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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What do I find so interesting about Walt Disney

Toward the end of the most recent event up at the Walt Disney Family Museum, Walt’s granddaughter turned a question, asked of her and her siblings, around on the audience, “What you do find so interesting about her Grandpa?”

The question reignited a series of thoughts I have had for some time, and the real purpose of my blog.

So Joanna, here is my answer to your question.

There are, in my opinion, many the easy answers.  Walt was a master of storytelling, or he was a creative genius, or one of the true visionaries of his time.  There is the always present evidence that he was not afraid to fail.  Better put, he was always willing to try something new.  Walt always dreamed big, and had the amazing ability to continually reinvent himself.  He possessed a uniquely balanced view of nostalgia and progress…  This list could go on forever, and each and every one of these is reason enough to support anyone’s grounds for why they find Walt Disney so interesting.  I think there is a much deeper esoteric, and even more deeply psychological, reason for the huge number of people that find Walt Disney so interesting, and even the same reason some choose to admonish him.

A group of 10 year old boys was traversed stealthily into a field of mustard plants on an empty lot, quietly blazing hidden trails to a secret hideout in the center.  Once in this secret lair, the plants have been trampled to fashion a soft bed on the ground on which to lie, laughter rises into the air as these young tell stories, confess fantasies, and daydream of things not of this world.  A young man lies on a disguised platform, built onto the branches of a 100 year old oak, mesmerized by the patterns created as the afternoon light passes through the leaves.  That same young man lies under a nighttime sky, viewing all the stars in the heavens and dreams of alien worlds and the adventures to be had in that vast expanse.  These are the dreams and fantasies of a young mind as yet unfettered by the harsh truth of reality.  And… they are the memories of my youth, ones that I have had the pleasure of unburying and revisiting in recent years.  I think they are not so un-similar to the memories and dreams locked away within the psyche of many or most adults.  In 1st Corinthians 13:11 Paul said, "When I was a child I spoke as a child I understood as a child I thought as a child; but when I became a man I put away childish things."  As we approach adulthood we are encouraged, and in some cases almost forced, to put away childish things.  All too often those childish things include our youthful dreams and aspirations, which we sacrificed for the practicality of what we think, is real, and we live our lives in a quiet desperation trying to discover that thing which is missing.

So Joanna, what does this all have to do with my interest in your Grandpa?

My interest in Walt Disney lies in trying to understand the man, and what I believe is his true gift to us.  One of the paths to a truly fulfilling life, it was Walt who allowed me, through his body of work, the rediscovery of my inner child and not only my acceptance of his existence, but to embrace him.  I don’t know, nor do I think we will ever know for sure, but I believe your Grandpa had an innate understanding, if not the actual consciences realization, that we all need to embrace our inner child to lead a truly fulfilling life. 

I think those who are interested in Walt Disney, and his positive contributions to our society, are searching for these answers or have already discovered them, as I have in my life.  Those who choose to excoriate him for his accomplishments and contributions fear what they do not understand and cannot embrace, and they are angered by those who have or want to achieve that enlightenment.


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 mr.grumpyguy@gmail.com
You can find us on Facebook at:  Discovering Disney History on FB


A Special Walt Disney Family Museum Event

I have been in rapt anticipation for the last month awaiting the arrival of September 17th.  So much so, I would gladly trade a week at Disneyland for the few hours I was about to spend at the Walt Disney Family Museum.  So, it was up early, over to the gas station to fill up the car for the 50 mile trek to San Francisco, and then on the road to the Museum.  Several times during the trip up, and at the Museum waiting for the event, Pam told, “You can stop grinning any time now.”  No I couldn’t, the grin was the only way I could control my racing heart and anticipation!   J

Maybe I should back up a bit.  Tickets first went on sale for this event on August 1st.  There was a call in number, but I thought they would also be sold online as usual.  I was wrong, and by the time I realized I was wrong… POOF, all the tickets were gone!  Fortunately, the Museum withheld a few tickets to be sold online on August 11th.  On that Thursday morning, I started to stalk the Museum website, even though tickets were not scheduled to go on sale until noon.  Logged into the ticket sales site, I would click on the calendar button, at about 10 minute intervals, to see if the calendar had gone active.  This activity culminated with a continuous loop of checking the calendar starting at about 5 minutes before the announced sales time.  When the calendar came up, I POUNCED!!!  Luckily, I got two tickets for the event.  I say luckily because I was told later that the online tickets were gone in 30 seconds.  I tell you all this only to stress just how much I wanted to attend this particular event, and that I was not alone in my desires.

So what kind of an event at the Museum could cause so much buzz and expectation?  None other than a one of kind event, really never experienced before by Disney fans; “Our Grandpa – Walt Disney.”

Yes, for the first time ever, 5 of Walt Disney’s grandchildren (Ron and Diane Miller’s children) gathered at the Museum to talk about their Grandpa and their memories of him with a public audience.  To some this may not be seen to be a big deal, but when you understand that the Miller family, as a whole, is a group of individuals who would rather keep their lives private, and with the exception of Walter Elias Disney Miller, most people probably never even realize there was relationship connection.  These are not people (that goes for their parents as well) who have searched out fame or notoriety because of their iconic relative.  They have not trade on the Disney name for their own gain.  They have stay in the background while the Museum, created truly to showcase the legacy of Walt Disney, is gaining in popularity.  So why now, after all these years, are they coming forward?  First, by doing this through the Museum that bears their Grandfather’s name, they could be relatively assured that they would be in front of an audience of true Walt Disney fans, who can understand their desires to remain private people, while still wanting to share these memories.  Second, as I have written in my research, there is still far too much mean spirits misinformation and myth perpetuated about Walt Disney.  This was a chance to experience and understand Walt in some of his most intimate moments with his grandkids.

