Art update – Mermaids! + 1960’s Disneyland and more

Girls drawing girls, a fun art group I'm a part of, is getting ready to put out their latest art book and the drawing I'm contributing for it had to be themed around Hibiscus flowers. I've been on a total mermaid kick since I looked up info on the 20,000 Leagues ride in Disney World and knew I wanted to have an excuse to draw stuff like that… how are those two things related you ask?

Well, through clicking around and reading on the history of the ride, I discovered the first ride like this was the "Submarine Voyage" in Disneland, which had LIVE MERMAIDS! Okay okay, so they weren't real mermaids – they were actually local girls who auditioned to play mermaids for the summer during 1965-1967. But seriously – how cool is that?! 


So when I put together my concept sketch for the book, I decided to capture the look of these teenage mermaid gals gossiping on a rock while beautifying themselves with brightly colored hibiscus flowers. Still working out color choices, but above is a preview! I'm debating making them look less human with webby ears and fins on their arms…

mermaid sketches

Sketches I doodled while coming up with ideas. I actually drew all the stuff below while sitting in a jacuzzi – I'd like to think of that as immersing myself in the drawing's environment, hahaha!

mermaid sketches

In the bottom left you can see where my idea sorta started… and then I drifted into the zone of thinking of outfit ideas. I think at this point I was like, man – I want a mermaid costume too!

mermaid sketches


And I couldn't talk about the Disneyland mermaids without sharing photos, video and some more info… 

Disneyland mermaids

Disneyland mermaids


From the summer of 1965 through the summer of `67, Disneyland had live mermaids perched on the rocks for about four hours each day. They brushed their hair, primped with an oversized mirror and sunned themselves. 

     "A special tryout was held at the Disneyland Hotel swimming pool, with requirements specifying a height between 5 feet 4 inches and 5 feet 7 inches, long hair and good swimming ability," according to "Disneyland: The Nickel Tour," on sale at the Magic Kingdom. "The aspiring sirens were assured that Disneyland would provide the appropriate mermaid attire."  

     "It was like a dream job," ex-mermaid Shannon Baughmann told Koenig. At 6 foot 3, she was a lot of Starkist. "You could swim [within] 15 feet of the subs and wave to the guests. We'd do underwater stunts, synchronized swimming, play and splash each other," she recalled. "I was always the last one out, to make sure we didn't forget our oversized combs, necklaces or jewels." 

     They were very popular, and not just with the girls. 

     "They were quite an eyeful," The Nickel Tour concluded. "Unfortunately, they were too much for some of the guys onshore, who found themselves compelled to jump into the water and swim to the rocks to answer the siren's call." 

– Nancy Wride
1998 LA Times article about the Submarine Voyage Lagoon

Disneyland mermaids

I was saving all of this for my upcoming Love Letter post, but there were so many links I wanted to share it just seemed ridiculous… plus it has a lot more in common with my doodles πŸ™‚


Last but not least, check out this fun video of the mermaids swimming and trying out for their summer jobs:

Man, can you imagine how fun it must have been to do that for the summer…!?


Hoped you guys enjoyed the retro mermaid stuff and preview of my upcoming piece! I look forward to sharing it when it's finished πŸ™‚


PS! Two other art notes:

  • Mary of interviewed me for her "Inspired" podcasts, you can have a listen here – we talk about experiences in art school, how I got started in my career, advice, inspiration, and more! It was recorded while I still had a part time job, so it's a little out of date there, but everything else still is current πŸ™‚
  • And I'm going to have art in the upcoming Bunnies & Bows: Art Exhibition & Chubby Bunny Fashion Eventyou can read more about that here!



21 thoughts on “Art update – Mermaids! + 1960’s Disneyland and more

  1. Terri says:

    There is a place in Florida at Weeki Wachee Springs that put on live mermaid shows. It was magical to watch as a little girl. I can hardly believe it, but they still put on shows today! Might be worth a quick drive from Atlanta πŸ˜‰ for a little inspiration.


  2. Leah M. says:

    Hi San!
    I wanted to touch more on what the commenter, Terri, mentioned. I live in Florida, about an hour away from Weeki Wachee Springs where they still put on mermaid shows. When I was a little girl I got to meet some of the mermaids, and it was so cool! I wish I could try out, but the swimming seems really intensive! They even breathe air out of hoses while underwater. Here is the link :


  3. says:

    Really great post San! I always like to see pics of your process and I love all the info you posted. I’ve never been a super huge fan of mermaids, but after seeing all the mermaids from the sixties…I may have to make myself a mermaid inspired hair clip.
    Oh and I think we should plan a trip to Weeki Wachee Springs. πŸ™‚


  4. Danielle says:

    I love your mermaid sketches, San! And you should totally realize that outfit sketch someday, that looks like it would be really pretty. You found great old photos, too! I think I still have my childhood Disneyland coloring book that has a page featuring the submarine voyage including the mermaids… I’ll have to see if I can track it down. Haven’t been on the ride at Disneyland since they reopened it with a Finding Nemo theme; the line is still always hours long.


  5. Miranda says:

    I would have loved that job! Maybe I should work at Disney world and design costumes and dress up as a character for my job, because designing clothes and cosplaying/dressing up in costume are two of my fav things!


  6. Dan says: This is a great website!!! I stumbled across it the other day and then you post this. Good timing! I rode this ride when I was about 13yrs old (early 90s). It then closed in 1995 😦 and they put up a Pooh bear attraction. You can see in one of the pics that one of the tree “knots” is shaped like the Nautilus as a tribute to a ride that was there for 25yrs.
    Great sketches. Hope the website gives you some inspiration.


  7. Dan says:

    Apparently I am behind the times and did not read your previous post. lol. Backwards reading of blogs is never good I suppose πŸ™‚


  8. Ashley says:

    As an absolute nut for Disneyland AND mermaids, I absolutely love this post! That really does sound like a dream job, I would’ve been all over those tryouts πŸ™‚ Thanks for the great info & photos.
    Your sketches are so gorgeous! Can’t wait to see the finished products.
    On a side note, the “post” button for this comment wouldn’t work in Chrome :/ I had to go into Firefox to post it, strange huh?


  9. Amielle says:

    Thank you for all the lovely links for the Disneyland and mermaids. I’m a fan of both like whoa, and this was so fun and interesting to read about.
    Your sketches are lovely and I can’t wait to see the final/coloured version so fthem.


  10. Sanasaurus says:

    Im so envious you live near by!! They were performing at the aquarium here in December but I didnt find out until it was already over. Hopefully Ill get to see them someday πŸ™‚


  11. Sanasaurus says:

    I might do it for halloween if I ever stop being so lazy about sewing for myself… I always have lots of ideas but I am not very motivated to execute them past a drawing! Hmmm. Id love to see that coloring book page – lemme know if you find it!


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