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Thursday, December 9, 2010

D23's Disney and Dickens

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last posting.  There have been a few of events up at the Walt Disney Family Museum which I am still working on since my last post, and I am working on bringing those events to you.  But, certain other events in my live recently have made focusing on the blog and my writing challenging to say the least.

As a distraction from some of these other challenges, I was able to get tickets to a D23 event at the Walt Disney Studios – Disney and Dickens for my wife and me.   After a pleasant drive down from San Jose, and quick check-in at our hotel, we drove around this quaint suburb of Los Angeles for awhile.  At about 4 PM we drove over to the Walt Disney Studios, and checked in at the Riverside gate, made our way over to the Zorro parking Lot.  As I learned during our recent D23 Studio tour, the Zorro lot is so name, as it is on the location of the old Zorro set, when that program was being filmed.  Then I short walk (all the way across the lot) over to the Hyperion Bungalow to check in with the D23 staff.  The Hyperion Bungalow…  The same location used to check in for Studio Tours… was originally built on the old Disney Brothers Studio lot on Hyperion Avenue, and move to its current location when Walt built the new studio.  What I learned yesterday was that the building which now houses the Employee Center and Company Store was also moved from the old Hyperion lot.   After check in we loitered around the bungalow and Company Store for about an hour.  In the Silver Lake room of the bungalow, D23 had a table set up with merchandise available to only club members.  I scored some pins from Destination D that I hadn’t seen when we attended that event, and what may be a limited edition Destination D patch.  I say limited edition because I don’t remember seeing it available during that event, and the gentleman yesterday said that it was the only he had there and it wasn’t even on the merchandise list because he’d forgotten to take it out of the product box.  SCORE!!! I hope…

At 5 o’clock we sauntered down Mickey Avenue with the lovely Laura (you may remember her from my article on the D23 Disney Studio Tour), making a short stop at the Mickey Avenue/Dopey Lane street sign made famous in ‘The Reluctant Dragon,’ and then on to Legends Plaza where we met with Christmas Carolers, and hot spiced cider, and cookies.  Also waiting for us at Legends Plaza were Becky KIine – the new Director of the Walt Disney Archive since Dave Smith’s retirement and Josh Turchetta – one of the new Armchair Archivists.  As we mingled and talked we had the opportunities to get our pictures taken with Walt and Mickey at the Partners statue.  One of the highlights of my evening was have to talk with Becky about some of my thoughts about the company.  She doesn’t agree with me, but hey, at least she was willing to talk to me about them.  Unfortunately, she also, sort of, dashed some of my dreams, as she told me what is required to get into the Archive to do research.  I was serious doubts I will ever get a book or documentary project green lit, so… bummer!

After about 45 minutes we headed over to the Animation Building (not that one, the old original building) and toured the halls of all three floors.  We got to see the wing on the second floor which housed Roy O. Disney’s executive suites.  The standard story being that Roy’s offices were on the second floor so Walt could look down on him from his third floor office to check in on what he was doing, but Roy couldn’t see up into Walt’s offices to see what he was up too.  Up to the third floor, and we all kind of cuddled up in the Walt’s personal ‘sweat box’ screening room.   The term ‘sweat box’ coming from the old studio where all the animators would crowd into a small room filled with bodies and projection equipment, and no air conditioning, to review that days filming, or dailies.  Needless to say, it would get rather hot in the room.  That, and as we were told, the animators would be sweating out Walt’s comments on the recent work.  In the new Animation building they had air conditioning, but the animators still sweated out Walt’s comments on their work.  The screening room we got to see was about 15’ by 30’ with seating for about 15 people.  Next on to the lobby outside of Walt’s old offices, where with the exception of some additional glass panels and doors are pretty much the same as they were in Walt’s day.  It would have been great to get to go into these offices, but, they now house the offices of Shaun Cassidy’s production company.

Into the Executive Screening room next to Walt’s Office, this room has seating for about 50 people and was used to do screening for the press and other business executive.  Here we were treat to a screening of three cartoon shorts and two featurettes:  1932’s Silly Symphony’s – Santa’s Workshop, 1932’s Mickey’s Good Deed, Pluto’s Christmas Tree, 1978’s Don Bluth’s – The Small One, and 1983’s Mickey’s Christmas Carol.  One of the things I found interesting was watching the credits and seeing some of the now familiar names cross the screen.  Names such, Ron Miller as Executive Producer (Walt’s Son In Law), John Lassester list as “with the talents of” (Now Chief Creative Officer), Don Hahn as a production assistant (now an Executive Producer and author), and to many old guard animators to list.  After the screening, we made our way out of theater, received our tickets for dinner and picture taken at the Partners statue.  We then went to our vehicles for the short drive to Tam O’Shanter.

Tam O’Shanter was called the Disney Commissary during the time that the Studio was on Hyperion Avenue, as many of the Disney people ate there regularly.  The menu for the night’s festivities included:  The Tam O’Shanter Salad, a choice of Roasted Prime Rib, a fresh Tilapia, English Goose, or a vegetable ravioli (for our vegan friends), and then a choice of an English Trifle, or Decadent Chocolate Cake for dessert.  The meal was excellent, the prime rib being among the best I’ve ever eaten.  Included on the table for all guests was a couple of little treats;  a small split of white wine, labeled for the event, a Mickey Christmas ornament, and a D23 Disney and Dickens patch.  I was lucky enough to be seated and a table with my lovely wife and three other charming ladies, one of whom I see regularly at the Walt Disney Family Museum.  We all had a wonderful time, and the festivities broke up at about 10 PM.

Thank you Becky, Josh, and Laura (who I understand is on a plane this morning for D23’s Magic and Merriment and Walt Disney World.  It was a wonderful evening and one that will not be forgotten.

Your comments or questions are always welcome.  If you have a correction or something you think I should look at in my research, please feel free to contact me at

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