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December 26, 2016

"Destination D: Amazing Adventures" Day Two

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Catching up, here are my previous blogs about D23's Destination D Amazing Adventures:
Part One: A Conversation with Bob Chapek

Part 2: Day One Continued

Continuing on to day two of D23's "Destination D 2016: Amazing Adventures," historians Keven Neary and Susan Neary spoke briefly on their new book, curated by Imagineer Vanessa Hunt, "Maps of the Disney Parks: Charting 60 Years from California to Shanghai."

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(No photography or recording was permitted during the presentations. All photos thereof are courtesy of D23.)

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From the early maps of Disneyland in 1955 to the international parks of the current day, their book displays all the creative artwork and history of Disney park maps.

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Subsequently, attendees got a look behind the development of some of the recent Disney World entertainment additions in "New Walt Disney World Adventures."

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Entertainment Show Director Tom Vazzana started us off with a look at the new holiday nighttime show at Disney Hollywood Studios, "Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM!"

Through a high-energy walkthrough, Vazzana talked about the different segments of the show and the technical challenges of integrating high-definition projections, lasers, fireworks, and snow.



Imagineer Wyatt Winter
then took the stage to talk about the development of the new Frozen Ever After attraction that's taken the place of Maelstrom in the EPCOT Norway pavilion.

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--Some of the same animators that worked on the movie "Frozen," worked on the attraction to give life and consistency of movement and expression to the ride figures.

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--This is the first time an attraction is using all electric figures, as opposed to hydraulic.
--The newly designed area of the pavilion is intended to travel across Norway, much like the area of Liberty Square and Frontierland travels geographically across America.

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--Runestones placed around the area can be recognized as homages to Maelstrom.

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After the morning break, Imagineers Jason Grandt and Alex Wright returned to Destination D with "Magic Journeys: 45 Years of Walt Disney World Adventures."

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With the use of historical photos and video, the two gave everyone a quick and hilarious look at some of their favorite adventurous memories from Walt Disney World.

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From a walkthrough of the departed (at least from WDW) Mr. Toad's Wild Ride to an exploration of all the different activities that used to be found at Fort Wilderness...

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...to Discovery Island, to the Seven Seas Lagoon wave machines, to If You Had Wings, they covered the gamut of wacky to wonderful past WDW entertainment.

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A look at "Pandora--The World of AVATAR" was then hosted by "AVATAR" creators James Cameron, Jon Landau (as Alpha Centauri Expeditions Founder Marshall Lamm,) and Imagineer Joe Rohde.

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Enthusiastically discussing the many voyages they've taken to the planet Pandora, the group shared new concept art and insights.

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--Tourists will visit Pandora at a time far in the future from the events of "Avatar," after the Resources Development Administration (RDA) war is over.
--One reason for bringing tourists to the valley of the floating mountains is the variety of habitats that can be found there. Shade and water runoff result in rainforests at the bases and underneath.
--The mountains float because Unobtanium, a naturally occurring superconductor, occurs there in large concentrations. Magnetic fields, called flux vortices, can lift the Unobtanium out of the ground, force pinning it into the air.
--A large part of Alpha Centauri Expeditions' mission is conservation. Tourists will see an environment that has been disturbed by humans but which is being ecologically rehabilitated by nature and the indigenous population.

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--The Banshees, a cross between a raptor and a pterodactyl that evolved from fish, are able to bond with Na'vi who use them for riding and hunting.
--The Pandora Conservation Initiative (PCI) found abandoned RDA avatar facilities in the jungle, which allow them to offer tourists the experience of a flying initiation ceremony.
--Nature follows the same rules and reflects parallels between Earth and Pandora.
--Na'vi do not use metal in construction.
--Windtraders are a Na'vi clan that unites the cultures and maintains a common language through trading. The main shop in Pandora is named after them.
--"Pongu Pongu,” the repurposed Quonset hut that is the canteen means “party party."

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--Nighttime on Pandora is transformed through reactive bio-luminescence.
--A boat ride through the bio-luminescent grotto shows tourists a Na'vi Shaman performing a ceremony of song.

--The Na'vi are connected through the "Eywa" or "biological internet" whose purpose is to protect the Great Balance.
--The message of Pandora is to live in balance with the environment and with each other.

After lunch, the afternoon continued with Imagineer and Senior Production Designer Chris Merritt discussing "The Art and Adventures of Marc Davis."

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--Merritt is currently co-authoring a new book, "Marc Davis Goes to WED," on Marc Davis with Pete Docter and Vanessa Hunt--two volumes, due out in 2018.
--In the 1960's Davis was moved by Walt from animation to WED to work on Disneyland.
--Some of the legendary attractions he worked on were Jungle Cruise, The Enchanted Tiki Room, and Pirates of the Caribbean.

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--Davis originally proposed and designed an omnimover ride for the America Pavilion at EPCOT, as opposed to the show that was eventually developed.
--One of his last projects before he retired was a proposed addition/replacement of a Kachina doll diorama to the Grand Canyon Diorama on the Disneyland Railroad.

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In "The Imagineering Adventure," Steven Vagnini brought back Disney Legend Tony Baxter and Shanghai Disneyland Portfolio Creative Director Luc Mayrand to look at some of Disney's more adventurous creations
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--Baxter spoke on the three basic rationales used for getting the company to spend money on a new attraction: Timing, need, and technology.
--Big Thunder Mountain Railroad came about with the derailment of the Western River Expansion project. It both preserved part of the planned attraction and filled a vacant area for DL.

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--In an attempt to preserve the threatened Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse, Baxter used the promotional budget for "Tarzan," that would normally have been used for a parade, etc., and rethemed it to Tarzan's Treehouse.
--Splash Mountain came about as a result of the availability of AA figures from the retired America Sings attraction and Dick Nunis' fondness for flume rides.
--"Fear - Death = Thrill" --Eddie Sotto's formula for the appeal of adventurous rides, such as Indiana Jones and the Eye of Mara.

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--Mayrand then took the audience through some of the research behind the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction in Shanghai and showed us clips of some of the scenes.
--The original pirates attraction there was eventually split into two--a ride and a stunt show.
--Boats are driven by silent magnetic motors.
--The ride has been blessed with water from all the Pirates of the Caribbean attractions around the world.

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Afterwards, Director, Animal and Science Operations Dr. Scott Terrell spoke briefly about some of the preparations that to be made to adapt the animals at Animal Kingdom to the new nighttime experiences there, in "Guiding Animals Through Change."

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--Animal Kingdom scientists constructed welfare studies that developed parameters to measure change in the animals in response to changes in their environment.
--Structures in some of the habitats are completely soundproofed, so that animals can have the option of a quiet space.

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--Beaker, a black vulture, was introduced to the audience, as well as Willie the aardvark.
--Vultures are currently being poisoned by the millions by poachers to avoid detection while they illegally kill animals.

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Finally, to close out the weekend, Joe Rohde returned to talk about "Disney's Animal Kingdom: Evolving A New Species of Theme Park."

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--Prior to AK, the idea of theme parks was based upon the Magic Kingdom: An isolated, perfected, familar storybook land that stays timeless.
--Animals do not fit in this idealized situation.
--The three core values of AK: Intrinsic value of Nature; adventure; and personal story.
--The environment must then look overcome by Nature and poorly maintained, as if adventure could happen to you differently every time.
--The berm in AK is perforated to the outside world through conservation and research.
--Various research trips involved a plethora of dangers, such as snakes, erupting volcanoes, and temple ceremonies.
--RE his earrings: "It was out of emulation and respect for indigenous peoples of the world who now all wear Gap."
--A huge amount of the animal carvings in AK are from a Balinese family.

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--Whole temples in AK around Everest are designed and built in Nepal by professional craftspeople there.
--While you do not have to go to Africa for an adventure, you must be able to step out of the frame of the common everyday experience.
--On building Pandora, they realized that there was insufficient imagery in "Avatar" of the environment to create an actual place.
--Elements of Pandora then, are filled in with elements of the real world that act on the same principles--bio-luminescence, for example.
--"You cannot make this stuff up. The World has more detail than you can imagine."
--Pandora will have the same level of realism that the rest of AK has, because it is constructed with the same integrity.
--The Pandora area was originally going to be based on Eastern European mythological animals. Now it is about modern-day mythology: The things we need to think about and do in relation to our relationship to our planet.
--The Tree of Life will come to life at night and express the beauty of animals and the surrounding world.
--The park is a promise that you will have an adventure that is as if you did it for real.

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December 4, 2016

"Destination D: Amazing Adventures" Day One Continued

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Continuing on the first day of D23's "Destination D 2016: Amazing Adventures," film producer Don Hahn and Becky Cline, Director of the Walt Disney Archives took the audience on "A Look Back at Walt Disney's True-Life Adventures."

(No photography or recording was permitted during the presentations. All photos thereof are courtesy of D23.)

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Through a variety of rarely-seen photos and video clips, Hahn and Cline gave us a glimpse at the many challenges of filming and producing the nature series that was one of the key inspirations for the original Adventureland at Disneyland.

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Breaking the topic up into categories of "C's," they spoke of the filmmakers' concerns with
Companions: 50% of the photography was done by couples;
Camera equipment: One team developed what appeared to be an armored Winnebago where they shot footage and lived from, for three years;
Courage: Photographers were seen in all manners of horrific circumstances, from having to dress as bison, to being attacked by swarms of bees;
Climate: Many shoots were in less-than-hospitable environments such as the Arctic, and required any number of innovative living conditions;
Contraptions: In order to get the shots they needed, they would periodically invent devices, such as a camera that resembled a rifle to improve their accuracy in obtaining footage of birds in flight.

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Hahn also spoke briefly about DisneyNature's upcoming film "Born In China," and showed the trailer for it. Referencing an early video clip they had shown of Roy Disney's troubles manufacturing a funny nature bit for Walt, Hahn pointed out how far they had come from the early days of Nature documentaries: "This is no longer the era of 'throw-a-duck.'"

Next up was Disney Legend Marty Sklar describing some of the giant contributions Imagineers Harper Goff and Bill Evans made to realizing Disneyland's Adventureland in "The Wonderland of Nature's Own Design."

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From a recounting of how they first met Walt, to their involvement with concept art and practical construction design, Sklar showed some of the genius the two men put into the creation of Disneyland's most lush and mysterious land.

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Destination D regular Jason Grandt moderated the next panel on "Disney Adventurelands Around the World," with fellow Imagineers Tony Baxter and Luc Mayrand.

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Although they touched on the Adventurelands at all the parks, given Baxter's past role as executive producer of Disneyland Paris and Mayrand's recent position as creative lead on Treasure Cove at Shanghai Disneyland, it was kind of a "salute to all Adventurelands, but mostly Paris and Shanghai."

