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July 30, 2016

Recap: Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet 2016

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This last weekend, the Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet held its eighth annual gathering of Disney fans, vendors, and Imagineers. Located up in Lynnwood, Washington and spearheaded by Planning Committee Chairman Don Morin, it is a celebration of all aspects of the Disney experience.

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Over at the Embassy Suites, the convention's official hotel, the festivities began the afternoon prior as D23 held their own mixer complete with nachos and special guest.

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Afterwards, the entertainment continued with pin trading, PNWMM Bingo, and a trivia challenge. A door decorating contest also took place later on in the evening around the hotel.

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The next morning, rope drop for the main event was held at 1000 over at the Lynnwood Convention Center. As is tradition, the corridors outside the main stage/vendor area were filled with photo-ops and displays of impressive collections of Disneyana.

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Once inside, there was a number of stations set up with different attractions and activities. In one corner, this year's speakers sat patiently and cordially autographing whatever materials were brought to them.

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Bob Gurr

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Stacia Martin

On the other side of the room was the annual charity raffle, benefiting the Ryman Arts Foundation and the Seattle Children's Hospital.

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A wide variety of different items and experiences were offered up, including exclusive merchandise from Mickey's of Glendale, Club 33, and one-of-a-kind pieces of art.

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Besides that, different booths had other Disneyana for sale, from books to ephemera, to Dole Whip, to original art.

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In the center of the room was the stage and seating area for the day's speakers.

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As the programming commenced, Don Morin introduced Stacia Martin as the first speaker.

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Martin gave a wonderful presentation on her career with Disney as a Disney Artist and Historian.

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Some points:
--As a life-long Orange County resident, she has never lived out of earshot of the Disneyland fireworks.
--Her professional history with Disney started at the old Disneyana shop on Main Street.
--In 1986, she moved to New Orleans Square as the first regular cast member at the Disney Gallery.
--From there she was borrowed by different divisions within the company for a variety of promotional tours across the country, doing talks and drawing sketches.
--She trained the Japanese cast members for the Disney Gallery when it opened in Tokyo Disneyland.
--WED borrowed her to help reconstruct the soundtracks (audio archeology) for the attractions in New Fantasyland.
--Other audio projects she worked on included "Disneyland Forever," "The Lost Chords," and "Walt Disney and the 1964 World's Fair."
--Her favorite Disney musical is "Happiest Millionaire."

The second speaker of the day was Disney Legend Bob Gurr.

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Some interesting items in his illustrious history:
--He worked for Ford Motor Company right after Art Center College of Design, but found it was a dead-end job after two weeks, and quit.
--After quitting Ford, he formed his own company. WED Enterprises became a client.
--After two weeks, he became a WED employee.
--Published a book "How to Draw Cars of Tomorrow" at 20 years old.
--His first assignment for Disneyland was to design the body for the Autopia cars.
--Other projects for Disneyland included the parking lot trams, Mad Tea Party, Omnibus, Fire Engine, Viewliner, Submarine Voyage, Matterhorn Bobsleds, Monorail, PeopleMover, and the Motor Boat Cruise.
--At the 1964-65 World's Fair, his main focus was "Ford's Magic Skyway," however he consulted on most of the other Disney pavilions as well.
--He designed the Omnimover ride system as a means to direct the guest's attention to specific areas in a given attraction. It originated in Monsanto's "Adventure Thru Inner Space."
--The Florida monorail's shape resembles the front of a Lear Jet with a wrap-around windshield and flush rivet construction.
--He incorporated himself within two weeks of being let go from Disney.
--Subsequently, he worked on Universal Studio's King Kong, Spielberg's "Jurassic Park," the 1998 "Godzilla," the pirate ship battle at the Treasure Island Resort and Casino, the Michael Jackson tour, and a spaceship for the LA Olympics closing ceremony.
--He has a new video out through Ape Pen Publishing: "Bob Gurr: Turning Dreams Into Reality."

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Last but not least, Disney Legend Marty Sklar.

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Some highlights from his talk:
--Video of Richard Sherman singing to Sklar on the occasion of his retirement.
--His creation of the "Goof Award" for not-so-successful projects.
--"If you don't fail from time to time, you're probably not doing anything new."

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--Video excerpt from the "Marty Sklar, Walt, and EPCOT" special feature with Leonard Maltin from the "Walt Disney Treasures: Tomorrowland" DVD set.
--Three things that characterized Walt Disney: Inspiration, Trust, Optimism.
--On Jack Lindquist: "The greatest thing he did was the 30th anniversary of Disneyland when he did the Gift-Giver at the end, at Disneyland, they gave away 400+ cars that year."