The day start with our arrival at the Museum at about 11:30, and being met at the door by Trish, one the many volunteers I’ve had the pleasure of meeting over the last couple of years.  We stood and talked about the recent D23 Expo, as she had not been able to attend, and we expressed our excitement for today’s event.  Spent a few minutes at the front desk in the lobby, talking with a couple others Museum people, and got to do a bit of a good deed for the day.  At my Museum membership level, I get several free guest passes for the gallery each year.  This year I still had a few passes that were going to expire in a couple of weeks, so I left me at the desk to be given out to the next few guests coming to the Museum today.  I do enjoy sharing my Disney passion with others.  Next, it was into the Gift Shop to look for new things.  Pam had fun shopping!  J

I then met up with my Museum buddy Leo, who had arranged a meet up for the Friends of the Walt Disney Family Museum Facebook members.  I was helping him with handing out a small keepsake he had made up for the occasion, for those Facebook members who had confirmed their attendance, along with a some of Museum staffers.  It is a nice button with Walt’s picture on it, the name of the event, along with the date and location.  After the first few got handed out, and people were wearing them, many others started querying where they could get one.  We hung out in the lobby, across the way from the case that houses some of Walt’s Oscar awards, until about 2 o’clock and I got to say Hi! to old friends and meet some new one. Leo, you already know this, but the buttons were a big hit.  Thanks you for your thoughtfulness and letting me help out.  A little after 2 I head out to find Pam and head down stair to the theater lobby.  When I didn’t see Pam where I had left her, I assumed she had gone ahead and went downstairs on her own.  I love my wife!!!  When I walked into the lobby, there she was smiling at me, at the front of the line.  She’d managed to beat Heather to the front, something we rarely do.  J  As we waited for the theater to open the lobby filled to capacity with the line eventually out the door again, but it was still, as always, fun visiting and catching up with the guests, staff, and volunteers I’ve met through the Museum.  A little before 3 the doors opened and we were ushered into the theater.  As first in, we had our choice of just about any seat in the room, yup… front row just about center.

At a little after 3, Donna came down front to welcome us, do her house keeping spiel and remember to introduce herself as she’d forgotten in all her excitement, and introduce the moderator for this afternoon event – Jeff Kurtti.  Jeff probably didn’t need an introduction to anyone in room today; he has down several other sessions at the Museum, and was closely involved with the Museum’s design and content.  As well as being a Disney Historian and prolific author on the Disney story with over 30 books published.  Jeff welcomed to the Museum for and a small explanation of Grandparents’ Day, which really occurred the week before, but was sorely though understandably overshadowed by the 10th anniversary of 9/11, and a very most appropriate acknowledgement given this day’s event.  Jeff introduced each of the of his guests on the dais today with a childhood photo on the screen behind him and the reading of a excerpt from one of Walt’s letters to his Aunt Jessie or his sister Ruth announcing the arrival of his most recent grandchild, first Chris, born in 1954, next Joanna – 1956, then Tamara – 1957, now Jennifer – 1960, and finally Walter – 1961.  The Miller’s two other children, Ron Jr. – 1963 and Patrick – 1967, were not with us today.  Given their births proximity to Walt’s passing, they probably have little or no memory of their Grandpa.  The one thing I notice when each one walked out was that slight apprehension in their eyes and step as they took their seats, the one of being a shy and a little scared about what they were about reveal, and giving up just a little bit of their private lives.  I don’t know about anyone else, but I found it endearing and a testament to the unrehearsed reality of which we were about to partake.

While I’m will touch on what I feel were comment that had some importance to me, I am not going provide a litany of the questions asked and answers given, but more a feelings and emotions these responses invoked in me.  While I enjoy and learn something at each of the events at the Museum, I have found that one of the side benefits, particularly at events that touch more on Walt’s personal life, is that they invoke fond memories of my childhood.

One of the early questions was about their perception of Walt personality as seen by the public and what they witnessed in Grandpa at home.  As children, they say the Grandpa they saw in public wasn’t any different than the Grandpa at home or in other private settings, he was always Grandpa.  Joanna remembered the kids going up to the TV and giving Grandpa a kiss when they saw him; though Chris didn’t recall them ever do that while Grandpa was actually sitting in the room with them.   Joanna even recalled friends of her saying that they did the same thing which she thought was a little strange since he wasn’t their Grandpa.  I am in the same age range of Walt’s earliest grandchildren, so I can relate, though I don’t recall kissing Walt on the screen myself, but in that moment I was overcome by the same warm feeling that I felt as a child, lying on the carpet of Grandparents’ living room watching “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color.”  To this day, hearing the opening music for or seeing the opening sequence, is one of the things that transports me back to that time of cherished memories of my Grandpa (the man whose name I bear and also a Walter) and Nana.

In recalling their memories of their Grandpa as children, I was not surprised to learn that all the grandchildren felt loved and cherished by the Grandparents and always felt that Walt was present and enjoying them being there, even he was working on things that he brought home from the studio.  Even at Disneyland, while he was very approachable to his guests, he wanted his grandkids to have fun too.  We’ve all heard, well at least I have, the stories about Walt not signing his autograph for guests because he couldn’t do the way it appeared on TV.  It didn’t surprise me to learn from the grandkids that he would stuff his pocket with signed piece of paper, in particular when they were there with him, and that would sign a few autographs for guests, and then start handing out the ones he had in his pocket, so that he could get along and let his grandkids have their fun.  It was also telling to me when Joanna recalled Grandpa talking casually with the young kid running the Monorail, and the conversations being warm and friendly.  Again, the Walt we saw publicly was very much the same Grandpa they saw privately.

