D23 - The Official Disney Fan Club Archives

August 30, 2015

The Orange Bird

Gary Cruise banner

Every time I see Carol’s collection of Orange Bird figures and memorabilia a song runs through my mind!

Carols collection

♫♪ Come to the Florida sunshine tree ♪♫
♪♫ For fresh tasting orange juice, naturally ♫♪

Does that sound familiar to you? It was sung by an Oklahoma beauty queen named Anita Bryant!

Back in the mid 1960’s Walt Disney was busy building his latest daring venture which he called the Florida Project. The Disney Company had acquired 57 square miles of land in central Florida where Walt envisioned a huge family entertainment complex. Today we know it as Walt Disney World, the most popular tourist destination in the world!

A project of that magnitude required money . . . lots and lots of money! To keep ahead of the constant demand for cash the Disney Company entered into partnerships with a number of companies and groups who “sponsored” different aspects of the project. One of those partnerships was with the Florida Citrus Commission. The Commission and the Disney Company had been partners since 1941 . . . they were licensed by Disney to use Donald Duck's name for their Orange Juice almost 75 years ago! Who doesn't remember Donald Duck orange juice . . . we probably all drank it as kids and some us may still be enjoying it!

They began sponsorship negotiations in 1967 and in October 1969 a deal was finalized! The Florida Citrus Commission (FCC) would sponsor a 3 million dollar pavilion in Adventureland that included The Tropical Serenade (now The Enchanted Tiki Room), The Sunshine Tree Terrace snack bar and the rest of The Sunshine Pavilion. The Florida Orange Bird was quickly designed by Imagineers at WED Enterprises, and a massive marketing campaign began! The little bird was simple in design and he didn’t speak. He communicated through small thought balloons!

Orange Bird Nice

Orange Bird thoughts of beach

The public face of the FCC was Anita Bryant who had been crowned Miss Oklahoma in 1958 and was second runner-up in the Miss America pageant of 1959. She enjoyed a successful singing career, with 11 of her songs reaching the top 100 in the charts, before she signed on as FCC spokeswoman in 1968.

Soon Miss Bryant and the Orange Bird were appearing everywhere!


They were on billboards all over Florida, in print ads and in TV commercials. Do you remember the slogan “Breakfast without orange juice is like a day without sunshine”? That was Anita Bryant and the Orange Bird.

There was even a full length 45rpm LP written by the Sherman Brothers and narrated by Bryant. The record included an illustrated 10 page storybook that told the back story of The Orange Bird.

Record Album

From 1971 to 1975 the Florida Welcome Centers gave out orange juice samples in the Orange Bird paper cups pictured below and gave one of the tin-tab buttons to all visitors.

Welcome Center Relics

There were Orange Bird coin banks, comic books, drinking glasses, t-shirts, plates and mugs. Carol has managed to add a few of these vintage items to her collection!

Carol has two of the 1970's coin banks, pictured below with an Orange Bird whistle.

Orange Bird Banks and Whistle

Orange Bird Nutrition Adventures Comic 1980

She is quite proud of these Orange Bird china pieces from the 1970's.

Vintage Orange Bird china

The Orange Bird appeared regularly near the Sunshine Tree Terrace and posed for pictures with guests. The picture below features our son Rob with the famous bird in about 1978.


Alas, the partnership between Miss Bryant and the FCC began to break down in 1977. She lived in Miami at the time and took a very strong stance against gay rights. Her home city had recently adopted strong anti-discrimination legislation and she worked long, hard and successfully to overturn it. She became a very vocal and public opponent of same-sex relationships. This caused plenty of friction with the FCC and before long Miss Bryant was leading a boycott of Florida citrus products. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!

As you might expect, the FCC elected to let their contract with Bryant lapse, leaving the little Orange Bird with no partner. His prominence soon began to fade and by 1987 the cheerful little critter was no longer visible in the park, on billboards or in ads.

Carol was sad to see her little friend, and all his merchandise, leave her happy place; but there is a happy ending to this tale.

Lou Mongello, author of "Walt Disney World Trivia Book: Secrets, History & Fun Facts Behind the Magic" and the host of The WDW Radio Show explained it this way in his November 2007 article for the weekly newsletter: “The Orange Bird made a mysterious comeback in 2004 - but not in the United States. Tokyo Disneyland began to produce its own, unique Orange Bird merchandise line around that time. Today's Orange Bird looks somewhat similar in proportion to the popular Japanese animated characters with heads disproportionately larger than their bodies. Recently, April 14 has been designated as "Orange Day," in Japan, a new holiday (promoted by Japanese and U.S. citrus growers like Sunkist). The concept is that on "Orange Day" people confirm their love with the objects of their affection by exchanging oranges or orange-colored gifts.”

Japan Orange Bird Poster

And now, at long last, he’s back at Walt Disney World too! The first signs of his triumphant return were at the EPCOT Trade Celebration in September 2011. The theme of the event was “The Florida Project”. The décor and all the pins and other merchandise created for the event revolved around classic rides and attractions that were part of those early years. The Orange Bird was very prominent at the event, he was featured on the "Early Bird" pin given to the first group of registrants.

2011 Early Bird Pin

He appeared in many of the displays!

Orange Bird Decor 2011

And on some of the other pins too!

2011 Pins

It was during the 2011 EPCOT Trade Celebration that Disney Design Artist Alex Maher drew this beautiful sketch of the Florida Orange Bird for Carol. She couldn't wait to have it matted and framed when she got home! It's one of her favourite treasures!

Alex Maher sketch

Alex designed many of the Orange Bird pins Carol now has in her collection!

Pin Collage

Pin Collage

Then in 2012 D23 announced Orange Bird's “official” return to the park. The six minute video clip below, produced by D23, gives a good summary of his history and his return to glory.

The D23 "Destination D" Attractions Rewind event held in 2014 again shone a spotlight on the Sunshine Tree Terrace and Orange Bird!

D23 Attraction Rewind

D23 Attraction Rewind

Carol is a happy Disney fan; the Orange Bird is back and his merchandise is everywhere! She’s selectively acquiring more Orange Bird treasures to display in her Disney Room!

Orange Bird Bell

A few weeks ago we attended the D23 Expo in Anaheim. She spotted this 1970's Orange Bird bell that Gary's Collectibles from Ozark Missouri were displaying; naturally it had to come home with her!

Orange Bird Hat

Now, if she could only find one of these hats . . .

January 18, 2015

From the Tickle Trunk - Disney Clubs

Gary Cruise banner

Are you a member of D23? To the best of my knowledge, it is the only "official" fan club, organized by Disney, in operation today.

But D23 has had several ancestors over the years . . . and those old clubs are what I'll describe briefly in this blog. I'll be using plenty of scanned images from some of the old brochures, newsletters and magazines Carol has safely stashed away in her Tickle Trunk!

Naturally when someone mentions Disney clubs the first thing which comes to mind is the Mickey Mouse Club.

I was one of those kids, way-way-way back in the mid-1950's, who rushed home from school every afternoon to watch Jimmie Dodd and the Mousketeers sing and dance their way through challenges and adventures. But that was not really a club; you could not become a member!

But you could subscribe to the magazine!

Mickey Mouse Club Magazine

There was a real "membership club" in that era, the Magic Kingdom Club, founded in 1957 as a marketing tool for Disneyland.


It was almost like a loyalty program, offered to employee groups from large companies in southern California. Unfortunately, it wasn't too beneficial for young children like Carol and I, living an entire nation away, about 2,400 miles north-east of Disneyland!

Magic Kingdom Club Membership Voucher

It was a very novel approach to marketing in the 1950's - employers could offer a no-cost benefit to employees and those lucky employees received membership cards which gave some attractive discounts at Disneyland!

What sort of discounts? There were discounts on Disney park tickets and Disney annual passports, discounted rooms at Disney resorts, discounts on parking, members even received a bag full of goodies like bumper stickers, key chains, decals and sometimes even a few Disney Dollars! Sorry Ralphie . . . no secret decoder!

Magic Kingdom Club Buttons

There were quarterly newsletters (Disney News) which kept members up-to-date on new Disney movies, changes in the park and changes to the club's benefits!

Disney News Fall 1989

Disney News Fall 1992

Disney News Fall 1993

Disney News Summer 1990

As the Disney parks grew, so did the club! It expanded nationally in 1971 when Walt Disney World opened and then went "international" as other parks were established around the world.

Soon there were exciting new benefits, including discounts with "non-Disney" partners such as airlines, cruise lines and car rental companies. There were even special vacation packages for individuals, families and groups.

There was a Gold Card membership which was fee-based. Those who were not employees of one of the member companies could buy a Magic Kingdom Club Gold Card.

Magic Kingdom Club Ad Fall 1989
(click on the picture above to see a clearer image you can read)

It has been reported that the club, at its peak, had over 30,000 member companies and more than six million card-carrying members. Wow!

In early 1986 Disney established the Magic Years Club just for seniors, 50 years of age and over. Click on the picture below to read how the Lakeland Ledger described this new club in their February 24, 1986 edition.

Magic Years News Article

Carol's mother, Sybil, joined Disney's Magic Years Club in 1989 and the newsletters shown below are from her collection (now safely stored in Carol's Tickle Trunk).

Magic Years Membership Form

Magic Years Membership Guide

Magic Years Magazine Spring 1990

Magic Years Magazine Winter 1993

Magic Years Coupon Book

Magic Years Bumper Sticker

Some time before 1993 the minimum age for membership was increased from 50 to 60, but the benefits remained the same.

Magic Years Ad Fall 1993

On October 14, 2000 the Magic Kingdom Club and the Magic Years Club morphed into The Disney Club. Each of the former clubs had been offered free of charge to most members, but the new Disney Club required all members to pay dues.

Disney Magazine Summer 2001

Carol was a card-carrying member of the Magic Kingdom Club in 2000 when the transition took place and she decided that all was not lost; the discounts were still more than enough to offset the annual dues of $39.95!

Membership Card

Here is listing of some Disney Club discounts from 2002. Click the image to see a larger version.

2002 Disney Club brochure pg 14-15

The Disney Club also sent out quarterly magazines!

Disney Club News Issue 11

Disney Club News Issue 14

Disney Club News Issue 15

The magazines and newsletters were packed full of interesting announcements and articles. I will probably write a few future blogs based on some of those old articles!

Click on the image below to read the cover of the November 2001 newsletter. If you like Disney trivia, pay close attention to those Monsters Inc. Fun Facts.

Disney Club News Issue 9

Click on the image below to read a Spring 2003 article about the Pirates of the Caribbean display at the Gallery in Disneyland!

Disney Club News Spring 2003 Article

It came as quite a shock to members when Disney scrapped the relatively new Disney Club in late 2003. For the first time in 46 years there was no club - no way to feel that warm sense of affiliation with Disney.

Everyone kept waiting for a revamped club to rise from the ashes, but alas, there was no Phoenix! The magazines no longer came, the club was gone, and all those swell benefits were gone as well.

At about the same time the always popular "Official Disneyana Convention", held at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World was cancelled. No one really understood this abrupt change in company policy.

Perhaps the corporation decided to focus their attention on the newly launched Disney Rewards Visa Card which offered similar discounts, but that was little consolation to Carol and I. We didn't qualify for the new cards; they are not offered to Canadians.

So we waited years until a new club appeared . . . D23 was announced in 2009. The name D23 refers to D for Disney and 23 for 1923, the year when Walt Disney arrived in Hollywood and his company was founded.

You are probably wondering, "Is Carol a member of D23?"

Silly question - of course she is! There are so many benefits and discounts, how could she resist?

And unlike the Visa Rewards Card, they let Canadians join!

May 13, 2014

D23's Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved

J. Scott Lopes
AllEars.Net Guest Blogger


One of the great benefits of being a D23 member is having the opportunity to attend numerous special events that are held throughout the country each year. A few weeks ago, I read on the D23, The Official Disney Fan Club web page that there would be a special event in my area, so I made plans to attend.

On April 13, 2014, during the PAX East gaming festival located in Boston, Massachusetts, Disney Interactive and Harmonix hosted an exclusive event for D23 members to preview their new game, Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved. The event was held at the Trade restaurant in Boston.


About 100 people turned up for the event. Guests were having an exciting time playing the game during the event on one of two gaming consoles, and Disney cast members were encouraging all guests to take a turn and try out the new game:


During the event there was a great assortment of food and drinks, such as pizzas and sliders.

As with most Disney events, there were surprise giveaways. In total there were three prize packs: a wireless headset, a print signed by the development team, and a package that consisted of an engraved iPod Touch pre-loaded with music from the game and also a copy of the game at launch.



Although there were only three prizes, all guests were able to get a Fantasia gift bag that contained a tee shirt, pin, and an unsigned copy of the print.


Overall this was a great event. It was a lot of fun to be able to meet other fans and also play the latest Disney game. Being from New England, it's hard for me to make it to events in Florida or California, so it is nice to be able to go to local events.

J. Scott Lopes is a long-time Disney fan who first went to Walt Disney World as a child in 1989. He has enjoyed traveling to Orlando ever since. He is interested in all things Disney Parks-related, especially in the Walt Disney Imagineering division and all of the work and detail that they put into everything that they engineer.

December 18, 2013

D23’s Holiday Splendor


D23's Holiday Splendor Event Friday, December 6 and Saturday, December 7, 2013

What if you had an opportunity to view the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights with just a handful of others, all of you with special ears that blink in time with the lights and music? How about reserved seating for the Candlelight Processional and a private dessert party while you watch IllumiNations, Reflections of Earth? Are you interested in Disney history, and how the holidays have been celebrated at Disney Parks throughout the years? If so, D23's Holiday Splendor event may be for you! The schedule for the event starts with an evening viewing the Osborne Lights in the Hollywood Studios, then continues the next day with a full day of scheduled events in Epcot. (Please pardon the quality of the following photos. Somehow I got out of the house without a real camera on this trip, and only had my phone to snap pics with.)

Friday, December 6. Private viewing of the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights.

The event began with check in at 8:15 p.m. on Friday evening at the Premier Theater in Disney's Hollywood Studios (near the Lights, Motors, Action show at the back of the park). Guests who did not have park tickets were able to check in at the entrance to the Park, and were escorted to the Premier Theater. After checking in we were given a set of "Glow with the Show" ears,


and a pair of special glasses, that we were instructed to bring with us the next day as well. (I wish that the cast members had actually let people know what the glasses were for, as I saw that some folks never put them on.)


After getting the goods, we were instructed to meet at the Studio Catering Company at 8:50 p.m. to gather for our private viewing time. At 9 p.m., after the rest of the park guests exited, the Lights were turned back on just for us! We had 15 minutes as a group to wander around and see the lights. It was a pretty amazing sight, as everyone in the group (I'd guess about 100) had on the Glow with the Show ears, which were blinking in unison with the music. The glasses made the lights look like little Mickey's. I think I remember them being handed out to everyone as they entered the viewing area a few years ago, so these might have been leftovers from then. It was a great start to the event!


Saturday, December 7. Breakfast, holiday presentations, The Scavenger Hunt, access to the Hospitality Suite in The American Adventure pavilion, reserved seating for The Candlelight Processional, dinner in the Rotunda in The American Adventure pavilion, Illuminations Dessert Party.

