Cabel Sasser Found a McDonalds Mural That Led Him to Uncover a Secret Collection of Art

Meet Portland's Best Internet Sleuth.

(Courtesy of Cabel Sasser)

Cabel Sasser just wanted some McNuggets.

But when the 40-year-old app designer stopped in at the McDonald's in Centralia, Wash., while on a family trip in March, he was riveted by a 10-foot-wide, hand-painted mural portraying retro Happy Meal characters frolicking in the shadow of Mount Rainier. Grimace and Captain Crook lolled in a haystack. Ronald McDonald milked a cow.

"I've been in a fair number of McDonald's in my life," Sasser recalls. "They don't have anything that would make you stop in your tracks and appreciate the artwork. I basically just totally lost my mind."

Detail from Centralia, Wash. mural (Courtesy of Cabel Sasser)

The mural was signed by one Wes Cook—who, it emerged, was a prolific set and theme-park designer for more than four decades until his death in 2005.

Sasser is the skinny, animated co-founder of Panic, an app developer headquartered across West Burnside Street from Powell's. The company has done a bit of work with Disney Imagineers: "We're theme-park nerds," Sasser says. He was now obsessed.

It took him two weeks and a $2,000 outlay on eBay, but Sasser was able to procure a collection containing more than 500 pages of original designs by Wes Cook: tracing-paper drawings and blueprints for theme-park rides, restaurants and costumes. The drawings, now in Portland, include work for Universal (a Popeye the Sailor Man boat, never built), the Shriners (a gigantic parade costume that would allow members to dress as the club's Big Bird-like mascot, the Kisselbird) and the Walt Disney Company—which actually built several of Cook's ideas at a Japanese park called Tokyo DisneySea.

Cabel Sasser with some of Wes Cook’s drawings. (WW staff)

The eBay seller told Sasser he'd gotten them by buying the contents of an unclaimed Los Angeles storage locker. But he hadn't moved fast enough—the locker was 60 percent cleaned out, and the seller lost bids for two other lockers containing Cook's work.

"Wes Cook's life work was left unpaid-for in a storage locker in California," Sasser says. "It's everybody's nightmare, right? It's both exciting and heartbreaking."

Wes Cook’s design for a “Land Before Time” restaurant and whitewater-rafting ride. (Courtesy of Cabel Sasser)

By Sasser's tally, as much as 85 percent of Cook's drafting sketches could still be out there—and he's not done looking for it. He dreams of getting his hands on Cook's weirdest project: a religious triptych depicting the baptism, crucifixion and resurrection of Ronald McDonald.

"Everybody consistently refers to him as 'eccentric,'" Sasser muses. "Why doesn't he have next of kin? Why was there no obituary notice?" And where can he find the rest of Wes Cook's drawings?

"My theory is the McDonald's stuff went first," Sasser says. "McDonald's collectors are bonkers."

Best of Portland 2017

This Year, More Than Ever, It's Important to Stop and Take Note of Everything That Makes Portland What It Is

Here are the Winners of the Best of Portland Readers' Poll 2017

Here are the Things WW Declared "The Best" in the Last 12 Months

Inside Mall 205, You'll Find Oregon's Last Remaining Magic Shop

Portland's Raging Grannies Have Been Protesting Since the 1960s, And You Do Not Want to Mess With Them

A Vancouver Man Bought Naked Falls Swimming Hole, So He Could Re-Open It to the Public

Rodney Scott Puts On Portland's Greatest Indie Firework Show

Cabel Sasser Found a McDonalds Mural That Led Him to Uncover a Secret Collection of Art

Two College Students Started An Organization to Provide Bras and Underwear to Homeless Women

Jim Hipsher Is Portland's Greatest Live Book of Poetry

These Two Women Make Showing Up for Jury Duty A Lot Less Terrible

On Northeast Broadway, You Can Learn Boxing From Two-Time World Champ Molly "Fearless" McConnell

Portland Urban Golf Makes the Entire Changing City Its Ever-Evolving Personal Golf Course

Did You Know You Can Play a 9-Hole Portland-Themed Mini-Golf Course?

