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Friday, September 14, 2012

Day 3 – Part 2: Destination D: 75 Years of Feature Animation

So, after spending a wonderful morning touring the Roy E. Disney Feature Animation Building, we load back up on our buses and took the short trip over to the executive entrance to the Walt Disney Studios.  First order of business was lunch, which is good because it was lunchtime and, even with the snacks from earlier in the morning, my stomach was beginning to grumble and rumble.  Lunch was set up for us in Legends Plaza on what turned out to be one of the hotter days in Burbank, but, with some umbrellas it was passable.  Nothing against D23, they can’t control the weather.  But, the food was delicious.  I have been the victim of many a buffet line, where you’ll find a myriad dry over cooked chicken, tasteless fish, and tough beef dishes.  Not today!  We had chicken dish that was moist and succulent, and a marinated beef skirt steak that was amazingly tender and tasty.  And, the sorbet served for dessert was more of a slushy, but that was to be expected given the heat.  All in all, I was very impressed with the meal.

While lunch was being served, several D23 staffers circulated among the tables giving out different colored wristbands.  Yup, we were being assigned to different tour groups again, but, with 100 people it’s not surprising, on the three Studio tours I been on, the tour group range between 15 and 25.  After lunch, before the tours began, each group assembled in front of the northern door of the old Animation Building for a group photo, and then it was off to explore the studio.  My group’s first stop was the Ink & Paint Department.  In Walt’s day, this was where all the cells that made up a cartoon short or animated feature were created before going to the camera department for shooting.  The paints of the day were toxic and took a very long time to dry – as much as 8 hours.  Since the paint could only be applied one color at a time, it could take several days to complete one cell, and a proficient paint girl could work on 8 to 10 cells per day.  As the actual rooms in the Ink & Paint Department are rather small, our group was temporarily split in two.  The first going in while the second was entertained with a Q&A by one of the tour guides in the hallway.  In the first room, in reality the middle room has walls of shelves with bottle upon bottle of colorful paint.  But, we were first headed to the little room on the left, the walls covered in hundreds of small paint chips.  This is where we learned that the Ink & Paint Department is still active today, though today the studio no longer uses hand inked and painted cells to do animation.  Today these very talented artists use the tremendous skills to produce most all of the commemorative and limit edition cells available in the parks and special piece upon request.  In this first office, an original drawing can be called up from the archive to be reproduced.  These drawing have all the artist’s original notations for color specs, and here is where the paint chips are pulled.  In the paints room we learn that today paints are an acrylics based paint which now dries in 5 to 10 minutes, making the production of their pieces today much quicker, though they can still only apply one color at a time.  We got an explanation of how all the colors we see on the walls are produced from a few base colors they receive from and outside vendor.  There are no real formulas for mixed these colors, someone mixes and compared paints to sample until an acceptable match is achieved, at which time the bottle is marked CE for close enough.  In the final room we meet to artists, one who is demonstrating the inking, which is transferring the lines of a drawing onto a cell (celluloid sheet).  It is a skill that requires a very steady hand.  Once the inking is complete and dry, and painter takes over applying each color one at a time.  The paint is applied on the back of cell from front colors to back, and it is flowed on to the cell, not painted or brushed on so as to not leave brush marks or minute blemishes in the paint.  It was actually quite impressive that Disney puts that much effort in keeping the Ink & Paint craft alive to this day.

We’re now off to the old Animation Building on the lot, and up to the third floor theater next to Walt’s old office.  Those of you who remember, this is my second visit to this theater.  I was here two years ago during the D23 Disney & Dickens event with my wife, where we were treated to a few of Disney’s holiday shorts and a featurette.  Today, we were introduced to some of Disney’s film preservation efforts by one their Archivists (sorry remembering names is not my strong suit) involved in the effort.  He started out by telling us that Disney is the only studio that has not lost any film, whether it be the original film or a copy produced somewhere along the way.  That by itself is a pretty impressive fact, at least to me.  Next he told us about the types of film and the problems with preserving them.  Before 1952 all movies were created on celluloid nitrite, a very volatile substance not prone to stability and long term storage.  As a matter of fact, a couple other studios had incidents of film vaults having an auto-ignite event.  The Walt Disney Studio still has vaults on the lot that were used at one time to storage nitrate film.  We saw slides of film canisters and the film slowly decaying inside them, and were told of the challenges in transferring some of these films to digital.  The recapture to digital is only one part of the process.  After the transfer, these films need to be restored to the quality when first screened.  Actually, because of today’s other digital improvements, these films have to be restored to better than original quality to be marketable.  We got to see some clip from 1941’s Bambi before and after the restoration process.  The difference is really quite remarkable.  We were told that the plan is to eventually digitize and restore Disney’s complete film library, but, that they were restoring in reverse order with the most popular features and short being done first.  I don’t know, because I didn’t think of it at the time, but I would suspect that this preservation process is neither quick nor inexpensive.  If I ever get another chance, I’ll have to ask those questions.