In between speakers, there was no shortage of interesting activities, from mobile photo-ops...

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...To the announcement of the winners for the annual Door Decorating Contest...

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...to this year's installments of "Mousecenter."

But even after the dust settled for the day, the fun wasn't over for the weekend, as Sklar and Gurr were brought back on Sunday for yet another fun storytelling session.

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--The two legends didn't work together until the Ford Pavilion at the 1964-65 World's Fair.
--Part of the effectiveness of Magic Skyway was placing the guests in the Ford cars for the ride.
--After the Fair opened, Disney flew people who worked on the attractions, and their families, to New York to enjoy the finished product.
--Both men are frequently asked why the Peoplemover was removed from Disneyland and when it will return.
--They reminisced about some of the shorter-lived Disneyland attractions, such as the industrial exhibits of Tomorrowland, and the Phantom Boat.
--The necessity of allowing people--kids and adults--to explore different things and take chances as part of their development was touched on by both.

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--Gurr started at Disney October 5, 1954 at 23 years old.
--On the Autopia: "I won't go much further than the fact that we built 40 cars and near the end of the first week, there were two running."
--He reviewed Walt's way of working by involving and engaging his employees instead of invoking executive process.
--It's difficult for him to sort through his feelings about Disneyland, because the Disneyland of 1955 is so vivid in his mind.
--One of the few keepsakes he kept is one of the original Mr. Toad ride cars.

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--Sklar started at Disney in Public Relations about a month before the opening of Disneyland, when he was 21 years old.
--He noted that any meeting with Walt ended with everyone knowing what decisions were made and what their assignments were, as opposed to modern day meetings that end in ambiguity.
--On advice to would-be Future Imagineers: "Read my book."
--"There's only one name on the door, and that's Walt Disney. You're never going to get your name in lights...but if you want to be part of something that's bigger than you are, that achieves what a team can do, working together towards the same goals and objectives--that's what we try to do in Imagineering."
--He feels Shanghai Disneyland is the best park because it has been informed from all the lessons Disney has learned from creating all the other parks.
--On why Disneyland is so special: "Number one, it's the only park that Walt ever walked in. Number two, it's the foundation of everything that came after."

In all, another great year for the Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet. If you're interested in attending for next year, keep an eye on http://www.pnwmousemeet.com/Home.html for ticket sales announcements, because each year seems to sell out quicker than the last.

November 2, 2014

Hunchback of Notre Dame Musical

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Those of you who have been Disney fans for a few years probably remember the Hunchback of Notre Dame show at the Backlot Theater at the (then) Disney-MGM Studios park. The show was popular, and many of us were disappointed when it closed in September, 2002. Disneyland also had a live show based on the movie, The Festival of Fools, though it ran for less than two years.

The show and the movie featured some wonderful music by Stephen Schwartz and Alan Menken, and considering the success of other Disney musicals on Broadway, Hunchback seemed to me like a good candidate for a full-length musical. There was a version in Germany, Der Glöckner von Notre Dame, which ran from 1999 to 2002, but nothing in the United States. Until now.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame opens at the La Jolla Playhouse on November 9, though it is currently in preview. It features music by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz, book by Peter Parnell, and is directed by Scott Schwartz (son of Stephen Schwartz). Lee and I saw the fourth preview performance on October 30.

It's very much like the Disney movie, though it is much darker, as it pulls in a few more elements from the original novel by Victor Hugo. More adult themes, and not recommended for children under the age of 12.

Schwartz and Menken wrote some new music for it, though all of the best music from the movie is still there, like "Out There", "God Help the Outcasts", "Hellfire" and "Heaven's Light". There are new lyrics for several songs, such as "The Bells of Notre Dame". The most notable song that is missing is "A Guy Like You" which was performed by the gargoyles, but I'll have more on that later.

The cast features the five major characters: Quasimodo, Esmeralda, Frollo, Phoebus, and Clopin. The rest of the supporting players form "The Congregation", and they all play multiple roles: gypsies, townspeople, churchgoers, etc. In addition there is a choral ensemble - 32 singers from the local group SACRA/PROFANA who are on-stage the entire time. They help provide the sound of numerous voices needed for songs like "Topsy-Turvy" as well as the church choir background vocals featured in scenes within the cathedral and songs like "Hellfire" and "Bells of Notre Dame". (My friend Nancy is one of the choir members, and it has been fascinating to hear her stories about rehearsals and last-minute changes in music.)

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The set reminded me of that used at the Backlot Theater (photo above) representing the bell tower and cathedral of Notre Dame, with multiple levels to add vertical dimension. And there's a huge set of bells that descend from above when the scene is set in the bell tower. Otherwise the scenery is pretty minimal - there are benches and sections of railing that are moved around and used in a variety of ways.

