I'm writing on Monday about events that took place on Saturday, two days ago, but it feels like two weeks ago! It was a very full weekend.
So...when we left our intrepid reporters they had been shut out of the Princess and the Frog presentation on Saturday afternoon.
DebK and I chatted with Jeanine for a while and then I headed down to the exhibit hall to get in line for "The Making of the U.S. Presidents" session. I can't remember if I mentioned this before, but demand for sessions in the Storytellers Theater (the smallest venue) was so high that they had moved the queue downstairs to an unused part of the exhibit floor. Of course that meant they had to ferry us all upstairs and into the theater, but they really did a good job of getting us in there and still getting the presentations started about on time. Especially considering it was a process they developed on the fly after seeing what the lines were like on Friday and Saturday morning.
I met DebW in line and while we were waiting we had a wonderful chat with Wayne and Jennifer who had come all the way from Australia to attend the D23 Expo!
The session started off appropriately enough as "Hail to the Chief" started playing. First on stage were Eric Jacobson, Pam Fisher, and Kathy Rogers, who talked about the process of updating the Hall of Presidents attraction at the Magic Kingdom with the new President Obama figure. In addition to adding the new president they changed some other parts of the attraction as well.
The focus of the Hall of Presidents has never been about political parties or politics - in the past it's been more about the history of the United States, and now there's more of an emphasis on the bond between the President and the people, and what the Oath of Office means. They consulted Presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin in putting together the updated attraction, and added another speaking figure: George Washington, who offers the oath of office to President Obama. Actor Morgan Freeman narrates the current version.
The creative team traveled to Washington D.C. to meet President Obama and to record his speech for the attraction. Apparently he really didn't know what an "audio-animatronic" was, but thought it was cool when they told him he was going to be a robot. :-)
After they met with Obama they got a private tour of the White House, or as they called it, "Imagineers Gone Wild". They lounged on the sofas, bowled in the bowling alley, and had a great time - apparently the Secret Service agent escorting them said it was the most fun tour he'd been on in a long time!
Imagineers Tony Baxter and Josh Shipley discussed the Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln attraction, which should reopen at Disneyland in December. They went back to actor Royal Dano's original voice recording of the Gettysburg address and found a recording of Paul Frees that they used with it, as you can hear in this clip. (Sorry about the big head in the middle of the screen at the end - I was cursed the last couple of days of the Expo and always seemed to get stuck behind some tall guy with a big head.)
The Civil War piece "Two Brothers" will be returning - it's been redone in HD.
For the finale, they looked at a lot of pieces of music, but finally settled on the original Battle Hymn of the Republic. They said that it will be "magically stereo".
After the show "ends" and they open the exit doors, they said that there will still be music going on if people want to stick around - it sounds like this is where they will do the video montage to the music of Golden Dreams (same music as the American Adventure at Epcot).
I met Lee in Studio 23 after that for a session called "Lost Chords - Never Heard Music from Disney Animation", hosted by Russell Schroeder, who also authored a book on the subject. They had a choir and a vocal ensemble made up of Cast Members who performed a number of songs for us. Some were from familiar movies like Dumbo, Mary Poppins, and Cinderella, while a couple were from movies that were never made.
It was really fascinating - we learned that creating the music for a movie starts at the beginning, before there's anything at all on film, and so there's a lot of music written for a film that just doesn't make it to the final movie. There were a lot of reasons for this and he gave us a number of examples:
For Sleeping Beauty, there was a complete set of songs written, but when Walt Disney decided to go with the Eyvind Earle look for the movie, the songs no longer "matched", so they went with the Tchaikovsky style instead. Even then, there was at least one song written in the Tchaikovsky style that didn't end up fitting into the movie. The singers performed three different "lost" songs from Sleeping Beauty: "Sleeping Beauty", "Sunbeams", and "Evil-Evil".
There was a song written for Tramp to sing, but they eventually decided that he just wasn't a singing kind of guy.
For Pinocchio, there was a song we heard called "Rolling Along to Pleasure Island", which was removed when they changed that scene into a conversation between Pinocchio and Lampwick to provide additional character development.
Or sometimes the actor voicing the character changed, so their song had to change - this happened with The Aristocats. Louis Armstrong was originally set to voice the cat jazz band leader (called Satchmocat), but he became ill, so Scatman Crothers took the role of Scatcat, and the song written for Armstrong, Le Jazz Hot, gave way to Ev'rybody Wants to Be a Cat.
Lee put together a video medley of the 15 different songs we heard to give you an idea of what they were like. There were a couple that I thought were very good. There was one I wish he had taped all of - it was from Sleeping Beauty, in which the fairies sang their blessings on the baby...or curses, in Maleficent's case! I thought the Maleficent part was especially good. Included in its entirety is the song "Evil-Evil" from Sleeping Beauty, which is sung by the Goons and Maleficent.
In addition to the singing the presentation included a lot of photos and concept art that went with the lost songs. One project that got pretty far into development was The Rainbow Road to Oz, set to star some of the original Mouseketeers in the roles of Dorothy (Darlene), Ozma (Annette), the Patchwork Girl (Doreen), the Scarecrow (Bobby), and the Cowardly Lion (Jimmie). In addition to music they even did some costuming for this one, and there were stills of all of them in their costumes. The song they performed from this one was called "A Voice to Sing With."
There was some wonderful concept art for a film that was never made called The Tale of a Mouse. It was based on the story about the town mouse and the country mouse. Maybe it's just me, but I found it stunningly beautiful. The song was called "This is Home".
I think of all the sessions I saw all weekend this one had the most "heart". You could just tell that it was a labor of love for everyone involved: Richard Schroeder, who did so much painstaking research, and the singers, arranger, director, and accompanist who took the time to rehearse and perform the music.
It had been a long day and we were pretty tired by then. So we all took the night off, and the Debs and Lee and I had a lovely dinner at Catal in Downtown Disney. I'd never eaten there before, but I really enjoyed it - we all did. And as an extra bonus, we could see the fireworks from Magical from our table! It was a wonderful way to end the day.
The previous post in this blog was D23 Expo - Day 4, Plus This and That.
The next post in this blog is This is Halloween, This is Halloween....