For our next stop, after a short trip out to Glendale, was what turned out to be, at least for me, by itself worth the extra cost of the ticket.  Our bus pulled up outside a nondescript mustard colored building not far from another of Glendale’s more famous Disney operations – WDI (Walt Disney Imagineering).  The building showed no windows from the outside and bore none of what would be considered normal Disney frills.  The building’s parking lot stood behind a chain-link fence with a card key access gate.  At the gate was a plain white sign with red lettering, and there the only external acknowledgement of the building owner or the contents there in – Disney’s Animation Research Library.   At mid-building and set back about 20 feet was the entrance and only glass, color or landscaping of this facility and it wasn’t even visible from the street.  Once inside, we were instructed on the do and don’t while in the facility, and the purpose for the Animation Research library.  The ARL houses 65 million pieces of Disney animation art, from maquettes (small scale models) of characters to cells, matte, and sketches for a myriad of Disney shorts and features.  Unfortunately, many early cells are unavailable, as it was a practice in frugality then to wash and reuse cells as many times as possible.  Laid out for use to view where several cell, background mattes, and sketches, and a couple of vaults were open for us.  In one vault alone could be found, shelf upon shelf behind glass, character maquettes from dozens of Disney films.  In another were several rows of large document storage cabinets, were a couple of cells were on display with an archivist present to answer questions, and I assume protect the art on display.  As I walk out of one of the vaults, the facility manager looked at me and asked if I was okay.  All I could say is that I was in total awe!  All he could say was that he pretty much felt that way every day.  In the back of the building was a design and layout room where archivists and designer work together to build out the various exhibits Disney displays, like the Treasures of Archives currently on display at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, and there was a mock up of the WDFM Special Exhibition with the designs for the upcoming Snow White exhibit.  The last room on the ARL tour was the digital lab, where artists, photographers, and technicians work to digitize and catalog in a database all of the art housed in the facility.  Here we were shown three different high resolution cameras, which if memory serves have a combination cost of nearly a half a million dollars.  Whether it is individual drawings or collections of drawing known as flipbooks, these drawings are being digitized so that current artists at the studio can pull the talents and techniques of their predecessors while still protecting the long term integrity of the original art.  At one station in the lab, a young technician was showing us a digital flipbook that had been recently created on a monitor that any computer geek would relish; it had to be at least a 40 inch screen.  Upon leaving the ARL I was truly in a state of awe and wonder.  What I would give to be able to spend a week, a month, or a year there just exploring.

Upon arriving back at the Studio lot, our last visit of the day was to the Archives, and a visit with Dave Smith – Founder and now Director Emeritus of the Walt Disney Archives.  Dave retired last year, after building the Archive for 41 years, yet he is still a regular fixture on most tours.  This visit made my 4th to the Archive over the last few years, the most recent visit before this being in June of this year, when I finally got to take my youngest daughter on a Studio Tour.  This visit was a little different as a few of the items Dave normally shows are now on display at the Treasures of the Archive exhibit in Simi Valley.  So, on this occasion, we were treated to the first ticket book from Walt Disney World, along one of the Olympic torches designed by Disney Legend John Hench for the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley.  So I know that Walt got at least two of these torches because one of them is on permanent display at the Walt Disney Family Museum.  Also on the table in front of us were several Mary Blair originals, which I had to fight hard not to try and sneak out of the building.  Not that I would have gotten away with it.  And finally, a print of the Chernabog, the devilish character from Fantasia.  After his presentation, I got to spend a few minutes with Dave and ask him if he was getting tired of seeing my ugly mug around, and his kind response, “of course not.”

