This week the SATURDAY SIX ProudlyPresents: The Theme Park Artwork of Ava Buric! To coincide with Disney’s Festival of the Arts, each February the SATURDAY SIX spotlights four artists in the theme park community. Last year we began this annual tradition with features on Sam Carter, Brian Cooper, @SonderQuest, and Sterling Denham. We kicked this year’s event by featuring the artwork of Rob Yeo, and this week we are turning the spotlight onto Ava Buric. Living in Florida, Ava has been visiting the Orlando theme parks her entire life and has developed a passion for drawing sports mascots. I’m blown away from her ability to be able to combine her favorite things in a style that is both whimsical and yet extremely sharp looking.
Ava Buric: I’m super honored to have Derek invite me onto the Saturday Six! It truly means a ton to be featured and to connect with so many in the theme park community after years of drawing various Disney, Universal, and other park charactersfor fun.
I started visiting Walt Disney World with my family before I was a year old, so I was bound to become obsessed with all of the artwork there at some point. My favorite attraction for years wasn’t even a ride…I would repeatedly run in and out of the Animation Academy at the defunct Magic of Disney Animation building to learn to draw Disney characters (my highest record was 7 times in a row). The classes gave me the drawing fundamentals along with an art style that I still use today.
Today, my favorite part about visiting the parks is admiring all of the character artwork and graphics. Whether it’s learning new design styles on the latest EPCOT festival merch or studying the lineart of a Mickey illustration on a new mug, it’s something that always fill me with joy and motivation. When I discovered this was an actual career, I started working towards (hopefully) drawing character art on one of Disney’s amazing creative teams. It’s been my goal ever since.
Today, I get to create the same type of art with professional sports teams.My main line of work includes drawing various major and minor league mascots for many projects I’ll mention later! Although my sports art takes up most of my time (you can find most of it at @MascotDrawings on Instagram!), I try to illustrate fun pieces featuring the Orlando theme parks whenever I can. I was recently able to finally connect with others in the online theme park community after being involved for years, so I’m thrilled to be sharing some here while working on more for the future!
6 – Universal Sports Logos
A huge obsession of mine was studying the designs from Disney’s defunct March Magic series, where sports team logos based on various theme park rides were created to celebrate March Madness. The references and art style used in all of them were incredible!
As a tribute, I developed my own version featuring rides and characters at the Universal Orlando Resort. Although I’ve only had time to create a few of them, the main goal is to one day finish an entire league (split into the Studios and Islands Divisions) perfect for bracket-style voting.
5 – Blaze’s Alleyway Chaseaway (Theme Park Ride Concept)
I’ve always been extremely passionate about creating artwork and ideas for the theme park industry, but a portion of my life was specifically focused on attraction design. Many years in elementary school consisted of me drawing up my own characters for fictional theme park rides instead of paying attention in math class (whoops).
I was able to return to this part of my life when I was accepted into AIGA’s Mentorship Program and 2021 SPOT Showcase. When tasked with creating a self-branding assignment, I knew my themed entertainment ideas were the way to go. While working with Josh Deckard, my amazing mentor and current designer at Disney, I was able to revive a character and story I created 10+ years ago and expand it into an entire experience.
Blaze’s Alleyway Chaseaway is a rollercoaster/dark ride hybrid that follows Blaze, a daredevil alley cat, and your journey alongside him on high-speed motorcycles to stop the destruction of City Hall by his rivals. Riders would experience 4 launches, a 90 degree lift hill, and the ride’s twist: the separation of your bike and the one next to you down 2 different paths.
The final Behance presentation goes over everything from Blaze’s design, the ride layout, vehicle art, themed signage, and everything in between. I even developed my own merchandise and homemade food line inspired by the ones seen for park attraction launches (before it melted away in the Florida sun during our photoshoot).
Your journey starts in the queue itself as the environment describes the plot and world around you. After wandering through a vintage city welcome center (which displays the city’s troubled history and current state), you encounter a faux-outdoor alleyway. Graffiti and posters outline the rivalry between Blaze and the Axle Greasers, a gang of misfit street cats who are always planning destruction, and their plan to tear down City Hall with their construction equipment. You eventually meander through a newspaper office, Blaze’s garage, and an abandoned gas station as the ride loading platform.
The ride itself focuses on speed and quick turns with some dark ride elements placed throughout. After encountering Blaze and speeding off towards your mission, you eventually confront the Greasers and launch right towards them…until your bikes split into separate paths to the sewers. Each section would have different decor, animal jumpscares and effects before reuniting with the rest of the riders. You don’t rest for long as the “Skyscraper Run” causes everyone to speed up the side of a building towards the ride’s finale.
If you’d like to see more on this project, CLICK HERE. I am very proud of how it came out and the entire experience gave me a whole new level of understanding and respect for the people who design theme park attractions for a living.
4 – UCF Movie Knight designs
My years at UCF (Go Knights!) were some of the best I’ve ever experienced thanks to my design job at their Office of Student Involvement’s Design Group. In collaboration with their Campus Activities Board, I was able to illustrate some Disney-owned IPs for many Movie Knight events!