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--Imagineering research revealed a big Western Europe interest in the tales of the Arabian Nights, leading them to retheme the entry to DLP's Adventureland in that vein.

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--Similarly, they found few people there connected to the tales of Tom Sawyer, resulting in the substitution of the pirate-infested Adventure Isle.

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--Over in Shanghai, a tepid response to their proposals for Frontierland caused the Imagineers to reallocate its space and integrate it with their initial Adventureland into two large lands--Adventure Isle and Treasure Cove.
--Camp Discovery, with its dramatic Challenge Trails just won a TEA (Themed Entertainment Association) Outstanding Attraction award for 2016, along with Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure.
--The area's signature snack, turkey legs, became so popular the lines sometimes ran up to two hours, with people who worked their way through the front of the line selling them to people at the end for profit.

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A look at the lighter side of Adventure came with former Jungle Cruise skippers Archivist Justin Arthur, Skipper Canteen’s Trevor Van Dahm, and Imagineers Chris Merritt, Wyatt Winter, Kevin Lively, and Alex Grayman who recounted some of the history of the legendary attraction and its jocular narrative in "Tales from the Jungle Cruise."

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Afterwards, in "Disney's Polynesian Resort 45th Anniversary," D23’s Steven Vagnini, Disney Vacation Club’s Ryan March, and Disney artists Casey Jones and Richard Terpstra commemorated the occasion by giving us a glimpse into the iconic resort's genesis and development.

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--The first concept of a South Seas resort was shown on the map of the EPCOT project Walt displayed on television.
--Welton Becket, designer of landmark structures such as the Pan Pacific Auditorium, the Ford and GE pavilions for the 1964 World's Fair, and the Contemporary, also designed the original look of the Polynesian Village.
--A John Curry memo from 1969 reveals that "Contemporary" and "Polynesian" were originally working names that eventually stuck with minimal additions.

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--Although the resort started operation on October 1, 1971, the opening ceremony for the Polynesian was October 24th. The occasion was marked by the premier of the Electric Water Pagent and the Fantasy in the Sky firework show.
--Some early guests to the resort were Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, and Fred MacMurray.

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--The Polynesian Tiki was designed by WED in the late 1960s, likely based on a carving from an Oceanic Arts shield.
--It was originally considered to be Maui, but after various different representations of Maui were created, it became known as the Polynesian Tiki.

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--In a particularly nice homage, original Polynesian cast member Auntie Kau’I, cultural representative Ku’ulei, and musician Kalei joined the group onstage to reminisce about Kau'l's history at the resort and give a brief hula lesson.

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To finish off the day, Screenwriter Jared Bush spoke on WDAS' latest blockbuster "MOANA: Building a Legend."

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Always a dynamic speaker, Bush reiterated much of what has been discussed in some of the presentations I've written about earlier, in the film's pre-release:
http://land.allears.net/blogs/lauragilbreath/2016/09/moana_press_day_director_prese.html
http://land.allears.net/blogs/lauragilbreath/2016/10/moana_press_day_designing_the.html
http://land.allears.net/blogs/lauragilbreath/2016/11/moana_press_day_filmmaker_pres.html
http://land.allears.net/blogs/lauragilbreath/2016/11/moana_press_junket.html

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The Moana theme continued later that night, as guests were treated to an advance screening of "Moana" out under the stars on the Polynesian beach.

...And that was just the first day! More from the second day of Destination D: Amazing Adventures," to come!

December 1, 2016

"Destination D 2016: Amazing Adventures" A Conversation with Bob Chapek

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On November 19-20, D23 held its second biennial Destination D at the Contemporary Resort in Walt Disney World, "Destination D: Amazing Adventures."

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The weekend's emphasis was on Adventure, in all its many incarnations throughout Disney properties around the world, and with a particular eye towards new and upcoming exotica.

(No photography or recording was permitted during the presentations. All photos thereof are courtesy of D23.)

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To start us off, D23’s Jeffrey Epstein opened the weekend with Bob Chapek, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, to talk about some of his fond Disney Park memories (pickles in bags!) and upcoming additions to the parks.

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As part of the weekend's swag giveaways, attendees received their own MagicBand 2--a redesigned version with a removable center button that can be taken out (regular MagicBand 2's will come with their own custom screwdriver) and placed in a variety of personalized bracelet and non-bracelet wearable options.

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Chapek then spoke in fairly nonspecific terms about what he's eagerly anticipating from "Pandora – The World of AVATAR." Some new concept art of the in-story dining and shopping areas was also released, as Deb Koma reported on here.

With the announcement that Star Tours would, as it was with the release of "Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens," be refreshed with scenes from "Star Wars: Episode VIII," Chapek again teased some concept art of the Star Wars expansion currently underway at both Disneyland and Disney Hollywood Studios.

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Beyond that, Chapek again spoke generally about a major transformation in the works for EPCOT, that will make it more Disney, timeless, relevant, and family-friendly. He also expressed a wish to encase WDW guests in even more of a Disney bubble during their stay, mentioning on-property transportation as something that "is functional, when it should be magical!"

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The next day, we saw an example of what he might have been talking about--a "Sorcerer-Class Concept Bus" not currently planned for production but an attempt to further differentiate the Disney transportation experience.

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Inside, the bus featured mood lighting, and an audio track similar to the WDW resort hold music.

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Finally, Chapek closed his part of the presentation by revealing a plan to make the Society of Explorers and Adventurers (SEA) an overarching mythology that will thread through all the different Disney Parks of the world.

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Of note, SEA already makes an appearance in Fortress Explorations and Tower of Terror in Tokyo DisneySea, Mystic Manor in Hong Kong Disneyland, the Oceaneer Lab on the Disney Magic, and the upcoming Miss Fortune Falls in Typhoon Lagoon. It also features heavily in the themes of Disney Spring's Jock Lindsay's Hangar Bar, the defunct Adventurer's Club, and the Magic Kingdom's Skipper Canteen.

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December 22, 2014

D23 Destination D: Attraction Rewind, Day 2

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DESTINATION D MAGIC BAND WINNERS: Jeff Finger , Chuck Strom and Claude Herbert! Send Deb your address via the Contact Us Form: http://allears.net/forms/feedback.htm


On November 22-23, D23 held its big annual event at the Contemporary Resort in Walt Disney World, "Destination D: Attraction Rewind."

Day 1 emphasized the contributions Walt Disney made to the 1964-65 New York World's Fair, which I outlined here: http://land.allears.net/blogs/lauragilbreath/2014/12/d23_destination_d_attraction_r.html Day 2 was focused on attractions, and references to attractions, which have either been removed from the parks, or never made it to fruition.

(No photography or recording was permitted during the presentations. All photos thereof are courtesy of D23.)

The morning started off with a bonus showing of the 1982 3-D film shown at both the Imagination Pavilion in EPCOT and the Magic Eye Theater in Disneyland, "Magic Journeys." From the crowd reaction, it was evident that this long-departed visualization of a child's imagination still has its devoted adherents.

Our second surprise of the day was a virtual ride-through of the never-realized "Enchanted Snow Palace" attraction. The short film took us on a tour of the incredibly charming Marc Davis concept art, set to a score that Buddy Baker had created for it, produced by Jeff Crawford.

Marc Davis' Enchanted Snow Palace

The first presentation of the day was "Disneyland: Fond Memories of the Past," featuring the ever-charming Historian Stacia Martin and Walt Disney Archives Director Becky Cline sharing their recollections of Disneyland attractions that are no more.

Walt Disney Archives Director Becky Cline

Disney Historian and Artist Stacia Martin

Among the many fondly remembered landmarks was the Skull Rock waterfall formation that overlooked the Pirate Ship Restaurant in Disneyland's original Fantasyland. They were sadly lost in the tradeoff for a less-crowded layout in the 1983 New Fantasyland construction.

Skull Rock at Disneyland

Tomorrowland has seen its share of changes as well, with one of the more notable losses being "Adventure Thru Inner Space."

Adventures Through Inner Space

Opened in 1967 as part of "New Tomorrowland," it continued to shrink guests through its Mighty Microscope until its closure in 1986 to make way for "Star Tours."

Interview with Stacia Martin and Becky Cline:


After a short break, programming resumed with Imagineer Jason Grandt moderating a panel of Disney Legends Tony Baxter and Charlie Ridgeway on memories of past Walt Disney World this time, in "Widen Your World."

Imagineer Jason Grandt, Disney Legend Tony Baxter, Disney Legend Charlie Ridgeway

The three reminisced about some of their favorite retired WDW attractions including the Mickey Mouse Revue--once situated where "Mickey's Philharmagic" is today.

Mickey Mouse Revue

This animatronic-heavy show was the only attraction that was actually relocated to Tokyo Disneyland rather than recreated. It was replaced in 2009 there for "Mickey's Philharmagic," as well.

Another perennial favorite was the Eastern Airline-sponsored "If You Had Wings."

If You Had Wings

Fondly remembered as a free ride, in an era where most attractions cost a ticket for entry, the whirlwind tour of Eastern Airlines destinations closed in 1987, at the current site of "Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin."


Interview with Disney Legend Charlie Ridgeway:



Next up, Jason Grandt returned to the stage with fellow Imagineer Wyatt Winter to talk about "Retro Rewind References"--the little easter eggs they've included in present-day attractions, that call back to their extinct brethren.

Imagineer Jason Grandt

In the Town Square Theater, Mickey is shown to have mail on which all the stamps reference past attractions, while the recently-redone queue of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad features references to "The Apple Dumpling Gang," "Those Calloways," and Discovery Bay's Jason Chandler.

Imagineer Wyatt Winter

Interview with Imagineers Jason Grandt and Wyatt Winter:


After the lunch break, Tony Baxter returned to deliver what was the highlight of the weekend for many, "The Discovery Bay Chronicles."

Disney Legend Tony Baxter

This was an in-depth look at a land (and then a separate theme park) concept conceived by Baxter and developed with Disney Legend Harper Goff. Set on the California coast in the 1800's, Discovery Bay would have been loosely tied in with the soon-to-be-released Disney movie "The Island at the Top of the World." With a heavy steampunk aesthetic, and visually anchored by the dirigible "Hyperion," from the movie, the land would have encompassed an E-Ticket flight on the Hyperion, dining experiences on the Nautilus, a fireworks themed shooting gallery, and much much more.

Artist Rendering Discovery Bay

A trailer was even produced and shown to the D23 audience for a companion TV series "The Discovery Bay Chronicles," starring Peter Renaday as Discovery Bay founder Jason Chandler. This series would have served to give backstory on the new land, while building audience anticipation for it, as Walt did on TV for the opening of Disneyland.

The concept was so compelling, Baxter was told to work it up as a separate gate altogether for Disneyland. Unfortunately, as work went forward on it, "Island at the Top of the World" opened and sadly underperformed at the box office, causing Disney management to lose all confidence in the idea.