One thing I applaud in Jeff approach was how deftly he acknowledged some of the darker claims and public myths about Walt Disney, with sensitivity and not dwelling on them.  Like the hurtful questions to grieving children asking if their Grandpa was really frozen.  5 year old Walter’s retort was absolutely precious when ask if his Grandpa was frozen, “Is your Grandpa frozen?”  A brilliant answer, he you want my opinion.  Joanna did touched on how our media today treats living celebrities, so it not really surprising how Walt Disney is treated, even if it is hurtful.  I too, will not dwell long in this arena, I have written on before in this Blog.  I will only say, if you read something negative about Walt Disney, or anyone for that matter, please check the facts careful.  It has been my experience in fact checking my Walt Disney research that there are few in any facts that support the negative claims, and the few facts there don’t really support any of the atrocious claims being made.  And so, now moving on.

As the session went along, I was constantly struck how normal and down to earth these children of celebrity are today.  On this day we could see a bit of, as Joanna proclaimed, their shyness.  I could clearly see the humility and caring of their upbringing by their parents and grandparents.   Here they sat, sharing with us some of their most intimate memory, and you could see the little hesitations as they each decides how much of their privacy they were willing to sacrifice to share a thought.  Because, after all, that is what they were doing, forfeiting a little bit of privacy and laying themselves a bit more vulnerable with each memory shared.  Joanna shared with us a little chamber pot decorated with Disney character which she received when her son was born, as, a few left at the studio when he was born.  But years earlier, these were not gifts for select individuals, but rather, a gift Walt gave to each of his employees upon the birth of a child.  Joanna also share a moment in her life when she was feeling a bit spoiled by all the wonderful gifts she received at the holidays from Grandpa, until attending a holiday event at the studio and witnessed all of the children of studio personnel receiving a similar treasure trove of gift from her Grandpa.  This was then that she started to understand and appreciate her Grandpa’s true generosity.

When the conversation turned to other celebrities the grandkids were star struck by, the name Dick Van Dyke immediately came to almost everyone’s’ lips.  Walter said how he is to this day tongue-tied when he is around Dick.  Jeff took a moment to comment on how Dick Van Dyke, with all his success before Disney, held out his greatness praise and admiration for the chances he felt Walt was taking on him, and his true appreciation of the man.  Throughout the session, the Vancouver vacation was a recurring theme in the all everyone’s memory.  They didn’t know it then, but this was the last family vacation before Walt passed away in 1966.  As Chris recounts, this was probably the only true family vacation that he remembers.  There was no movie or project going on nearby that Grandpa was monitoring, and Dad (Ron Miller) was not working.  Jeff then talking about all the great home movies that can be seen in the Museum, announced a treat prepared for us by The Walt Disney Family Foundation’s Film Archivist and Preservationist – Scott Zone.  Down go the lights, and the screen comes alive with images of the grandchildren.  Photographs of each one of them, as we had seen at the beginning of the presentation, and then clips from the many home movies.  This viewing culminated with clips from the Vancouver cruise, and there in the dark, a tear came to my eye.  Everyone on the dais had turned to watch the video as well, and when they turned around as the light came back up at the finish, it was clear to see five damp set of eyes in front of us.  More than 40 years after the fact, and memories and emotions for their Grandpa are still very much present in their lives.

During the Q&A period, there was one question that stood out for me and not because of the answers for the Grandkids, but rather, Joanna turned it around on the audience by wanting to know what we all, “found so interesting about her Grandpa?”  Since it came at the end of the program, of course, we did not have time to answer.  But, the question has been posted on the Friends of the Walt Disney Family Museum Facebook page, if you are interested in answering that question.  In thinking about it, I have found the question has a deeper meaning to me, and does not have a simple short answer, so I’ll be working a piece for this blog which will hopefully be finished and posted in a few days.

But, this event is, and should be, a reminder, as Jeff pointed out, that Walt Disney was a real man, with real thought, emotions, strengths, and fault, and foremost, a real family who loved him.

In closing, this session left me a little disappointed.  Not in the content, or the Grandkids, or even Jeff, but rather, that it ended so soon.  I could have sat for hours mesmerized in the stories and memories.  For me, this was more like a family visit then a presentation.  Thank you Jeff for your sensitive approach as an interviewer, your affection for Walt Disney and his family was obvious throughout.  And finally, Chris, Joanna, Tamara, Jennifer, and Walter; Thank You All for taking this time to share your Grandpa with us, in a way that no one else could, and a memory I will cherish forever!  Again THANK YOU!!!


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 mr.grumpyguy@gmail.com
You can find us on Facebook at:  Discovering Disney History on FB


Friday, September 16, 2011

D23 Expo Day 5

So this report has little (okay, nothing) to do with the D23 Expo, the Expo ended on day 4.  But, how could any Disney fan be that close to Disneyland and not spend at least a day in the park?

Walt, you just finished 3 day at the D23 Expo, what are you going to do?

I’m going to Disneyland!!!