The cup design I was able to create for their Onward showing is undoubtedly my favorite. Here’s a quick look at the process of how it was created. I start almost all of my art on paper. It definitely feels the most natural to me and I’m able to fix any accidental proportions or details later. I create the final lineart in Adobe Illustrator, slightly shown here, as it allows me to perfect every single piece and its location, size, and curve with the pen tool.
This next screenshot shows more of my progress as I try to get the first color palette in while trying to plan the angles and perspective of the vehicle’s interior. You can see me trying to map out Ian’s shirt and I end up shrinking Barley’s head in the next image to keep things proportional.
This design is almost completed! I typically add my shading in Photoshop and transfer the art over, but this cup design needed to stay as a vector file. I used a mix of solid shading with shapes (instead of a softer brush in Photoshop) with some gradients to help the colors flow more naturally. It definitely took a bit to complete all of Barley’s patches, the plaid shirt pattern, and other details like the steering wheel.
After adjusting the art’s location and the logos, the cup design was finally done for printing! I love to go all-out on details and there’s many to look for in this design (Ian’s shirt, all of Barley’s patches, some UCF references throughout the van, etc). You can also spot the amount of room left at the bottom, known as the “bleed” area in the industry, to keep the logos from being cut off.
Here is how the artwork looks when printed on an actual cup.
I had 3 days to create this Wreck-It Ralph 2 poster after its late addition to the office’s event schedule. I’m extremely thankful I perfected it in time!
Our Black Panther showing was the first movie event I got to illustrate at UCF. I put a heavy amount of detail into his design, including some of the suit’s patterns seen in Avengers: Infinity War. Unfortunately, the cup design had to be altered last minute for budgetary reasons.
3 – Universal Popcorn Buckets
The Figment popcorn bucket at this year’s Festival of the Arts took everyone, online and offline, by storm. With the domestic Universal Studios parks lacking their own crazy popcorn bucket designs, I decided to create my own for fun.
These concepts are based on the resort’s iconic characters and the chaotic ones we hold dear to us on Twitter (Magdoll will still haunt me).
2 – NBA Disney Mascots
2020 was an interesting year, especially for sports and theme parks. After Disney World became the home of the NBA season during COVID, Robin Lopez (the basketball-playing and Disney-fanatic legend himself) posted a Twitter thread replacing all of the NBA teams’ mascots with Disney characters. The opportunity to combine my mascot and Disney art was one I couldn’t ignore.
Throughout the year, I completed crossover illustrations for all participating NBA Bubble teams based on his suggestions. I was super honored to have Robin’s support during the entire project!
I’ve highlighted several pieces below that are my favorites out of the entire set. Some character decisions were determined by the existing team mascots. With the Utah Jazz mascot being a bear, Big Al was Robin’s choice instead of the fan favorite Louis from the Princess and the Frog. The Los Angeles Clippers mascot is Chuck the Condor, so Donald Duck was an easy bird substitute. Several artistic choices were very simple because of the team name or location and so many natural similarities with Disney characters.
A fun detail on all of them are their jersey numbers. If a number is present in the art, it’s a reference to the character’s debut year!
1 – Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary Poster (50 Days of Disney Drawings)
In January 2021, I suddenly had the crazy idea of posting 50 Disney World drawings over 50 days for the resort’s anniversary. The idea was inspired by the sports mascot-based parody of Inktober I draw every October. Funny enough, Disney announced their own version with the Fab 50 statue collection right when I was drawing my own!
The series I eventually started had a heavy focus on classic or defunct characters throughout the resort (which have been the most popular for online Disney fans!) and I was extremely honored to receive so much support over the 50 days leading up to the October 1st anniversary. The final poster design was a huge love letter to all the characters, designers, Imagineers, and Cast Members that make Walt Disney World what it is today.
You’ll notice that some of these have no year since they were featured in the center of the final poster. The year-marked ones were always saved for the border.
As I mentioned before, I’m usually drawing sports mascots for many projects. Some of it is for fun, but many others are actual client assignments.
My most recent project was a major one for Cheez-It: the design of Prince Cheddward, the mascot of the Orlando Cheez-It Bowl. With a full head of cheese curls and his cracker chain necklace, he truly stole the show in December.
I can’t mention my mascot art without bringing up the Mascot Games! This is an event benefiting New Hope For Kids, a non-profit helping children suffering from grief or life-threatening illnesses, held at the Amway Center every year. 20+ professional sports mascots, including some local favorites, compete on teams and cause mayhem. The event introduced me to the world of sports mascots and has changed my life ever since, which makes my role as their official designer and illustrator even more special.
To keep up with any new work, feel free to follow me at @AvaDrawsThings on Twitter and /MascotDrawings on Instagram! Thanks again to Derek for featuring me!
So there you have it: The Theme Park Artwork of AVA BURIC!See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out the THEME PARK ENJOYMENT INDEX, giving a monthly recap of all the theme park news you need to know (and a lot more you don’t need to know, but we’re gonna tell you anyway). You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).
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