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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
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