Aspects of the land still exist here and there, however--the dirigible and Nautilus both make an appearance at Discoveryland in Disneyland Paris; The Firework Factory became a restaurant in Pleasure Island; Tokyo DisneySea has Mysterious Island, which has a marked steampunk motif; and a gallery of illusions, "Professor Marvel's Gallery," evolved into Journey into Imagination.

Professor Marvel's Gallery

Interview with Tony Baxter:


After this extensive glimpse at an amazing land concept, we then got to see Imagineers Dave Minichiello and Pam Rawlins tackle the unenviable task of following Baxter with "An Evolution of Make Believe Made Real," going over the development of the new Magic Kingdom attraction, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.

Imagineers Dave Minichiello and Pam Rawlings

They made a point of showing the great effort that went into making many of the details in the ride match the original 1937 film. It was obviously a labor of love and it was not at all their fault that they were by then facing a roomful of people resentful about not being able to ride a dirigible.

The final presentation of the weekend came from the very funny Disney Legend Ron Logan, who was responsible for creating, casting, and producing all live entertainment products for The Walt Disney Company during his tenure.

Disney Legend Ron Logan

In "That Was Entertainment!" he went through some of the trials and tribulations involved in a handful of past spectacles he developed, including "Skyleidoscope," "The EPCOT Dare Devil Circus Spectacular," "Light Magic," and "Spectromagic."

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Interview with Disney Legend Ron Logan

In between presentations, our host for the weekend, D23"s Marketing Director Kristan Rodack, introduced mini-segments which usually introduced additional experiences open to Destination D guests. In "Computer Central Reboot," iPads were set up in another room with the original World Key games and videos to simulate going to Communicore at EPCOT back in the day. In a look forward, Rodack and Carl Allen from Disney Parks introduced a new "Show Your Disney Side" app that can transform your photos into your favorite Disney characters.

Kristin Rodack and Carl Allen Show Your Disney Side

A small exhibit of related items from the Archives was on display as well, in "Treasure of the Walt Disney Archives."

Disney Archives Exhibit

Disney Archives Exhibit

On one of the days, a working Mold-A-Rama machine was set up and guests could watch it running while it churned out plastic figurines.

Mold-A-Rama machine

On the whole, and having been to all the Destination D's D23 has produced so far, I would say that I thought this one had the best programming to date (I am biased however, because the 1964-65 NYWF has always been my top destination for when we develop time travel.) The speakers were great and the concept art ride-through videos they've begun to develop for a lot of these unrealized/retired attractions are a wonderful way to experience something that does not physically exist.

Destination D: Attraction Rewind showcased some of the best the Disney Parks has historically offered. Looking back at all the amazing experiences they've developed, from Magic Skyway, to If You Had Wings, to Discovery Bay, to Skyleidoscope, there is an ambition and an optimism and a joyfulness that pervades all of them. Given how often we find those qualities missing in present day times, inside and outside the parks, it's a wonderful gift to be able to revisit and appreciate them all over again.

SPECIAL BONUS:

Here's how you can win a special Destination D Magic Band! Simply leave a comment below about Destination D Attraction Rewind OR leave a comment on one of the videos posted in this blog between now and midnight December 22, 2014. We will pick a comment at random for the Magic Band!

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December 19, 2014

D23 Destination D: Attraction Rewind, Day 1

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DESTINATION D MAGIC BAND WINNERS: Jeff Finger , Chuck Strom and Claude Herbert! Send Deb your address via the Contact Us Form: http://allears.net/forms/feedback.htm


On November 22-23, D23 held its big annual event at the Contemporary Resort in Walt Disney World, "Destination D: Attraction Rewind."

D23 Destination D Attraction Rewind Program

The emphasis on Saturday's schedule was an exploration of the 1964-65 New York World's Fair--a landmark in Disney history due to the four exhibits Disney presented there, all marvels of themed attraction innovation.

(No photography or recording was permitted during the presentations. All photos thereof are courtesy of D23.)

Early Construction at the 1964-65 World's Fair

To start us off, Historian Bill Cotter gave us a general overview in his presentation "Welcome to the World's Fair."

Worlds Fair Historian Bill Cotter

Displaying only a portion of his extensive (22,000!) collection of World's Fair photos (located online at http://www.worldsfairphotos.com/) Cotter took us on a whirlwind tour of the construction and layout of the Fair. Some of the futuristic developments the fair introduced: Phone booths, touch-tone phones, computers, carbon-free copies, and Bel-Gem waffles.

Next up were Disney Legends Marty Sklar and Bob Gurr generally discussing the Disney contributions in "Walt Disney--A Giant at the New York World's Fair."

Disney Legends Marty Sklar and Bob Gurr

With the easy familiarity born of all their cumulative years of Disney service, Sklar and Gurr shared many of their memories developing and experiencing the Fair attractions with Walt and the other classic Imagineers. Two notes they made of Walt's forethought: He had contracts drawn up to take possession of all the attractions he built after the fair for Disneyland (ending a six-year stagnant period;) and the month the Fair opened was the same month he began quietly purchasing land in Florida.

Walt Disney's its a small world New York Worlds Fair

Because neither Sklar or Gurr worked extensively on "it's a small world," video segments were played with Disney Legends Richard Sherman and Rolly Crump talking about their contributions on that attraction.

Photos of its a small world from the World's Fair

Interview with Disney Legends Bob Gurr and Marty Sklar

After a short break, Historian Stacia Martin shared with us "Disney Music Magic at the New York World's Fair."

Disney Historian Stacia Martin

Martin played a number of musical selections for us, including some of the impressive orchestral scores Buddy Baker came up with for Mr. Lincoln and Carousel, proof-of-concept recordings for the iasw roundelay, and George Bruns' many and varied musical adaptations for the Ford queue, as played by the Autoparts Harmonic.

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The first of the Disney Fair pavilions discussed was "Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln," with 2007 Disney Ambassador and Historian Michael Kelley and Imagineer Jack Gladish.

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Interview with Imagineer Jack Gladish

The two went back over the history of Audio-Animatronic development from the Buddy Ebsen "Dancing Man" footage to the problems making forehead plastic crinkle when Lincoln moved his eyebrows. (Oddly enough, no thought at all was apparently given to this when Gary Sinese taped his "Mission: Space" footage right after botox.)

Artist Rendering of Mr. Lincoln

The initial presentation of the Lincoln figure was so impressive, the Illinois Commission was able to convince Robert Moses, Head of the World's Fair Corporation, to pitch in money for it--the only financial support he gave to any exhibitor--just so he could have the pavilion in the Fair.

After lunch we reconvened to hear Bill Cotter and Bob Gurr return to the stage to talk about Walt, cars, and dinosaurs in "Ford's Magic Skyway."

Bill Cotter and Bob Gurr

Sadly, this is the one ride that did not make it back to Disneyland, as Walt apparently deemed the ride system too large to take back and fit into the park. Consequently, his contracts for the Skyway were written for him to be able to take the dinosaurs and a few other small pieces, and leave the rest.

Fords Magic Skyway at New York World's Fair

The presentation ended with a video ride through reconstruction which is the closest any of us will get to riding Ford's Magic Skyway today.

[For more concept pictures on this ride, I refer you back to a blog I wrote on the 2010 Destination D, when we were still allowed to take photos: http://land.allears.net/blogs/lauragilbreath/2010/10/destination_d_day_1_pm.html]

Marty Sklar then returned as well, to talk with Imagineer Gary Landrum about the making of "Carousel of Progress."

Marty Sklar and Gary Landrum

The two went through a brief history of the attraction, detailing its proposed origin for the unrealized Edison Square, then its first life in Progressland, and again, to its subsequent existence in Disneyland's Tomorrowland.

Carousel of Progress

Carousel of Progress

Tim O'Day, standing in for an absent Alice Davis, had a chat with Disney Legend and assistant manager of the Disney World's Fair projects, Bill Sullivan about "it's a small world," and some of the Imagineers that worked on it.

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Artist Rendering its a small world

Interview with Disney Legend Bill "Sully" Sullivan, Worlds Fair Historian Bill Cotter and Imagineer Gary Landrum

Next up was Walt Disney Archives Director Becky Cline, who gave us a fascinating look at some proposed projects that did not come to fruition in "Lost on the Way to the World's Fair." The highlight was a presentation of the script and concept art (long misattributed to the Tiki Room,) for a theater show pitched for the Coke Pavilion, entitled "Legends of the Enchanted Island."

Legends of the Enchanted Island

The first day of Destination D presentations then closed out with "Tomorrowland's" Supervising Art Director Ramsey Avery, discussing the work that was done for the film to reconstruct parts of the World's Fair in "A Sneak Peak at Disney's Tomorrowland."

Ramsey Avery

While they did show some footage just for the Destination D event, you can get a quick glimpse of some of their work in the recently released trailer:

SPECIAL BONUS:

Here's how you can win a special Destination D Magic Band! Simply leave a comment below about Destination D Attraction Rewind OR leave a comment on one of the videos posted in this blog between now and midnight December 24, 2014. We will pick a comment at random for the Magic Band!

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...And that was just the first day! More from the second day of Destination D: Attraction Rewind, to come!

August 17, 2012

D23′s Destination D: 75 Years of Disney Animated Features: A Look Back.

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Day One
Day Two

So now that we're (sadly) finished with one more Destination D, it's time for a look back on some of the outstanding moments in my memory.

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I have to confess, when they had all the dancers/fans rush out in flash mob fashion to dance around to traditional music mixed with that oddly synthetic hip hop beat overlay they like to use for all the shows nowadays, I had PTSD flashbacks to the Disney Dance Crew moments from the 2010 Destination D ("Drink up me gangstas, yo ho!") This is not to take anything away from the performers, who were as exuberant as anyone could wish, but one of my pet peeves is the attempt to modernize tunes that were already really pretty good as they were. I am OK hearing music the way the Sherman Brothers wrote it, without having someone with a synthesizer go to town on it, and I would wonder how many people interested in 75 year old animated films might feel the same.

Fortunately, the first panel fulfilled all our yearnings for nostalgia by giving us insight into each of the "Nine Old Men" from guys who were actually there, working with them.

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One interesting note Joe Hale gave us, was that the Nine Old Men originally resented the title a little, as they weren't really that old when it was given to them...but they grew into it.

A few of the panels, while still fascinating, didn't really yield entirely new information. If you saw, for example, Waking Sleeping Beauty, you already had a large amount of context for the talk on the second golden age of Disney animation. Similarly, if you had attended Comic-Con, you had already heard a lot of what they had to say about Wreck-it Ralph.