The character of Quasimodo is much less articulate and more mentally impaired than the Quasimodo from the movie. A more child-like character who really does not understand his feelings nor the consequences. We (the audience) actually get to watch the actor's transformation to Quasimodo: a handsome young man (Michael Arden) takes center stage, dons the hump, places a tunic over it, smears some dark makeup lines on his face, changes his stance and expression, and suddenly he's a hunchback.

I found Frollo to be a much more interesting figure than in the movie. As in the book he is the Archdeacon of Notre Dame. We learn a little about his background, which helps explain his affection for Quasimodo. He is quite tortured, but he has his humane moments, and he believes that he is doing the right things, horrible as they seem to us. Obsession is a terrible thing. The actor, Patrick Page, has a tremendous voice.

The characters of Esmeralda and Phoebus were not very different than their movie counterparts. Ciara Renée performed the best rendition of "God Help the Outcasts" that Lee and I have ever heard. Andrew Samonsky portrayed Phoebus with all of the brash and swagger you'd expect. Their duet, "Someday", was especially poignant.

Clopin (Erik Liberman) is a much harder character, with a bit of a cruel streak. Somewhat understandable, as he's trying to protect Esmeralda and the rest of his people from persecution just because they are Gypsies.

The gargoyles are still an element of the show. Played by The Congregation, the gargoyles and the bells talk to and whisper to Quasimodo, and serve largely as the way to communicate Quasimodo's inner thoughts to the audience.

Though overall it's much more somber, the show has its light-hearted moments: "Topsy-Turvy" and the new "Tavern Song", as well as "Rest and Recreation", where we first meet Phoebus. But my favorite is the new "Flight into Egypt", featuring the beheaded St. Aphrodisius. There are some very funny visuals in this one.

Unlike the movie, there's no "they all lived happily ever after" at the end of this one. I won't spoil it by saying more than that.

Lee and I saw a preview, so there's still some fine-tuning going on. Still, we really enjoyed it, and if you were a fan of either of the theme park shows I'd recommend that you see it if you have the opportunity. It will be running at the La Jolla Playhouse through December 14 (though there are rumors that it will be extended another week). It moves to the east coast for a run at Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ from March 4-29, 2015.

After that? Who knows? Though La Jolla Playhouse has a pretty good track record of introducing new musicals that make their way to Broadway...


July 11, 2014

The Pacific NorthWest Mouse Meet: Disney Time in the Emerald City

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Now in its sixth year, the Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet (PNW,) was held on June 28th, 2014.

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Led by Planning Committee Chairman Don Morin, PNW seeks to give regional (and a few not-so-local) fans an event to gather, learn, and celebrate their common Disney interests.

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One of the highlights of PNW is the wide roster of Disney luminaries they get to come and give talks and sign items each year.

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This year, PNW featured three great speakers: Glenn Barker, Don Hahn, and Tony Baxter.

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Glenn Barker was the Manager of the Audio/Video Department of WED throughout the 80's, eventually becoming a Principal Media Designer--his current position. He has created the soundtracks for Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and the Matterhorn at Disneyland, and was responsible for recording many of the orchestral soundtracks for the different EPCOT pavilions.


Soundworks Collection: Walt Disney Imagineers from Michael Coleman on Vimeo.

He gave a great talk on his history with the company, and demonstrated some of the component sounds that contribute to the depth of a given auditory environment. He also showed ride videos which showed off how the soundtrack matches and enhances the ride experience.

The next speaker was Producer/Director/Author Don Hahn, who notably produced "Beauty and the Beast" and "Lion King," directed the documentary "Waking Sleeping Beauty," and authored, most recently, "Brain Storm: Unleashing Your Creative Self."

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His talk centered around the concept of creativity, how it can be fostered, and how it often starts from the simple declarations "I am here, I am a unique voice, this is my world, let me show it to you."

The last speaker of the day was Disney Legend and past Imagineer Tony Baxter.

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His talk was very similar to the "Undiscovered Disneyland" presentation he gave at Expo 2013, but with different video showing Disneyland of the past. As always, it was a fascinating look at how the topography, the cast members, and the guests at Disneyland have changed over the decades.

Outside of the talks, there was still more for guests to enjoy: The day started off with a small orchestra playing Disney tunes for the masses of people waiting to "rope drop" the event.

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Over at the charity raffle, where guests could try to win prizes such as a private Imagineer-led tour of Disneyland or hand-drawn art by Uncle Scrooge artist Don Rosa, incentives to purchase tickets included a poster from the recent film "Maleficent," signed by producer Don Hahn.