Up early, well sort of early…  after 3 days of walking the Expo, the bodies just melted away into sleep and rest to restore the tired muscles, including that large one between the ears, and out the door.  Instead of going the long way around to Downtown Disney and the Esplanade, the short cut from the Paradise Pier Hotel is to cross the street and go through the Grand Californian.  No matter how many times I walk into the lobby of the Grand Californian, I am awestruck.  The open expanse of about 50 by 50 feet and 6 stories of craftsman styling is a sight to behold.  As we move to the GCH entrance to DtD, there was some work going on and the Disney requisite wall surrounding it with a Disney security cast member on his post.  As I passed, I commented (as I do) or asked if we were to “don’t pay any attention to that man behind the curtain?”  Must have been to early for him, as all I got back was a blank stare.

Out to Downtown Disney and on our way.  But wait, we had eaten anything yet.  So next stop was the La Brea Tarpit… err Bakery… for a quick breakfast of scrambled eggs, potatoes, and bacon, nothing special, but good.  The day’s excitement starts almost immediately, as a woman with her daughter approach the open table next to us and hits a small patch of water on the patio.  Slick wet concrete and flip flops are not a good match, so down she went, rather hard.  As I started to get up to help her, she waved me off saying she was fine which she appeared to be even given the force of the fall.  Fortunately for them, the daughter was carrying the tray of food so that made it to the table unscathed.  Not exactly the kind of excitement I like to start my day with, but, at least nothing, but the woman’s pride, was injured.  And it’s off to the Park.  It seems these days to be a guarantee, so if you are with me, pick a different line…  the one I’m in is always going to be the one with issues.  Three little princesses, Dad, and Mom in front of us, can’t seem to find the right tickets in their package and the turnstile CM is really trying not to get frustrated.  As I’m standing there, I notice the package Mom is hold has the “Make A Wish” logo on it and understand the CM’s extra care.  Okay, we can be patience here too.  After the CM Supervisor arrives, the family ushered in and the line continues to move.  And, we’re in!

HERE YOU LEAVE TODAY
AND ENTER THE WORLD
OF YESTERDAY, TOMORROW
AND FANTASY

That plaque could easily be posted above the entrance to my mind.   J

Stepping on to Main Street, there is that sensation that keeps bringing me back to Disneyland, and one that I get nowhere else…  the youthful EXUBERANCE and EXCITEMENT of a 5 year old experience the park for the first time.  Other than the love of my family and friends, it is large part of what has sustained me over the last 20 twenty year and most especially the last 10.  There are very few things for which I’d consider trading that feel

First stop… the Main Street Train Station.  There are few things that are a must do at Disneyland, riding the Disneyland Railroad is one of them.  I ask the station conductor if I could get a ride on the tender, one of the things I have never done before.  I am told that these are the first runs of the morning and they don’t allow tender rides until the trains have made a few trips around the park.  DRAT!!!  Oh well, I’ll have to do that later, but it will be done.  So, it’s into one of the cars and once around the park.  As we come to a stop at the New Orleans Station, I hear the clickety clack of the station telegraph ringing out, and a little knowing smile crosses my face.  Any real Disney fan knows this, but how many others who pass through that station know what is being tapped out in that telegraph in a continuous loop?

”To all who come to this happy place: Welcome. Disneyland is your land.”

Yup, it’s the first two lines for Walt Disney’s opening day dedication speech.  On every visit to Disneyland, I find something I’ve never spotted or knew before.  This visit was no different.  As we sat in the New Orleans Station while the engineers took on water, I noticed a plume of steam rising up out of the trees behind the station and wondered what piece of equipment Disney might have back there producing that column of mist?  Then it struck like a DOH! moment, it was the locomotive blowing off the steam in the boiler before they took on more water.  Don’t know if it OSHA, or just Disney thinking ahead to safety, but there is grated small brick structure right in position where the engine stops next to the water tower.  This little structure lines right up with the steam vent on the engine, and is actually a small tunnel that extends several yards out past the tracks.  When the train stops and needs to take on water, this tunnel becomes a secondary vent to funnel steam away from the train and possible issues with the guests or cast members.  Very clever!!!  After filling the water tank, we were on our way again on our trip around the Magic Kingdom, and relaxing and enjoyable trip it was, as we arrived back at the Main Street Station, and debarked.  At street level we began our meandering trip down Main Street.  With the exception of sauntering down the middle of the street and far more inhabitants then you might find, it is very much little visiting any number of small town Main Street across America.  I was immediately reminder of a nice I had recently with a friend in Livermore, whose main drag is not all the different then where I was at the moment.  I wonder how many others on the Main Street today are taking the time to truly experience all that Disneyland’s Main Street really has to offer, or rather, rushing off to experience one thrill ride or another.  My advice, no matter what you do, remember to take the time to experience the moment.  Good memories beget good memories, and if we are always anticipated the next one, we miss so much.

First thrill ride of the visit is for Sam.  She loves Pirates… has since the first time rode it when she was 7.  Bonus, we in the park early enough, the wait is only 15 minutes.  Thank you Touring Plans, and your Android app for Disneyland.  With your help, I knew that before we arrived what we were looking at for a wait time.  So this was my second ride on Pirates in as many days, and wouldn’t know it…  I got soaked again!!!  I do hope this is not a harbinger of things to come, cuz’ I not really a water ride kind of guy.  I don’t like squishing around the Park, even for a little bit on a hot day.  Fortunately, getting wet on Pirates is not as traumatic as, say…  Splash.  J  Now on to the Haunted Mansion where my favorite part of the ride is really the stretch room, I always get a kick out of watching the portraits grow.  Time for a short rest and b-room break for the girls, over by the New Orleans Square train station.  As I look to my right, who is standing there next to me but Mousetalgia’s own – Dave.  In a moment, Becky shows up with Button.  Guys, Sam got a really good picture of her that I’m going to have to get to you.  After a couple of minutes we were off again.  A trip through Adventureland and, of course, a visit to the “back side of water.”  Yes, it’s time for a cruise on the Jungle Boats.  Where else can you transit the great rivers of world, the most notable exception being North America, in the matter of a few minutes? 