After a long day of visiting new places and learning so much more about the animation process, and some of the real treasures of The Walt Disney Company, it was time for a little shopping, and a nice evening reception with D23’s leader Steven Clark, Archives Director Becky Cline, and our tour guides.  Since it was only a short time back that I had been in the Company Store, there wasn’t much in the way of shopping that was needed. As we were waiting for the reception to start I met up with my friends, and shortly thereafter, the caterers had the hors d’oeuvre line set up and we were invited to begin.  As with the lunch earlier in the day, the hors d’oeuvres were very good.  We had a choice of a grilled shrimp on a skewer, a gazpacho shooter, a small salad like spoon, and egg rolls, along with soft drinks.  As good as they were I, of course, had several pieces of all that was served, it was good.  As we all enjoy the snacks and a cool drink – remember, it was a hot day in the burb, Burbank that is – we talked about our experiences of the day.  General consensus, it was pretty damn awesome!!!  Earlier in the weekend, my volunteer friend from the Museum had express some concern as to whether the cost of the Diamond ticket would end up being worth it?  As the weekend moved along she was become less and less concerned.  But, as we talked at the reception, I asked her if the event(s) had met her expectations from the cost perspective.  Expectations met and exceeded, for me as well.  If the Diamond Level experience had been just for the events of Saturday and Sunday, I probably would have forgone the extra expense, but, my anticipation was for Monday, and I was not disappointed.  As the reception came to a finale, Steven made a little speech thanking us for being part the day’s events, and then Becky had us come up by group to receive a copy of the picture taken after lunch, and a Disney Fairytales Art Book.  Then we loaded back onto the buses for the long commute back to the Disneyland Hotel.

Of all the events that D23 has put on, and that I have had the opportunity to attend, this was by far the best.  One of the things I noticed throughout our jaunt around the lot was the number of different service carts and trucks on the streets of the Studio.  It was apparently a very busy production day at the Studio, and we still got on the lot to witness it.  It really was cool!  I’d like to give my sincerest thanks to all the D23 staff and volunteers, and all the other Disney Employees, who made this a positively wonderful day.  And… a SPECIAL THANKS!!! to Laura, for her tireless effort to make this such great event.

I’d also like to thank my companions for both the weekend and Monday, you all help add to the magic of the 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

 

 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Day 3 – Part 1: Destination D: 75 Years of Feature Animation




As great as the Destination D weekend was and as much as I enjoyed sitting up front for all presentations and entertainment, it was the Monday events that prompted me to go for the Diamond level ticket.  Only 100 of these tickets were available and snatched with moments of going on sale.

After the wonderful Alan Menken concert to end the regular Destination D event, it was off to bed to rest up for the very busy next day.  Originally, check-in for Monday’s for Monday’s bus trip from the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim to the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank was scheduled for 7:00 AM with a prompt departure at 7:30.  However, with all that was happening at the Studio, and check-in and departure time was moved up to 6:15 and 7:00 AM.  So, along about 5:30 the ole eyes slammed open, and with a rapt anticipation I jumped out of bed, showered, and dressed and was out the door by a little after 6:00.  No coffee in the room, no news, no email, I wasn’t going to take any chance on missing the bus.  Beside, we’d been promised breakfast items and coffee would be awaiting us downstairs, though I did stop at the coffee shop for my quad shot latte, I did have to make sure I jump started my daily caffeine requirement.  J  First it was a check-in so D23 knew I was present – yeah, like I was going to miss this… and then off to the pastry and coffee table, yup, I needed more caffeine.  Found some seats for my friends, and enjoy a bite to eat and discussion of our mutual anticipation of the day’s activities.

By a little passed 7:00 two buses were on the I-5 heading north to Burbank and the Studio.  When Disneyland was first built, it was about a 2 hour drive from the Studio to the Park, and vice versa.  It is roughly a 40 mile trip, one way.  Fifty seven years later, with all the improvement in roads and vehicles, today it is about a 2 hour drive from the Park to the Studio, longer sometimes depending on how clogged the traffic.  It’s somewhat ironic that as much as things change, they manage to stay the same too.  So, at just about 9:00 we pull into the Studio, not the studio proper but the buildings across Riverside from the main complex, The Roy E. Disney Features Animation building and the ABC TV Headquarters building.  As we disembark the bus, we are each tagged with one of four Disney character stickers, as learned… to signify the tour group we would be assigned.  Again as with the assembly point at the Disneyland Hotel, there was a table with pastries and drinks for us to enjoy.  After about a ½ an hour to eat and use the rest facilities, we were off to begin our touring of the Features Animation building.  First up, we all gathered on the second floor between to Pods, for a quick video welcome and personal greeting from Disney Animator Darrin Butters, then it was time to form up in our groups and head off to explore this amazing place.