At 9:30 a.m., check-in started at the Odyssey pavilion in Epcot. Today, everyone attending the event needed to have valid park admission. If you had checked in already the night before, showing your lanyard to the cast member at the door gained you admission to the lobby of the pavilion, where a "light" breakfast buffet was spread. Guests who had not attended the Osborne Lights portion of the event the night before checked in and received their Glow with the Show ears and Mickey glasses.

I was pretty impressed with the "light" breakfast, having expected maybe some pastries and coffee. Offerings included a selection of mini muffins, a nice fruit salad and an egg, hash brown and sausage casserole. There was also coffee, tea, orange juice and water.

As guests entered the room to claim seats, there was a display of yummy holiday pastry treats to be oohed and aahed over, in addition to a display of some choral robes for the Candlelight Processional.




After everyone sat down with their breakfast, Laura Sanchez, from D23 Events kicked things off with a welcome and an overview of the day.

Steve Vagnini, Disney Archivist, presented Walt at Christmastime, showing archival photographs of Christmases and Christmas traditions throughout Walt's lifetime, from wishing for a new pair of boots to keep him warm on his childhood paper route, to the lists he kept of presents that were given to the children of Disney Company staff, to the television Christmas specials of the early 1960s.

Disney pastry chefs, Jeff Barnes (the Contemporary) and Yoly Lazo Colon (Epcot), then talked about Holiday Sweets, particularly focusing on the processes involved in creating the amazing gingerbread houses, trees and other displays throughout the resort (they get started making the gingerbread in January!), but also including other yummy treats on offer.


Here are some photos of several of the creations the chefs discussed that I took later in my trip:

The Mary Blair-inspired gingerbread tree at the Contemporary (which had to be specially anchored because of the vibrations of the monorail passing through)


and the gingerbread installation in the Land Pavilion at Epcot, which has contributions from all of Disney World's head pastry chefs.




(May I also say that the Linzer cookie that I bought at the Contemporary was just about the most amazing cookie that I have ever eaten! If you can, you should run right over there and buy one now!)

Next up was Forrest Bahruth, Show Director, Candlelight Processional, who gave a very interesting history of the event, starting with a group of a capella singers in Disneyland in 1955, continuing to the opening of the show in 1994 at Epcot. Bahruth also explained some of the changes made this year to the current show, including changing the backdrop, adding new "stained glass windows" on the sides of the stage, updating the choir robes, and changing the shape of the "tree" made of singers, and updating the narration to be more understandable for international guests.


Behind the Magic of Glow with the Show was the topic of the next presentation, from Erin Catalano, Disney Park Merchandise. Swearing us to secrecy, Catalano gave us a basic explanation of the technology behind the operation of the ears, which light up and blink in sync with the music and visuals of several shows in Disney parks around the world. The special ears were first developed to be used in conjunction with The World of Color show at Disney's California Adventure, and were then adapted for the fireworks show at Disneyland Paris. At Walt Disney World, the ears can currently be used with Fantasmic! and the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at the Hollywood Studios, and Celebrate the Magic and Wishes at the Magic Kingdom. Tip: Batteries can be replaced free of charge at any shop that sells the ears.

Finally, Graham Allan, Historian, presented Seasons Past, a presentation of remembrances from seasonal presentations of the past thirty years in the parks. He showed clips of various Christmas parades in Disneyland and Walt Disney World, and a particularly interesting clip of a special Christmas water pageant at Tokyo DisneySea.

After the presentations, it was time for The Scavenger Hunt! (Alternatively, guests could take time to view the Holidays Around the World offerings, ride the rides or just hang out in the Hospitality Suite in the American Adventure Pavilion.) I opted to do the scavenger hunt, and spent a crazy four hours trying to track down all of the 100 items. (YOU try to count all of the red baubles on the main Epcot Christmas tree, it is not as easy as it sounds.) Next year I need a team!

At 5:45, we gathered in front of the American Adventure Pavilion to be escorted to our reserved seats for the Candlelight Processional, which was being narrated by Whoopi Goldberg that evening. I was a bit disappointed as our seats were way at the back on the side, and did not offer a very good view of the stage. Guests with dinner packages were seated in front of us. I did enjoy the show, however, and made special note of the changes that were pointed out earlier in the day by Forrest Bahruth.

After the Processional, we proceeded to dinner in the American Adventure Rotunda. As we entered the Rotunda, servers were waiting with, wait for it, trays of wine and beer. After the exhaustion of the scavenger hunt, I was ready for that adult beverage (and there was an open bar at the back, if anything other than wine or beer was desired).


The dinner was served buffet-style and was really quite delicious.


After dinner, the winner of the scavenger hunt (with a score of 91!) and the runners up (73, and 74, I believe) were announced, and we were directed to the back of the room, where two special guests were waiting to meet all of us!


As we left the Rotunda, we picked up our goodie bags, which included special artwork prepared just for the event, and a yummy cookie among other fun items.



The group was then escorted to the Terrace des Fleurs near the France Pavilion for a Dessert Party and IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth viewing. The desserts were yummy, and the view of Illuminations was amazing!


So in the end, did I think that the Holiday Splendors event was worth the relatively steep purchase price of $205? Considering that the event allowed premium viewing opportunities for three of the major Disney World Holiday events (the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, the Candlelight Processional and the holiday version of IllumiNations), included two substantial meals (and alcoholic beverages!), the Glow with the Show ears, a bag full of goodies, in addition to the presentations, I actually do feel that it was a good value. I did wish that the event were run a bit more like a tour, however, as I felt that we were simply turned loose on the Osborne lights without any real welcome, and there were no introductory remarks for either the Candlelight Processional (also our reserved seats for this were pretty terrible) or IllumiNations, either. I understand that this was the second year for this event, and it would be great if they offered it again next year, as I REALLY would like to win that scavenger hunt!


Alice McNutt Miller is a lifelong Disney fan whose fondest childhood memories include "The Wonderful World of Disney" on Sunday nights and her first trip to Disneyland when she was 10 years old. Alice and her family are Disney Vacation Club members, and have visited every one of the Disney parks throughout the world. They live in Vienna, Virginia.

May 27, 2012

D23 Fanniversary: Boston

by Scott Lopes and Monica Cesar
Photos by Scott and Barbara Lopes

It was a long awaited day for Disney fans in Boston, MA, as Disney's D23 held its third Fanniversary event on May 20 at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts.

(I'll stop at this point to add a disclaimer: the rest of this article contains spoilers and if you already have tickets for an upcoming Fanniversary event -- or are hoping that they add more stops on the tour -- you might want to stop reading at this point.)

We headed to Boston by train, which we think Walt would have appreciated, and arrived in Boston around 12:30 p.m. The event was scheduled to start at 2 p.m. and we were let into the museum around 1:30.



We then proceeded to the contemporary art wing, where we joined hundreds of other fans in line waiting to get into the Remis Auditorium.


Since this was a Disney event, there were lots of little Disney details that you might expect. For example, as I walked into the museum I noticed a hidden Mickey formed by a trash can and two in-ground lights. Also, it sounded like they used the same announcer from the parks to do the pre-show countdown, making you have to think twice as to if you were in Boston or waiting to see the fireworks in the Magic Kingdom.

After arriving in line each person was handed a D23 button and D23 members received a 2012 Fanniversary pennant. After being checked off the list, we entered the auditorium. Once in the auditorium we selected our seats and I was able to take one last picture, as photography, video or audio recording were not permitted during the presentation.


The show began with the introduction of the hosts, Becky from the Walt Disney Archives department and Jeffrey from D23. Also on hand during the presentation were cast members from local Disney stores, such as North Attleboro, MA.

It was clear from the outset that Becky and Jeffrey were passionate about Disney, and they were clearly excited to be amongst numerous Disney fans. The Fanniversary presentation consisted of a 90-minute slideshow of major Disney anniversaries being celebrated this year. The kick-off began with the 85th anniversary of the debut of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, a prelude to none other than the most famous Disney character created, Mickey Mouse.

Speaking of famous Disney characters, it was also brought to the audience's attention that the lovable character of Goofy turns 83 years old this year. A special treat was provided when we got to see Bill Farmer, the voice of Goofy since 1985, on the screen welcoming us D23 fans.

Disney's first color animation, Flowers and Trees, debuted 80 years ago, thus paving the way for a future of great accomplishments in the world colored animated features. One such animated feature was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Snow White not only celebrates a 75th anniversary this year, it also accomplished a few firsts back in the day. It was the first animated film to have a soundtrack released and the first film to have merchandise associated with the film sold to the public. Fans of any generation have Walt Disney and his creation of Snow White to thank for their favorite movie dolls, cups clothes, etc.

Next on the list, the beloved Bambi made its debut 70 years ago. As Jeffrey and Becky presented in their slide, Bambi was a difficult movie to make. The artists had to work diligently to create an animated world of forest animals. These artists and others worked closely not only with Walt Disney himself, but also with the gifted group of Imagineers -- a team Walt created 60 years ago of individuals who were not only engineers, but were tasked to use their wild imagination in creating Disney products.

The last animated feature personally supervised by Walt was the Jungle Book, which debuted 45 years ago and is still a favorite among Disney fans everywhere.

Walt's Imagineers worked hard to make his vision of a futuristic environmentally conscious world in the creation of Epcot, which opened in Disney World on October 1, 1982. Walt's imagination was not contained after his untimely death: Disneyland Paris opened its doors 20 years ago and is to this day the most popular tourist destination in Europe. Many more Disney anniversaries were highlighted, proving to the fans present that the next generation of Disney fans will have much to celebrate.

It certainly would not have been a Disney fan event without hearing and seeing Walt Disney on screen in rare, never-before-seen footage of him working to create his magic.

After the event guests were able to chat with the presenters, Becky from the archives and Jeffrey from D23.


Becky and Jeffrey were very personable and were very informative both during the presentation and after. Overall we recommend this event to any Disney fan!


NOTE: Tickets for this event went on sale for D23 members on March 16; general admission opened on March 30. The remaining D23 Fanniversary events (Orlando on June 23, and Chicago on June 24) are sold out, however there is a waitlist for Orlando. Pricing for the event is $18 for D23 members and a guest and $25 for general admission. Fanniversary events have already been held in the following cities: Los Angeles, CA on April 27, San Francisco on April 28, Boston on May 20, and New York City on May 22.

May 16, 2011

D23's Destination D: Day 2


Saturday (Day 1) was fabulous at Destination D but Sunday was going to be THE day. The day's scheduled was packed with Disney Legends and the event that was in the evening was... well, you'll see. :)

The morning began with the Walt Disney Ambassador Team saying hello.

Ambassador Team

They helped Steven Clark host a trivia tournament. The prize of the tournament was a place in The Ultimate Disney Trivia Tournament at the D23 Expo in Anaheim in August.

Steven Clark


The first panel of the day, Walt Disney World in Detail was hosted by Imagineers Jason Surrell, Alex Wright and Jason Grandt. They spoke of the details (or D-Tails) that can be found in the parks and how they painstakingly make sure that you are immersed in an experience at all times. They were so funny and it was a great way to kick off the day.

Disney Details

They showed Madam Letoa's spell book. They based it on the Book of the Dead. The spell in the middle of the page is from "Blackbeard's Ghost" and it was used to raise Blackbeard. Jason Surrell actually called Dave Smith and asked if he had a copy of the script so that the spelling would be correct on the page.

Madam Leota's spell book

Jason Grandt was spoke about the details in the new Mickey Mouse meet-and-greet (for pictures of the new meet-and-greet, click here). There is a picture of Mickey and Oswald drawn by a child in the meet-and-greet area. It was drawn by Jason when he was six years old. When he told his mom about it, she wondered where it had gone.

Mickey and Oswald

"Imagineering Walt Disney World: From Yesteryear to Tomorrow" was hosted by Eric Jacobson, a Disney Imagineer. The panelists began the presentation speaking about Star Tours. I was very excited! They shared some concept art for the ride.


They also spoke about the Art of Animation Resort. It will have standard rooms as well as suites that sleep 6 instead of 5.

Art of Animation

Then they moved to the Fantasyland expansion. They showed an aerial photo of the site.


He was interrupted by a bird singing and he told the control guys just to keep going with his presentation. He said that Fantasyland as it is now doesn't have a lot of trees in the area because it is directly over the utilidoor system. The expansion will largely be off the utilidoors so they can add trees and landscaping.

At the end of the presentation, Jose interrupted. Eric said that even though it wasn't Fantasyland, he had an announcement to make. The Enchanted Tiki Room (Under New Management) was being transformed into a version similar to the original Tropical Serenade. The new version will be called the Enchanted Tiki Room. The audience loved this news!

Tiki Room

The first presentation of the afternoon was hosted by Marty Sklar and was called "Creating a Whole New 'Disney World'." The panel featured 1971 Disney World Ambassador Debby Dane Browne, Disney Legend Orlando Ferrante, Disney Legal Counsel Bob Foster, Disney Legend Bob Gurr and Disney Legend Ron Logan.

Whole New Disney World



Bob Foster is the man who helped Walt Disney buy up the land in central Florida for Disney World. He was fascinating. He talked about going back and forth and the speculation as to who/what company was buying up all this land. They all said that they felt that Walt would be proud of what Disney World has become.

The next panel was full of Disney Legends, too. It was called "Making the Magic Happen" and was hosted by Tim O'Day. This panel featured Disney Legends Jack Lindquist, Bob Matheison, Charlie Ridgway and Bill Sullivan. They spoke of how they purposely almost underplayed Disney World's opening so they didn't have some of the problems they had on opening day at Disneyland. One newspaper speculated they would have 200,000 people on opening day - the number was closer to 10,000. The first traffic jam didn't happen until after Thanksgiving that year. They also spoke of having to walk people into the Magic Kingdom when the original trams couldn't make it up the hill that's near the Contemporary.

Making the Magic Happen

Making the Magic Happen

For Donald Duck's 50th birthday, they wanted to have 50 ducks with him on Main Street. They talked to their wildlife experts and they told the team that Donald would have to bond with the ducks from hatching. So, Donald went over and spent time with the ducks and this picture was taken with Donald and the ducks on his 50th birthday.


At the end of the panel, the guests of Marty Sklar's panel came out to join everyone on stage and posed for photos.

Disney Legends

After dinner, there was a concert called "Magic Journeys." That is such an appropriate title for everything they had in store for that event.

Magic Journeys

This gentleman was the original performer on the Empress Lilly. He was very funny and talented.

Empress Lilly

The Kids of the Kingdom were on hand to sing for us.

Kids of the Kingdom

The original Magic Kingdom Philarmonic band performed next. I can't even begin to describe to you how amazing this was. They started at the back of the ballroom and marched to the front. The crowd LOVED this.

Magic Kingdom Philarmonic

Magic Kingdom Philarmonic

Tim O'Day was the host for the portion of the evening with Disney Legend Richard M. Sherman. This promised to be an unforgettable experience... and it is truly unforgettable. I will be telling my kids and grandkids (and anyone else who might listen) about this evening for YEARS to come. It was a very emotional evening. I really can't put it into words but it was one of the most incredible events I've ever been a part of.

Tim O'Day

Richard M. Sherman

Richard M. Sherman

"Tuppence" was one of Walt Disney's favorite songs that the Sherman Brothers wrote. At the dedication of the Partners statue at Disneyland on Walt's 100th birthday, Richard Sherman performed this song. In the middle of the song, a single black bird flew over and sat on the piano. The bird flew off when he finished the last note of the song. He, and a lot of the other Legends, have felt that this was Walt coming by to say hello and thanks.