It was getting to be lunch time and since we were only going to be there for one day, I had bothered to make any reservations.  Note to self:  Don’t do that again!!!  Well, we decided to try our luck and the Carnation CafĂ©, and were lucky enough to only have a 25 minute wait.  Well worth the wait for Chef Oscar’s “Loaded Potato Soup”, YUMMMMM…  After lunch we headed over to the Main Street train station; I AM going to scratch the tender ride off the bucket list, TODAY.  The Conductor at the station has me sit on the bench inside the station while he checked for the next available tender ride.  Turns out, that one, not all the locomotives have a tender that can be ridden in, and two, they don’t take riders on all runs for reasons that will become clear.  So, we can sit a wait for a few minutes.  Shortly thereafter, the E.P. Ripley rolled into the station the conductor came in and said, “Follow me please.”  Sam and I exited the station and down the ramp to the locomotive, my heart all a twitter.  Sam looked at me and just started laughing as we boarded the tender; I guess my 5 year old was showing.  I was so besotted just sitting there, that I don’t even remember the names of our Engineer or Fireman, but they were really nice.  I had told the conductor on our earlier ride that she had one of the coolest jobs in the park.  Sitting there between these two gentlemen, I changed my mind… they have the coolest job in the park.  In reality, aside from the costumed characters, they probably have one of the hottest jobs in the park, sitting behind a several hundred degrees of burner and boiling water.  But, they enjoy their work and had no problem telling me that fact.  The Fireman told me that he looked forward to coming work every day since he’d gotten this job.  Being so excited, I didn’t take many pictures, but then I haven't been able to figure out how to include pictures with my blog reports yet, so it probably doesn't make that much difference.

As we were sitting on a hold at the New Orleans Station, the Fireman confirmed to me that I was right in my earlier AH HA moment.  This station is where they take on more water, but before they can do that, they have to blow out the sediment that develops at the bottom of the boiler.  Each locomotive uses between 40 and 50 gallons of water per trip, and can make about 3 trips before needing to take on water again.  That’s why they don’t allow tender rides on every trip, for safety reasons, they don’t want passengers up front when they have to clear the boiler.  Next time down, I’ll try to do this again, and I’ll be much more attentive.

After the tender ride, Sam wanted to take some pictures with her new camera.  So, she and Mom took the fire engine from the Main Street station down to the Hub, and then back, while I checked out a few things in the Disney Gallery.  I needed a replacement for my Mouseketeers shirt that I got at last year’s Destination D, and I found a tin of Mary Blair postcards.   It was late enough in the afternoon that we decide it was time to return to the hotel for short rest before we tackled DCA.  Interestingly, we did not hit Frontierland, Fantasyland, or Tomorrowland on this visit, so I missed one of my other usual must do’s…  Peter Pan’s Flight.  I’ll have to do that one twice next time.

After a short rest, it was through GCH again and this time over to the GCH entrance to DCA… EIEIO.  J  Didn’t know there was a second entrance into DCA?  Well there is, right next to the Napa Rose.  And to clear up something that I’ve heard on several of the fan boards.  The common claim is that the GCH entrance is only for those guests staying at the Grand Californian.  Not true, I took the time to read the board this time, and it clearly states that the entrances is for guests stay at any of the Disney Resort hotels.  So that would include Paradise Pier and Disneyland Hotels.  So it’s over to the recently reopened Corn Dog Castle for, what else?  A corn dog!!!  Yes, I love the Disneyland Corn Dog, and it’s been a tradition of mine to get at least one during each visit, at either the Corn Dog Castle in DCA or the Red Wagon in Disneyland.  Since the Corn Dog Castle has been closed to the last couple of visits, it got the nod this time.  Then it was off to check out the new food offering where the old burger joint was before.  Sam and Pam aren’t corn dog fans.  For park food, the new place is okay.  After dinner, we walk over to the Paradise Pier section and a ride on Mickey’s Funwheel, well Sam and I rode it, Pam wouldn’t be caught dead on anything that looks like a Ferris wheel.  We got to look out over DCA at how things were developing, mostly the new Carsland area.  Carsland is taking shape nicely, and it looks like it going to be a lot of fun when it opens next year.  Then it was off to use the special fast passes we’d gotten to try out the new Little Mermaid ride.  The fast passes were a good thing because the wait time was over an hour.  By this time we were all starting to fade fast, and we still had to walk back to PPH, so we decided to skip the Wonderful World of Color.  It is a great show, but it we didn’t feel we’d really enjoy it as tired as we were, and we had a long drive home coming in the morning.

So there you have it, Disneyland in 1 day.  Definitely not enough time to do everything, but what we did do was a lot of fun.

Watch next week for my report on the special event happening and the Walt Disney Family Museum on Saturday.  It’s going to be Disney-rific event.



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 mr.grumpyguy@gmail.com
You can find us on Facebook at:  Discovering Disney History on FB


D23 Expo Day 4

Day 4 of our D23 Expo trip, but Day 3 of the Expo, and the final day, on the agenda for this morning, the Marvel presentation in the Arena.  Don’t tell anyone from D23, but I cheated.  Yeah, I know me cheat?  Well, the only presentation of the Expo that Sam really wanted to attend was this session with Marvel’s Chief Creative Officer – Joe Quesada, so Mom and Sam switched tickets for the morning, so she could go in with me and get good seats.  Having listened to Joe on Episode 146 of Mousetalgia, I too was looking forward to this session and more from Joe.  We went in and got seats in the third row center stage.  About 20 minutes later, we were allowed to move up to the front two rows because the seats were not filling.  Sam got a seat in the front row and I was in the row right behind her.  Being of the vertically challenged nature, a front row guaranteed no one was going to obstruct her view.  For this, she was very happy.