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Paperman, however, presented by Producer Christina Reed and Supervising Animator Patrick Osborne, was entirely new and really a beautiful piece of work. Their new hybrid technique of animating faces in CG, removing parts and then redoing it in hand-drawn animation yielded a very clean-looking style that perfectly complimented the simple but oh-so affecting story. They said they would like to try a longer project with the same process, but still need to work out different aspects such as color, etc. Even if you weren't going to go see Wreck-it Ralph (which you should, because it looks great also,) Paperman is worth a trip to the cinema.

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One of my absolute favorite panels brought three of the Imagineers responsible for Disneyland Paris (among other projects too numerous to mention) together to share stories and reminisce about their mentors in the company.

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Tony Baxter spoke at length on his appreciation for Claude Coats' openness to the ideas of others, and his unflappable attitude towards the constantly changing nature of his projects--his faith that a given creation would ultimately be fine, although probably different from what he originally envisioned. His specialty was creating environments which were real, and which made good park rides.

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Eddie Sotto gave a presentation on Herb Ryman--emphasizing his genius in placemaking and his insistence on research as an essential tool in grounding fantasy with elements of authenticity.

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One part I found fascinating was when Sotto pointed out a pair of nuns Ryman drew for a movie storyboard...

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...That seem to turn up in quite a variety of places...

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It could be speculated that either Ryman was periodically placing them in the background of various renderings as an inside joke, or those two nuns wound up perpetually traveling the globe in their jeep.

The only negative about the panel was the time constraints--although the audience would happily have sat through a talk twice as long, it was clear that Tom Morris could have spoken longer about the two legends he knew personally, Marc Davis and John Hench.

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Hopefully they'll have these guys back again soon...maybe for a Disneyland Paris event?

Of course the first concert of the weekend, Dick Van Dyke and the Vantastix, was wonderful. There isn't much to be said about Dick Van Dyke, except to hope that he keeps performing forever...which from the looks of him, seems entirely possible.

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Among the many exciting panels of the next day, watching Andreas Deja effortlessly sketch out a number of his trademark characters was a definite highlight. Also: If you're the person who found this sketch under your seat? I hate you.

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Any time you get a chance to hear from the Disney voice artists, it's always a good time--from the genial jocularity of Bill Farmer (Goofy,) to the gentle mannered tones of Lisa Davis (Anita,) to the...sounds...of Chris Sanders (Stitch.)

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Davis recalled her casting as developing from a movie she did (Queen of Outer Space) with Zsa Zsa Gabor, who apparently proved to be a touch difficult, which led Davis to developing a satirical impression of her. Disney heard of this and thought it might be an interesting take on Cruella, and had her come in to read lines, while he read Anita. Quickly perceiving that she was much more Anita than Cruella, she suggested a switch and subsequently had a wonderful time preparing for the role by playing with puppies they brought in for her, in the Hyperion Bungalow.

An absolutely astounding moment was when Marge Champion was presented, as the original live-action reference model for Snow White.

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Looking at her, there is no way you are going to think this woman is 93 years old. Clearly her years of activity as a dancer has stood her in good stead.

And then there was the grand finale, as Alan Menken brought it all home with a phenomenal concert. The raised seating in the back of the room was just lousy with Disney Legends, all out for a marvelous night.

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(While sitting in the row in front of luminaries like Tony Baxter and Richard Sherman was good for photos, it became slightly terrifying as waves of adoring fans came racing over to greet them, clearly completely unconcerned if they had to stomp on your head to get to them, a la Gene Kelly's death in "What a Way to Go!")

Menken gave a great performance. I found that through the years, I've heard some of his songs from Mermaid or Beauty so frequently, that I actually ceased to pay attention to them anymore--they had just become part of the audio wallpaper of the parks. To really listen to them again was to remember just how good they are, and why they are played so frequently, even today.

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In sum, it was a really fun weekend. The presentations that revolved mostly around video clips were a little problematic, because in this day of YouTube, it's hard to find footage to show that everyone doesn't have readily available to them...but it's always fun to see Back to Neverland or Song of the South on a big screen again.

Sunday was definitely lighter in programming than Saturday, and here's another pet peeve of mine: All throughout the show, they kept hammering at us that they listen to what everyone says, and scheduled fewer talks because people complained that they wanted more free time to socialize and use the facilities. Really? People want to pay that much for an event, and then more than anything, want to have free time? Even if they did, why wouldn't they just skip the panels in which they weren't interested? I would think that for a person who doesn't attend a presentation, there's no difference whether the content is scheduled or not--asking them not to schedule it only means no one else gets to see it. Why is it I can't see more stuff, just because you want three hours for dinner?

If the thought of waiting in lines forever at Expo gives you the vapors, but you still want to experience presentations on Disney past, present, and future, the Destination D series is a great option. You're guaranteed a seat, although people still line up for hours to jockey for location, so the stress level involved is much lower. The emphasis is on historical content however, so if you come expecting new and ground-breaking announcements about future projects, you're likely to be disappointed. For people who want to see and hear about the Legends--the creators who were there at the beginning of the Disney company, when animation was new, and theme parks were only a fool's dream--it's a treasure. A gift of lore and anecdotes from people whose pride in their work and their association with the company shines through even 20, 40...80 years later.

Don't take too long pondering over whether to attend the next one, however, because many people and their stories are gone already, and unfortunately none of us are getting any younger...with the possible exception of Dick Van Dyke and Marge Champion.

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August 13, 2012

D23′s Destination D: 75 Years of Disney Animated Features: Day Two

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Day One

OK, a handful of hours later, and we're back for more, at day 2 of D23's Destination D!

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The day started off with animation historian Jerry Beck and animator Eric Goldberg's presentation on Wacky and Wild Disney Animation. Many of the more surreal segments of animation (such as Pink Elephants on Parade) and some of the earlier Mickey Mouse cartoons, in which he was depicted as doing comically uncomfortable things to Minnie and barnyard animals.

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Next up was animator Andreas Deja, who, in Drawing with Personality, showed examples of many famous animators' drawings and pointed out how their drawing styles evolved and what their strong points of design were. He then drew several drawings which were later given away by the time-old "taped under the seat" method, and asked the audience to draw Jafar as a child.

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After a short break, we came back to Tinker Bell: The Evolution of a Disney Character. In this panel, animation historian Mindy Johnson introduced us to the creation and maturation of the Tinker Bell character, revealing her new discovery of Tinker Bell's facial model, former ink and paint girl Ginni Mack. They were joined by Tinker Bell's body model Margaret Kerry, and the voice actress and director of Tinker Bell's new movies, Mae Whitman and Peggy Holmes.

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Following lunch, a star-studded panel awaited in Hearing Voices: A Salute to Disney Voice Artists--Kathryn Beaumont, voice of Alice and Wendy; Lisa Davis, voice of Anita in 101 Dalmatians; David Frankham, Sgt. Tibbs from 101 Dalmatians; Bruce Reitherman, Mowgli and Christopher Robin; Bill Farmer, Goofy; and Christ Sanders, voice of Stitch.

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The last presentation of the day was Snow White: Still the Fairest of Them All. In celebrating the first animated feature that made all the rest possible, Tim O'Day presented Marge Champion, live-action model for Snow White, Alex Rannie, animated musical historian, and Gabriella Calicchio, recent CEO of The Walt Disney Family Museum .

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But wait! It wasn't over yet! To top off all that had gone before, the weekend culminated in an amazing concert: An Evening With Alan Menken. Playing parts of various songs he wrote for Disney and non-Disney productions throughout his career, the songwriter and Disney Legend played piano and sang for over 100 minutes to a completely rapt audience. If you weren't there, man, I feel for you, because it was fabulous.

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Next time: The event in overview.

August 12, 2012

D23′s Destination D: 75 Years of Disney Animated Features: Day One

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Another year has rolled around, bringing us once again to D23's Destination D weekend. This time out, the theme is celebrating 75 years of animated features with a plethora of panels discussing Disney animation of the Past, Present, and Future.

To welcome us in, Steven Clark, head of D23 gave a short address, which was then followed by a dancing flash mob.

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When they finally concluded, a taped message from John Lasseter was played, pumping up the excitement for the upcoming weekend.

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The first panel started off with memories of Walt and the First Golden Age of Disney Animation, with people who were actually there: Animator and Disney Legend Burny Mattinson, animator and producer Joe Hale, and documentary director/son of Disney Legend Frank Thomas, Ted Thomas.

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Subsequently, came three panels during which all photography or recording were forbidden. The first was Roy E. Disney and the Second Golden Age of Disney Animation, in which Roy Patrick Disney, son of Roy E. Disney and former Imagineer; producer Don Hahn; animation producers John Musker and Ron Clements; and creative director/head of special projects Dave Bossert, discuss how Roy E. ultimately saved Disney Animation, and by extension, the company.

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Upcoming animation projects were presented in the panel Inside Walt Disney Animation Studios Today.

One of the movies discussed was Wreck-It Ralph, the movie about a character's existential crisis, as experienced by a character in a video game.

Another was the work-in-progress Frozen, a contemporary musical film, loosely based on the Snow Queen. We were treated to a performance of one of the songs "Let it Go," which will be sung by Idina Menzel, from Wicked.

We were also given the first public screening of paperman, the new short film that will play before Wreck-it Ralph. It displays a new melding of CG and hand-drawn animation, in which the hand-drawn features are layered on top of CG renderings.

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The next presentation, The Greatest Disney Animation You Never Saw, played videos that have been relatively scarce for some time. The preshow to the old Art of Animation attraction in then-MGM Studios, Back to Neverland, with Robin Williams and Walter Cronkite was one, along with footage from Song of the South.

Animating the Disney Parks was a terrific talk with the ever-entertaining Imagineering senior vice president Tony Baxter, talking about his mentor, legend Claude Coats; former Imagineer Eddie Sotto talking about his mentor, legend Herb Ryman; and Imagineering vice president of creative development Tom Morris discussing likewise legend Marc Davis and John Hench.

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The evening closed out with a concert and screening: An Evening with Dick Van Dyke and the Vantastix, and a screening of the director's cut of Walt & El Grupo.

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Dick Van Dyke is still amazingly spry for his 86 years, and if he occasionally has a senior moment during the performance (the song list of which was pretty similar to their performance at the Expo last year,) it detracts nothing from the enjoyment of the singing or his not-inconsiderable charm.

The documentary of Walt's goodwill trip to South America with his band of artistic talent is the product of Ted Thomas and producer Kuniko Okubo, and is a great look at all these famous Disney film makers when they were in their prime, and at the height of their talents.

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Day Two coming up!

May 12, 2011

D23 Destination D: Here We Go Again...

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Hey, remember when I was blogging about Destination D, back when it happened at Disneyland, last year? Remember when I got through the first day and said I'd come back to the second day? Remember when I never did?

So now we're less than a week away from the second Destination D, out at Walt Disney World, and I thought I'd briefly recap the second day and look ahead to this week's event.