Richard Sherman

The Enchanted Tiki Room's song was brought up. Richard said that he and his brother, Robert, were asked to go see this tiki room that Walt had created. They asked Walt, "What is this?!" Walt told them he wanted them to write him a song that explained what it all was... and they did. A similar thing happened with "it's a small world."

Tiki Room

The Dreamfinder came out to say hello. The audience went wild! He requested that Richard Sherman sing "One Spark" and helped lead the audience in a sing-along.



Next, "Golden Dreams" was sung. The two who sang it started out in the the Kids of the Kingdom. They both, along with the pianist, have had wonderful careers.

Golden Dreams

Next, the Cast choir (Encore!) and Cast band performed. They were wonderful.


At the end, everyone came back out on stage.


This was such an unforgettable, amazing and every other 'amazing' adjective you can think of weekend. I just really can't put into words how much I enjoyed the whole Destination D event and what it means to me to be able to have heard these wonderful, talented people speak.

I'd like to say a HUGE thank you to the D23 team for hosting this event. Many, many thanks to the Cast Members at the Contemporary who took such great care of us all weekend.

D23's Destination D: Day 1


The Walt Disney World Destination D event began at the Contemporary Resort on Saturday, May 14 in the Fantasia ballroom(s) in the convention center portion of the resort. When the event was announced, I knew I HAD to go. I've been thinking about it over the last few days and realized I knew more about Disneyland's history than I did Disney World's history so I was excited to hear about it from those who helped create it.

The archives brought an exhibit of items relating to the Magic Kingdom's opening and the Disney World parks.


Magic Kingdom archives


We were taken into the ballroom on time and the logo they used for the event was great.

Destination D

The Head of D23, Steven Clark, was on hand to help kick things off.

Steven Clark

Debby Dane Browne, the first Disney World Ambassador, was also on hand to welcome everyone to the event. She also shared some of her memories from working at the preview center and of her work with Disney.

Debby Dane Browne

Becky Cline, Walt Disney Archives Director, and Paul F. Anderson, a Disney historian and who works for The Walt Disney Family Museum, hosted a panel called "Weird Disney: Walt Disney World & Beyond." What a hoot! As they said, Disneyland provided more material but there has certainly been some wacky stuff, both merchandise and advertisements alike, over the years!

Weird Disney

Becky Cline and Paul F. Anderson

The next panel was hosted by Disney Legend and the founder of the Walt Disney Archives, Dave Smith. He showed us a lot of construction photos of Magic Kingdom that I had never seen. He was a real treat to listen to.

Dave Smith

Dave Smith

After the afternoon break, Steven Vagnini, a Disney Archivist, and Paul F. Anderson, a Disney historian, hosted "Epcot: Walt Disney's Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow." They talked a lot about Walt Disney's original concept for Epcot- that people would live, work and play there and it be a self-sustaining community. I had never realized the depth of Walt's interest in urban planning. His original vision didn't happen for a number of reasons and they showed us how certain parts of the Epcot vision became reality in other ways in the parks. The transportation system that we enjoy is part of that. The resorts are part of that. Some of the cutting edge attractions are part of it, etc.


Steve and Paul

Next was "Past Forward: Walt Disney World on Television." This was hosted by Rob Klein, a Disney Archivist, and Tim O'Day, a Disney author and historian. Oh my gosh... some of the promo materials for Disney World are a scream to look at now.

Rob and Tim

After that panel, Imagineer Tony Baxter and Steve Vagnini presented "The Walt Disney World Resort That Never Was." No photography was allowed at this session. It was absolutely fascinating to see what they had originally planned for Disney World and how, if ever, it came to life. For example, they had planned a very elaborate area called Thunder Mesa that would host Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and a ride similar to Pirates of the Caribbean- only, with cowboys. When they opened Disney World, they found that people wanted Pirates of the Caribbean, not cowboys, so the idea was ultimately scrapped but some of the ideas for the Big Thunder Mountain area are there today.

After the dinner break, there was another presentation. I will 'fess up to the fact that we were just flat out too tired to go. We went back to the resort and went to sleep because Sunday was a big day....

February 14, 2011

Cars 2 D23/Toy Fair Event

by Jack Tarulli
Guest Blogger

It was a beautiful, crisp, sunny day, the kind of day where you felt we just might have made it through a tough winter here in the Northeast. Today (as well as being Valentine's Day) was day two of the American International Toy Fair at the Javits Convention Center, and it was a special D23 / Media presentation of the new line of Cars 2 toys at Chelsea Piers. My buddy Erik and I arrived early (come on, we are Disney Park Fans) which gave us a chance to walk around the lobby of the convention center and look who we found"


A life-sized Lego Lightning McQueen made up of 325,000 Legos. It was amazing to look at in person, and told me the day was going to be great. We were directed to an outside area where Disney personnel would direct us to a special shuttle bus that would take us downtown about 10 blocks to Chelsea Piers.

We found ourselves pulling into Chelsea Piers about an hour early for the 10:30 start time. This was great giving us a lot of time to walk around and take pictures with minimal crowds around. At check-in we were given our credentials and we also ran into our old friends from the D23 event yesterday, Becky and Laura.




We were then directed into a theater for the presentations, but before that we had a chance to take pictures of the hallways that were lined with Cars 2 material. The theater seemed to hold about 500 people (About 200 D23 folks had seats reserved for them in the center. Off on both sides were seats for Media and Toy Fair attendees). By the time the event started, there was hardly a seat available.


While waiting for the event to start we were able to get an early sneak peek in the merchandising room next door. This was a fantastic opportunity to walk around and take lots of pictures of the hundreds of toys coming out in conjunction with Cars 2, but little did we know what and who we would also run into. Take a look at just some of what we saw of the new Cars 2 product line coming to a Toy Store near you soon.




It was at this point we came upon a life-sized covered car. We were told that this was none other than the famous British super spy, Finn McMissile, star of the new Cars 2 movie.


It was at that moment while looking at the covered car I heard an unmistakable British voice say, "Why I think that's me under those covers." It was none other then the voice of Finn McMissile, Michael Caine. He was amazingly charming and funny and a delight to speak with. While there he was directed to officially unveil the car. He spoke about how great it was to work for Pixar and John Lasseter, and how deep down he did this movie for his grandchildren (otherwise they would have to wait till they were 18 to see any of his other work).




Observing all of the new toys was another star of the movie, Emily Mortimer, voice of his spy-in-training, Holley Shiftwell. It was great hearing her discuss what it was like to be made into a toy, and how much her son loves Legos.



At this point the presentation was about to begin. It was hosted by Vince Klaseus, Senior Vice President of Global Toys, Disney Consumer Products, and it was set up like a 'Talk Show' theme. Vince spoke about the growth and strength of the Cars 2 product line, as did Mary Renner Beech, also from Disney. At one point Mary did mention the products are so strong they are even building a land devoted strictly to them, but this was the only mention of Cars Land at Disneyland. In addition, they also announced that a new Cars 2 character called 'Miles Axlerod' will be voiced by Eddie Izzard.


At this point Vince introduced a taped piece specifically for this presentation from John Lasseter. It was great to see such enthusiasm and excitement from someone, and it made for very enjoyable viewing. John also revealed that John Turturro will be the voice of the new character (and Lightning McQueen rival), Francesco Bernoulli. After John's taped piece they brought out both Emily Mortimer and Michael Caine to talk about the experiences they both had making the movie and it was very entertaining to the crowd.




Once the presentation ended, everyone was welcome to browse around the merchandising room, and grab some hor d'oeurves for lunch, plus as a gift for attending get a limited edition (of 500) Lightning McQueen Mattel car only produced for this Toy Fair. This was a great opportunity to get one last look at the Cars 2 toys that we know we will be buying, to chat with friends one last time, and to meet new ones before leaving. Having worn our AllEars.Net shirts, it was quite enjoyable walking around receiving so many positive comments from readers. Made us feel great to be even a small, small part of such a wonderful team.

(Pic 28, Pic 29, Pic 30)




February 13, 2011

D23 Member Mixer in New York City

by Jack Tarulli
Guest Blogger

Even as a lifelong New Yorker, I still get a special excitement standing in the middle of 'The Crossroads of the World". The new Disney Store could not have a better location to tap into this excitement, right smack dag in the heart of Times Square.

D23 Member Mixer in New York City

D23 Member Mixer in New York City

Rarely will you get pictures with so few pedestrians in them, unless it's early on a cold Sunday morning in February. At the top of One Times Square you can see the New Years Eve Crystal Ball that heralds in every year.

D23 Member Mixer in New York City

My friends and I were here for the D23 event - The D23 Member Mixer at the Times Square Disney Store. It was the very first member mixer in New York City and billed as "a terrific opportunity for D23 members to socialize with other members and friends", and a chance to check out the new store. Thankfully the doors opened about 10 minutes early. Although warmer then it has been this winter, it still was below freezing and quite chilly. By the time the doors opened at about 9:50am, the line wrapped around the block.

D23 Member Mixer in New York City

D23 Member Mixer in New York City

D23 Member Mixer in New York City

When entering the store you were greeted by a Disney cast member who checked your name off the attendance list. You were then lead to a cast member who wrote up a name tag for you and your guests. While there you got a brief glimpse of the first floor of the store.

D23 Member Mixer in New York City

D23 Member Mixer in New York City

D23 Member Mixer in New York City

D23 Member Mixer in New York City

We were told to proceed upstairs to the second level, were we could mingle and wait for a Trivia contest by the Theatre. Nearby was the two story Princess Castle.

D23 Member Mixer in New York City

D23 Member Mixer in New York City

D23 Member Mixer in New York City

The trivia contest was quite enjoyable, considering an audience of D23 members who pride themselves on knowing all things Disney, all the time. Even the moderator, Brittney made mention of this fact stating she expected basically perfect scores from everyone. Here are a few of the questions:

D23 Member Mixer in New York City

D23 Member Mixer in New York City

D23 Member Mixer in New York City

This contest was strictly on the honor system, with no prizes awarded. Following Brittney came two D23 cast members, Laura Sanchez and Becky Cline (Disney Archivist). They introduced themselves and welcomed all the D23 members in attendance promising that they are going to try and have more D23 events outside of the normal Orlando - Anaheim locations, to which they received quite the rousing applause. Laura and Becky went on to hold their own trivia contest with harder questions knowing the type of audience they were speaking in front of. Their contest also came with giveaways.

D23 Member Mixer in New York City

D23 Member Mixer in New York City

It was a pleasure to grab a brief moment to speak with both Laura and Becky. I expressed how great it was to have New York D23 events, and Laura told me she's working on events as we speak for 2011 and beyond, not only for NYC but for many of the more populated D23 areas of the country. Becky and I spoke about the upcoming D23-WDW 40th event and how exciting it's going to be. As a small gift of appreciation from D23, each participant today was given a collectible set of post cards, a key chain and a Disney Store magnet.

D23 Member Mixer in New York City

D23 Member Mixer in New York City

D23 Member Mixer in New York City

After the contest was an opportunity for members to mingle with one another while exploring the store. As you all know, it's quite nice to meet folks with a similar love of all things Disney, even in the heart of Manhattan, miles and miles away from Walt Disney World.

D23 Member Mixer in New York City

D23 Member Mixer in New York City

D23 Member Mixer in New York City

D23 Member Mixer in New York City

A special shout out to my buddy Erik Tyler who helped me take the pics!

July 20, 2010

D23 Hawai'i Homecoming Reception - DVC Au’lani Resort

Aloha, Friends!


In 1991, Walt Disney World announced a new concept in how to spend your Disney vacations with Disney Vacation Club, a vacation ownership that takes takes the classic time-share basis and gives it a Disney twist. Early plans called for numerous locations outside of the Disney theme parks, including Newport Beach, New York City, Hilton Head Island, and Vero Beach.

Whereas only two of those resorts made it off the drawing board, Disney Vacation Club teamed up with D23 on July 18 to give the Official Disney Fan Community a first look at its newest location: Au'lani (pronounced OW-lani) in Ko Olina, Oahu, Hawaii. The word "lani" means "heavenly" in Hawaiian lingo however the name "Aulani" means "King's messenger".

After being treated to a screening of the 1937 Mickey Mouse cartoon, Hawaiian Holiday, D23 staff member, Jeffrey Epstein, quickly assured members that no hard sell techniques would be part of this evening. Disney Vacation Club staff would be on hand to answer any questions guests had on the Au'lani resort but this was not going to be your average time share info session.

After a short film featuring Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde (Captain EO, Adventurers Club, Disney's Animal Kingdom), D23 members were treated to an evening of finger foods, dancing, and some old friends. Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto came to the party, all decked in their fashions of the island.

A scale model and loads of concept art sprinkled the hallways of the second floor level of the Convention Center at Disney's Contemporary Resort.






One side of the ballroom had a stage all decked out with palm trees and surfboards, while the other side had an open dance floor, DJ booth, two small buffet tables, and some drink stations.

The stage set up will host several DVC "tours" of the new Au'lani resort in order to lure new and existing DVC members to purchase into this resort throughout these next few weeks. Disney Annual Pass holders can sign up for their exclusive event Sunday, July 25, at 9am.

Any regular Disney guest holds Disney to provide excellent storytelling through totally immersive environments and this new resort in Hawaii will prove to be no exception. One thing that Joe Rohde stated in the video that as storytellers, Disney looked at the land, people, and culture of their surroundings in order to give resort guests a truly authentic island experience.


The resort will be composed of Disney Vacation Club villas, as well as standard and deluxe resort rooms, similar to the ones found in most Disney resorts. In addition, great beaches and surf as well as food offerings will be involved but the video also teased of some surprises that yet to be announced. Speculation includes a water park and perhaps a theme park-style show, a la, Country Bear Jamboree but nothing has been announced yet and those might just end up falling under the category of wishful thinking of a die hard fan.


D23 also treated its members to a photo history of the Walt Disney Company's use of the Hawaiian Islands as its inspiration through various projects. From Walt Disney's various family vacations to Hawaii to Annette Funicello's Pineapple Princess to the television phenomenon Lost numerous animated and live-action productions use the Aloha state as a backdrop to tell its story.



In 2002, Walt Disney Feature Animation released Lilo and Stitch, a film predominantly produced in the Florida facility, and depicts what happens when a mischievous space alien crash lands into a dysfunctional, Elvis Presley-loving family living in Hawaii. The lovable blue alien remained absent throughout the night, something tells me he will be hanging loose and hanging ten when the resort opens next year.

The resort is scheduled to open in August 2011 and room rates and point values have already been assigned and posted by Disney. On hand DVC staff told inquiring guests that the point system is a little different here than it is at the other DVC resorts.

Here, members will actually purchase points in quantities that will equal a one week's stay, from a Sunday check-in to a Sunday check-out. So guests will purchase that week, which will comprise of the number of points required. Like the other resorts, the amount of points required for each type of accommodation and time of year vary.

So, for instance, if a member wants to be able to say Mele Kalikimaka in December and stay in an ocean view, one-bedroom villa during Christmas, that member would be locked in for that week for the next fifty years. This resort, however, does have the same flexibility that Disney Vacation Club offers and the member can actually forgo that week and use his allotted points elsewhere within Disney Vacation Club or its Members Getaways program.

For the past few years, Disney CEO Bob Iger has been very open in his enthusiasm for more regional-based Disney experiences outside the theme parks. This resort can serve as a great litmus test on how well the Disney name plays in an area outside of the parks that has already proven to be a hit with travelers and their families.