The session opened with a video message from Mr. Marvel, himself – Stan Lee.  He told us that he was locked away in a secret bunker protecting the world, but that he had sent us a special emissary in Joe Quesada.  Since this was Marvel’s first real exposure to the Disney fan base, Joe gave us a bit of history lesson about Marvel, how it developed and it arrival in within the Disney fold.  At the tender age of 16, Stanley Martin Lieber joined Timely Comics as an assistant.  He filled inkwells, got the artists their lunch, proofread, and basically did anything they needed.  In 1941, Stanley Lieber made his comic-book debut in Captain America Comics #3.  With a childhood desire of writing more literary works and wanting to safe his given name for that purpose, Stanley the comic-book writer became Stan Lee, later which he took as his legal name.  Stan later became the Editor at Timely comics and eventually became Publisher of what we now know as Marvel.  Joe went on to explain how he came to the position he currently holds, and about the Disney acquisition.  I think the most important take away I got was that Disney wants Marvel to keep doing what they do well.  There doesn’t appear in Joe’s mind any effort to Disney-fy Marvel.  That, to me, is a good thing.  The last part of session, he dedicated to what he has been doing at many other presentations – A Cup of Joe.  Since he found it difficult to get answers and time with people in the business, this was his effort to make himself available to people trying to get into the business.  So, Cup of Joe is a Q&A session where the audience can ask any question they want.  Since this was my first Cup of Joe, I don’t have anything to judge by, but, I found almost all of the questions to be most people trying to get scoops on storylines, or why their favorite character was or wasn’t be developed.  But, all-in-all it was a fun experience.

After a Cup of Joe, another troll around the Expo floor to see if there was anything we might have missed.  Several of the Stores had be several hours waited to get into, so walked the floor to them out.  Disneystore.com, still a bust, there was at least 50 people waiting in the queue.  Next down to the Expo Dream Store…  What do you know; nobody in the queue, the lines here had been miserable before now.  After walking around the store for about 10 minutes, and being the tightwad that I am, turns out the only piece of merchandise I was really interested in was the Noah print that was commissioned for this Expo.  The original was, of course, priced far beyond my finances, but there were smaller litho’s available, so one walked out the door with me.  Now a stop at the Park and Resort Pavilion, yes we’d seen the presentation days before, but, it was a chance to actually see some of the models being mocked up to show what some of the new developments looked like.  The highlight for me was seeing what the new main street of California Adventure is going to look like when it’s finished, and the new statue of Walt and Mickey planned for the new hub.  There’s another miniature I’m going to have watch out for in the near future.   Though I didn’t get to try it, the new audio-animatronics fortune teller looked pretty interesting.

Leaving the pavilion, we saw the entrance for the Mickey’s of Glendale store – this is the store associated with the company store at the Imagineering Headquarters in Glendale, the line here was still, long, long, long…  So it was off to the Collectors’ Forum for one last look around.  Darn good thing we decided to do this…  as we were roaming the collectors’ forum, I ran across my Museum buddy Heather, and she told me Noah was in his booth there and signing things.  Thanks Heather!!!  So I head over and was able to get my print signed, and may I say Noah is a very friendly guy.  Side note: when I was back at the room I decided to go looking for the name of the piece, so I did a Google search and found a signed copy of “Remember… It All Started with a Mouse” on eBay for $295.  Funny thing, you can still get a signed copy at Noah’s web store for $50…  Go Figure!  Either way, mine’s not for sales.

Those of you who know me, know that there is a fan board that I’m not real fond of, and one that I hit at least once a day to check the happening.  Well both boards had a presence in the Collectors’ Forum, so I just kind of cruised by the unpopular one, and it appeared that I am not the only one not really interested in their drivel.  During the three days I never saw more than 3 or 4 people milling around, and they appeared to me to me mostly the same people every time.  My fav board usually had 10 or so people around the booth, with new traffic rotating through routinely.  All I can say is, “It serves you right, Yertle.”

Luckily, I stopped by the MiceChat booth for a final look, only to discover Don Ballard there doing a meet and greet.  I got to stop and talk to him about his Disneyland Hotel presentation from the first day.  I have a copy of his new book, but it wasn’t with me, so Don was gracious enough to sign a card that I know have on the inside cover.  Thank Don and thanks MiceChat for hosting him.  Another short visit at the Walt Disney Family Museum booth (what can I say, I really like the place) and it was time to head back to the hotel room for a rest before D23’s closing night soiree for the Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Premiere pass holders.

Pam and I returned to the Expo later in the afternoon to be on hand for the Sorcerer’s Apprentice/Premiere closing party in the lounge that had been set up for us to use during the Expo.  During the Expo, we were treated to water, soda, and coffee… with cheese, crackers, and sweet treats and a place to rest our weary feet after walking the large convention center. There was even a massage service available, of which Pam treated herself to 10 minutes of work on her shoulder.  During the closing party there was the addition of a bar for beer and wine, and the staffers were circulating with a variety of different treats.  In the end, the head of D23 – Steven Clark, and Event Planner – Laura Sanchez came out and talked with us for a few minutes, thanks us for attending and hoping that we all had a good time.  After mingling with friends for a while, it was back to the hotel to rest up for the final day of our Expo trip before we head home.