First stop down to the basement floor and a visit to one of the animation rigging labs were they build wire frames.  You probably already know this, but, much of today’s animation is done on the computer.  Each of those clever characters we see on the theater screen is a computer program called a wire frame rig.  Artists of the electronic world of bits and bytes take painstaking time and effort to build wire frame structure of these characters so that they can move for us on the screen.  This lab has about 2 dozen computers and we were all directed to take a seat in front of one.  On the computer monitor in front us, and on the screen at the front of the room, was one of these wire frame models of Ralph – the title character from the upcoming new movie ‘Wreck-It Ralph.’  After some basic instructions for the gentleman at the front of the room, we were encouraged to create our own little animated sequence which was really cool.  When I got done, I am sure I violated certain anatomical rules and my sequence had Ralph signaling for a touchdown while doing a rather impossible side kick, but, it looked cool!  J  I’m not sure what software we used and I forgot to ask, so I don’t know if it commercially available, or a proprietary custom application, but it was a lot of fun.  Next it was off to the recording studio where we got to participate in some ADR (or Auto Dialog Replacement), at least that what I thought I heard.  A few people from our group got to go into the recording booth and redo some lines from ‘Wreck-It Ralph.’  Then there was a quick trip down the hall to the art studio.  Nothing really exciting, but, they hold regular art classes at the facility, where artist on site can come to learn or practice new techniques.
 

There was a visit to a storyboard room in the story department.  In any other company this would be a conference room with a large table and chairs surrounded by tack boards, white boards, and drawing pads around the rooms.  We got to see some of how a story goes through its development with the use of storyboards, and group discussion and brain storming.  We even participated in a short brainstorming session to continue the development of a story that had been planned for this event… more on this in a bit.  It was then back upstairs and through the Frozen Pod to a Feature Animations Building equivalent of the old sweatbox viewing rooms from across the street in Walt Disney original Animation Building.  Like the old sweatboxes, this is where the artists, animators, directors, and producers come together to review and critique the day’s production.  Today, we got to see some to the early animation of Wreck-It Ralph’s Vanellope von Schweetz, and listen to the young animator, her first animation assignment with the Studio, explained her process and efforts to animate her character, along with an animation supervisor and a director explain the critique and review process.  And now to the pods… 

The center of the second floor of the Roy E. Disney Features Animation building is divided into what our tour guide described as two pods.  I never thought to ask if pod was an acronym, but, I’ll have to remember to ask if I ever get another chance.   Each of the Pods houses the productions and direction staff for one of the two Animated Features currently in production.  Each pod is design and decorated by the staff to reflect the story and feeling of the film being produced.  In the Frozen pod there are renderings and art on the walls that reflects some of the research done by the staff on locals, characters, concepts for the story.  In the middle of the pod is a central meeting area were producers, directors, artists, and animators can come together to discuss the project.  The d├ęcor again is representative of that feature’s concept and story.  In the Frozen pod, the walls are in muted colors of winter.  Across the hallway is the Wreck-It Ralph pod, where their central meeting area is designed to look like a video arcade, big surprise there…  As we exit the Wreck-It Ralph pod we are directed to a room at the end of an open meeting area.  There we meeting and attractive young artist with a distinctly Latin accent who explains how the Wreck-It Ralph team researched and developed the color palette some of the building features for the film.  Turns out, like we learned in the Frozen pod, artists and designer are sent on trips to locals that represent the film to draw inspiration.  In the case of Wreck-It Ralph trips to Spain (hence the accent of the young artist giving this talk) to sketch the building that would represent one of the worlds in the movie, and many trips to candy stores to draw insight into the world of Vanellope von Schweetz.  As l look around and notice the room is round, I look up to see that the ceiling ends at a conical point.  We’re in the HAT!!!  If you’ve ever driven by or seen any of the many picture of the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, you’ll know this, but…  When the Feature Animation building was originally constructed, it included a large Sorcerer Mickey’s hat.  Inside the building this was Roy E. Disney’s ceremonial office, while still maintaining a working office in the old Animation building across the street, where he would meet with important dignitaries or special guests.  There will be more on the Hat when I get back to my history posts in the near future.