Also, now that Mickey and Co. will have a presence this will finally give Disney fans an excuse to head across the Pacific for a more low-key, calming vacation that they might have been willing to take. And for the casual Disney visitor, Hawaii holds the standard as a premium once-in-a-lifetime vacation and with the name recognition and reputation of Disney, it could be their only choice to book.

However, as the Disney Vacation Club Ownerships have always sold at a quick rate in all its Walt Disney World-based resorts, and the two outside the parks on the East Coast has sold out, it's smallest resort, located at Disney's Grand Californian Resort and Spa in California, has not sold out. This definitely will be a resort that many Disney fans and DVC owners will want to check out but it will be interesting to see how many will want to buy into a fifty year commitment to a location that still remains very challenging to travel to due to scarcity in airline tickets and a high price tag with fares.

If you are in the Walt Disney World area in these upcoming weeks definitely schedule a time to speak with DVC representatives to have the opportunity to check out the plans for Disney's newest venture.

Signage has popped up throughout the resort as well, namely at Disney's Polynesian Resort. This keeps the buzz rolling and gives the DVC staff more reasons to be excited. In addition, this comes after an already thrilling year of Vacation Club growth with the additions of Kidani Village at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort and Bay Lake Towers at Disney's Contemporary Resort.


July 10, 2010

A Special D23 Event with Dave Smith, Disney Archivist

Guest Blogger Jeremy Marx attended a special D23 event with Disney Archivist Dave Smith and shares this report:

On June 25th, 2010, Disney and D23 held an event on the Disney Studio Lot to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Disney Archives. While there were many exceptional moments throughout the evening, the one most of us who were there will remember was the Question and Answer session between Leonard Maltin and Dave Smith. Covering topics from Dave's childhood through how the Archives came to be, and on to the work that has continued.

Here is the transcript of this incredible conversation. Enjoy!

A conversation with Dave Smith- Hosted by Leonard Maltin

A Conversation with Dave Smith

LM: It's great to see such a wonderful turnout for a momentous occasion like this. I date myself by simply telling people that I started working on my first Walt Disney project, the Disney filmography, before Dave worked here. So, you know, you can now mark that off and make it easy to chart on a map of years. But I don't think it's possible to be so glib, or succinct. I'm talking about the impact Dave's had on this company internally. On the Disney community, including all the fans, and the buffs, and students and scholars, and writers. And there's been a wonderful open door feeling you could at least, at least it's been my experience, the archive was there to serve people who needed assistance of any kind.

Obviously they couldn't answer every kids crayon scrawled request, but I think anybody who had a legitimate reason for needing material, information, questions answered, they found a receptive response. And this is not only the first studio to do this, but it always seemed to me that this is the perfect studio to do this. Because, unlike many other studios in town, it never changed hands. Think about it, it never changed ownership. Never changed location all these years. I still, when I drive by what is Sony Pictures lot in Clover City, it still says MGM in my brain, because it was MGM for 70 years or so. But that never happened here.

You know it was Walt Disney who built this studio we all are in today. So there's continuity. That was important too. And finally, they did tend to save certain degree a certain amount of stuff. We'll get into that in conversation with Dave, and find out how much was still here, and how much he had to accumulate and assemble. But, the Disney folks had a habit of, they knew early on, earlier then most studios there was value in their own past. And that's something a lot of other studios were very slow to catch on to, and some still haven't. Shame on them. I think that's a more than likely attitude throughout the movie industry these days. Largely because of DVDs, cable television. They finally wised up, that that stuff, those films, and some of the things, attendance for those films they were ignoring, has value. Not just archival value. Not just historical value, but even in some cases monetary value. So it's just smart, good business to take care of your belongings. To take care of your past.

Dave walked into a very receptive atmosphere here, and that was great. I think my most favorite thing Dave has ever done, is if you haven't read his article, I don't know how easy it is to find, maybe it is easy to find online, is Dave's article about Walt's signature. How many people have read that article? Is that online Dave? No. It will be soon, good. Good answer. Good answer. It wasn't written for a Disney publication, it was written for a publication about autograph collecting, right? And it is one of the most famous and most recognizable signatures in the world, right? But there's a lot that goes with that, and Dave did a magnificent job of tracking the history, the lore, the facts, the fiction about Walt's famous signature. And I love that piece. I just love it.

I think the most important thing I want to say before we turn this over, I'm going to interview Dave with a lot of questions that I'm sure have been in your minds. Most important thing to think about today is, how lucky Dave was to find and create this job. And how lucky the Disney company was to find him, and give him this job. I think it was a two-way street of equal value in both directions.

So please welcome back Dave Smith.

A Conversation with Dave Smith

LM: I want to start with some basics, ok. Tell us a little about your background, where we born? Where did you grow up?

o DS: That's going way back isn't it? I was born in Pasadena, so I am a local person here in Southern California. I went through schools in Pasadena through junior college. I then went to Berkeley to get my BA, which was in history. And I got a Masters in Library science there also. I was expecting to work in a junior college library, but then I was offered an internship at the Library of Congress in Washington. And I figured I couldn't turn that down, I mean that's the best library in the world practically. So I went back there for a year and a half, then I came back to California. This was my home, my family and friends were all here, and I didn't like the weather in the East. So I came home.

LM: How did you get involved with working with Disney the first time?

o DS: I wanted to honor this man, and I started working on his bibliography. And this may of been the first time I wrote you, when I was working on the bibliography. I remember sending him a list of corrections to his filmography.

LM: And he hasn't stopped since.

o DS:It was that bibliography that really gave me an in to the Studio, because I got to meet people in the publications department here at the Studio. And, coming out here to visit them and learning a little bit of the lore of the Studio really got me interested in this place. So, when the possibility of a job came along I thought this could be a great career if I could arrange this for myself.

A Conversation with Dave Smith

LM: Who was it that had this idea? What was the job description sound like? What did they post?

o DS: There was no job description. There was no posting. It was actually... The representatives of Disney, which included Jim Stewart who is here today, came over to UCLA, because UCLA had suggested the Walt Disney's papers be deposited there in the library. And, at this meeting they realized that UCLA couldn't possibly handle a collection like this. And it was suggested that Disney setup an archive. And I was sitting in the back of the room, and I thought, "Hey this sounds really great". So, I went back home that night, and I wrote to Jim Stewart and Bill Cottrell, who were two of the representatives from Disney, and said that I can take a leave of absence and do some research for you guys and give you some ideas as what you can do to preserve the history. And they didn't have anybody in their staff that knew anything about archives. So they said, "Ok"�.

LM: And that was a great moment. How did you see your task? How did you envision, or plan how you were even going to begin this mountain of material?

o DS: Well, I was trained as a librarian. I knew very little about archives myself, other then having worked at the Library of Congress. I worked in the various division there. I worked with rare books, I worked with prints and photographs, I worked with manuscripts, and so forth. So, I did my reading of how archives operated. But, I also went a visited other archives, to see how they did it. And decided early on that you just had to start collecting information from throughout the company. And we didn't always collect the right things in the beginning. There are things people started asking us for, and we didn't have them. And immediately we started collection those. On the other hand, we started collection some things from the beginning that are still sitting on our warehouse that nobody has ever asked to see them. So... The thing is, every archive is different. So, it's hard to have any rules as to what you need to collect. I mean there's basics. You need to have a complete set of the company's annual reports. You need a complete set of press releases that are put out from any publicity department. Various things like that. But, other things we just didn't realize from the beginning we would need. One of the major ones being a file on each attraction at each of our parks. Because people would be coming to us, they wanted to know how much water is in the moat around the castle, or how many horses are on the carousel, or whatever. And we knew we had a lot of this information, but it just wasn't at our fingertips. And by setting up a file on every attraction. We use this daily now, when people are asking questions relating to particular attractions. Of course at the beginning it was just Disneyland, and now we have drawers for all eleven of our parks.

A Conversation with Dave Smith

LM: When did you first meet Roy O. Disney? And tell us about your relationship with him.

o DS: First time. That's hard to remember. I don't think I meet him when I doing my initial survey. Could have. See, I didn't know you were going to ask me that question, I'm not sure. As soon as I started here I did get to meet with Roy, and work with him quite closely. He died in 1971, so I had a little over a year to work with him. One thing I will always remember, is that he came to me and asked me if I would do some work on the Disney family history. Well, I had done some work on my own genealogy, and so I had fun doing that, and so I thought it would be a very fun thing to do. He actually, out of his own pocket, paid me to take a trip around the country and on up into Canada where the Disney family had originated, and actually find all this information. And there was a huge family involved. His parents had like ten or, nine or ten brothers and sisters on each side. So, lots of Aunts and Uncles. He had sixty-five first cousins. I have nine. I think that's a bit more normal. But, that was really wonderful. And I took pictures while I was traveling around the country and one of those pictures actually shows some Disney relatives, a cousin and an uncle of Elias Disney, back in Ellis Kansas where the family first settled when they came from Canada. The bottom picture is the grave of Walt's Maternal grandparents in Florida. It's about fifty miles north of the Walt Disney World property. So, a lot of people don't realize there was a Disney connection to central Florida long before there was Walt Disney World.

LM:Elias's uncle? He must have been quite old.

o DS: He was in his eighties. He must have been quite young when he became the uncle!

LM:Well put. That's a good point. The that kind of assignment, that's not only unusual, it came from the head man, since his brother's death.

o DS: And the thing I found true about Roy Disney was that he was a very modest man. He was a very friendly man. He was the grandfather figure. I mean, you would have felt very comfortable having him in your home for Thanksgiving dinner. And I very much loved working with him. When I came back from the trip I had taken my camera along with slides, slides in those days before digital, and I took my slide show up to his conference room and showed it to him. And he was just in his element sitting there reminiscing about the family history, and about things that he had done related to the people that I was telling him about in the slides. So, that was really thrilling for me. I was so sad when he passed away in the Fall... December 1971.

LM: Tell us about other people you met. When you started here quite a large number of the people who created all of the Disney history were still alive. And a fair number of them were still working.

o DS: Exactly. I was very glad to have a chance to meet all these people. All nine of the nine old men of animation were still here at the studios. And they were all full of stories. I really enjoyed talking to some of them had thousands and thousands of great stories. Others a little quieter. They maybe would come up with the same stories when you talk to them. But, I got a lot of the history of Disney out of them. But, the other person who was still here was Ub Iwerks. The man that helped Walt Disney design Mickey Mouse. And he was in a little tiny office over in the ink and paint building. I've loved talking to him. He had a hard time remembering going back to the 20s. what do you expect, this was the 70s, couldn't remember back 50 years. Just having a connection with someone that had that early connection with Walt.

LM: Amazing. And transcripts of these conversations went in to your files.

o DS: That's right. Exactly.

LM: I don't want to start you with stories of the nine old men, because I'm sure there's so many we could go on with those and fill in the evening very easily with those. But, you did something that would make you, I'm sure, the envy of everyone sitting here in this room. You got to ride both Ward Kimball's and Ollie Johnson's trains in their backyards, right?

o DS: Yes. Ward of course had his train running up and down the driveway of his home out in San Gabriel. And I went out there several times when he steamed up his locomotive. He had most fascinating collection of miniature trains, toy trains also that he just loved to show off. Ward was also very generous in giving us some early Disney toys. Noe, in the early 30s, there were no collectors of Disneyana, except Ward Kimball. And Ward had actually saved a number of the licensed toys that had been made of the Disney characters.

LM: He was a lifelong pack rat.

o DS: Yes he was. He was, and so he was such a wonderful person to interview because you mention a topic and he could go on for half an hour on that topic, and then he would suggest a topic that you never even thought to ask him about, and he could go on for a half an hour on that, and that would be just as fascinating as the other one.

LM: He also did something for the archive that was very unusual.

o DS: Yes. He was one of several artists that I went to and asked them, could you help me diagram what the earliest studios looks like. And which building was which, so Ward did a great one for me of the Hyperion Studio, and there it is. I mean we have all seen the photographs, but we weren't sure which building was which, which came first, and so forth. So this sketch helped me to figure that out. But, even more interesting I was able to find several people who were still alive that had worked at the old Kingswell Studio before Hyperion. So, that would have been 1923, 24, 1925. We have a description of where people have their desks. This was great to be able to get this while we could. Now there's nobody left that worked at Kingswell and there aren't that many people around that worked at Hyperion.

A Conversation with Dave Smith

LM:If you were trying to start this project from scratch today you would have a very hard time.

o DS: Yes, definitely.

LM: You also at one point, I know, traced not the publicity version, or the apocryphal version, but the real facts of the original incorporation of the company, did you not?

o DS: Yes. The company when I came here, they knew they got started in 1923, but nobody had come up with the date. But, after doing a bit of research I realized that the company essentially started when Walt got his first contract to make movies. And that was the contract he signed with Margaret Linkler for the Alice Comedies. And, I went up to our legal department and went through their files and sure enough, there was the contract that Walt signed, so October 16, 1923. So there we had a date for the beginning of the company, and ever since that time we use that date.

LM: You set it in stone.

o DS: I set it. I also did Mickey Mouse's birthday. I didn't know if you going to ask me that, I'll tell you about it. I noticed when I started the archives that there were many different dates that had been used for Mickey Mouse's birthday. It turned out these were all handy Saturdays in the fall when they could get a lot of kids in the movie theaters to celebrate Mickey Mouse's birthday. But always in the publicity they talked about Mickey being born when Steamboat Willie opened at the Colony Theatre in New York City. Did anyone bother to look up what date that happened? No. And so I started doing some research, and as you can see on the screen now we actually found the program for the Colony Theatre for that day. And there's Steamboat Willie on the program. And the continuous performances started at noon, so we even know what time Mickey was born. Because he was the first thing on the program.

LM: Eastern standard Time

o DS: And from then on we have promoted that date as being Mickey's birthday, and it's really gratifying to me to open up a magazine, a book, a newspaper and they say, "and Mickey's birthday is November 18", and I think, that's because of me.

A Conversation with Dave Smith

LM: Let's talk about something I alluded to before. What you've found here when you started working here. Talk to us about both sides of that coin. What did you find that was here easily accessible, if not all in one place. And what did you find not here that you felt you needed to acquire?

o DS: Okay. The here question first. A lot of departments in the company had saved file sets of their own materials. So it meant me going to these departments, whether it was the publications department, where they had all the books and comics. The music department, where they had sheet music and phonograph records. Publicity department where they had posters and other publicity materials for the films. So I found out where these things were, and then our job was to go to these departments, and to convince them that they needed to turn the files over to the archives. And that wasn't always easy. Some of these departments were very protective of their files, because they did need to get into them from time to time and they were a little hesitant of having them outside of their control. But, with in a short time we were able to convince them we would be able to take care of their file sets probably better than they were and then they turned them over to us.

LM:Of course they have access to their material.

o DS: Ready access to the materials at any time they wished. So we were lucky there. Other departments were delighted to give us their file sets because they wanted that storage room to put something else in there. Now, the things we did not find in the company. The company had not saved samples of thier early merchandise. They never really considered them as Disney products, because they were not made by Disney. We simply license the use of our characters to manufacturers of toys and games and clothing and so forth, and they went ahead and make the merchandise. But the company had not saved samples of these. And I thought this was something that would be very valuable for the company to have a collection of the merchandise. So, thank goodness before there was a lot of Disney collectors I went out there and started trying to search out some of his early material. And I was lucky in finding a tremendous amount of things for very low prices for your collectors. And we'll develop a nice representative sampling of the different types of things. You can see two examples on the screen right now. Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. I found his stencil set at an antique toy show up at the Pan Pacific Auditorium. And this was one of only three merchandise items that have been made by licensees during the period that Disney was making Oswald. The others are a pin backed button, and a candy bar. And I don't think we'll ever find the candy bar.