The second day at Disneyland's Destination D started with Tim O'Day and Rob Klein's discussion on Disneyland Through the Eye of Television.

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The two reviewed a lot of historical television footage, starting with the anthology series The Disneyland Story, which highlighted a different land in Disneyland each week in an attempt to pump people up about it during its construction. They continued on through the 70's and 80's, with commercials, anniversary celebrations, and those often-inadvertently hilarious variety specials that used to be so prevalent when I was little.

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This panel was followed by Disney Undiscovered, hosted by Dave Fisher.

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In this talk, Dave Fisher went through a timeline of the development and construction of Disneyland, starting from its inspiration in the Tivoli Gardens, through the original designs of "Burbank Park," the small park Walt was intending to build near his Burbank Studios, to the purchase of the land and its eventual development into the Disneyland of 1955. He also displayed slides of various rarely seen pictures and concept art.

An example of one was a painting done by Peter Ellenshaw, which was a second version of the Disneyland picture done with black light paint, so that they could visualize what it would look like lit up at night.

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Some of the never-realized concept art included the frequently mentioned "Rock Candy Mountain," the Fantasyland Crocodile Aquarium, "Gay 90's Square," the Black Cauldron Ride (which ultimately became Maelstrom,) and the Black Hole Ride (which ultimately became Buzz Lightyear.) There was also a large amount of art for a suggested attraction to fill the old Carousel of Progress building during it's fallow period...

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Clearly not all attraction concepts have an equal chance at gestation.

The last talk of the morning was Dave Smith, presenting "Disneyland: The Way We Were."

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He presented a number of rarely-seen construction photos taken as Disneyland was being built, as well as a look back at many attractions/features of Disneyland that have gone away to Yesterland.

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After the break, Tim O'Day came back to host "Disneyland: The Happiest Place in Pop Culture."

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In this talk, he first touched upon some of the many contributions Disneyland has made, not only to the field of theme park development, but to the common vocabulary as well.

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He then reviewed some of the many celebrities and dignitaries that have visited Disneyland over the years, and showed clips of various films that have used Disneyland as backdrops--from 40lbs of Trouble, with Tony Curtis, to Tom Hanks' "That Thing You Do."

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Later, he mentioned a number of singers who mentioned Disneyland in a variety of songs, and briefly touched on Disneyland's role in such societal features as the Rose Parde, Yippies, and the Smithsonian (Dumbo is the most photographed display in the museum.)

After that, Garth Kemp, Weather Anchor for ABC Eyewitness News facilitated "A Word from the President"--a loose interview with Disneyland President George Kalogridis.

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He described his personal history, from his family's history as Greek sponge fishermen, to working at Disneyland as a busboy, to his executive work at Disneyland Paris. He then answered some questions that had been sent in; one of the most popular inquired about any existing plans to bring back the Peoplemover. His response was that they could never bring it back in its old format, as new safety regulations would require stairways to be placed at regular intervals down from the track and the track itself would have to be four times wider for people to be able to walk on either side. He answered a great many other questions as well, but I couldn't hear them after that, over the sound of my own sobbing.

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Subsequently, they had short dance interludes introducing the (then) new attractions Electronica and the Disney Dance Crew.

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Steven Clark then did a sneak peek at the upcoming D23 Expo by bringing people up on stage to demonstrate how the Ultimate Disney Trivia Tournament would likely go. An impressive amount of Disney knowledge was displayed, and the winner got a golden ticket to the semifinals (among other prizes.)

After the evening break, we came back for 2 more presentations: Tony Baxter and Ed Hobelman did "The Wonderful World of Vintage Disneyland--In Color!" which was essentially the same panel they did for the Expo the year before, displaying video of Disneyland from its construction/early years; and Tim O'Day came back one more time for "Disneyland, USA Screening and Panel," which included a discussion with Jack Linquist, Tony Baxter, Ed Hobelman, Dave Smith, and Geri Bumpass (the original Disneyland Tour Guide) about some of their early memories of the park.

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One new piece of footage shown was what is believed to be the last film Walt ever shot--a lead-in to an invitation showing of "Follow Me Boys."

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...And with that, the first annual D23 event was over.

Destination D: WDW Style
Looking at the schedule for the upcoming Destination D, it's clear that many of the talks will follow similar formats, with the content shifted to emphasize WDW's history. Weird WDW, WDW The Way We Were, and the presentations on WDW as depicted in film and on television are direct analogues to the DL presentations. There is a similar musical concert with Richard Sherman, but scheduled for the evening of the second day, rather than the first. This, along with the placement of the several Disney Legend/Imagineer panels on the second day seems like a response to the feeling from many last year attendees, that the second day was something of a let-down from the first. Having most of their special guests and the concert on the first day left the second day feeling a little anti-climactic, and lacking a sense of closure.

While I was initially a little skeptical as to how they would manage to generate the same sense of excitement about WDW history as DL history, lacking the presence of Walt Disney himself for much of it, they have managed to put together a fairly compelling list of events. I am particularly looking forward to the talk on "EPCOT: Walt's Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow" with the hopes of hearing new information on Walt's grand plan to revitalize the modern community.

In any case, it should be a great weekend of Disney geekery, well-suited to commemorating WDW's 40th Anniversary this year. See you there!

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November 5, 2010

Destination D: Day 1, Late Afternoon.

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The afternoon continued with "Imagineering the Magic of Disney," hosted by Marty Sklar. This was a panel made up of a large number of Imagineers, both past and present. In attendance were X. Atencio, Alice Davis, Bob Gurr, Don Iwerks, Dave Durham, Kathy Mangum, Kevin Rafferty, and Tony Baxter.

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The discussion was directed by Sklar, who threw out general questions to all the panel, such as "what's your favorite project you worked on, at Disney?" For X. Atencio, it was Pirates of the Caribbean. Alice Davis responded with It's a Small World because, "growing up in the depression, I didn't have any dolls. For It's a Small World, I got to dress and play with the best dolls in the world."

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Bob Gurr gave the monorail as his favorite project, along with the gleeful observation that while it took him one year to develop it, it took the current Imagineers four years to refurbish it. Kathy Mangum and Kevin Rafferty both picked the Finding Nemo Submarine ride as their favorites.

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Don Iwerks fondly recalled the 360° theater he helped develop for CircleVision show "America the Beautiful" with his father, Ub Iwerks, who came up with the concept on demand, in only a day. Dave Durham's favorite was Indiana Jones, because he had actually won an internship with WDI by designing an Indiana Jones-type ride, and then was surprised to find himself ultimately working on the same thing.

Tony Baxter's favorite was Star Tours, when he got to meet George Lucas with Ron Miller. He also related a story of the pitch meeting he had with Michael Eisner, in which Eisner brought his 14 year-old son with him, reasoning that since he (Eisner) wasn't "up on theme parks," his son could better judge the projects than he could. Not only was his son wildly enthusiastic about both projects Baxter presented (Star Tours and Splash Mountain,) but Eisner also approved Captain EO, since neither of the other projects could be completed in less than four years. "I got three projects approved. It was a good day."

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Afterward, the Imagineers discussed some of their favorite memories of Disneyland. Alice Davis remembered trying to take her niece to Disneyland on the day before she had to go back to New York, and getting to the park an hour before it closed. At that time they didn't sell tickets during the last hour, so they refused to let her in. Determined, she told the little girl they would go to the exit and walk in backwards, so that the CMs guarding the gate would not notice them in the crowd. Her plan proceeded perfectly, and she got her on all the attractions before it all shut down for the day.

They then went on to favorite memories of Walt: Alice recounted Walt's glee at showing her the animatronic of the grandmother from Carousel of Progress, as he was getting ready to pass her off as a real person, and put her on a plane to New York for the World's Fair. Bob Gurr told of a time when he was required by second parties to construct safety cages for the Astro Jets ("the ugliest things;") they were hidden away, but were ultimately found by Walt who roundly chewed him out for creating them, which showed him just how much Walt cared for the park--"it was his park, and nothing went in his park that he didn't want in the park!"

Marty Sklar then told his anecdote of when they used to produce color brochures of the park that sold for $0.25. "Suits" eventually figured out that it cost them $0.24 to make each one, and came to Walt telling him that they needed to raise the price to $0.50 at least. Walt responded that they didn't understand at all: He wanted every person who went to Disneyland to buy one of those books, and put them on their coffee table at home. When their friends came to visit, he wanted them to be able to see the book, and be struck with the desire to see Disneyland for themselves. "When they get to the park, they'll spend money there. We don't have to make money on everything we sell."

After talking about their favorite projects that didn't happen (Dave Durham stated that 90% of everything they blue sky never gets built,) they went to a Q&A session that was abruptly truncated when (as so many Q&A's do,) it began to be a forum for hug requests. It was a great panel and a remarkable thing for everyone there to witness, as there was a collective 307 years of experience at the Disney Company present between all the panel participants.

After dinner that evening, they held a concert entitled "E-Ticket: Music from the Disney Parks," which was really terrific. A variety of performers, led by Richard Sherman, presented some of the classic Disney park songs. Some from Broadway, such as Terron Brooks (Simba in The Lion King,) Wilson Cruz (Angel in Rent,) John Tartaglia (Princeton/Rod in Avenue Q,) and Tracie Thoms (Joanne in Rent;) and some from television, such as Ana Ortiz and Michael Urie (Ugly Betty.) They also introduced a new, official D23 singing group called "Melo-D 23" which was made up of Disney Cast Members (including Becky Cline,) and proved that Jeffrey Epstein has talents beyond being the Disney Geek when he joined Ana Ortiz in a duet to "A Whole New World."

Video and audio recording were prohibited, so we can only hope they decide to release the footage on a dvd at some point. From Tartaglia's story of his obsession with the Country Bear Jamboree and ghostly puppetry ("I want you to sing along--because if I'm going to stand here with two shiny lamé puppets on my hands...you know what's expected of you,") to Urie's call for all the people having birthdays to come up on stage...so he could sing "Happy Unbirthday" to everyone else, to Richard Sherman's always fascinating reminiscences of the earlier days, with Walt, it was a fun night and a great way to end the first day of Destination D.

October 19, 2010

Destination D: Day 1, Early Afternoon.

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So after lunchtime, the schedule continued with "A Long Time Ago...The Making of Star Tours," presented by WDI Creative Executive Tom Fitzgerald.

He detailed the inception of the ride as coming from George Lucas, and then related his trip to London to investigate the motion simulators with Tony Baxter. The simulators there were apparently a great deal rougher than what they ultimately were out here, and after watching them for awhile, the Imagineers began taking bids for whatever tablets of Dramamine they had with them.

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The original name they came up with for for the ride was "Cosmic Winds," and like the title, the concept for the droid driver changed a bit as the development process continued.

