I’d like to share some Disney Silhouette history with you. You might not know that the first Disney park to open was not Disney World in Florida, but Disneyland in California.
Just one day after Disneyland Park opened, specifically on July 18th, 1955, the first silhouette studio opened. Right on Main St, USA.
A silhouette is a piece of art created when the artist cuts your likeness or that of your entire family. All with a small pair of scissors.
This mind-blowing art never ceases to amaze me. Most of us can’t cut a straight line, let alone a family’s profile. Actually, there is only a selection of a few people in the world who can do it.
In France, early 1700s, there was a form of what was considered at that time, entertainment, called paper cutting.
The folks who knew how to do it were asked to attend events by the royal families. Similar to how we think of a photo booth at a wedding today.
The term silhouette actually comes from the name of the French finance minister, paper cutting was his hobby. His name? Étienne de Silhouette.
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All about the Disney Silhouette Portrait
With a bunch of gift shops lining the entrance to nearly every Walt Disney World theme park and unlimited photo opportunities around every corner, there is no shortage of merchandise to commemorate your family’s Walt Disney World vacation.
From Christmas ornaments (one of my favorites) to Mickey-shaped treats, to that silly photo taken during Space Mountain, the souvenir possibilities are endless! There is one option that is for some reason overlooked by guests. It’s our number one pick for the best Disney souvenir and that is the timeless Disney silhouette portrait.
Let’s dig a little more into history here… First offered to Disneyland guests in 1955, about a month after the grand opening, the Disney Silhouette is a true classic with roots that go all the way back to Europe at right around the start of the French Revolution.
Long before cameras were a thing, those who wished to commemorate their families and loved ones could do so by sitting for an oil painting, but not many could afford such a luxury. That’s where the then-unnamed, silhouette portrait came in.
It was an affordable alternative to sitting for a painting, which took hours and was very expensive. Silhouette portraits were completed quickly and were done at a small cost, making it a very widely sought out art form at the time. The artform has hardly changed and is still done by the silhouette artist cutting their subject’s likeness out of black paper with a small pair of scissors.
Silhouettes began to gain popularity among the French elite during the French Revolution, particularly by a man named Etienne de Silhouette. He was the French Finance Minister at the time and happened to be taxing the French people relentlessly. He seemed to concentrate more on creating cut-out shadow art of his rich friends than on the finances of France. Yikes.
The French people didn’t take this very well began to mock him as relentlessly as he taxed them. The French people began dressing all in black, like the “meaningless shadows” that captured Etienne’s undivided attention, calling themselves ‘silhouettes’. Needless to say, the name stuck and the art form became known to all in France as silhouette portraits.
Once Europeans began emigrating to America they brought the art of the silhouette portrait with them. The negative connotation that the word ‘silhouette’ had gained in France quickly fell away, and the art form became incredibly popular in the early 1900s in America, particularly in capturing the likeness of children.
Here we are more than 100 years later and silhouette portraits are available to every Disney guest for an extremely reasonable price. In my opinion, they are the one souvenir no Disney-goer should leave without.
Walk up to any Silhouette cart or studio on Disney property and prepare to be amazed, not only are they one of the most affordable Disney souvenirs but they are one of the most impressive.
Disney Silhouette artists are truly a sight to behold, armed with only folded paper and tiny scissors, they are capable of capturing an uncanny likeness in a matter of seconds.
Part portrait, part entertainment, silhouette artists work by freely cutting folded papers from the bottom up, determining negative and positive space along the way to perfectly capture each guests’ profile…No tracing here!
Disney Silhouettes are a wonderful family keepsake and even make lovely gifts for parents and grandparents that will be kept for generations to come.
Where can I purchase a Disney Silhouette Souvenir?
A timeless Disney silhouette portrait can be purchased in various places on Walt Disney World property as well as in Disney Springs, and in Disneyland, California.
The original Disney Silhouette studio that first opened up in 1955 is still going strong and is located between Crystal Arts and China Closet on Main Street U.S.A. in Disneyland in California. With its large windows, passersby are invited to watch Disney Silhouette artists work their magic, and perhaps even take part in magic themselves.
What’s great about this location is the history, many of the silhouette artists have been working here for decades and have the stories to prove it. Not only can you sit for your own silhouette portrait, but artists are known for snipping portraits of beloved Disney characters and even family pets! Just remember to bring a side profile photo of anyone who will not be present at the time.
Walt Disney World Locations
If you are planning your Disney vacation at Walt Disney World in Florida, have no fear, as there is no shortage of Disney Silhouette locations. First, we have a silhouette cart in Magic Kingdom about halfway down Main Street U.S.A. Blink and you’ll miss it, as it’s situated just out of the way, but it’s there trust us! Right before the crazy Starbucks line, you’ll find it down a little side street to the right of Cinderella’s Castle.
If that one is a little too busy you can just take a short walk over toward Frontierland, there is another silhouette cart right at the entrance of Liberty Village near the Hall of Presidents. This location is fitting and actually pretty historically accurate!
When silhouette portraits first became popular in the U.S. many artists flocked to Washington D.C. to create portraits of American Presidents and many other high-profile politicians. No pun intended.
Speaking of historically accurate, the next silhouette cart is located in, you guessed it, France! The France Pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase, that is. To make it a truly authentic experience, make Marie Antionette proud and grab a delicious cake from Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie and then head over to get your silhouette portrait made.
Disney Springs Location
If you want to focus on hitting all the attractions while you’re at the parks and would rather leave souvenirs for another time, then we’ve got your back with this tip. Disney Springs is a must when searching for the perfect souvenirs, and as we’ve discussed the silhouette portrait is the perfect one.
Crystal Arts by Arribas Brothers is where you will need to go if you want to get a silhouette portrait outside of the Disney parks. It’s located right near the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop so trust me, you’ll find yourselves over there anyway.
What Time are Disney Silhouette locations open
Due to the current phased reopening of Disneyland, California, and Walt Disney World, Florida many shops and attractions may be affected. To be sure, just speak to Guest Services to find out the most updated hours of operation for all Disney Parks and Disney silhouette carts and studios.
The original Disney silhouette studio that opened in 1955 is located on Disneyland’s Main Street U.S.A. and is open at 11:00 a.m. and closes at 9:00 p.m. with extended hours in the summer months, opening at 11:00 a.m. and closing at 11:00 p.m. (as long as the park is open for extended magic hours as well).
Disney Silhouette locations in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom open at 10:00 a.m. and close at 9:00 p.m. so you will have plenty of time to get your souvenir and do all the fun things Magic Kingdom has to offer. The same times apply to the silhouette location of Epcot’s world showcase in France, but again, always make sure to double-check at the park entrance.
Crystal Arts by Arribas Brothers located in Disney Springs is open from 10:00 a.m to 10:00 p.m. which leaves plenty of time to shop around and grab a bite to eat for a fun day exploring Disney Springs. This is a great option for families who have already used all their park passes or have maybe waited until the last minute to grab their souvenirs.
The Disney Springs location is the only location in Walt Disney World where you do not also have to pay park admittance! So if you’re just in the Orlando area and want a quick keepsake this is a really wonderful option.
Are Disney Silhouette Souvenirs Expensive?
Disney silhouette portraits are not expensive at all. In fact, they are one of the most inexpensive souvenirs you can get in all of Disney! It costs just $10 for an individual portrait and an extra $10 for each individual added.
You can have up to three people in one portrait. The signature black frame does cost more, but at only $9.95 extra it’s kind of a no-brainer! I would recommend getting the frame since some guests have reported not being able to find a suitable frame on their own.
If you’re worried about your portrait being ruined while enjoying yourself out and about in one of the parks, vendors will have your portraits arranged to be sent to your Disney resort. How sweet is that!
Will my Disney World Silhouette Take long?
Not at all, unless there is a line of course, but once you are seated, your Disney silhouette artist will begin snipping away! It usually takes them about a minute to complete the silhouette itself, but can take longer if they have a squirmier subject.
If you do have extra active kiddos it’s recommended to take a couple of quick profile photos beforehand, this way your silhouette artist can work off of that image. Portraits can also be done while little ones are napping!
Disney Silhouette Conclusion
Let’s face it, a family vacation at Walt Disney World can certainly be expensive and there are certain times where costs need to be cut and there are times when splurges need to be made — we’ve all been there! This, however, is one instance where you won’t need to make the decision to splurge or save and you can truly have the best of both worlds.
When picking out souvenirs to remember your trip by, a Disney silhouette portrait should be at the very top of your list. You can’t beat the price, and you can’t beat the memory. Sure you can find other things to bring home for $10.00 with no problem, but I can assure you those things won’t be near as special or as meaningful as spotting your 3-year-old child’s sweet little profile every day on your walk to the kitchen. Especially when that child is no longer 3 years old and they now have a 3-year-old themselves!
Making magical memories is what a Disney vacation is all about, and a Disney silhouette portrait is something you will have and cherish forever. Its longevity is unparalleled to any other Disney souvenir and will stay in the family for generations. It’s truly a timeless Disney classic and is a no-brainer in my book.
From a simple souvenir to a family heirloom, Disney silhouette portraits are a quick, affordable way to start a new family tradition. How sweet would it be to have a silhouette portrait done every year that your family goes to visit Walt Disney World or Disneyland?
Just ask any Disney silhouette artist and they’ll tell you, many families have made it a part of their yearly tradition and visit every year to capture their children’s likeness as they grow and change. Not only are silhouette portraits amazing keepsakes but they make wonderful gifts, especially for grandparents, aunts, and uncles, or for any family members that live far away.
There are sadly only a handful of silhouette artists left in the world, so be sure to tell how much your silhouette artist you appreciate them when you see them during your next Disney vacation! Without their dedication to their art form we wouldn’t be able to get the best Disney souvenir of all time.
They may even have a few pointers if you’re thinking of picking up a new hobby. If you do try your hand at your own silhouette portrait, and it doesn’t exactly go as planned, don’t be discouraged! It takes silhouette artists years to hone their craft and who knows, if you put in enough practice maybe you could be the next Disney silhouette artist!