LM: And what's the Donald toy?

o DS: And the Donald toy is a wind up celluloid toy that I found at the Rose Bowl swap meet. I paid $18 for it. And it's mint in its box as you can see, and is probably worth $2500 or so today.

A Conversation with Dave Smith

LM: Did you have specific goals, other than looking for rare materials, that plain, but did you want to have the example of every Mickey Mouse licensed piece, or were you looking for variety? What were some of your criteria?

o DS: We are looking for variety. We wanted a sampling of the different types of materials that have been licensed. There were a few things that were like a set, and we thought this would be nice to have the whole set, and we did work on that. But in many cases it was, well" Number one, just trying to find items that were available that we could purchase and, number two, things that were not too expensive that we could afford. And then third, things we thought we could use for displays and other purposes in the archives. We now have a very nice collection which would be nigh unto impossible to put together today.

LM:And you did all of this before eBay?

o DS: Yes we did. EBay has made it more difficult really because it's raised the prices on collectibles.

A Conversation with Dave Smith

LM: Now, one thing. I know you've been asked this many times before, but it's a question we can't ignore. Are you yourself a collector?

o DS: Not of Disneyana. I always felt that that would be a conflict of interest if I were collecting the same material that I was collecting here. But, I have always been a collector. And I started as a stamp collector when I was about eight years old I guess. But the thing that really interest me because I was a history major was collecting historical autographs and documents. And that is my major collection, which I still collect today. I've got all the presidents, I've got the vice president's, I've got most of the generals on both sides of the Civil War, I've got all of the signers of the Constitution, and all except one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

LM:Who are you missing?

o DS: Button Gwinnett. He's very expensive.

LM:As you started accumulating more and more material, was there ever an issue where it was going to go? How was it be stored? How was it be displayed?

o DS: Well, at the back of my mind I thought this was an issue, but I had such cooperation from the company. Every time we ran out of space in a storeroom, they would give us either a larger storeroom or another storeroom. And so, we incrementally started enlarging the physical size of the archives to hold all of the materials that we were acquiring.

"LM:Now as you have mentioned before when you first came to work here there was only one Park, and that was Disneyland in Anaheim. What are your memories of the opening of Walt Disney World? What did you make of your first trip there?

o DS: Actually made my first trip to Walt Disney World in the spring of, oh, there's some pictures of it, in the spring of 1971. And I can date my first stepping onto Main Street. They were still paving it as you can see here. So that dates my first trip to Walt Disney World. I wasn't down there for the opening. But, we were very lucky that we were able to document Walt Disney World from day one. There was 15 years of Disneyland before the archives, and so that was a little more difficult to go back in history and try to document the things that happened before the archives came along.

A Conversation with Dave Smith

LM: Explain to me what you mean by the word document. They are building a new theme park. It's going to have many attractions, some will be duplicates, or replicas, however you want to put it, like here in California. What is your goal? What are you setting out to do?

o DS: We are setting out to acquire the materials that will tell the history of the elements of those parks. Like Walt Disney World, since you mentioned that as an example. It doesn't mean the blueprints. It doesn't mean the designs, because those are all kept a Walt Disney Imagineering. So, we are looking for things like construction photos, documentation on what the attractions would be named, like nomenclature lists, menus from the restaurants, samples of ticket media. So we have all the tickets that were used ever in Walt Disney World. So its picking and choosing the things that we know people are going to be asking us about in the future. A complete set of press releases is really important because there in chronological form is essentially a history of the park.

LM: And you followed this then with each of the other nine parks that have been built since?

o DS: Yes.

LM:That's a lot of work.

o DS: It is. And last month, I finally got over to Hong Kong Disneyland. Si, I've hit all of the parks now. Oh yeah, here are a few of the pictures from Hong Kong Disneyland.

LM: I hear you were quite the celebrity over there.

o DS: Well, I put on several programs for the cast members, and the middle picture there the publicity department and set up a meeting between me and Disney fans in Hong Kong. And I was surprised by how many Disney fans are in Hong Kong. And they also had to press the documenting me meeting with the Disney fans. And it was really a lot of fun.

A Conversation with Dave Smith

LM: What was your impression of the park?

o DS: Hong Kong Disneyland is a gorgeous park. It's small. It's had its complaints because it's small, but it's growing. And they've got a number of new attractions under construction right now, and I think it's really going to catch on in the next couple of years.

A Conversation with Dave Smith

LM:You've had interesting relationships with all sorts of people at the studio, veterans, contemporary people, at all levels of operations from Mr. Iger all the way down the line. Tell us about the night we got the phone call from Frank Wells.

o DS: I was down to Walt Disney World for the 25th anniversary. Yes, 25th anniversary for the park. And anytime they did anything historical like this, they like to have me down there to do radio and television interviews, talking about the history of the park. So I was staying in the Contemporary Resort that night, and my phone will rang in my room at 3 AM. I pick up the phone and it's Frank Wells. Frank Wells was the President of the company at that time. He said, Dave, I'm going to be on Good Morning America tomorrow morning, and they are going to ask what is Goofy? And I don't know the answer to that. So I had to give Frank Wells at 3 AM a quick education as to what Goofy was.

"LM: A tutorial from the archives.

A Conversation with Dave Smith

LM:There's so many things I want to ask you, we want to cover so many turfs that people expect me to ask you I'm sure. I'm curious about some of the different things. One thing people do want to know of course is some of your personal thoughts. Not your corporate thoughts, but your personal thoughts. Do you have the favorite Disney film?

o DS: Yes. Well, I have several different favorite Disney films. That's a bit difficult. The first film I ever saw as a kid it was, Song of the South, and I've always had a fond place in my heart for that film. I was about the same age as Bobby Driscoll who appeared in that film, so I was kind of identified with him in that film. My favorite of the early animated films is Pinocchio. I've always felt that that was one of the more technically perfect at the Disney films. A film that really could not be made today, it would be prohibitively expensive. It's just a beautiful gorgeous film. And more recently my favorite is Beauty and the Beast.

LM: You have good taste. Yes that's a good start. And you've done so much for the history of the characters. Do you have a favorite character?

o DS: It's actually Pluto. I'm a dog fan. I always felt Pluto was a great character.

LM: He's a great dog.

o DS: He is.

A Conversation with Dave Smith

LM:That's something that's always interested me, that obviously Walt was a dog lover. And you wouldn't have to look that up in a book or ask anybody about it. You just have to look at Pluto. Nobody could produce those cartoons, and create those cartoons, who didn't really love dogs. So I think you're in line with the boss there.

LM:One of the things you've done, one of the services you've done for years in various Disney magazines, you've been the answer man. And a lot of people who have never met you, have never seen you in person know you still from your Ask Dave columns and all of that. So there are people who do believe that you know everything. Everything! A to Z. Complete. Start to finish about Disneyland. There you are with some of your friends. What do you tell people when they ask something as daunting as that?

A Conversation with Dave Smith

o DS: Well, I very quickly say no, I don't know everything. However, we do have great files in the archives, so we can go look up things very quickly and we have them at our fingertips. I've always said that, and this speaks to many of you here in the audience as Disney fans and collectors, you can specialize in something very particular like the license plates they sold through the years with Walt Disney World and so forth on them. And you can become the world's greatest expert on that. I don't know that much about the license plates, but somebody that can take the time to learn about it, they're going to know more about that subject. But, we like to meet these people and have them tell us the history, then we'll have in our collection.

LM: What I do is I use your Dave Smith encyclopedia of Disney, which I refer to all of the time, that's my go to. If any of you don't have a copy of that, your library is incomplete. How many of you would, if you don't already, have it on your shelf tonight if you can get one tonight? Everyone right?

LM: What kind of stumpers do you get asked? What is it that people ask you that throws you a curve?

o DS: Well, I think the weirdest question we ever got was, how much does Walt Disney World weigh? You know, when you think about it though, there's a reason for that. Because the Magic Kingdom in Florida was actually built on the second level. Because the high water table there, they had to build their tunnels on top of the ground. So then the park was built on top of that. So yeah, there is weight, and it's pushing down on the tunnel structure, but how you would measure it, I don't have the slightest idea.

LM: Well, I hope that person wasn't too disappointed by not getting a precise answer to that.

LM:How do you see the future of the archives? What is your vision, what do you have in mind in a continuing role of the archive, or any changes or expansion for the archive?

o DS: Well, I think the archives can only become more valuable to the company because of the number of years that have gone by since we did so many of the things in this company. When I started, as you mentioned, a lot of the old timers were still here. And when you have so many of your original employees you can always walk down the hall and get your answers really quickly. But, now they are all gone. I mean some of them are retired, some have died, and you just can't get your answers that quickly. So people are having to come to the archives to get their answers. Additionally we have started in the last four years collecting more props and costumes. Creating more of a museum collection than we ever did in the early days with the thought that someday the company may want to do a museum. Bob Eiger talked about that in the LA Times article this morning. So, someday, when that someday comes, now we will have a nice collection of props and costumes, which are always great things to show in a display. It's hard to display a letter from Walt's correspondence files and have that be really exciting. But, to show the ring that turned the boy to the shaggy dog, or the snow globe from Mary Poppins which we have in our collection. That's really different.

A Conversation with Dave Smith

LM:In what I find so fascinating is that, I don't know about the props, I know in the case of the costumes, a lot of them were just sitting here in general wardrobe for a long time. So it wasn't as if they were discarded, they were kind of hiding in plain sight.

o DS: That's right. Well, we had not collected a lot of props and costumes in the early days. So we hadn't raided the prop department, we haven't raided the costume department. And when we heard they were going to be shutting them down, that was our incentive to go in there and save everything that we could save.

LM: Well, again, you've done it in the nick of time, and I know future generations will be grateful to that, as we are now.

LM: I don't know how to sum all this up Dave. We've just scratched the surface of your accomplishments over 40 years. Do you have any kind of summing up that you would like to pass along?

o DS: Well, other than saying it's been really gratifying to have this job for 40 years, to be able to work with the material that mean so much to so many wonderful people around the world. It's hard to find anybody that hasn't grown up with Disney. And to have all the material related to Disney in the archives is really wonderful. It makes me feel very humble to have the responsibility, to have had the responsibility, for these 40 years to collect and preserve these materials. As I retire in October I, I believe I am leaving a pretty viable department here for Becky Cline to take over. This department will go on for a long time I think.

LM:And you have a wonderful staff. You've always had great people working with you haven't you?

o DS: Yes.

LM: That's also a credit, that reflects well on you. I'm serious, that you hire good people. You knew the right kind of people to hire.

o DS: I always thought that I have a good eye for picking the people that would be good in the archives. And people would come to the archives and stay for 15-20 years. I mean, it wasn't something they would come to for a year or two like most kids coming out of college that would come into a job for a few years and then move on to something else. But, our staff has tended to stay.

LM:That says a lot about the company and about the excitement of the job. The constant stimulus that the archives provide. It certainly supplies stimulus for those of us outside and get to see the results. And I'm sure is true on the inside as well.

LM:I just have two words, I have nothing else I could possibly say, except thank you. Thank you.

A Conversation with Dave Smith

Read Jeremy's Other Blog:
The Disney Tribute to Robert and Richard Sherman!

January 7, 2010

D23 Magic & Merriment Special Member Event Part 2

D23's Magic & Merriment

D23's "Magic & Merriment Part 1

Sunday, December 13th, 2009 was Day 2 of D23's Magic & Merriment. I, like many other M&M-ers, got to the park early to catch an attraction or two before our first scheduled event, which was the luncheon at the Diamond Horseshoe Saloon at 11am.

An easy-paced morning, I first made a stop at the Polynesian Resort to grab a sticky bun and coffee at Kona Island.

D23's Magic & Merriment

At the Magic Kingdom bag check, I recognized another M&M-er, and we decided to go to Tomorrowland together and ride Space Mountain. We were able to ride it twice -- once on each side -- before we decided to head over to the Diamond Horseshoe, where the line was just starting to form. Everyone was comparing Day 1 notes and anticipating our upcoming tours of the Cinderella Castle Dream Suite.

D23's Magic & Merriment

Inside the Diamond Horseshoe Saloon, we found a buffet line stacked with an array of gourmet sandwiches and a food station off to the right with some of Walt Disney's comfort foods featuring the heavenly Monte Cristo Sandwiches (yes, á la Disneyland) and a couple of soups, including Walt's own chili. The saloon's bar hosted desserts and beverages, and this time, the desserts offered were a combination of tarts and cake bars. Below is the menu with a selection of food pics.

Main Buffet Line:
- Bibb Lettuce with Mandarin Oranges with Pink Lilly Vinaigrette
- Kansas City Pulled Pork with Mini Buns and Sweet Cream Slaw
- Grilled Vegetable and Piquillo Pepper on Foccacia Bread
- Smoked Turkey Leg Salad on Brioche with Lettuce
- Slow Cooked Midwestern Shaved Beef and Cheese Sandwich

Side Station:
- Monte Cristo Sandwiches with Blackberry Preserves
- Elias Irish Canadian Cheddar Soup with Pretzel Crisps
- Walt's Own Chili with Crackers

Dessert Bar:
- Carrot Cake Bars
- Chocolate Pecan Tarts
- Butterfinger Tarts
- Tart Lemon Bars

D23's Magic & Merriment

While we ate, we learned that the Diamond Horseshoe was a replica of the saloon in Calamity Jane movie -- designed by Disney Legend Harper Goff (Nautilus submarine, Jungle Cruise). He had used virtually the same blueprint for the construction of the restaurant interior for both Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom.

For our entertainment, the Dapper Dans took the stage and performed a few numbers, and we all really enjoyed them, especially their nod to "it's a small world".

D23's Magic & Merriment

Then, D23's Fairy Godmother, Becky, took to the stage, invited a little girl to join her, then had everyone to check under their seats for an envelope; the lucky guest and their family were invited to be grand marshals of the 3 o'clock parade.

D23's Jeffrey then again made some general Mousekeeping announcements then told us we were on our own for the rest of the day. There were castle tours starting, plus a couple opportunites schedule for reserved parade viewing. For us guests with later tours, we hung around the saloon for a little longer and enjoyed more food before heading out.

For this break, a couple other M&M-ers and I used a couple of our General MK FastPasses for Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain. It was in line for Big Thunder that I got a text from another M&M-er saying that their family was selected to be on the boat for Tiana's Showboat Jubilee at 2pm. Awesome! So we got in place early and were able to take some pictures of them during the show.

D23's Magic & Merriment

Afterwards, it was time to head to the front of the park for the 3pm Celebrate A Dream Come True Parade. D23 had reserved a viewing area for us in front of Exposition Hall. The parade route wasn't particularly crowded, but it still felt nice to all be together.

D23's Magic & Merriment

After the parade, M&M-ers were given their wristbands for the Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, and it was nearly time to check-in for my castle tour.

Check-in for the Cinderella Castle Dream Suite Tour was at the collection of tables near the Sleepy Hollow food service in Liberty Square, U.S.A. The tours were scheduled in 20-minute increments throughout the entire afternoon, and tour groups were limited to ten guests.