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He talked a little about the voice they ended up with--they originally demoed Billy Barty for the part of Rex, however they wound up feeling that the part called for someone who was less child-like, and heavier on the screaming (a reflection, perhaps, on the shared experience of Tom and Tony of failing their DMV tests.) They became acquainted with Pee Wee Herman's performance ability as he was appearing in his show at the Roxy Theater in Los Angeles and had recently done the voice of another robotic driver in "Flight of the Navigator," and a match was made.

In an interesting note, he reminded people that the ride was created in a time prior to CGI, and consequently much of the special effects shown on the film were actually achieved by the use of models, including the trip through the comets.

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Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic company did much of the film, and consequently most of the actors seen in it are ILM employees.

As the project continued, the budget for the droid room suffered; in an attempt to salvage the concept, they were able to recycle the Goose Quartet from America Sings, who were reincarnated there.

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There was also some debate over whether the guests should see the outside of the speeder or not. Hench drew this rendering of one potential setup where the speeder was not visible.

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Ultimately Hench suggested that with warm light inside the speeder, and cool light outside, entering guests would likely never notice the outside in their enthusiasm, and he was largely proven correct.

Anthony Daniels was brought in to record the voice of C-3PO and also acted out the part in the preshow to aid in the animation of the audio-animatronic. In addition, he wrote and voiced the announcements in Ewokese ("ku channa, ku channa...")

Tom Fitzgerald went on to discuss the new changes coming to Star Tours in the currently-ongoing re-imagineering of the ride, but all the announcements in that vein have been pretty well covered by him in his disney blog at http://disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog/author/tom-fitzgerald/.

The next panel, hosted by Paul Anderson, was "The 1964 New York World's Fair and the Development of Audio-Animatronics." This was one of the presentations to which I was most looking forward, as both the 1964 and the 1939 World's Fair are on the top of my list of "first places I'm going when Time Machines are commercially available."

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Of the four pavilions Walt produced for the World's Fair (Carousel of Progress, It's a Small World, Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln, and Magic Skyway,) Anderson mostly discussed the Magic Skyway as the other three have survived in some form or another to the present day.

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Initially planned as a "Symphony of America," the scope of the ride was broadened out to the history of the world, as seen from the comfort of your Ford automobile. You would board your car and be whisked effortlessly on multiple levels and tracks through both the primeval and the future world.

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[Seriously. If this picture doesn't make you want to sell your soul to the Devil to go back for a ride, you and I can never be friends.]

The narration came in different languages, and if you picked English, you were lucky enough to hear Walt Disney himself, coming in through the car radio.

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You initially went through a time tunnel, back to a Primeval World that may seem fairly familiar to those who have gone around the Disneyland Railroad, by way of the Grand Canyon dioramas.

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The cavemen depicted in later scenes were largely drawn by Marc Davis, and sculpted by Blaine Gibson. They bear something of a resemblance to their descendants who later peopled the first couple scenes in Spaceship Earth.

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After leaving prehistoric times, the cars drove outside onto elevated highways, where the various levels and directions of tracks gave the outside the busy, kinetic appearance that always signaled the Future to Disney. The route took the cars past a futuristic city, and then back to the unloading area.

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Anderson then showed some brief photos of the other pavilions, such as this one of GE's Progressland:

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As enticing as it seems, to see the original Carousel of Progress, I think I'd be a little concerned about the Nuclear Fusion Demonstration going on in the center...

Finally, he spoke a little of the Roland Crump's famous Tower of the Four Winds that stood outside It's a Small World, and how Walt looked into transporting it back to California after the Fair, but found the shipping costs to be prohibitive.

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Ultimately, the fact that the Tower and all the other pavilions were destroyed after the Fair is considered part of the impetus for Disneyland--Walt found it such a shame, that he was even more driven to create a permanent location for his creations.

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In addition, Disneyland owes the Fair for contributing to the development of the Omnimover and Peoplemover, Audio-Animatronics, the canal boat ride (Pirates,) and the entire Walt Disney World resort as it proved Disney could pull in an East Coast audience as easily as a West Coast one.

The Fair continues to stand as a beacon of that era's space-age, optimistic and forward-thinking views of the Future as an unending vista of marvels. Ultimately, waves of change would come with the Vietnam War, civil rights struggles, and various other cultural revolutions that would dim that vision a little...but for 1964-1965, it was a world of singing children, electric ovens, and Ford automobiles that could take you to the stars.

October 13, 2010

D23 Destination D: Day 1, AM

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So going on the theory that you cannot have too much Destination D coverage, here are some of my thoughts on the weekend's events.

For one thing, it was a huge relief to find that they had a venue that could accommodate all the people who wanted to be in it. Unlike the Expo of last year, where you could count on a wait of at least an hour to be assured of getting a seat in a given panel, there was sufficient space here for everyone. Of course, people were still waiting hours ahead of time to get a good seat, but you can't have everything.

Steven Clark gave the Welcome, which, with its examples of "rejected D23 advertising campaigns," really set the tone for the weekend: Totally irreverent.

Afterwards, Becky Cline and Paul Anderson were hysterical as they showed slides and recounted anecdotes of the more off-beat episodes of Disney history in Weird Disney.

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Starting back in the 1930's, they showed some of the more...curious attempts that were made, mostly by the local theaters, to publicize the characters and their movies. While a lot of the costumes appear borderline frightening, it's interesting to speculate how people will look back in 70 more years, laughing about how we thought blinking eyes were a big deal.

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In the 1940's, they related how RKO had hired 11 midgets to wander around on the marquee for Pinocchio as publicity. Unfortunately, the actors proved to be slightly intemperate, becoming inebriated and ultimately taking off their clothes to play dice. Interested onlookers were then treated to the sight of the police chasing the drunks around the top of the theater sign with pillowcases, in order to suppress them.

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By the 1950's Disneyland was around, and they highlighted some of the esoteric attractions/spectacles that were created, largely to meet sponsorship needs: The Crane Bathroom of Tomorrow; The Wizard of Bras; The Kaiser Hall of Aluminum Fame; Hollywood-Maxwell's Intimate Apparel Shop; Monsanto Hall of Chemistry; Dutch Boy Paints; and American Dairy Association's "Dairy Bar." Other attractions were eventually eliminated because of logistical problems--live mermaids in the submarine lagoon (too many "admirers" swimming out to meet them) and real fishing off Tom Sawyer's Island (what do you do with the dead fish, the rest of your day at Disneyland?)

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Finally, they ended with a variety of weird parades and presentations that had taken place at Disneyland--from the Christmas parade of different nations, featuring a bunch of English guys carrying a real boar's head down the street, to the America on Parade witch-dunking float, to archival footage of the Aunt Jemima Pancake Races--which looked a lot harder than you would have thought. The women had to run down the street with a pancake in a frying pan that they had to flip over lines mounted fairly high over their heads. If they failed to catch it in the pan on the other side, they had to go back and do it over until they succeeded...all in traditional 1950's-1960's housewife garb.

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The next panel was the Mickey Mouse Club 55th Anniversary, hosted by Tim O'Day.

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This was something of a surprise for me--not being (quite) old enough to have watched the Mickey Mouse Club in its early years, I wasn't really sure what to expect about how the cast members would interact. Truth be told, I was actually really hoping that I was going to find it totally boring, because they were all going to be signing autographs during lunch and I knew if I liked it, I would be stuck sitting in an autograph line for the whole of the lunch break.

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Sadly, it was awesome. Tim O'Day was a great moderator who kept the dialogue moving smoothly between all the different members. They showed a lot of archival footage both from the show and from the Mouseketeer performance at Disneyland's opening day, some of which the Mouseketeers had never seen before.

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All of them had extremely vivid memories of the whole time they were on the show, and had nothing but good things to say about it. In general, they tended to feel that it was hard work, but that it was the most fun they could have imagined possible.

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They talked about their audition process, and noted that the show was not looking for kids that looked too professional, and quickly eliminated any children who behaved poorly (or whose parents behaved poorly.) Fond memories of Jimmie Dodd and Roy Williams (who invented the Mickey Ear hat) were related, as well as of Annette, who was unable to be there due to her well-known battle with Multiple Sclerosis.

It was a terrific look into a time where child actors seemed to legitimately be having fun performing, and didn't immediately implode into behavioral disasters on reaching puberty. No, I did not get lunch that day.

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We moved quickly along into the last talk of the morning, one on various quirky merchandising opportunities you would have had, if you lived in Anaheim in the 50's, and were possessed of a lot of forethought.

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Again, not being a serious collector, I wasn't initially sure how much appeal this would have for me, but our hosts Stacia Martin, Paul Anderson, and Rob Klein put on a very entertaining presentation.

They presented a large collection of ticket books, some of which were valuable because of their scarcity, like the #1 opening day ticket belonging to Roy Disney, and some of which were just desirable because of the cool graphics they sported.

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They also showed a collection of their "top 5 strangest Disneyland collectibles," including the ubiquitous gold nuggets every child pans for at some amusement park or other.

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There were various music collections available with park audio, including this LP of America Sings that I remember one friend having when I was little, and I was SO ENVIOUS I pretty much made them play it continuously while I was there on a sleepover.

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Among their favorite toys was this shooting game in which Mickey's head is the primary target. Hard to think this would be that marketable today.

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And of course you can't forget the Viewmaster--the YouTube of a different generation.

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Finally, they displayed some of the rarest collectibles, one of which was the original parking permits issued for Disneyland's opening day. These were intended to adhere to the windshield, so the majority of them were stuck on, and then scraped off after the day (or when you sell the car, if you're in my family.)

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Finally, they ended with a category called "If We Only Got A Time Machine..." in which they showed some of the objects they'd most like to retrieve from the past. A biography you could mail order from the park was one of the favorites, given that for $4.30, you could get your own book written by Diane Miller, and personally autographed by Walt himself. Sob.

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With that, it was lunchtime. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go find the Mousketeer's autograph line...

October 11, 2010

D23's Destination D - Making of Star Tours

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(Lee, who is the really big Star Wars fan in the family, put this together from his notes on the "Making of Star Tours" session at Destination D. Thanks, Lee!)

Imagineer Tom Fitzgerald, writer and producer for the original Star Tours and for the upcoming "Star Tours: The Adventures Continue" spoke mostly about the creation of the original attraction but also briefly about the update.

In the mid-80's there was not much new successful Disney movie content to base new attractions on, so the Imagineers got the idea to approach George Lucas about doing something based on Star Wars. They felt that Star Wars had many "Disney" qualities (family focused, adventure, comedy) and it turned out that Lucas is a big Disney fan - he says he was at Disneyland on the second day it was open.