After a couple of wonderful hours exploring the Roy E. Disney Feature Animation Building, we were, all the tour groups, ushered into the theater.  In each seat was a bag of goodies for us to commemorate our visit, along with a copy of the group photo we’d taken earlier in front of the building.  With Darrin Butter, our MC at the beginning of the tour, leading the way, we talked about what we had seen, and had a nice little question and answer session.  The gentleman who led our story brainstorming session came up and told a raw concept story based on all of the tour groups’ input.  I know I won’t be able to do it justice, but…  It’s the story of a time-traveling young lady who stole a teddy bear from a young man, who with his dog, chased her down the slope of an active volcano flowing with lava, in his fire proof boots.  I don’t expect to see this at a theater near me any time soon, if ever.  J  But, it was a great example of brainstorming.  The schedule had originally called for a shopping opportunity in the Feature Animation Building company store, which didn’t happen.  I believe smarter heads prevailed, when it was realized that funneling 100 people through their store would add hours to an already very busy schedule.  I didn’t see the store in this building, but, I’ve been in the company store – Mickey’s of Glendale – at the Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) facility, so I’d assume they are similar in size, and the store at WDI is not that big.  Yes, it would have been nice to get some of the more specialized merchandise, but, the gift bags were a nice compromise.  

It’s now time to leave this wonderful building and head back to the buses for trip across the street to the main studio lot, and lunch.  But…  I think I’ll make that a part 2 entry, as there was quite a lot that happened there which may take up several more pages.

 

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

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Day 2: Destination D: 75 Years of Feature Animation

Most days my eyes slam open at about 6:00 AM in the morning.  And, most days I can close them and sleep for another 45 minutes or so.  Not when I’m away from home, when my eyes pop open, they stay open.  I’ve tried and tried to lay around for awhile and it just doesn’t work.  So, it’s up, turn on the news, and make the weak coffee available in the room.  Hey, it’s a start at the day’s caffeine requirement.  So, I watch a little news, got to stay informed, and check my email while drinking some weak coffee.  Actually, come to think of it, this morning coffee was all that weak, I’d remembered to add one of the Starbucks VIA packs I carry now when travelling.  J  Then after a quick shower, I was dressed and out the door before 7.  A stop at the coffee shop, got there a few minutes before it opened, so there was a wait and nice conversation with another guest about the Walt Disney Family Museum.  Yup, on this day I was decked out in my Museum ball cap and one of my t-shirts.  I find they are great conversation starters.  With the coffee shop now open, I grabbed my large quad shot latte and pastry, and it off to the queue.  When I arrived there are only a couple of people ahead of me in line, but… remember my comments about this in my last post.  In a couple of minutes my friends show up, so now, everyone behind me is now 3 people further back in the queue, and by the time the D23 staff were ready to open the doors, we were about two dozen back in line.  But, not to worry, we have Heather!  J  And, of course, we got four seats; front row left side of the stage.  COOL!!!  Go Heather!!!
First session of the morning was WACKY AND WILD DISNEY ANIMATION hosted by co-host of D23’s Disney Geek, Billy Stanek; with Disney animator and director Eric Goldberg and animation historian Jerry Beck.  First off, I must file a protest.  D23’s own Jeffrey Epstein is and always will be for me – The Disney Geek!  Okay, on to the presentation.  We spent the 45 minute hearing about and seeing some of the more psychedelic and visually amazing animation put on the screen, as well as some of a more racing nature.  An example of the more racing, we were shown a clip from Steamboat Willie, which the panel agreed would be expurgated in today’s environment or garner an R rating, this was the scene of Mickey using a pig as an instrument.  Also in that short, there are scenes which would probably garner the wry of PETA.  Some of the really visually stunning animation came for such scenes as Pink Elephant on Parade in Fantasia, and Donald Duck’s dream sequence in The Three Caballeros.  The story of Ward Kimball’s losing the soup eating scene from Snow White was told.  I, of course, knew this one, because there’s an exhibit at the Museum dedicated to this event.  Ward was told by Walt that the soup scene was being cut just before the full animation was scheduled to start.  But, Walt, being a master at motivation, immediately following with giving Ward the character of Jiminy Cricket in Pinocchio.  Eric also told of doing some animation of the Genie from Aladdin to some of Robin William routines before Robin was on board to do the voice.  It was what sold Robin on doing the part.
Next up in the session queue, DRAWING WITH PERSONALITY with Famed Disney animator Andreas Deja.  I’ve seen Andreas at the Walt Disney Family Museum, and again a really nice guy.  In this presentation he demonstrated several drawing techniques and discussed the styles of several famed Disney animators including “The Nine Old Men.”  He did bring up a point I don’t think most in the audience had ever considered, if you look at Mickey Mouse from a profile, he has a nose that looks like an olive.  But, if look at him from straight on, his nose look more like a button on the end of his snout.  While discontent in style, Andreas explained that this is because from head on and olive shaped nose would interfere with and make animating Mickey’s eyes and facial features.  This continuity issue has just become accepted, by both artists and audiences.  Andreas went on to demonstrate his drawing of another of his characters – Jafar from Aladdin.  While doing this demo, he asked the audience to take out the sketch books we’d received the day before and draw our rendition of Jafar, but with a catch.  Draw him as a child.  I didn’t even try, I have pick up pen or pencil to draw with in over 35 years, thanks Dad. L  But this father would have loved to see what my young artist would have done with it.  At the end of the session, Andreas asked for volunteers to let him show their work.  A few people came up, and there were a couple of very interesting drawing.
 