D23's Magic & Merriment

When it was our group's turn, our guide started us off with a brief introduction out and to the side of the castle.

D23's Magic & Merriment

Our guide then led us to the private room inside the Castle Breezeway (across from the 5-panel Cinderella mosaic) that housed the entrance to the elevator to the Dream Suite. In this small welcome room contained a clock whose hands pointed to 11:59pm -- one minute before midnight.

When the elevator reached the third floor, we entered a small but very ornate foyer which featured a display case with Cinderella's only remaining glass slipper (the other one had shattered on the ground... remember?). The case also held Cinderella's coronation crown and scepter from when she became a bonifide princess, and "some of her favorite pumpkins".

D23's Magic & Merriment

The floor of the foyer featured a mosaic of Cinderella's carriage, and above was a beautiful chandelier; also, the framed artwork in this area were original Mary Blair concept art taken from Disney Archives.

Next, we stepped into the suite and were like kids in a candy shop with our cameras. The suite was actually quite small -- only 160 square feet. It consisted of a lounge, a bedroom, and a bathroom, but was given a slightly larger feel by the creative use of mirrors. And honestly, trying to describe each room, it would be difficult to give them the proper justice -- one could spend hours or even days looking at all of the details. So instead, I offer some images from our time in the suite:

D23's Magic & Merriment

One really interesting piece of trivia from the tour: Because the "Year of A Million Dreams"' was a federally regulated sweepstakes, the suite, for legal reasons, had to be designated as a hotel room. So, it is technically Room 1010 at the Contemporary.

When it was time to leave, we went back into the elevator to the first floor where our guide handed each one of us a [blank] Cinderella Castle Suite key card and wished us well.

D23's Magic & Merriment

The tours were running around 25 minutes, so the tour schedules were gradually slipping back, but I didn't hear complaints from anyone. It was truly an item many of us will have checked off our bucket lists. Anyways, I hung around Sleepy Hollow to wait for a couple friends to finish their tour, then we went to ride a few more rides and grab some dinner.

To me, the transition to Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party was seemless, not having left the park; it felt more like one long day at the Magic Kingdom.

The 8:15pm Mickey's Once Upon A Christmastime Parade was the last scheduled M&M event, and we had viewing areas again reserved in front of Exposition Hall, charmingly labeled.

D23's Magic & Merriment

After the parade, we just walked up Main Street U.S.A to get situated on the bridge for the 9:30pm Holiday Wishes Fireworks.

D23's Magic & Merriment

Afterwards, we made our way through the crowds towards the D23's Hospitality Location at the Liberty Belle Steamboat's landing area. There, small tables were setup along with a beverage station that featured coffee, hot chocolate, and hot apple cider. A dessert table was situated on the actual Liberty Belle Steamboat (cool!), and it had sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies, and Christmas Tree rice crispy treats.

D23's Magic & Merriment

This hospitality area was a nice, quiet oasis for us to relax with other M&M-ers. None of us wanted the night to end.

Many of us kept riding rides until the very end then stayed at the hub at the front of Main Street U.S.A to close the park.

D23's Magic & Merriment event was indeed merry and magical. As guests, we were treated to a full schedule of amazing experiences, some incredible tastes, and nice opportunities to get to know and share stories with other D23 members and staff. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to attend this event and each of D23's previous events at WDW, and I definitely look forward to what is in store for 2010. Thank you to the D23 team and to all of the wonderful people I had the pleasure to meet.

January 6, 2010

D23 Magic & Merriment Special Member Event Part 1

D23 Magic & Merriment Credentials

Guest Blogger Cedric Ching is back! This time he has an extensive review of the D23
"Magic & Merriment" event held at Walt Disney World
. The first two D23 events at WDW were the "Flowers & Fireworks" in May and the "Sip & Stroll" in October.

D23's "Magic & Merriment" celebrated their first holiday season with two days of exclusive festivities.

Among other things, these festivities included the following:

-- a special "Holidays Around the World" presentation to start off the weekend (Saturday)
-- guaranteed seating for the 5pm Candlelight Processional (Saturday)
-- a private dinner on the set of Lights! Motors! Action! with dessert at the Studio Catering Company (Saturday)
-- a private presentation of the history of the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights (Saturday)
-- lunch and entertainment at the Diamond Horseshoe Saloon (Sunday)
-- a tour of the Cinderella Castle Dream Suite (Sunday), and
-- entry into Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party and access to a D23 Hospitality area (Sunday)

blue line

D23's Magic & Merriment

Check-In for the Magic & Merriment was a two-step process. Guests first stopped by Will Call window just out and to the right of Epcot's main gates to received our complimentary park tickets, as well as an itinerary for the weekend and complementary Disneyquest tickets. Then, it was over to the Odyssey Center, inside the park, where D23's Jeffrey and Joanna handed us a large envelope with everything else we would need.

Inside the Odyssey Center, we signed up for our Cinderella Castle Dream Suite tours on Sunday and were offered the option to purchase a special carrying case for our Twenty-Three magazines (offer not available online). We were also given a copy of Pam Brown's "Culinary Confessions of the PTR Divas" cookbook, just like at the Sip & Stroll event.

D23's Magic & Merriment

The room was set up with rows of chairs in the center and large tables along the sides. In the back there were multiple beverage stations -- this time offering hot cocoa in addition to water, sodas, and coffee -- along with some decorations.

D23's Magic & Merriment

Before the presentation, I was able to spread out the contents of our envelopes:

D23's Magic & Merriment

-- our D23 Magic & Merriment lanyard/credentials
-- a welcome letter from Steven Clark, Head of D23
-- an itinerary of the Magic & Merriment activities
-- biography sheets of each of the morning's speakers
-- a Holiday Services trivia sheet
-- a set of park maps and event programs
-- our complementary 1-day, 1-park theme park passes and Disney Quest tickets

Vanessa Rosas, one of the two 2009 Walt Disney World Ambassadors, welcomed all of the guests to D23's Magic & Merriment to start off Saturday morning's "Holidays Around the World" presentation. This was fitting, as her counterpart Clay Shoemaker had opened the D23's Sip & Stroll event.

D23's Magic & Merriment

First, Vanessa introduced Becky Cline, the Manager of the Walt Disney Archives and part of the development team for D23. Becky sent greetings from Steven Clark, who had family commitments (read: "triplets")., then joked that while Steven was often referred to as the "Father of D23", she had become known as its Fairy Godmother, a title she quickly demonstrated as she surprised everyone with Mickey Santa hats. She then quickly shared that her favorite Christmas tradition was the Candlelight Processional and that she has been able to participate in the event on both coasts.

Next, Jeffrey made some quick Mousekeeping announcements which included the note that the guests for this event represented 25 states plus Canada.

Lisa Borotkanics, Manager of Disney's Holiday Services, was the next to present. She had a slideshow with trivia about the holiday decorations found around the parks and resorts areas.

A couple items she focused on were the large Mickey Mouse wreath at the Contemporary Resort and the concept of "Icon Trees". The wreath on the side of the Contemporary measures 31' tall and 38' wide, making it the largest wreath on property (Note: the smallest wreath is 8" wide and can be found on an igloo at Winter Summerland). As for the "Icon Trees", these are trees put out by Holiday Services that are at least 18' in height -- there are 27 Icon Trees on property. The Contemporary not only has the distinction of being the only resort to host an icon tree but also of having the tallest at 70'. Because this pole tree uses LEDs, lighting it requires no more energy than three household hair-dryers. Also of note, all of the trees her department puts out are artificial and are recycled after their 5-6 year lifespan. And before she was finished, Lisa surprised each guest with a packet of Epcot and Magic Kingdom FastPasses.

Next, Vanessa introduced a couple guys with "sweet" jobs, Stefan Riemer, Master Pastry Chef at Disney's Yacht and Beach Club, and Erich Herbitschek, Master Pastry Chef at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.

Each chef talked about the gingerbread display at their respective resorts -- Chef Stefan described the Gingerbread Carousel at Disney's Beach Club Resort, and Chef Erich, the Grand Floridian's Gingerbread House -- and while one chef was presenting, the other decorated a small gingerbread house.

Chef Stefan told us how European traditions have influenced the way they build gingerbread today. For one thing, both he and Chef Erich take after the Europeans, who prefer to use honey in their recipe, which makes their gingerbread more moist, while Americans prefer molasses, resulting in a crispier cookie. Also, Europeans typically start making gingerbread right after Easter, and both chefs start their gingerbread preparations in early summer.

This year marked the 10th Anniversary of the Gingerbread Carousel at Disney's Beach Club Villas, and to reflect the year and the anniversary, Chef Stefan used 2009 gingerbread pieces on the carousel and placed ten hidden mickeys in and around the 8-foot-tall display. Chef Erich and his team at the Grand Floridian begin preparations in June, not only to cover their 17-foot-tall gingerbread structure, but to provide the over 36,000 baked items they sell each season, which are all hand-made. Another mentioned, was that each year, each Resort Gingerbread House had their own character pin -- Beach Club (Chip and Dale), Boardwalk (Stitch), Contemporary (Mickey), Grand Floridian (Minnie), and Epcot [American Adventure] (Goofy) -- I believe all of these pins were sold out by the time of this event.

At the end of their presentation, all of the M&M-ers were treated to either a gingerbread cookie or sugar cookie. The back of one of the cookies was marked with some stars; that person got to take home the gingerbread house Chef Stefan and Chef Erich had been decorated.

D23's Magic & Merriment

The chefs were the last presenters, but before the morning session came to an end, D23's Fairy Godmother had one more surprise for us -- with a "Mele Kalikimaka", Santa Stitch came running up the aisle. Guests were able to get their picture taken with him before heading out to roam the parks, and that was the end of the morning session. The next scheduled M&M event was the Candlelight Processional at 5pm.

I didn't immediately head out. Instead, I stuck around the Odyssey Center and took some pictures of Holiday Stitch with the D23 Team.

D23's Magic & Merriment

Afterwards, I left with Sandi (a D23 member I met during the Sip & Stroll) towards Disney's Hollywood Studios. She was trying to catch a Disney artist signing while I wanted to check out the holiday displays at the Epcot Resorts, so I accompanied her as far as Disney's Boardwalk. Here are some pictures from the resorts:

D23's Magic & Merriment

With the rest of the free time, I made a tour of the World Showcase. I also walked to the parking lot to drop the cookbook off at the car (quite a number of M&M-ers had the same idea). And I went back to D23 Hospitality Suite (Odyssey Center).

D23's Magic & Merriment

For the Candlelight Processional, D23 had reserved the last two rows for M&M-ers. It was truly a luxury not having to stand in line, which would've been quite considerable. Chita Rivera was wonderful as the guest narrator. Her love for this tradition was apparent as her face would light up at certain songs.

D23's Magic & Merriment

There was no mention of "D23" or "Magic & Merriment" at this performance, but I suppose that was understandable given the season. Still, D23 was represented as Mark, an M&M-er who is also a Disney cast member, made it into the show, which was cool to see.

D23's Magic & Merriment

After the show, we waited until most of the theatre cleared before we were led behind the American Adventures to a fleet of buses waiting to take us to Disney's Hollywood Studios for the rest of Saturday's M&M activities.

D23's Magic & Merriment

The buses dropped us off beside Walt's private jet on the Backlot Tour, and as we walked underneath the bleachers, excitement filled our eyes as the Lights! Motors! Action! set came into view -- the red carpet rolled out, tables and chairs set up, and a bright D23 welcome on the large billboard television screen.

D23's Magic & Merriment

Dinner was presented in buffet style to offer us more variety and to let us eat as much as we cared to eat. There were identical selections on each side of the set plus a carving station towards the center. The food was an array of hot meats and savory seasonal sides:

Buffet Line:
- European Greens with Heirloom Tomatoes, Euro Cucumbers, Carrots and Olives
- Yukon Gold Potato Crusted Lobster and Crab Pie topped with Aged Cheddar
- Sage Roasted Turkey Breast with Gravy
- Sweet Potato Mash with Toasted Marshmallows
- Carrots with Dill (actually, some sort of delicious, moist chicken breast)
- Hot Grilled Seasonal Vegetables with Acorn Squash
- Thyme Roasted Pork Loin with Apple Dressing and Cranberry Jus
- Balsamic Roasted Beets with Citrus and Arugula
- Pomegranate Vinaigrette, Stilton Blue Cheese Dressing, Watercress Ranch Dressing
- House-made Bread of the Day, Butter

Carving Station:
- Crushed Peppercorn Strip Loin of Beef with Sundried Tomato Tarragon Sauce

D23's Magic & Merriment

In addition to the usual beverage station, there was an open bar (which again, was very good deal for those who can and choose to partake). The food really showcased what Disney catering was capable of, and the food that I had was absolutely delicious.

As for entertainment, there was a photo op with Santa Mickey.

D23's Magic & Merriment

But for the most part, everyone was just walking around the LMA set taking close-up pictures of Everything.

D23's Magic & Merriment

When dinnertime was over, we were all escorted from the LMA set, through the backlot, to Toy Story Midway Mania! for some exclusive ride time. While in line, we shared strategies for unlocking easter eggs, and many of us were able to ride twice before it was time to head over to the dessert event.

Our private dessert party was at the Studio Catering Company (the counter service area beside the Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground). There, an array of mousse-filled chocolate shell cup desserts and an impressive selection of gourmet cheeses were laid out -- not to mention the couple bread pudding options!

- White Chocolate Cups filled with Dark Chocolate Mousse with Chambord Drizzle and Lady Finger
- Pumpkin Mousse with Rum Drizzle and Sunflower Seed Brittle
- Variety of Artisan Cheeses served with Chutney, Dried Fruit, Berries and Breads
- Pecan Honey Granola Bread Pudding with Bourbon Caramel
- Butterfinger Bread Pudding

D23's Magic & Merriment

This was a quick stop, as our next activity was around the corner, the Osborne Lights presentation.

John Phelan, Show Director at Walt Disney World, was told us the story of how The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights came to be. Asides from what Disney fans already knew...

from the Disney World website:

"The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights started modestly in Arkansas as a single home's annual display. Every year, Jennings Osborne and his family set up an elaborate collection of holiday lights and over the years, the collection of lights grew, and grew... and grew!"

... we got to learn about Jennings Osborne's generosity and excitement with sharing this magic: "He didn't want any money. He was just tickled to death to be there," John mentioned. John described Jennings as a "quiet and reserved man but he loves to do things in giant and grand ways," and gave us the example of when he and his men made their initial visit to Arkansas, and Jennings had a limo waiting at the airport and then at dinner, treated them to literally everything on the menu.

A couple of extra note-worthy pieces of trivia from the presentation:
-- There is "Halloween cat" display that Disney workers initially found mixed in with the Christmas lights; as tradition, it's relocated to a different part of the street each year.
-- The nativity scene (found next to the Monsters Inc Meet & Greet entrance) is a set that the Osbornes actually purchased at Epcot years before the ideas of the Osborne lights came about.

Here's a picture of John Phelan (right) with his crew chief John Wright:

D23's Magic & Merriment

John's presentation ran a little long, so we were only treated to a couple musical selections, but we all still had a spirited time wandering the lighted streets with the falling "snow" and looking for hidden mickeys and the Halloween cat.

D23's Magic & Merriment

[To watch John Phelan's presentation, you can check out Jeremy Marx's YouTube videos (4 parts):

Before boarding the buses back to Epcot (and Downtown Disney for guests staying at Disney resorts), each of us was handed an exclusive D23 ornament.

