D23's First Anniversary Party at Disneyland
On March 10, 2010, D23 celebrated its one year anniversary with an after-hours party in Fantasyland, exclusive for D23 members. Jeanine Yamanaka attended this event and shares this report.
The party started at 8:45pm, after the park closed to regular guests at 8pm. After checking in and receiving both a wristband and an envelope (which contained a welcome letter from Steven Clark and a press release on the recently announced 2011 Expo and the 2010 Destination D event), guests were escorted down Main Street to the hub. There, we were held at rope drop until Walt's original Disneyland opening speech was played, and a voiceover announced the start of the party, accompanied by fireworks shot off from the castle.
As the crowd mobbed across the drawbridge to the castle, people on the sides were able to see that various Disney dignitaries were waving and lining the path. People in the middle were probably trying not to get crushed in the stampede.
The area open to us was largely bounded by the border of Frontierland on one side, and the Small World arcade on the other. Although I didn't realize it at the time, Tomorrowland was also apparently open, with Captain EO running. All along the walkways were spaced decorative tables full of creatively-named desserts and coffee/water dispensers.
A cash bar was also available to those interested in imbibing, which led to some...interesting rides. (Overheard of people lurching into the Storybook Land Canal Boats: "Where are the churros?!")
On the walkway to "it's a small world", there were photo opportunities with two vehicles: Walt's original electric runabout, and the car used to transport the Honorary VoluntEARs in the parade cavalcade. Mickey, in his D23 bandleader outfit, alternately came out to pose with people as well, and generated the longest lines of the night. Right in front of IASW was parked Cinderella and her pumpkin coach as well.
For those who had only a passing interest in vehicular photography, there were also a plethora of characters interspersed around the area. Koda the bear alternated with the Country Bear Jamboree representatives, and Alice and the Mad Hatter, Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket, and the Evil Hag from Snow White all hung around outside their respective rides.
Virtually all the rides in Fantasyland except the carousel were open and running with relatively little wait. Most people seemed to concentrate on the photo opportunities and the meet-and-greets.
It was also advertised that as part of the evening, a number of Disney legends would be in attendance. Unfortunately, this part was a little awkward, as it was never really clarified what they would be doing there, or where they would be doing it. Initially, all the special guests were corralled in the Village Haus Restaurant for media interviews, and then were let out little by little as the night progressed. Another area around Dumbo was also cordoned off for media so it ended up being a little tricky to try to time it right, to be around when the celebrity you were interested in became available.
One thing that would have made it easier, is if they had given out lists of the luminaries that attended, maybe with pictures. As it was, there was no way to really distinguish them unless you knew them on sight (harder in the dim lighting they put on at night.) An easier task with more prominent characters like Tony Baxter and Richard Sherman, but more challenging with some of the less identifiable stars. Another issue was that they were all constantly being taken away to meet with more and varied media, so there was no assurance that by the time you got to the head of the line, they'd still be there. When they were available, however, all the celebrities seemed very welcoming and showed real fortitude by standing out in the cold for hours signing autographs and taking photos.
Disney Legend Bob Gurr and Steven Clark, Head of D23
Kathryn Beaumont, Voice of Alice
Disney Legend Bill Farmer, Voice of Goofy
Margaret Kerry, model for Tinker Bell
Terri Hardin, Puppeteer in Captain EO
Dave Smith, Disney Archivist
The party ended at midnight, and everyone was encouraged to exit out towards Main Street where some of the characters had been relocated to say goodbye and draw people out. As we exited the park, we were given an oversized commemorative 1st Anniversary pin, with the D23 start date and the party date printed on it.
On the whole, it was a fun event, although a little pricey at $65. I would have preferred a more formal structure to the handling of the celebrity guests, but that probably would have involved using an actual venue which would doubtless have increased the price...so, something to hope for, at "Destination D," later this year.