Now up, TINKER BELL: THE EVOLUTION OF A DISNEY CHARACTER hosted by Disney animation historian and author, Mindy Johnson, with Margaret Kerry, Ginni Mack, Mae Whitman, and Peggy Holmes.  The host for this presentation – Mindy Johnson, has a book coming out in the fall of next year – Tinker Bell: An Evolution.  Guess what’s going to be on my 2013 Christmas list?  If I wait that long!  Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a huge Tinker Bell fan.  I’ve had a crush on Tink since I was about 5, and have a few Tink trinkets in my collection, even got my picture taken with Tinker Bell at Pixie Hollow.  So to say I was looking forward to this presentation was an understatement.  To start the session, Mindy talked a bit about her forthcoming book and some of the interest things she discovered while doing the research.  While talking about this research, she showed a picture of an attractive young blonde with the “Big Mooseketeer” Roy Williams, who was also an animator and artist at the studio, and drawings of Tinker Bell.  For years, everyone knew that Margaret Kerry was the live action model for Tinker Bell, but nobody knew the identity of this young blonde.  Well, today we learned her identity; on stage with Mindy was Ginni Mack, the first face character model for Tink.  Mindy even managed to find a picture of Ginni at Marc Davis’s drawing board with a drawing of Tinker Bell, a shot that was thought not to exist.  Of course, the delightfully irrepressible Margaret Kerry, at 83 still the embodiment of a Pixie, and Ginni had some amusing exchanges on stage.  Peggy Holmes, as director of animation, was there to talk about the upcoming installment of the Tinker Bell Movies – Secret of the Wings.  A story about how Tinker Bell discovers… well I’ll leave that for you to discover in a few weeks.  But, my second most favorite part of this session…  Until only recently, first in Hook and then in the new Tinker Bell movie series, Tink’s only communications came in the form or bells ringing when she talked.  Mae Whitman has been the voice of Tink in all the new Tinker Bell movies, and when she began to speak on stage, my heart fluttered!  As with Ginni and Margaret Mae is the personification of a Pixie, and of a particularly cute little Pixie named Tinkerbell.  Mae is young enough to be my daughter, but I still think I’m in love.  J  Now for my favorite part of this presentation, a gift from Alice Davis from the estate of her husband Marc Davis.  Marc was Tink’s animator, and had done a concept sheet of various drawings of Tinker Bell as a reference.  Well, Alice had this concept sheet reproduced, and we were each given a copy.  Thank You Alice!  And oh yeah, congratulations on your recent very well deserved Window on Main Street. J
 