Seven Years Ago, New Trail Blazer Caleb Swanigan Was 360 Pounds and Living in Homeless Shelters

Each Week, a Group Goes to Laurelhurst Park to Throw Axes Through the Air—And They're Really Good

Portland Now Has a Nonprofit That Gives Kids Access to Free Pinball

Marathon Taverna Hosts Portland's Best Late-Night Raffle, Giving Away T-Shirts and 100-Level Blazers Tickets

The City of Portland Made a Sign Reading "Heartbreak Dead Ahead"

There's a Secret, Profit-Free Bookstore "Forest" on Division Street

You Can Get a Pre-Addressed Letter to Trump from Paymaster Lounge's Vending Machine

A Local Business Totally Trolled Willamette Week—And It Was Awesome

The ACLU of Oregon Has Emerged as Portland's Most Consistent Free-Speech Fundamentalists

Division Street's Oregon Theater Is Portland's Greatest NSFW Twitter Account

There's a Library in Vancouver Full of Hundreds of Books That Have Never Been Published, And Never Will Be

Alberta Street's American Legion Post 134 Went Rogue—Inviting Homeless In and Hosting LGBTQ Nights

Beaverton's Spectra Gymnastics Provides Play Spaces for Kids on the Autism Spectrum

There's a Hidden, Underground Sculpture Inside the Standard Insurance Center in Downtown Portland

One of the Oldest Retail Businesses in the City is a 127-Year-Old Woman-Owned Costume Shop—Now, It's in Danger of Closing

In the Portland Area's Wealthiest Neighborhood Lies a Hidden, Public Scottish Garden As Large as the Japanese Garden

The Zymoglyphic Museum is a Self-Contained World of Rogue Taxidermy and Steampunk

Every Sunday, Portland Hosts a Real-Life "Fast and the Furious"

Portland's Best Daycaction is a Cheap Flight to Pendleton, Where the Cowboys Still Walk The Streets

Oregon City's Tim Kovar Is one of the Nation's Foremost Tree-Climbing Experts

Hero Punk Stole the Satyricon Sign and Sold it to VooDoo Doughnut Owner in Exchange for Lifetime Doughnuts

High School Junior Won a Major Science Competition in the World By Investigating Where Portland's Fish Went

Who Do You Call When Your Goat Is Throwing Up? Portland's Go-To Goat Doctor, Of Course

Meet the Portland Poodle Who Dresses Better Than You

Every Saturday, A Train Runs Through Oaks Bottom, Making Birdwatching Actually Fun

Right Now, Three Dogs Living at a Southeast Portland Dispensary Are High on CBD Dog Treats

Feeling Sad Lately? Snuggle Up to One of Portland's Therapy Bunnies

Pet Barn Will Watch Your Boa Constrictor While You're Out of Town, But Not Your Dog

In the '90s, Two Portland Teenagers Aired Old WWF Matches. Now, They Have a Treasure Trove of Wrestling Archives

Portland Science Rapper Coma Niddy Has the Best Rhymes About Black Holes You've Ever Heard

There is a Secret Willamette River Bridge Most Portlanders Have Forgotten Exists

Hero Portland Man Built an 8-Foot Tall Multnomah Falls Out of LEGOs

There's An Alley in North Portland Where Robots Will Call Out To You

Daddy Mojo's Has the Finest Gallery of Signed Celebrity Memorabilia of Any Bar in Portland

Portland's Black Book Guitars Owner Has Tracked Down Guitars from Elliot Smith and Kurt Cobain

Thank God for the Los Cactus Food Cart, Which, For 14 Years Has Fed Junkyard Customers for Cheap

Two Portlanders Created a Willy Wonka-Style Edible Forest Near Milwaukie

Portland's Best Bagelmaker Was Saved By Someone in Line at WinCo—Now, He's Repaying Strangers' Kindness

You and Your Friends Can Drink for Free for an Hour on Your Birthday at This Portland Bar

The Portland-Area Finally Has Hong Kong-Style Ice Cream Bubble Waffles

Yes, There Is a Place in Portland Where You Can Try Witches' Brews and Heal Yourself with a Fire Pit

Portland's Best Fritters Come From Donut Queen on 58th and East Burnside

When a Pro-Trump Rally Came to Portland, a Good Samaritan Helped Calm the Tension By Handing Out Free Weed

If You Haven't Noticed Yet, the Trail Blazers Twitter Account is on Fire

The New Market of Choice On Belmont Has The Very Best Grocery Store Beer Selections We've Ever Seen

Yes, There a Secret Underground Bowling Alley in the Center of Portland

When Portland Saw Snowstorms, the National Weather Service Twitter Became Our 24/7 Therapist

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.