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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Day 1: Destination D: 75 Years of Feature Animation

Even though I had reserved seating for the day’s events, I know how even in the reserved seating areas the lines begin to form early.  Beside, for a guy who was not a morning person, and in his youth could sleep away a day without a problem, I find myself an early riser.  These days’ sleeping in for me is 7:30; so, my eye popped open 15 minutes before the alarm was set to go off at 6:00 AM.  Slip the little pod into the pot and add water, and after my shower, there’s coffee awaiting me, passable, but not great.  A little coffee and a little morning news, and I remember… there’s a little coffee shop downstairs right next to Goofy’s Kitchen.   Besides, it about time to head down for the always present Disney queue.

Cherry Danish and a large quad shot latte in hand, and I’m in business.  I head off the few 100 feet to the hotel convention center rooms to grab a spot in line.  Anyone who is familiar with the Disney Parks knows about the queue – that’s the line, with the serpentine stanchions and chains, at the beginning of most rides.  The larger D23 events are no different.  In the main seating queue there were at least tape outlines of the queue on the floor, for the Diamond members, only the sign was present to indicate where the line started, and about a dozen other people.  Half an hour earlier and I might have been 5th or 6th in line, but I’ll explain more in a minute why it doesn’t make a lot of difference.  As I’m standing in line, I strike up a conversation with an attractive redhead names Regina, a very sweet young woman from New Jersey… and yes, my wife knows!  :P  As Regina and I talk, another Disney friend of my rolls up in a wheelchair, with an interesting story as to why she is in the chair.  I met Diana at the Museum for the first time, and we’ve seen each other at several other Museum and D23 events.  As we are talking she begins to introduce me to Regina, as they had ridden to the resort on the bus.  I think Diana may somehow be connected to everyone. J  About this time my friend Heather from the Museum shows up with her friend, she’d messaged me on Facebook, to save her a place in line.  Heather and I have a little competition going on to see who can be first in line for Museum events, and I think to this point she still has the edge on me in wins.  Okay, back to my line explanation.   Unless you can manage to be first in line at any of these events, no matter where you might start out in the line, you going to find yourself further back.  Spot saving is the normal, I was even saving a couple of spots, so even though I started out about 12th, by the time they opened the doors we were probably about 30 spots back.  But, since we had reserved seating up front, I was too worried about where we were in line.  Just before the doors opened, Diana left us to head up front.  They were letting in, or in Disney parlance, loading wheelchairs and ECVs first.  Regardless of our place in line Heather, being short and stealthy, managed to get us four seats, at this point Regina had be adopted into our group, in the second row center aisle.  Only drawback, poor Heather got stuck behind a rather large person in an ECV and couldn’t see anything.  I offered to change places with her, but she ask a D23 person who told her to just move her seat out into the aisle a little.  All was good.