D23's Magic & Merriment

And with that, Day 1 of D23's Magic & Merriment came to an end.

November 16, 2009

D23 Sip and Stroll -- Part 2 of 2 the first half of this D23 Sip & Stroll report, I went over the Check-In and the Welcome Presentations at the Odyssey Center, a few tastes from the Food & Wine Festival, and the Wine Seminar & Culinary Demonstration at the Festival Center. When we left off, we were just let out for our second free period - an hour before the "Eat To The Beat Concert".


This break would've been a good opportunity for Sip & Stroll-ers to finish using the FastPasses we were given or to have another taste or two from the Festival booths. But I decided to use this time to make a stop by the car to drop off some stuff. Apparently some other Sip & Stroll-ers had the same idea because I spotted the familiar lanyards on a couple walking back from the parking lot, and we gave each other a friendly wink and nod as we passed by.

I had parked a ways off, so I basically had just enough time to walk to my car and then all the way back to the American Gardens Theatre.

EAT TO THE BEAT" CONCERT featuring Jon Secada

Eat to the Beat Concert

A D23 cast member was waiting at the theatre's left entrance to escort me to the front rows where there were seats reserved for Sip & Stroll-ers. The cast member also mentioned that we were going to gather by the left side of the theatre after the concert for more instructions.

Jon Secada performed five songs in this first "Eat to the Beat" show of the evening:

- "Do You Believe In Love"
- "I'm Free" (English and Spanish)
- "Angel" (jazz-version, English, Spanish)
- "Always Something"
- "Just Another Day"

Jon Secada was a lively performer, moving about the stage to cover the entire audience. As it was still warm outside, he took a moment to take off his jacket and then joked "that's as far as it goes." He was very charming and surprisingly quick on his feet.

Eat to the Beat Concert

During the show, Jon Secada also sang with a lot of passion, especially "I'm Free" and "Angel" which he sang partly in Spanish.

Eat to the Beat Concert

Eat to the Beat Concert

For more pictures of Jon Secada and his band, please check out Michael Bachand's Blog:

Jon Secada acknowledged the D23 section during the show, but not to the same extent that Tony Orlando did at D23's Flower & Fireworks celebration. I shouldn't expect any extra special attention by the entertainer during the show, but I think it would've been a nice touch for Jon Secada to also have led us in singing the Mickey Mouse Club's "Alma Mater", like Tony Orlando did during his concert, as some sort of D23 tradition.

Still, everyone had a good time at the concert, and afterwards, we gathered along the theatre's left wall as previously instructed.

Eat to the Beat Concert

We were surprised with the opportunity to go backstage to meet Jon Secada and have our picture taken with him. For me, the excitement was two-fold - first, to meet someone I enjoyed listening to growing up, and second, just to see the area behind the stage. I'll let you discover backstage on your own, but here's the picture of me and Jon Secada in his dressing room.

Eat to the Beat Concert

The VIP treatment continued as we were let out for our third and final break.

D23 Sip and Stroll


After going backstage and meeting Jon Secada, we had an hour free to walk around before we were scheduled to meet-up for dinner.

Without much to do in the area besides sampling more food (and possibly spoiling our dinner), a few Sip & Stroll-ers and I decided to catch the 6:00pm show of the American Adventure. Afterwards, we made our way to the World Showplace.

"PARTY FOR THE SENSES" DINNER at the World Showplace

After the American Adventure, we made our way to the gate in front of the World Showplace, where we saw some familiar faces gathered and a cast member holding up a D23 sign.

D23 Sip and Stroll

It wasn't long before we were escorted into the World Showplace.

D23 Sip and Stroll

Our private "Party for the Senses" dinner was held in the Wine Place Lounge portion of the World ShowPlace venue. As we walked in, a server was positioned to hand us our first drinks.

D23 Sip and Stroll

At the far end of the room, a four-piece band performed on a small stage.

D23 Sip and Stroll

In the center of the room were about a dozen small tables - enough to accommodate everyone comfortably - and each place-setting included a Mickey-shaped tray and a "Party For The Senses" wine glass.

D23 Sip and Stroll

The Mickey tray was supposed to be used to transport the food from the stations to our tables with the right ear of each tray designed to hold our wine glass, but many of us found this arrangement too cumbersome and just walked back-and-forth to the stations bare-handed (asides from cameras).

There was a total of eight food/beverage stations to our left and right; and they including one well-stocked open bar. I'm afraid that I didn't get good photo-coverage of these stations, but I did get a good sample of food pics.

D23 had posted the menu beforehand on the Sip & Stroll event webpage:

First Course
Artisan Cheese selection served with Complimenting Accompaniments

Second Course
European Greens tossed with Aged Sherry Vinaigrette served with Warm Goat Cheese Polenta Cake and Heirloom Tomatoes

Third Course
Pan Seared Scallop over Lobster Risotto with Piquillo Peppers and Asparagus

Perigourdine Braised Beef Shortrib with Parsnip Mash, Crisp Leeks and Petit Brioche

Pan Seared Poulet Rouge with Wild Mushrooms, Shallots and Fig Reduction

Vanilla Bean Gelato with Whiskey Sabayon and Candied Cinnamon Almonds

Apple Tarte Tatin with Aged Stout Cheddar

Petit Baileys Chocolate Soufflé served with Crème Anglaise

Each dish had its own wine pairing, and an additional cast member was at each food station ready to refresh our wine glass.

Because of lactose issues, I decided to skip the selection of gourmet cheeses, and the salad was at the same station, so unfortunately, I overlooked that course completely.

D23 Sip and Stroll

Many of the night's recipes included dairy products, but I remembered to bring some lactose pills and did try to sample all of the other dishes.

I hardly had to wait in line at any of the food stations, and all of the servers were friendly and very attentive.

D23 Sip and Stroll

The pan-seared scallop was well-prepared, and the lobster risotto was very savory. I also enjoyed the beef shortrib, and the accompanying pasnip mash was a new experience.

D23 Sip and Stroll

I didn't enjoy the chicken with the mushroom-fig reduction; the chicken was dry and the sauce just did not pair well with it.

D23 Sip and Stroll

As for the desserts, I passed on the vanilla gelato but heard from others that it was very good, especially the almond brittle pieces. I tried the apple tarte tatin with cheddar, but I didn't care too much for it.

D23 Sip and Stroll

Then I had the Baileys chocolate soufflé, and it was absolutely incredible; I tried for seconds but they had ran out.

D23 Sip and Stroll

By the end of dinner, everyone was stuffed, and we couldn't imagine having any more dessert at the IllumiNations viewing. Time seemed to have flown by.

As we left the World Showplace, each guest was given their own "Party For The Senses" wine glass plus a bonus piece of stem ware - a D23-exclusive Arribas Bros. wine glass.

D23 Sip and Stroll

D23 Sip and Stroll

These parting/thank you gifts were handed to us at this point knowing that there probably be no better opportunity. And in addition to the wine glasses, tucked away in one of the bags was a pair of special "3D" glasses for us to wear during IllumiNations.


On the walk over to our private IllumiNations viewing area at Italy's Isola, we passed by a couple other private-viewing areas set up, and it was interesting to see the variety of experiences Epcot offers special guests.

The Italy Isola is the area by the World Showcase Lagoon near the gondolas at the Italy Pavilion; it is accessible by crossing either one of the pavilion's two bridges (Isola is Italian for "island") . I took pictures of this area earlier in the day.

D23 Sip and Stroll

For the D23 event, there were several small tables and chairs set up for us, and it was again very comfortable - although I wouldn't want to imagine 200 people in this same space.

For the refreshments, there was a staffed hot-beverage station with coffee, tea, hot chocolate, water.

D23 Sip and Stroll

...and a table with a lovely assortment of truffles:

- White Chocolate Truffle with Sprinkles
- Dark Chocolate Truffle with Pralines
- Milk Chocolate Truffle with Coconut

D23 Sip and Stroll

There was just enough time for us to get a few truffles and a drink (another coffee for me), and put on our special 3D glasses before the narrator blew out the torches and IllumiNations began.

D23 Sip and Stroll

At the first explosions, we all erupted with chuckles and applause. The 3D glasses we were wearing produced swarms of Mickeys - it was like Epcot's own "Spirit of 3D".

D23 Sip and Stroll

To many of us, the 3D glasses really made the event - a simple gesture, but one that was really that cool. It was IllumiNations as we've never seen before - although I'm sure it won't be the last time.

D23 Sip and Stroll


D23's Sip & Stroll was similar to the earlier Flower & Fireworks celebration in that they both involved a concert and fireworks, but Sip & Stroll-ers were treated to so much more - more giveaways (park tickets, gift card, wine glasses), more experiences (food & wine presentations, private dinner), and more opportunities (hospitality suite, going backstage and meeting Jon Secada). It was truly an all-day event - the pace was brisk but relaxed - and very much worth the price.

The D23 team did a fantastic job organizing this event - everything ran smoothly - and I thought it was nice that some of them were able to join us and experience it from our perspective. Really, it just felt like we were one big family. And I think that's what makes these events so special - D23's Sip & Stroll was another opportunity for Disney fans of all types to get together and celebrate a brand we love. Thank you D23 team, and I look forward to Magic & Merriment in December.

November 15, 2009

D23 Sip and Stroll -- Part 1 of 2

Guest Blogger Cedric Ching is back! This time he has an extensive review of the D23 Sip and Stroll Event!


On Sunday, October 18th, 2009, D23 held its second official member event in Florida: D23's Sip & Stroll at Epcot.

D23 Sip and Stroll Event

Event Description from the D23 website:

"Join D23 at Epcot® at the Walt Disney World Resort during the annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, as we raise a glass to our Charter Members and their friends and family.

This exciting day begins in the exclusive D23 Hospitality Suite, where Members can relax and enjoy engaging presentations from some very special guests, including Marketplace Cookbook editor Pam Brandon, Epcot Vice President Dan Cockerell, and Marianne Hunnel, the woman who leads the team behind the Festival - with some truly magical surprises mixed in along the way! Following these behind-the-scenes presentations, guests will receive a gift card, which they can use to "sip and stroll" through Epcot's Food & Wine offerings to create a personalized Festival experience!

After lunch, attendees can savor one of two Food & Wine sessions - a mouth-watering culinary demonstration or a palate-pleasing wine tasting - exclusive to D23 Members and their guests. Afterwards, with dusk descending, guests will head over to the American Gardens Theatre to enjoy reserved seating for Jon Secada's "Eat to the Beat" concert. After the show, they'll indulge in a private D23 "Party for the Senses" - the Food & Wine Festival's signature event - reserved for our Members and their guests! Each delicious dish will be complemented with its own wine and/or beer pairing, and a live, three-piece band will entertain throughout the meal. After a day of culinary and musical highlights, it's then time to top it all off with a VIP viewing of IllumiNations featuring a mouthwatering specialty dessert, the perfect backdrop for mingling and reminiscing about the day's adventures."

Before I go into the events of the day, I feel like I have to make a quick recap of D23's first official event in Florida - D23's Flower & Fireworks Celebration earlier this summer - as a point of reference:

D23's Flower & Fireworks, also held at Epcot, was an event back in May to both celebrate the D23 members here in Florida and to celebrate the end of the Flower & Garden Festival. The event included reserved seating at the "Flower Power" concert followed by a private dessert party that overlooked the World Showcase Lagoon and the IllumiNations fireworks show. The recognition by Tony Orlando at the concert was envigorating, the selection of Walt's favorite desserts was thoughtful and delicious, and the set of D23 buttons given to us as we were leaving was an unexpected second "kiss goodnight". The event was at no costs to participants - members just had to register online beforehand - and the event's 200-guest limit was met.

That said, D23's Sip & Stroll event was not sold out - actually, far from it - probably due to its seemingly-hefty price of $240 per person. But taking into account all of the experiences and extras involved (plus other, unannounced surprises), I was able to convince myself that the cost was well-justified and signed-up.

This trip report will be given in two parts: Part 1 covers "Check-In" up to the "Culinary Demonstration", Part 2 covers the rest of the evening, from the "Eat to the Beat Concert" to "IllumiNations".

CHECK-IN & WELCOME at the Odyssey Center/D23's Hospitality Suite

The day began with a drive over to Epcot. I arrived at 9:00am and stopped by the Guest Relations window to the right of the park's front gates. There, I showed the cast member my confirmation email, D23 membership card, and driver's license, and received an envelope containing my two complimentary 1-day, 1-park tickets, in case I needed it for admission. But like most of the event's attendees, I was a WDW Passholder, so we'll be able to use these tickets to treat family or friends, as long as we do so before December 30, 2009.

From there, I did stop by Innoventions East and considered checking out The Sum of All Thrills before the lines got too long but decided to just continue onto the Odyssey Center for check-in.

D23 Sip and Stroll Event

The Odyssey Center served as the hospitality suite for today's Sip & Stroll. Its entrance was roped off, with a cast member stationed nearby. As I approached, she greeted me and welcomed me in.

Inside, the first thing I noticed was how open the area was - there were only nine small tables set up. And although there wasn't a lot of decoration, I felt that it was enough to establish a casual, easy-going tone for the event.

D23 Sip and Stroll Event

I imagined that there would to be a larger crowd. When I saw the number of packets on the check-in table, I quickly adjusted my expectations - I later learned that there were only 34 guests (including 2 that managed to sign up day-of).

Anyways, there were a couple of beverage stations set-up for us: one with coffee, tea, and hot chocolate, and one with water and cold sodas.

D23 Sip and Stroll Event

D23 Sip and Stroll Event

And these refreshments would be available to us here at the Odyssey Center throughout the day until 4:30pm.

I made myself a cup of coffee then took a look through our guest packet. In addition to the two 1-day, 1-park passes in the envelope from Guest Relations (#1 in the picture below), there were the the following:

D23 Sip and Stroll Event

2. a Welcome Letter from Steven Clark, Head of D23
3. a D23 Sip and Stroll Itinerary sheet
4. a "Presenter Biographies" sheet
5. a Food & Wine Festival Guide
6. a pair of Sip & Stroll lanyards (as a single guest, I wasn't sure why I received two)
7. a $50 Gift Card
8. two complimentary DisneyQuest passes, and
9. pairs of FastPasses to Soarin', Test Track, and our choice of Maelstron, Mission:Space, or Living With The Land.

Also, when we were handed our packets, we were asked if we would be interested in attending the 2:00pm Wine Seminar, the 2:45pm Culinary Demonstration, or both. Originally, due to the limited number of reserved seats, we would have had to choose one or the other, but because of the actual turnout, everyone was able to to participate in both sessions (the tickets for those events are #10 in the picture above). [Note: Stitch was not included in the packet.]

As other D23 members and guests got checked in, prepared themselves a drink, and looked through their packets, Clay Shoemaker, one of Walt Disney World's two WDW Ambassadors, was going around to each of the tables making sure everyone was having a good time and entertaining any questions guests had. It wasn't much longer before the event began and Clay welcomed everyone again to D23's Sip & Stroll event.

Disney Ambassador Clay Shoemaker

Clay introduced to us our host for this opening session, Barry Jacobson, Director of Corporate Meetings & Events and General Manager of the D23 Expo.

Barry Jacobson

Barry talked about this 30 years with the Disney Company and the D23 Expo back in September. And he briefly introduced us to one of his associates in planning the D23 Expo, Joanna Pratt, Disney's Senior Corporate Communications Specialists who works on the West Coast - it was Joanna's first time at Epcot's International Food & Wine Festival and her first visit to Florida (later in this report, there is a picture of both her and Barry.