After the lunch break, HEARING VOICES:  A SALUTE TO DISNEY VOICE ARTISTS was hosted by Tim O’Day.  Joining Tim on Stage were; Kathryn Beaumont – Wendy Darling of Peter Pan and Alice, Lisa Davis – Anita from 101 Dalmatians, David Frankham – Sgt Tibbs from 101 Dalmatians, Bruce Reitherman – Mowgli from Jumgle Book and Christopher Robin from Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree, Bill Farmer - Goofy, and finally Chris Sanders – Stitch.  Missing was Dickie Jones – Pinocchio, as he was unable to make it at the last moment.  It was just a wonderful time listening to these voice actors talk about their experiences.  A couple of interesting notes:  Lisa Davis was originally tested to do the voice of Cruella Deville, but, she felt is wasn’t right for her.  How do you tell the great Walt Disney that you think he’s made the wrong choice?  Well, in Lisa’s case you simple ask if you can read for Anita while Walt reads Cruella.  Walt said, “yes,” and the rest is history.  The other interesting note, you may recognize Bruce Reitherman’s last name.  Yes, he is the son of Woolie Reitherman, one of Walt’s “Nine Old Men.”  Bruce got his role as Christopher Robin because the voice actor initially doing the role hit puberty and his voice cracked during production.  Bruce Dad, Woolie, sitting at the dinner table one night was asking, “where am I going to find another kid to voice Christopher?”  Looking across the table, he spied his 10 year old son, again, the rest is history.
 
The second afternoon presentation was SNOW WHITE:  STILL THE FAIREST OF THEM ALL, hosted by Tim O’Day with, Marge Champion, Alex Rannie, and Gabriella Calicchio.  While this presentation started out well.  How could it not with Marge Champion on stage.  Marge is the live action model for Snow White, and performed most all of the scenes before they were animated, so the animators could watch how she moved and her clothing flowed.  This allowed for a more realistic animation, which Walt felt was very important to a successful movie.  She talked about being up in lodge during the premier, while her friend Shirley Temple was right do front.  Interestingly, she had no bitterness in her voice.  She understand, as Mr. Disney had explained, that people might think that his artists just rotoscoped the film from live action footage.  Alex Rannie, noted film musicologist and historian, showed us several slides of music sheets from the movie and explained some of the development process.  Now here is where the presentation broke down for me.  Gabriella Calicchio, the new CEO for the Walt Disney Family Museum, came on stage to discuss the Museum, and the new special exhibit coming soon to celebrate Snow White’s 75th anniversary.  In my opinion, it was a very poorly conceived presentation on her part, and I am not going to discuss it all here.  I am handling that through private channels, but I will stay that as a Founding/Friend Member of the Museum, I was not happy to learn of this exhibit and the great deal they are preparing for D23 members before hearing about it as a Museum Member.  And, I am not alone, there were a few dozen other members in that audience equally perturbed.  I still think the Museum is a great place, and enjoy attending anything I can and learning all I can about Walt Disney, but, there are some additional tweaks to the leadership that I think need to be made.  If you plan on going, I’d still recommend it.
 
Just before the dinner break we were shown a Bonus Featurette: “Once Upon a Mouse.”  This was about a 30 minute featurette down back in the 80s that fast frames through most all of the Disney animation catalog of the day.  For me, it was a bit hard to follow, but, hey…  It’s apparently not been seen in a while, and I couldn’t find any good reference on youtube, so…  We sat through it.  It was okay.
 
Now, for the real piece de resistance” of the event, AN EVENING WITH ALAN MENKIN.  Alan Menken won 2 Academy Awards each for “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin,” and “Pocahontas” for a total of 8 Oscars, along with 11 other nominations.  Alan has also composed musical scores for “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “Hercules,” “Home on the Range,” “The Shaggy Dog,” “Enchanted,” and “Tangled.”  Alan isn’t a public performance kind of guy, so this was a really rare treat, and his performance truly felt like a personal thing he was doing for friends.  So there is no real way to recap this other than to say, IT WAS AMAZING!!!  He was scheduled to do an hour and fifteen minutes and ended up doing a full 2 hours.  It was the perfect end to a pretty incredible 2 days.  I even managed to make it into a couple of pictures D23 posted for their recaps, you can find them here.
Would I do it again?  In a heartbeat, it was worth every penny paid, and just wait until you hear about Monday’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
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