All-in-all, the Expo was a really good event, but I was left with a few issues which I will run through now:

First, when I purchased the Premiere ticket package, I (and I learned, many others) was under impression that this ticket level was going to have some sort of reserved seating arrangement for all the presentation venues.  After attending the first Expo and spending hours on end in line, queue waits is one of the things that made this package so attractive.  As it turned out, the only reserved seating was for the Arena presentation.  We did get a sort of head of the line privilege for the first presentations in the morning at the other venues, as we were allowed into the Expo early before regularly ticketed members.  Over three days that amounted to three additional presentations, only one of which I was really interested in, over the 7 scheduled for the Arena.  The additional cost of the Premiere ticket might have been worth it to me had I had the choice of which 10 presentation I wanted to attend. 

Next, there seemed to me to be a lack of communications among the staff working the Expo.  Now, I do understand that the vast majority of the people working the Expo were not Disney Cast Members, but rather temps hired to work the Expo.  However, there didn’t appear to be enough people with accurate information available for attendees, particularly on day one.  As I said, I missed the Legends Ceremony because I could find the location for Sorcerer/Premiere ticket holders to enter the Arena.  It took me 5 individuals and over ½ an hour to just find someone who knew.  This is also out of Disney’s control, but, I encounter and couple of incidents and heard for others who encountered some very rude ACC employees and Security personnel.  Since Disney is actually footing the bill for these people, they should have some ability to demand a certain level and at least civility and courtesy, and in future, I hope they exercise it.  Also in the line of communications, on the Thursday evening check in, Sorcerer/Premiere attendees were allowed on to the Expo floor to access the Expo Dreamstore.  We arrived, we were told that only Sorcerer’s Apprentice attendees had access at the moment, and no one seems to know when the Premiere attendees were going to gain access.  I will admit my own falling in this one; the check package did detail the hours the store was going to be available to what level, and I didn’t read it.  But, I would venture a guess that most, if not all, Premiere attendees fail to read that sheet.  Since there was a notice in the check-in package, it would seem logical that someone manning the entrance of the Dreamstore should have known as well.

My final complaint is with the process Disney appears to have taken with the Sorcerer/Premiere ticket sales.  I have not been able to confirm this claim, but, I heard from several attendees that Disney also additional Sorcerer and Premiere level tickets after the initial allotments where sold.  To my best of my memory D23 claim, when these special tickets were announced, that the original allotments were going to be 75/500 respectively.  My sources claim that those numbers where at least doubled, and some claimed tripled.  Know I don’t know how Disney decided to make these tickets available, but, I know that I was never notified that there was a possibility of upgrading, let alone that additional tickets were available.  So, I am a little ticked at that one.

For my closing thoughts on this Expo and D23 in general,  I have written before that I think Disney’s intent with D23 is to let it grow and develop more organically.  They could throw large sums of money and many cast members at the club, and pretty much overwhelm the other clubs that have grown over the years, with their own in-house efforts.  I do applaud Disney for what I believe is their intent, but, come on guys and gals, you are masters at logistics, and guest experience, you’d think you’d be able to apply that better to the D23 experience.  One suggestion that I think would be of benefit in the future; if you’re going offer special access tickets to future Expos, something like the Premiere pass should come with be ability to select the (stay 10) presentations that you want guaranteed seating, just a thought.  And finally TWDC, I not really sure what you’re real intent for D23 is, but, there are quite a few members out there that think it only ‘dollar and cents.’ 

I have had the pleasure of attending a number of D23 events over the past couple of years, and the joy of meeting several of the staff members.  These are some of the nicest and passionate Disney people I have ever had the delight to meet, and every one of the smaller events have been the most fun.  But, by my understanding, there are less than 10 people actually tasked to D23 and few of whom have other responsibilities as well as their D23 duties.  For most of the events, they do a fantastic job, but for an event as complex as the Expo, I don’t think that staff is adequately staffed to the task.  Even at every two years, I’d think that would take a dedicated staff of 5 to 10 to really pull off the Expo with the traditional Disney flair.  It would appear to me, that the D23 effort lacks a clear vision.  If you have a real vision, you need to communicate it better and adapt the operation to it.  If don’t, you need to find one and build the organization around it, or you are ultimately going lose the momentum you’ve created to this point, and you are going to lose members.

Just a few thoughts, but, I have more if anyone is interested.  J

Coming next…  Expo Day 5.  Can’t go down to Anaheim without at least one day in the Parks.


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 mr.grumpyguy@gmail.com
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Monday, September 12, 2011

D23 Expo Day 3

Sam was feeling a little under the weather so she decided to stay in.  Pam and I took the ART shuttle over to the ACC.  Oh yeah, the PPH desk had told us on Thursday that the shuttle service from the DLR Hotel to the convention center had been cancelled, so Friday morning we walked.  As we got back to the hotel Friday evening, we saw a shuttle in the driveway???  So, a stop at the concierge desk confirmed that they were back on, and made Pam a happy girl!!  We rode over to the ACC instead of the previous day’s walk.

The only presentation really on the schedule for us on Saturday was the Inside the Walt Disney Studios at 10:30.  Having resolved the issues of where to go to get our special access, we grabbed a quick morning bit, and headed for the Sorcerer/Premiere lines.  As seems to be the case with most presentations at the Expo, this session started late as well, but, I’ll cut some slack.  At least it wasn’t ½ an hour late, like the Parks and Resorts presentation the previous evening.  The session started with Rich Ross, the head of the studio, coming out and regaling us with why he has the best job in the world.  That may or may not be, but the next guy he introduced probably does, John Lasseter.  John is an effusive and emotionally invested advocate for his craft, and he has some of the coolest shirts!  If you are a fan of animation, there are several feature films to look forward to in the next couple of years. 