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The charities for this year were Ryman Arts and Seattle Children's Hospital. Between the raffle, an extra Tony Baxter talk on Sunday, and donations from MEI & Mouse Fan Travel, $9,000 was raised for them.

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There were also a number of "Picture Spot" locations around the convention center, representing all the different lands of the park.

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Should your interests run towards old-school Disney video gaming, 62-bit Gaming had you covered.

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There were also several tables of merchandise dealers, authors, vendors, podcasters, and even a snack booth, should you get hungry.

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The party continued on at the official hotel as well, with a window-decorating contest that produced some fairly impressive entries, complete with sound and moving parts.

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New for this year, was an additional talk given by Tony Baxter and Glenn Barker at the hotel the next day--"History of EPCOT and the Journey Into Imagination Attraction." This was on the process they went through, conceptualizing and realizing the original Imagination pavilion.

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Starting with his aborted concepts for both the Sea and the Land pavilions, Baxter traced the evolution of the Imagination pavilion through development, sponsorship, casting, and construction.

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The talk culminated in a viewing of the ride-through video reconstruction showing the final product.

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As a special treat, we were also shown a video in which Tony Baxter and a few other Imagineers participated in the old Image Works attraction "Dreamfinder's School of Drama." Afterwards, some lucky audience members won copies of the new Marvel comic book "Figment," which Tony Baxter signed.

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So all in all, PNW continues its run as an exceptionally well-organized convention. If it seemed a little more subdued this year, it made up for it with the additional talk on Sunday, which went a long way towards my only issue--its length. For people not in the area, the costs of a plane ticket, rental car, and hotel do add up when balanced against the (typically) one day of content. Personally, however, having been to around three or four of these by now, I would say that I have never finished the weekend thinking it had not been worth my time or money. If you have the opportunity to attend PNW next year (and book fast when those tickets come out, because they sell out in a matter of days,) I encourage you to put it on your Disney fan calendar--it's well worth the trip.

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Information about PNW can be found at their website, http://www.pnwmousemeet.com/

July 2, 2012

D23 Presents: Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum.

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Jeanine Yamanaka and Jason team up for this tour of the Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum.

Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the Reagan Library on Saturday, June 30, 2012.

Jeanine here--I also attended, and will be putting in my oar occasionally, between Jason's great photos.

This afternoon we had a great opportunity to preview the upcoming D23 Presents Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives at the Reagan Library.

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For those that do not know, the Reagan Library is located in Simi Valley which is about 45 minutes from Downtown Los Angeles.

Jason got the easy drive this time--anyone coming from the Disneyland area probably has a minimum of a two hour trip each way, assuming you don't hit a lot of traffic.

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Once the group had assembled we made our way through the museum entrance and then cut over to the Disney exhibit.

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Time to head in. We had just under 2 hours to walk and photograph the exhibit. Which may sound like a lot but in reality it was not. The exhibit covers over 12,000 square feet featuring over 500 items.

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Before having free roam a brief introduction. In the center of this picture (sorry for the darkness no flash allowed in this first room) is John Heubusch the executive director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation.

Photography and video were permitted throughout the exhibit, with a restriction on flash photography in the first gallery.

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Steven Clark the Head of D23 was also on hand to welcome us.

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I thought it was appropriate to start at the beginning. Here is Walt's birth certificate.

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Skipping ahead to Walt's Laugh O Gram Business.

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A look at Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.

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A couple of telegrams about Oswald.

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Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives

So here's one of mine, showing the end of the telegraph and Walt's reply. What I love about this exchange is that a) you can totally see what a jerk Mintz is, and the foreshadowing of his grab for Walt's business, and b) how reasonable Walt is trying to be, up to the end, where he clearly can't take any more of Mintz's lame suggestions, and just says "forget the monocle."

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The next case had the animation script for Steamboat Willie.

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Drawings by Ub Iwerks, typing by Walt Disney.

As well as some Brave Little Tailor sketches.

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The next room featured an animators desk.

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How is this for a collection of books.. these are the restored handmade books from the opening shots of Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.

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Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives

Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives

Across the way a wall featuring the famous drawing of Disneyland.

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So I can't even tell you how much I love this map. It is unbelievably detailed and huge and gorgeous, and you can't even imagine that Herb Ryman drew this thing in a weekend. If you look closely at it, you can see tiny ducklings wandering around in the Jungle Cruise, and boys rolling hoops down Main Street.

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I'm not saying contemporary concept art is bad, but as the farmer said to the chickens, when he showed them the ostrich egg, "you can see what kind of work is being done elsewhere."

