goff’s original designs. The attraction stayed until 1994 when Fantasyland was expanded and the Little Mermaid Undersea Adventure was created. But clearly it was important to Disney to recognize Goff and his work so they introduced the H. Goff Cartography Shop on the same location as the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attraction, with a distinct call out in the architectural detail. Note the squid weather vane which references the Nautilus’ battle with the beast, and the dolphins in the eaves.

In Conclusion

As a cartographer, I was particularly drawn to this small part of the Magic Kingdom. I liked the call out to the profession and the Mickey Mouse reference in the globes at the front of the shop. What I didn’t realize at the time were the connections between the building, the place and the individual who devoted a large part of his career to making Disney what it is.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *