Interview with Disney Design Group Artist Susan Foy

During the "Tim Burton's the Nightmare Before Christmas" in Disneyland event I had the pleasure of interviewing Disney Design Group artist Susan Foy. As a long time fan of her work, I had been looking forward to asking Susan a few questions about her design process and Disney history.

Susan created 5 unique pieces for the event that Guests really loved: Event Logo Pin, My 1st Nightmare Button & Pin Set, Jack Skellington Jumbo Pin, Monorail Jumbo Pin and the Scariest Place on Earth Framed Set. She was on hand during the event to meet with Guests and autograph her work. It was such a treat to meet her and speak with her about everything from pin design inspiration to Dooney & Bourke bags!

Susan Foy

Susan Foy

Every artist has a “Disney story”. A story that defines their passion and love for Disney. What is your Disney story?

Susan: I grew up in Cape Coral FL (about 3 hrs from WDW). We were there the first month the park opened. We would come every year. I was in high school band and bugle corps and I marched in the parades. I grew up in Disney World. I’ve always wanted to be here.

How do you design artwork with your own creative touch when the Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas characters are so beloved by both Tim Burton and Disney fans?

Susan: We’re not going to mess with the Nightmare brand, and we don’t want people messing with the Disney brand. We try to keep true to their character shapes and character forms, and alter the situations we put them in. We have a history [storyline] of the Nightmare Before Christmas taking over the Haunted Mansion, so we asked the question: what if they got OUT of the Haunted Mansion? What would they do with the rest of the park if they got their hands on it? That’s how we creatively decided to put the charters into other attractions while keeping the integrity of everything.

The My 1st Nightmare pin set is very unique. What sparked the idea and how do you envision it being worn, displayed?

Susan: The button and pin set is something new we’ve done. We’ve only done 1 other set - for EPCOT’s 30th. The idea is to have the pin art enhance the button art, so you can wear them together or separately. As far as this pin, with The Nightmare Before Christmas in Disneyland as the theme, we were inspired by the iconic My 1st Visit to Disneyland pin. That was an inspiration to create My 1st Nightmare.
Image: Disney

Image: Disney

The Scariest Place on Earth framed pin set is amazing. It’s my favorite piece. What was your inspiration? When you are designing that type of piece, what comes first, the background or the pins? 

Susan: The sign. Hands down. The Disneyland sign! The vintage Disneyland sign is such an iconic piece for this park. Everybody knows what it is, no matter where you are. With the characters from The Nightmare Before Christmas taking over the park, you just know they are going to change the sign. That’s how that inspiration came about. I start with the individual pins, the letters, I design the letters first.
The Scariest Place on Earth

The Scariest Place on Earth

Let’s talk about Dooney & Bourke. Flowers Croon readers are huge Dooney fans and want to hear all about the Disney / Dooney collaboration. The following is huge, did you expect it would take off to this level?

Susan: Disney has a such a loyal following and Dooney has an incredibility loyal following. I always thought the line would do well. There’s even a Disney Dooney & Bourke FaceBook page where people post pictures, talk about it, trade and sell bags. It’s really interesting!

How long does it take to get a bag from design to production to market?

Susan: It varies. There are times when we have several months to get artwork done, and there are times when we only have a couple of weeks. It depends on what the bag is for: cruise line, anniversary…it just depends.

What is the inspiration behind the artwork on the bags?

Susan: It’s usually a theme. Say, for example, we know we need a new bag for Disney’s Aulani Resort in Hawaii. First, we’ll go back and look at what we’ve done. We do not want to repeat. Then we think about what the Guest would like, what’s trending, and we even go out and do market research. (Not just for our bags, but for a lot of our merchandise.) This way we know what the forecasted trends are for when the bags will be released, so there are a lot of factors that go into the design. We usually have basic ideas and start from there.

Do you have a favorite bag that you have designed?

Susan: Probably, so far, there’s a bag that’ve done 2 versions of: one for Walt Disney World and one for Disneyland. It’s the Retro bag. It’s still currently out in the shops. I love that bag. That’s very much the style of art that I draw in, that flat graphic style. That one I love a lot. Also, current is the black and white Mickey and Minnie Mouse Sweethearts bag. I love doing them, they’re fun!
Photo: Disney

Photo: Disney

What is your favorite piece from this event?

Susan: There were two: the jumbo logo pin in magnetic box and the frame set. Those were just lots of fun to work on.

Many thanks to Susan Foy for taking time out of her day for this interview. She was quite busy signing and meeting Guests, so I truly appreciate her time & kindness.