During his Q&A portion, Barry was asked about the official attendance number for this year's D23 Expo -although he couldn't say what it was exactly, he told us that it was safely over 30,000. When asked about the location of next year's D23 Expo, he said that it will again be held in Anaheim, mainly because of the size of their convention center. He also emphasized to us that there should be an announcement soon about next year's expo.

Next, Barry introduced Dan Cockerell, Vice President of Epcot. Dan talked about his experience with the Disney Company, including how he starting off in the parking lot at Epcot Center and how he also acquired "parking lot experience" at Disneyland Paris.

Dan Cockerell, Vice President of Epcot

During his Q&A session, Dan was asked about the possible return of the Tapestry of Nations - to which he said that Epcot is always taking into account feedback from guests. Then, when asked about the possible addition of new countries to the World Showcase, he says that are frequently approached by various groups who want to support new nations and that Epcot definitely has the land to expand, but they want to ensure that the country would be a good fit into their storyline.

Dan apologized for not being able to stay longer - he had a couple of his children's soccer games to attend - but he did leave us with a few recommendations for the Food & Wine festival: the Lobster & Scallop Fisherman's Pie at Cork, Ireland; the Seared Sea Scallop at Wellington, New Zealand; and (for those of age) the Raspberry Chiller at Krakow, Poland.

Next was Marianne Hunnel, the Event Content Development Area Manager for the 14th Annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.

Marianne Hunnel

Marianne talked about coordinating the festival and how, when deciding on which tastes to offer, she and her team tries to take into consideration both guest feedback and emerging trends -- such as the increasing popularity of spirits as food pairings. She also mentioned that her husband was also a chef - he works at Victoria & Albert's - and how, for their last vacation, they actually went to Disneyland.

For her Q&A session, she was asked about the possibility of the return of a large exhibit (like those for Louisiana, Oklahoma, or Australia in recent years), and she was asked for any plans for having "hands-on" cooking seminars. Marianne didn't say much about a large pavilion exhibit for next year except that she and her team are always open to the possibility. As for "hands-on" cooking seminars, she said that they're looking at possibly offering activities such as sushi-rolling and cake-decorating.

Then, before leaving, Marianne made a couple Food & Wine recommendations of her own: the Seared Barramundi from Melbourne, Australia and also the Fisherman's Pie at Cork, Ireland.

The last presenter of the morning was Pam Brandon, an award-winning journalist and author, who worked as a senior publicist for Walt Disney World Resort and who helped produce several cookbooks for Disney Publishing. In setting up for her portion of the presentation, she brought with her a stack of cookbooks she's worked on.


She quickly touched on each one, sharing the idea behind them - for instance, with the Food & Wine Festival recipe binder, she and her creative team imagined guests returning to the festival year-after-year being able to purchase more recipes for it, but that idea didn't really take off. Also, Pam admitted how, for the first couple Disney cookbooks, the recipes were more-or-less untested (so if they don't turn out quite right, you'll know why).

Of course, they have thoroughly tested each recipes ever since - though she did share with us a funny anecdote of someone calling her up out of the blue to tell her how one of the recipes for chateau briand never said to put the meat in the oven. I found this presentation to be the most insightful and enjoyed her openness and enthusiasm.

A self-taught cook, Pam told us that with each dish, she tries to share a story - the central idea behind the only non-Disney cookbook she brought with her, her "Culinary Confessions of the PTA Divas". We then experienced an Oprah moment as she told us that we were each going to receive a copy of the cookbook and that she'd sign it for us. And that concluded the morning presentations.

Pam Brandon

After I received my autographed copy of Pam Brandon's cookbook, I made myself another cup of coffee, mingled with some of the other D23 guests, then headed out to the next adventure.

Everyone was all on their own to explore the Food & Wine Festival, etc until 2:00pm, when we were to meet up at the Festival Center for the Wine Presentation and Culinary Demonstration.


The first thing I did after leaving the Odyssey was head over to Innoventions East to visit The Sum of All Thrills. I met a couple of fellow Sip & Stroll-ers in line, and we went through the process together.

The Sum of All Thrills

I won't go into detail (just check out Jack Spence's article about the attraction) - but I'll say that I would've gotten right back in line and could've spent the rest of the break in both Innoventions. But the focus of this trip was the D23 Sip & Stroll, so I made my way to the World Showcase to scout out some food.

I've been to the Food & Wine Festival these past couple weekends, trying a few samples each time -my favorites so far being the Tostada de Pollo at Mexico City, Mexico, the Beef Empanada at Buenos Aires, Argentina, and the Escargots Persillade en Brioche at Paris, France. This time, I wanted to continue to try some new tastes, including a couple of the ones the presenters called out as their favorites:

First, I went to Santiago, Chile to sample their Rock Shrimp Ceviche. The interaction between the flavors of the buttered popcorn and the ceviche wasn't as well-defined as I'd hoped, but I was pleased with the amount of shrimp in it. Anyways, it was at this booth that the cashier saw my Sip & Stroll lanyard and gave me an extra smile and nod.

Rock Shrimp Ceviche

Next was the Seared Sea Scallop with Vegetable Slaw and Lemon Oil from Wellington, New Zealand - one of the items Dan Cockerell recommended. Unfortunately, I didn't care for it. My scallop had an uneven sear, I happened to bite into a chunk of salt, and I found the slaw to be just too tangy.

Seared Sea Scallop with Vegetable Slaw and Lemon Oil

The last thing I tried this time around was the Lobster & Scallop Fisherman's Pie at Cork, Ireland - recommended by both Dan and Marianne. And this has to be my new favorite dish. It had really good flavor and textures, plus my sample had a generous portion of lobster and scallops. I will definitely have this one again.

Fisherman Pie

Inside Fisherman Pie

I was able to make only a little dent into the gift card and halfway through the World Showcase before I decided to make my way back to the D23 Sip & Stroll Hospitality Suite for another cup of coffee and to sit down and relax before the next event.

Perhaps I could've been more aggressive with the sampling, but I knew that I needed to save some room for the culinary demonstration and "Party For The Senses" dinner to come. I enjoyed talking with another couple of Sip & Stroll-ers at the Odyssey Center, and when the time came, we walked over the Festival Center together.


As participants of D23's Sip & Stroll, we were given priority seating at both the wine seminar and the culinary demonstration. This was a nice perk, and it did feel very VIP.

Wine Seminar w/Kate MacMurray

At the wine seminar we attended, we were able to sample three varieties of wine from the MacMurray Ranch - the MacMurray Pinot Gris, the MacMurray Russian River Pinot Noir, and the MacMurray Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir.

MacMurray Ranch

The presenter for the seminar was Kate MacMurray, daughter of Disney Legend Fred MacMurray (The Shaggy Dog, The Absent-Minded Professor).

Kate MacMurray

Kate gave us some background, telling us how her father in 1941, at the age of 32, purchased the large parcel of land in Sonoma County, California that became the MacMurray Ranch. She told us how her father had wanted to but was unable to enlist in the military because he was deaf in his left ear from years of shooting guns without hearing-protection. He still wanted to help out efforts, so, as advised, they diversified their farming and raised a variety of animals/livestock. Then, every couple weeks or so, a truck would come by to pick up the surplus crops to support the troops. She noted how the crops they supported evolved, and how the history of the ranch was really the history of agriculture in Northern California.

Kate also mentioned other facts about their operations. For instance, they employ the services of a falconer to fend off birds instead of netting their crops which could damage the plants. And she also said that they used other natural techniques such as planting red clover on every other row to attract good bugs.

Kate also spoke of her father's close friendship with Walt Disney, and how Walt personally asked her father to star in The Shaggy Dog. She shared her memories of being with her father at the ribbon-cutting ceremony that opened Epcot Center in 1982. It was an honor just to have attended this particular session. Kate was well-spoken and listening to her, it was like being in the presence of a Disney Legend.

Here's a picture of Barry Jacobson and Joanna Pratt at the Wine Seminar.

Barry Jacobson and Joanna Pratt

After the wine presentation, D23 event cast members escorted us directly to the culinary demonstration, where we were also given priority seating.

Culinary Demonstration w/Chef Andy Trousdale

This session began with a brief presentation about the 2005 Jack London Cabernet, the wine-pairing for the dish that was going to be prepared.

Then, the host of the culinary demonstrations, Pam Smith, made mention of the D23 club and acknowledged us before introducing everyone to Chef Andy Trousdale from Le Bistro Restaurant in Lighthouse Point, FL .

In this session, Chef Andy prepared his Roasted Beef Tenderloin "Diane".

Pam Smith

Chef Andy started off the hot pan with shallots & garlic then added veal glaze/stock which provides a meat flavor to the sauce. He mentioned how cooking was about building up flavors and how it required a level of intuition - because sometimes measuring ingredients takes more time than just cooking. And he told us how these cooking demonstrations were always a pleasure to do because all the ingredients are already prepared and so beautiful, like the variety of mushrooms provided. He added some more ingredients to the sauce, but pointed out that he let the mixture cook and reduce further before adding the cream to the sauce.

To prepare the beef tenderloin, Chef Andy demonstrated a couple techniques for tying up the meat. He then seasoned it with salt, pepper, and oil before browning the beef in a heated sauté pan.

Chef Andy Trousdale

Chef Andy Trousdale

I've attended a number of these culinary demonstrations at this year's Food & Wine Festival, and this session took the longest before sending out the food for us to sample, or it just seemed that way - we were all getting hungry watching him cook, but when we got our food, it was quite a treat. The beef was very juicy and the mushroom sauce worked out wonderfully to compliment.

Beef Tenderloin

And that ended our events at the Festival Center. I went to get Chef Andy's autograph and a picture with, then had about an hour of free time before the D23 group was to regrouped at the American Gardens Theatre for the "Eat To The Beat" concert.

Coming Soon, Part 2!

June 5, 2009

D23 Flower & Fireworks Celebration at Epcot

Guest blogger Cedric Ching attended the first ever D23 event at Walt Disney World on May 31, 2009. He files this report:


On Sunday, May 31st, 2009, I attended D23's first official member event in Florida: D23's Flower & Fireworks Celebration at Epcot. This event was limited to 200 guests.

Event Description from the D23 website:

"Join D23 at Epcot at the Walt Disney World Resort to celebrate its Members in all 50 states and more than 25 countries worldwide! Start the evening at the American Gardens Theatre with reserved seating for the Flower Power Concert Series Finale, starring the legendary Tony Orlando, to close the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. Next, head to a VIP location to mix and mingle with your fellow D23 Members over desserts and coffee, and then enjoy the spectacular nighttime extravaganza IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth from a private viewing area."

Check-in for the event was at Guest Relations outside and to the right of the park gates. There, guests presented their D23 membership card and were then handed a large envelope containing a number of items:

D23 Handouts

There was a letter from Steven Clark, the Head of D23, thanking us for joining them for the event and wishing that we enjoy what they had planned for us. Also included in the envelope were the following: a printout of the event description from the D23 website, a Flower & Garden Festival program, an Epcot park map, an "I'm Celebrating!" button for us to wear, a lanyard that would act as our credentials, and a FastPass to Soarin' good for anytime that day -- a very nice touch.


I arrived at Epcot in the late afternoon, early enough to get checked-in and play a couple games at Innoventions West before heading onto the American Gardens Theatre where participants were to meet at 7:15pm.

American Gardens Marquee

D23 Group

Flower Power Sign

We had our own section at the 7:45pm Flower Power Concert -- the last performance of the festival -- and Tony Orlando was warm, enthusiastic, and a very audience-oriented entertainer. To start off the show, he conducted the crowd in singing the Mickey Mouse Club's "Alma Mater".

Tony Orlando conducting music

He and his band played some classics tunes, such as "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree", "Knock Three Times", and "Candida", with lots of audience participation and encouragement. He continued a sense of family and togetherness by recognizing the talents of his band members throughout the show and at one point having his sister up onstage to join him for a dance. He also invited his daughter and friends up on stage to lead the crowd on their cover of the Beatle's "Hey Jude".

Tony Orlando and Keyboardist

Tony Orlando with Guitarist

Tony Orlando and his Sister

Tony Orlando and and his Daughter

Tony Orlando also pointed out the D23 section and called to our section a number of times to cheerlead. And the special attention was an absolute thrill. Then to end the show, he had everyone come full circle and reprise the "Alma Mater". The show was a definite crowd-pleaser. Great job Tony!

After the concert, our section waited for most of the crowd to clear before we were escorted to our private viewing area for the IllumiNations fireworks extravaganza.

Enroute to Fireworks


The private viewing area was located in front of the France Pavilion, water-side, and had two levels. On each level, there were three dessert stations and plenty of tables to gather around.

Firework Viewing

One of the food stations had an arrangement of desserts -- a selection of some of Walt Disney's personal favorite recipes, which included: Butterscotch Haystack Cookies, Fantasia Cheesecake, Warm Apple Brown Betty, Chocolate Cream Pie, and a Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding.

D23 Photographer

Butterscotch Haystack Cookies

Warm Apple Brown Betty

At another station, a cast member was ready to make us either a Vanilla or Chocolate Coke Float. Being lactose-intolerant, I opted for just the soda and a couple/few of the plastic Disney cups.

Vanilla or Chocolate Coke Station

The third station had beverages, with a cast member there to offer us our choice of coffee, tea, or water.

Beverage Station

The limited number of guests made for more of an intimate setting, and it was very nice time getting to know other people that were there. When it came time for IllumiNations to begin, there was plenty of room to just enjoy the show. The view was fantastic.

Illuminations Fireworks

Illuminations Fireworks

And, from where I was standing, I was able to clearly see the Characters In Flight balloon up in the distance.

Characters In Flight Balloon


After IllumiNations, some friends from and I stayed and mingled a while longer before a cast member came around to tell us that they were going to start cleaning and had to kindly ask us to start making our way out. She told us that there were goodie bags waiting for us, and we quickly obliged. :)

Goodie Bag

The goodie bags contained a set of ten D23 buttons, each with a different character and slogan (you've seen these around). This parting gift was a wonderfully unexpected gesture and topped off an incredible night -- it was our second kiss goodnight.

Goodie Bag

Goodie Bag Buttons

D23's Flowers & Fireworks Celebration exceeded all of my expectations. The pace of the event was very comfortable and at no point did I feel crowded, which to some would be the price of the D23 membership in itself. My only suggestion for the organizers is to have more directions and signs for how and where to check-in. Overall, it was a very smooth operation with a lot of Disney special touches -- like the Soarin' FastPass, the recognition from Tony Orlando during the concert, and their selection of the desserts. It was an event where we truly made to feel like VIPs.

D23 did an absolutely amazing job with this one, and I look forward to attending more of their events.

Deb, Cedric, and others


Cedric Ching is a resident of Florida's East Coast and tries to make it to the parks at least a twice a month with his camera and his Stitch, in search of magical moments. He enjoys taking pictures and running.

Cedric has completed two Disney marathons and one Goofy Challenge (will being running Goofy #2 with my two sisters in 2010) and loves the Yakitori House in Epcot for dining.

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About D23 - The Official Disney Fan Club

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to All Ears® Guest Blog in the D23 - The Official Disney Fan Club category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Candlelight Processional is the previous category.

DVC Moonlight Madness is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.