The next Pixar release in mid 2012, Brave, is their first real excursion into the fairy tale style genre.  This formerly named “The Bear and Bow” is set in medieval Scotland, where a young princess – Merida defies tradition to pursue the live she wants, instead of the one she is expected to live.  Just from the clips we were treated to, I am expecting Brave to herald yet another Pixar success, and very much looking forward to the performances of Billy Connolly and King Fergus, and Craig Ferguson as Lord Macintosh.  From Walt Disney Animation Studio, we can expect Wreck-It Ralph in late 2012.  Wreck-It Ralph is an arcade game bad guy who want to prove he can be a good guy.  With the voice talents of John C. Reilly, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, and Sarah Silverman, this looks to be another entertaining story from inside the Roy E. Disney Feature Animation building.  This release is definitely in line with Disney’s current efforts to find offerings more in tune with the tween male consumers.  Lest we forget Disney’s recent acquisition – Marvel, The Avengers will be the first, of hopefully many, picture being released by Walt Disney Pictures next May.  Of course, this November we can expect the Muppet movie, and it will be good to see them back on the big screen, though they may need to put it on IMAX in order to get Miss Piggy’s ego on screen.  J  Other features in the offing are Monsters University, John Cater, and a couple of, yet to be named, Pixar offering.  There are more, but that should enough to whet your appetite for now.  There were stars on stage during the presentation, but nothing as climatic as John Depp’s appearance, as Captain Jack Sparrow, at the end of the same 2009 Expo session.  So, I won’t spend any time on that one, other than to say it was fun, but there was nothing earth shattering.

The lines at any of the other venues were already maxed out, and I had an appointment in the Park for early evening which left the sessions in the later afternoon and early evening out consideration.  So the rest of the afternoon was spent wandering the Expo floor.  Stopped by the Walt Disney Family Museum booth again, and got a chance to visit with Paul Anderson for a bit.  This was my second visit to the booth, as I forgot to mention in my previous post my first visit the day before.  On that occasion, I got my picture taken in the booth, as I was sporting some of my Museum regalia – a Museum t-shirt and my ever-present ball cap (complete with Found Member and current Friends pins.)  I was sporting another Museum t-shirt along with ball cap today as well, but no picture.  That’s okay, also on my person were Museum brochures for anyone interested, during my excursions around the Expo, I probably handed out about a dozen of them.  After a visit at the Museum both it was a trip around the rest of the forum area to see what collectible merchandise was available.  As we walked around the forum we came about a booth where Bill “Goofy” Farmer was signing autographs.  As Bill had just recently friended me on Facebook, I just had to stop and talk.  I also use these opportunities to talk up the Museum and suggest that he should come up and do a session for us.  Good News, something may be in the works.  YAY!!!  It was fun talking with him, and I even managed to get a autographed Goofy picture for one of his number one fans, and the young lady we had left at home.

After a trip back to the hotel room to down off the day’s booty, and to rest for a bit, it was off to the evening’s event, and I had been looking forward to it since I learned it was happening.  Many of you have already reading some of my comments in previous posts, and you see their banner link at the top of this page, along with a link in my favorites section, so it no surprise that I am a big fan of the Mousetalgia podcast and crew.  So, when I learn of a Mousetalgia Meet-up at the Park during the Expo, I knew I had to be there!!!  I arrived at the Hungry Bear at the appointed time, got myself a sandwich and a drinks - I was even a good kid and elected the coleslaw instead of fries, and went off to find the meet-up section. That wasn’t hard at all, I found Dave and Becky (with Button being as cute as she could be) sitting at a table with a few other individuals just a few step away from the condiment table.  Introductions were made and we all sat, talked, and ate as the party grew. In a few minutes Kristen and Jeff joins us.  I was particularly happy to Kristen, as she had recently had a bit to a scare which threatened to keep away from the Expo this year.  I was really glad to see that she had made it down, cuz I knew how much she was looking forward to the event.  After awhile of visiting with everyone, we gathered for a picture – if you look really close, you can see me hiding in the back, and then headed off for a group ride on Pirates.  We had, I believe a count of, 40 people show for the meet-up, a pretty good turnout, I think, and close to that many show up a Pirates for the group ride.  The wait was only about fifteen so we breezed through the line.  I’ve ridden Pirates dozens of times over the years, but this is the first time I ever got soaked going down the two drops.  But, it was a blast, and doing it with a group of people who truly enjoy Disneyland as much as I do made it that much better.  Next, it was off to the Jungle Cruise for a second group ride, again a short wait time meant we lost only a few people, the count was now 35.  Who knew you could actually fit 35 people on one of those cruise boats, but we did, with Dave being the last to board.  Our Skipper was great, but then, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced one who isn’t.  It is really interesting how different the Jungle Cruise is at night from a daytime ride.  Those thing that you know are there, kind of surprise you a little more at night.  Well, after the ride we all said our goodbyes and went along our ways, happy in the warm feelings that this Meet-up provided.  Thanks Dave, Becky (and Button), Kristen, and Jeff for a great event, I really enjoyed myself, and look forward to making future meet-ups.

After a short stroll back to the Paradise Pier Hotel, through Downtown Disney, I was back at the room with Sam and Pam and ready to rest up for tomorrow’s events.


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 mr.grumpyguy@gmail.com
You can find us on Facebook at:  Discovering Disney History on FB