After a Welcome from D23’s leader, Steven Clark, a little dance by some D23 fans and volunteers, and a welcome message from John Lassiter, himself… just a bit of a disappointment as the crowd was hoping for a live appearance, and treated to one on video, the first program of the day – WALT AND THE FIRST GOLDEN AGE OF DISNEY ANIMATION.  Current Walt Disney Archives Director, Becky Cline, hosted Disney Legend, and famed animation layout artist - Burny Mattinson, film producer – Joe Hale, and documentary director – Ted Thomas.  Ted is also the son of one of Walt’s “Nine Old Men” Frank Thomas.  The first golden age of Disney animation started, here’s a surprise, 75 years ago with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  The studio’s land and many of the building today, are a direct result of the amazing success of Snow White.  We all know that Walt was told that no audience would sit through a ninety minute cartoon.  Thankfully, like so many of his other endeavors, Walt chose to ignore his critics, and the movie went on to earn almost 8 million dollars in its first theatrical run, and has earned a $185 million domestically since.  Over the hour we heard wonderful and funny stories about working with Walt’s “Nine Old Men.”  For those who don’t know, Walt’s “Nine Old Men” were a group of his original animators.  They were Les Clark, Marc Davis, Milt Kahl, Ward Kimball, Eric Larson, John Lounsbery, Wolfgang “Woolie” Reitherman, Frank Thomas, and Ollie Johnson.  From Snow White on, these are the men that helped to bring Walt’s storytelling visions to the screen, and who he looked to, to mentor his next generation of artists, animators, and story men.
For our next session – ROY E. DISNEY AND THE SECOND GOLDEN AGE OF DISNEY ANIMATION – Noted Disney Historian, Tim O’Day hosted a panel composed of Roy E’s son and former Imagineer Roy Patrick Disney Producer, Don Hahn, writers, directors, and producers John Musker and Ron Clements, and Disney creative director Dave Bossert.  Anyone, who’s read the earliest entries of my blog, knows that it was really Roy E. Disney who initially inspired this blog.  During the tumultuous history of Disney in the 80s, animation at the Studio came close to being lost.  After a management change in 1984, Roy volunteered to take on leadership of the animation group at Disney rather than seeing it closed down.  Had that happened, there are, as of this coming November, 26 animated features which Disney would not have brought to us, most notably among them, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King.  As part of this little celebration for Roy’s bringing of the second golden age to Disney’s animation group, Roy Pat was presented with a Mouscar, a posthumous award for his father’s many contributions to the company.  You can expect to hear more about Roy E. and the 80s and 90s as I return to my history pieces in the future.  But, suffice to say, Roy E. Disney is a great figure in Disney History.
In the first afternoon session we got a look INSIDE WALT DISNEY ANIMATION STUDIOS TODAY, where Disney Animator Darrin Butters gave us a look at some coming attractions.  Any of you who attended the D23 Expo last summer knows about Wreck-It Ralph, coming to a theater near you in November, the story of a video game bad guy, exploring his softer side.  We were treated to a couple of first looks at this movie, and I must say I am looking forward to it.  We were also treated to most initial development of a new Disney Animated Feature coming to the screen in 2013.  Frozen, a story based on Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of The Snow Queen.  First looks are good, and I think the anticipation will built.  Also shown were a couple of new shorts.  First, Tangled Ever After, and cute little short based on… you guessed it… Tangled, and the marriage of Rapunzel and Flynn… err… Eugene.  Next, Paperman and this was the first public showing of this new short.  If I heard correctly this new short will play with Wreck-It Ralph when it premiers in November.  I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.  Next up, was THE GREATEST DISNEY ANIMATION YOU NEVER SAW, hosted by Don Hahn and Dave Bossert.  For the next hour or so, we were shown various animated clips and commercials for the Disney video vault.  They were cute and enjoyable but nothing I would think is that spectacular.  Finally for the last session before the dinner break – ANIMATING THE DISNEY PARKS, with Becky Cline and Tim O’Day hosting famed Imagineer and SVP of Creative Development, Tony Baxter;  Imagineering VP of Creative Development, Tom Morris; and former Imagineer and noted designer Eddie Sotto.  Simply put, I don’t think many people know or appreciate how Walt Disney influenced Imagineers like Herb Ryman, John Hench, Claude Coats, or Marc Davis, who went on to influence Imagineers like Tony, Tom, or Eddie, who have gone on to influence current and future Imagineers.  Or, just what disciplines the term imagineer encompasses; artist, engineer, architect, designer, builder, and on and on, I’m sure I’ve missed many, sorry.  Walt never really wanted the guests to see the backstage, as he felt it would spoil the illusion.  To this fan and guest, it only serves to enhance the experience knowing the efforts and talents that go into creating the magic.
On to the evening dinner break, but, before that…  Those of us with the Diamond level ticket got a special meet and greet session.  I bolded and italicized special because it really wasn’t that special.  Not that I don’t appreciate hanging out with Disney luminaries, but the only people in the room that I hadn’t met before were Dave Bossert, and  Bill Rogers – the Voice of Disneyland – which was cool!  Yup, all those special announcements you hear in the park, that’s Bill.  He was at Destination D making all the announcements for the event too.  And, like most all Disney people, he’s a really nice guy.  But, Don Hahn, Steven Clark, and Dave Smith, I’ve met before at other events.  One plus, I was able to get my copy of Dave’s new book – Disney Trivia from the Vault – signed…  Thanks Dave!
After dinner, it time for big event of the evening.  For anyone who was at the last D23 Expo, you’ll remember probably the hardest event to get into.  As soon as the audience for the preceding session entered the room, the queue began to fill for the next, which was not schedule to happen until about 8:00 PM, it was now about 3:00 PM.  Before the hour was out, the queue was at capacity of the room.   Dick Van Dyke and The Vantastix.  Well, we had them there at Destination D to perform for us, and no 5 hours standing in a line to get in.  So at 8:00 PM we enjoyed a barbershop medley of music from Dick Van Dyke, Mike Mendyke, Bryan Chadima, and Eric Bradley, and being in the front row… well actually second row, right behind Marge Champion and David Frankham… made the event that much more special.  At 86, I don’t think Dick has missed a step, and even if he has, the guys he’s singing with are so good they cover it and no one really notices.  As fun as the day was, this was one of the best hours of the day.
The final event of the day was the screening of WALT & EL GRUPO – THE DIRECTORS CUT, with a prologue by director Ted Thomas (you might remember him from earlier – Frank Thomas’ son) and producer Kuniko Okubo.  Even though I have seen this documentary at the Museum, and have the DVD in my collection, I stay with a new friend who hadn’t seen it yet.  Beside, the director’s cut has an additional 20 minutes in it, and I want to see if I could identify them…  I couldn’t.
By now, it’s 11:30 PM and I tired, so it’s off to bed, to get a good night’s sleep to prepared for another busy day tomorrow.
Next, Destination D – Day 2. 

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