Lucas toured Imagineering and saw a flight simulator ride concept and thought that would be a good approach for a Star Wars attraction. The British company Rediffusion Simulation had been building flight simulators for training commercial pilots and invited the Disney Imagineers to try out a large size simulator using some rough game footage and less-than-perfect motion programming. The simulator broke on the first ride and the mismatched visuals and motion made them all queasy, but they liked it enough to use it as the basis for the new attraction.

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The original concept for the attraction was a Jedi training center where the guests would participate in a training session to prepare them to battle the Empire. However, President Reagan's use of the nickname "Star Wars" for his missile defense system, plus Disney's sensitivity to topics like "war" lead to the development instead of the more light-hearted tourist concept used for the attraction.

Lucas's Industrial Light and Magic made the movie - shot on 70mm film and all done with practical models since this was before widespread use of CGI. The film was a challenge for ILM since it required a single point of view (so no cuts like a normal movie) making it effectively a four minute and 30 second "effects shot." Once they had the film, Imagineers spent months programming the motion sequences for the simulator to match what you see in the film.

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Other tidbits from the talk:

- Paul Reubens (Pee-wee Herman) is the voice of the pilot droid Rex. Disney needed someone with a really great scream and Paul's work in "Flight of the Navigator" was similar to what was needed for Star Tours. Tom showed concept art that showed the progression of the pilot droid from the original Crazy Harry to Rex.

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- The simulators were lifted by crane and lowered into place through the open roof of the attraction.

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- Disney actually rejected first trench scene from ILM because it didn't give the same feel as the movie - that was nervous moment for the Imagineering team.

- ILM employees (not professional actors) are the human cast members in the film.

- Disney didn't have enough budget to build working robots in the Droid Room. But the Imagineers really wanted them, so they used the geese audio-animatronics from the decommissioned "America Sings" attraction, stripped down to their bare frames. (He called them the "goose droids".)

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- The droids in the Droid Room were supposed to speak in clicks and beeps (more like R2-D2), but Lucas liked the English dialog Tom Fitzgerald had provided to explain the concept better. What you hear is dialog never meant to be heard. It was recorded in one day with Tom Fitzgerald and another Imagineering employee doing the voices.

- The attraction score was composed specifically for the attraction, based on the John Williams movie music. They had to be careful to have the score not sound like a movie since the guests are experiencing it instead of just watching it.

- The Mighty Microscope from Adventure Thru Inner Space is in the opening scene - sticking out of the wall low down on the right as the Starspeeder pulls up from the initial fall.

- The attraction had several different names, including Cosmic Winds, before they finally settled on Star Tours.

- Anthony Daniels wrote and recorded the public address dialog you hear in the queue - it's in Ewok. (Click on the image for a larger version.)

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- Disney and Lucas agreed to do Captain Eo as a quick "placeholder" while they took time to build Star Tours.

From the beginning it was expected that since the attraction could be changed with new video and motion programming that it would be updated every couple of years. Instead, it's taken twenty-five years to get to the first update. The reason for the delay was partly because once Lucas started the prequel trilogy, Disney waited for it to finish.

Tom Fitzgerald is blogging (on the DisneyParks blog) every couple weeks on the creation of the new Star Tours so he didn't want to give too much away. He did provide a few details on the update:

- The "tour" will visit Bespin, the forest moon of Endor, Alderaan and Coruscant.

- The update is set between the two Star Wars trilogies, so the vehicle is an older Starspeeder 1000 and the pilot Ace is an earlier model pilot droid than Rex from the original attraction

- George Lucas has been much more involved this time since he has more free time.

- There is a new robot spokesperson name "Aly San San" voiced by Allison Janney.

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- Ace is the pilot of the Starspeeder 1000 (as opposed to the Starspeeder 3000 in the original attraction, which was set in a later time period).

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Star Tours: The Adventures Continue is currently scheduled to open in May 2011.


September 27, 2010

D23's Destination D - Scavenger Hunt

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Today was the day - the very first official scavenger hunt at a Disney park!

Deb, Jeanine, Lee and I were a team. (A lot of the teams had matching shirts, hats, Mickey ears, or other apparel - we weren't that organized.) We really had a wonderful time, though we didn't win. It was a HOT day in Anaheim today - we're pretty sure it was over 100 - definitely high 90s - and that made it more difficult.

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At the beginning we received a "Guide Book" that had questions in it that would take us all over the resort - both parks, all three hotels, and Downtown Disney. Some questions were worth more points than others - it was completely our choice what to answer. We had from about 9:00 until 2:00 in the afternoon, and given the heat, that was about as much as we could take.

Part of the rules were that we had to stay together - we couldn't split up and go looking for answers.

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If you click on this link, it'll take you to a photo of one of the pages of questions so you can get an idea of what they were like. There were very few that we could answer without actually going to the location. I thought the D23 people really did a good job with the questions - some of them were really interesting.

This painting contained the answer to one of the questions...anyone have any idea where it is located? I'd never noticed it before!

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(It's in the Golden Horseshoe)

Hmm...how many skulls are there in the bone cage on Tom Sawyer Island?

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We only made it to two of the areas: Downtown Disney and Disneyland. There were 330 questions total - I don't remember how many we answered, but it was a lot less than that! :-) But really, we were just in this to have fun, and we did!

Thank you to all of the people at D23 for putting this on - I know there was a LOT of work that went into planning it and coming up with all of those questions.

BTW, at the Destination D event at Walt Disney World next spring they will be holding another scavenger hunt - and this one will take place over two days!!! That'll be for the die-hards...I can't imagine doing this again tomorrow!


September 26, 2010

D 23's Destination D 2010 - Day 1, Part 2

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(When we last left our intrepid AllEars Team, it was lunch time on Day 1 of Destination D. Our story continues after lunch.)

There were two sessions after lunch that I won't talk about here - one was on the Making of Star Tours - and that's really more Lee's thing than mine (don't get me wrong, I love Star Wars!), and the second session was on the World's Fair, but I skipped that one to get checked into our room - Lee has notes on it, though, and found it fascinating, even though the description of it didn't sound very appealing to him.

But I returned for the 4:00 session: Imagineering the Magic of Disney.

This session was a panel discussion hosted by Marty Sklar, featuring Bob Gurr, X Atencio, Alice Davis, Don Iwerks, Dave Durham, Kathy Mangum, Kevin Rafferty and Tony Baxter.

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This was almost one of those "you had to be there" things. It was terrific to see them all together and interacting. Marty Sklar was the moderator, and tried to maintain some semblance of control, but it wasn't always easy. :-)

One of the questions he asked everyone was to talk about the favorite Disneyland attraction that they worked on.

X wasn't exactly sure about the question was, but talked a little bit about how Walt came to him and told him to write the script for Pirates of the Caribbean, even though he'd never written a script before.

Alice Davis showed no hesitation in calling "it's a small world" her favorite. She designed and made clothes for the "small world" dolls, which was kind of a dream come true for her, since as a child of the depression, she didn't have dolls as a girl.

Bob Gurr's favorite was the monorail - he had lots of interesting stories about that. It took only 9 months from the time Walt had the idea to actually having a working monorail on the track. Or a somewhat working monorail...apparently the famous trip it took around Disneyland with Vice President Richard Nixon on board was
only the second complete round trip it had made!

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The original 360 degree Circlevision film was called Circarama and was Don Iwerks' favorite. He was working in the machine shop at the time they built the camera, and then traveled with the camera and kept it working as the film crew went over the western U.S. and shot film.

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Tony Baxter's favorites were Star Tours and Indiana Jones, largely because of the opportunity to work with George Lucas.

Kathy Mangum and Kevin Rafferty both named the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage as their favorite - but it's also the only Disneyland attraction that they had worked on. Kathy talked about the challenge of taking one of Walt's attractions and putting a new storyline on top of it.

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Dave Durham was actually working in the Entertainment Dept when he submitted an entry to the Sorceror's Apprentice Workshop, which awarded an Imagineering internship to the winner. He submitted an idea for an Indiana Jones attraction, not realizing that Disney was actually developing that attraction at the time. He won, and ended up doing some work on that attraction - an obvious favorite for him!.

Marty also asked them about attractions that didn't get built. Dave Durham, who works in the "Blue Sky" area of Imagineering, said that 96% of what they come up with gets shelved - but it doesn't get discarded, because the ideas can be re-visited and used in the future. (If you read my blog from Saturday afternoon, you know that Dave Fisher talked about several attractions in existence now that had been re-purposed that way.)

Tony Baxter's attraction was Disney Seas in Long Beach - though there's another example of something that was built later in Tokyo.

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The Creature's Choice Awards for the Studios was Kevin Rafferty's selection. There was going to be a "Screamy" award. This was about 1999. (Sounds a bit like the Golden Screams show they did in DCA one Halloween season.)

They also talked about their memories of Walt Disney. It was so wonderful to hear the personal memories of those who knew him.

Friday night's event was E-ticket - Music From the Disney Parks, which was a Disney Legends Celebration. A number of Disney Legends were in attendance and were introduced, and we all enjoyed an evening of Disney music.

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Disney Legend Richard Sherman came out and sat at the piano and played and sang for us for at least 20 minutes - it might have been longer. It was really wonderful - he talked about how Walt came to him and Robert when he wanted them to write certain songs - sometimes without really giving them very much information or direction! Of course the first thing they wrote for the parks was the theme song for the Enchanted Tiki Room. He also played "It's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow", and then the song
that replaced it, Tomorrow is Now. Miracles from Molecules, the song from Adventures in Inner Space, was theirs, also. He also played some songs from the Imagination pavilion in Epcot: Making Memories, Magic Journeys, and One Little Spark. Another song he played for us was "Meet the World" from Tokyo Disneyland. He closed with medleys from the Winnie the Pooh movies and from Mary Poppins. Not surprisingly, he received a standing ovation. What a charming and talented man!

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John Tartaglia, who is a big Disney fan, came out and performed Grim Grinning Ghosts (with the help of a couple of ghost puppets).

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Tracie Thoms and John Tartaglia performed Golden Dreams.

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Ana Ortiz sang "Two Brothers" - a song she'd never heard until recently but she commented on how appropriate it is even today. (A lot of the singers were big Disney fans, but apparently she isn't one of them.)

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This version had an extra verse about the two brothers' sweethearts:

Two girls waiting by the railroad track
Two girls waiting by the railroad track
For their darlings to come back
One wore blue, and one wore black

One wore blue, and one wore black
Waiting by the railroad track
For their darlings to come back
All on a beautiful morning

It's sad, but it's such a beautiful and poignant song.

Michael Urie performed a Fantasyland medley. He had some fun with audience members - getting several of them up on stage to play "Michael", "John" and "Wendy", and help him sing "You Can Fly". And then he found three people in the audience whose birthday it was, and sang "A Very Merry Unbirthday" to everyone except them. :-)

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Ana Ortiz's duet partner for "A Whole New World" was quite unexpected - it was D23's Disney Geek, Jeffery Epstein. Who sang very well! (Does he need a new title now? Disney Singer Geek? Disney Geek Singer?)

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Torron Brooks (like Toronto, without the "to") performed a Splash Mountain medley, including How Do You Do and of course Zip-a-dee-do-dah.

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Wilson Cruz sang a beautiful arrangement of "When you Wish Upon a Star" and "Second Star to the Right".

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Michael Urie and Ana Ortiz came back for "A Pirate's Life for Me". They dressed up in pirate costumes and it was really a fun number, though Ana had a lot of trouble remembering the lyrics (I can't blame her - I don't know them, either!).

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Tracie Thoms solo was "Just One Dream", from the (now closed) Golden Dreams attraction at DCA.

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The Melo-D 23 cast choir performed a number of Sherman brothers songs: Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow, Magic Journeys, and Miracles from Molecules.

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Richard Sherman came out for one last song - which, as you might expect, was *that* song. The Sherman brothers originally wrote it to be sung at a much slower tempo - like a prayer - but Walt wanted it to be more up-tempo and happy. Richard played and sang it for us at the slower tempo, and then it was time for everyone - the choir, the guest singers, and the audience to sing the more familiar version.

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It was really a terrific evening, with wonderful music and some interesting stories from Richard Sherman. As I think I said before - one of those "I'm so glad I was able to see this!" events - absolutely the kind of thing we have come to expect from Disney and D23.

By the way...I wanted to say thank you to all of the AllEars fans who have come up and introduced yourselves this weekend - especially those of you who have told us how much you love the site. We love getting feedback like that, which tells us that we're doing something right!


September 25, 2010

D23's Destination D 2010 - Day 2 - A Few Photos

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Here's my favorite photos of Walt Disney from this morning's sessions:

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D23's Destination D 2010 - Day 2

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Day 2 of Destination D came early! I'm not sure what time people started lining up to get in - the first session started at 9:00, and they didn't open the doors until after 8:00, but there was already a substantial line at 7:30. Lee and I have been happy just to wait and go in after everyone in line goes in - we're still getting a seat with a clear view of one of the screens, and if we stand up we can see the stage/presenters - or I can always go to the back of the room if I really want to take photos. (Speaking of people lining up - even before this morning's session ended at about 11:45, there were already people lined up for the afternoon session, which doesn't start until 2:00! They are far more dedicated than I...)

Oh, and here's us (thanks to Pamela for taking the photo!)

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(I apologize that some of this is more like notes than full paragraphs - I've been writing a lot of it while sitting in the sessions.)

Disneyland on TV:

Rob Klein and Tim O'Day were the hosts for this session which featured lots of archival footage of Disneyland over the years. One highlight: they had all of us stand up, put our hands on our hearts, and recite Walt's opening day "Welcome" speech along with Walt. That had to be a first! We saw pieces of the Disneyland TV show (from before the park opened!), TV specials, commercials, and pieces that aired on Disneyland's Wonderful World of Color.

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Disneyland '61 TV special featured a new catchy tune by the Sherman brothers, called, appropriately enough, "Disneyland '61". It featured Nature's Wonderland and the topiary garden for Storybook Land, and Snow White's wishing Well, and an expansion for the monorail, all the way out to the Disneyland Hotel.

"It could only happen at Disneyland", was the tag line for commercials on Space Mountain, the new Matterhorn, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

What I think is the funniest moment of the event so far: they showed us a musical number from the Disneyland 30th Anniversary TV special. I wish this was something I could've recorded to share with you! Imagine, if you will, many of the audio-animatronic figures in Disneyland, from the "small world dolls" to the Pirates of the Caribbean to the jungle cruise hippos to Mr. Lincoln himself, singing along to "I'm So Excited". It was absolutely hysterical - I had tears in my eyes afterwards. It took a truly twisted mind to think up something like that!

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A few notes from the "Disneyland Undiscovered" session, presented by Imagineer Dave Fisher.

First he told us that the is Mark Twain coming out of a short rehab next week with a brand new narration.

During his session he shared a lot of Disneyland artwork from the Art Library. This included lots of concept art and early artwork and drawings of the development of
Disneyland. Some things look very much the same (like Main Street), and some things look very different - the Fantasyland drawing looks much like it does today, but that's not how it looked on opening day due to budget and time constraints.

In the famous painting of Disneyland by Peter Ellenshaw he used black light paint - here's what the painting looks like normally:

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And here's the black light version. Very cool!

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He showed lots of pieces of artwork for various Fantasyland attractions that didn't make it - like a Monstro water flume ride, or a Crocodile walk-in aquarium.

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Tomorrowland wasn't really quite done, and Walt re-did it less than 10 years after Disneyland opened.

Thrill ride ideas: The Hurricane ride (became Storm Rider at Tokyo DL), Prehistoric raft ride through Adventureland. In later years there was a concept for a Herbie the Love Bug ride. Black Cauldron was supposed to be a scary water ride (became the Maelstrom). The Black Hole ride became Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters.

Star Palace attraction was supposed to go into the Carousel of Progress, as a crashed alien spacecraft that put on a show in 4 acts, with lots of different characters.

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Including your host, PT Quantum.

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(There are some things that the world is just not ready for...)

Dave Smith - Disneyland The Way We Were

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He had a lot of rarely and/or never before seen photos, and of course lots of terrific stories.

He shared some amazing color photos taken during Disneyland's construction. This one shows Sleeping Beauty Castle, with the turrets on the ground in front of it.

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The opening day character costumes were borrowed from the Ice Capades,
which had a Disney segment.

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He also had photos of attractions that no longer exist. shops on Main Street, restaurants, the Indian Village, Mine Train, etc. In this photo are three different retired attractions: the Submarine Voyage, People Mover, and Skyway.

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Walt wanted live animals in Frontierland to make it more authentic, but
that had some issues. The horses pulling the stageoach sometimes got spooked by the train whistle and would run away with guests on board - it overturned a couple
of times. (I guess that turned a C ticket ride into an E ticket ride!)

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Some other retired attractions: the Mickey Mouse Club Circus in Fantasyland - the Mouseketeers did real circus acts. Also Holidayland, the Pirate ship. Midget Autopia, Motor Boat Cruise (which Dave called the most boring attraction ever, but it still lasted from 1957-1993!) There was also America Sings - started in 1974. Dave Smith loved this and so did I - "pop goes the weasel!" :-)

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Country Bear Jamboree was the first attraction which was opened in Florida and
then moved to Disneyland.

More on Day 2 to come!


D 23's Destination D 2010 - Day 1

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A great first day at D 23's Destination D! But, as usual, it was a day that was jam-packed with lots of interesting sessions, leaving me very little time to do much writing or photo processing. So this is going to be short on photos and on some details, which we will attempt to fill in later.

Destination D is being held this weekend, September 24 and 25, at the convention center at the Disneyland Hotel. It's a much smaller event than last year's D23 Expo - it features just a single track of sessions, and no exhibit hall, though there is some merchandise available for sale.

The sessions cover a wide range of topics that should appeal to just about anyone who is a Disney fan. Several presentations from the Disney archivists, featuring unusual items they have found in the archives, and presentations on some things that will be coming up at the Disney parks. There are panel discussions featuring Disney both current and former Disney Imagineers. Just about everyone is going out of their way to
find things they can share with us that are rare, haven't been seen publicly before, or stories that haven't been heard before. It's really a wonderful treat just to listen to a lot of these people talk.

All of the sessions take place in the Grand Ballroom. They have a large stage set up in the front, but if you're not in the center section it's hard to see the stage. They've set up four large screens and 2 small screens around the room, so it's pretty easy to see what's going on. The chairs are set up in rows, but they rows are a reasonable distance apart, so it doesn't feel claustrophobic. And they have plenty of chairs - more
chairs than there are attendees - so you don't feel like you HAVE to stay in the room all the time to save your seat. They do clear out the room completely at the lunch and dinner breaks, though. They obviously learned some things from last year's D23 Expo - at this event, while we know if we don't get in line early we won't have a great seat, at least we know that we will be able to get into the event and HAVE a seat!

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The Welcome Session of Destination D featured Steven Clark, Head of D23, who welcomed us to Destination 23 and told us some interesting facts: There are 1300 people here, from 39 states and 7 countries, including Australia and Japan.

He made a few announcements:

The Disney Legends Celebrations wil be held every other year at the D23 Expo, with another Legends event held at Destination 23.

The Scavenger Hunt on Sunday will be the first official scavenger hunt ever held at a Disney park! (Though there have been thousands of unofficial hunts).

Seven people work full time on D23.

The Sign of Zorro (November) is the next in the 50 and Fabulous film series, which will continue in 2011.

Magic and Merriment will be back at Walt Disney World on December 11-12 - tickets go on sale soon.

The D23 Disney Geek podcast, available on iTunes, is a look at what's happening with Disney company around the world. The new production Armchair Archivists starts in November. Steve and Josh will take us inside the Disney archives for looks at props and other film memorabilia - one of the first episodes will feature items from the
original Tron, and from the upcoming Tron Legacy.

Weird Disney was a presentation by Disney archivist Becky Cline and Disney historian Paul Anderson, featuring some of the more unusual things they have found in their research. They had lots of photos and even some video to show us. Very entertaining - Paul had quite a few zingers - some related to the company and some not - we'll see if he's invited back after this weekend! :-)

They had lots of interesting photos of character costumes and a whole section on Walt Disney in silly hats.

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One of the highlights of the day was the Mickey Mouse Club 55th Anniversary Reunion. They began the session by playing the original, full-length, COLOR opening of the Mickey Mouse Club TV show. There were 8 members from the original club that were present: Sherry Alberoni, Tommy Cole, Sharon Baird, Bobby Burgess, Mary Espinoza, Doreen Tracey, Cubby O'Brien, Karen Pendleton. They received a
standing ovation after they were all introduced.

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The Mouseketeers reminisced for about an hour about their experiences - how they originally auditioned, meeting Walt Disney, new things they learned to do, memories of Jimmie Dodd, Roy Williams, and Annette Funicello, getting the first rides on Disneyland attractions in the morning before it opened (and crashing Autopia cars), etc.

Stacia Martin, Paul Anderson, and Rob Klein talked about Disney merchandise: From Quirky to Collectible. There has been some truly odd stuff available over the years - I'll have more photos later. For now, one of my favorites was the Mark Twain AM radio.

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Thus ended the morning...and that's about as far as I got with this write-up. I'll have more on The Making of Star Tours, The 1964 New York World's Fair, an Imagineering panel discussion, and the Music from the Disney Parks concert later. Though I'll say that the last was really wonderful - one of those "I'm so glad I got to see this!" things.


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About Destination D

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Salute to All Things Disney but Mostly Disneyland in the Destination D category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

D23 Expo is the previous category.

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