Walt's Formal Office has been recreated. This time to the exact dimensions and arrangements (unlike the version we saw at Disneyland for years).

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Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives

Here's a link to a panorama I took as well.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

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Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives
The original Model T from the Absent Minded Professor.
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One of my favorite galleries was right after this--the "Magic Room." It had an abundance of props and memorabilia from The Shaggy Dog and Bedknobs and Broomsticks, including a prop portrait thought to be done by Herb Ryman, and Tommy Kirk's magical ring of the Borgias!

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Might there be a hidden but familiar item in Emelius Browne's display? You'll have to go to find out.

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Babes in Toyland

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After this first set of rooms upstairs you head down stairs and into an expanded area that was constructed just for this exhibit. They actually cut a whole in the wall of the library to build this extension that sits in a tent structure.

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In this axillary area, are most of the larger set pieces, from mostly contemporary properties.
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To the right, 101 Dalmatians costumes and props.

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Next a series of cases with the costumes worn in the Annie Leibovitz pictures.

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This Tinkerbell worn by Tina Fey.

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And Peter Pan by Mikhail Baryshnikov

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A large gallery includes a number of costumes from a variety of recent movie/TV/theater productions.

The other side had some Enchanted costumes, and one from the Fairy Godmother in the 1997 ABC TV movie worn by Whitney Houston.

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Moving on some Marquettes used for Alice in Wonderland.

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Around the corner props and costumes from the film.

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Next up Tron.. this is from Tron Legacy.

Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives

Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives

Thought this was interesting... not from the film but from DCA...

Both the lightcycle and the big lit "FLYNN" sign are from the lately departed ElecTRONica event there.

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Some of the original Tron costumes from the 1982 film.

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Next up the Avengers.

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Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives

These would probably have held more significance for us, except that Jason and I are probably the last two people in America who have not yet seen the Avengers...

The next area has some Theme Park items..

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This was apparently the start of the area themed to "things from the Island of Downsized Attractions."

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Thought this was an interesting corner.. the dragon head from Fantasmic, Mickey from the Mickey Mouse Revue and in the background a Country Bears poster.

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From the original Golden Horseshoe show and the Country Bears at Disneyland.

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One of Slue Foot Sue's original costumes.

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Next up a Haunted Mansion display featuring mostly items from Walt Disney World.

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The tombstones chosen for display are the ones for Yale Gracey, X. Atencio, and Marc Davis.

Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives

The center area was for Pirates.. starting where it all began with the attraction.

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Then moving quickly into the film.

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Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives

Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives

Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives

This rounds out the lower level.. time to head back upstairs.

Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives

The next room was basically a small tribute to the second Golden Age of Animation for the Disney Company, focusing on the Ashman/Menken films and Pixar.

Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives
Next up a room with National Treasure items.

Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives

The National Treasure room, with its faux-Presidential connections, then leads us into...

This takes us to the last display room of the exhibit. On the left hand side busts of all the presidents from the Hall of Presidents at Walt Disney World (first time all have been on display together)

Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives

Amazing to think that Blaine Gibson sculpted everyone one of these, except that of President Obama, who came along after he retired.

Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives

Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives

The other side of the room features mostly items from the Reagan Library collections.

Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives

The walls had letters from presidents to Disney and photographs of presidents at Disneyland/WDW and other Disney interactions.

Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives

The ear hat has "Mr. President" embroidered on the back, and was a gift to Reagan from Disney. Replicas are sold in the gift store.

Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives

A particularly adorable letter from Amy Carter on her favorite character. I suspect she got her picture.

Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives

The one piece of EPCOT memorabilia present. We have to assume the rest of it's getting boxed up to go for EPCOT 30.

Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives

Moving on to the last room.
It featured this display of the Team Disney Building (the Eisner building) in Burbank and featured another video that I did not have time to watch.

Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives

I made an extremely quick pass through the gift shop. Some pins for all you collectors. The gift shop had a decent crowd and we did not have time to browse/photograph items.

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I actually found the shop before our exhibit time started, so I got a few photos then.

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Mainly Archive items, with mostly pins, shirts, and a catalog specific to the exhibit.

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They also had a plethora of copies of Dave Smith's new book Disney Trivia from the Vault, and Bob Gurr's Design: Just for Fun on hand, for the D23 signing later that evening.

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Our time in the Disney exhibit was up, it was 4:30 and time for the D23 Members event, so we exited.

On my way out, I ran into Steven Clark and Becky Cline, whose hard work with D23 and the Archives has made this impressive exhibit a reality.

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Did a quick tour of Air Force One before 5:00pm and closing. For more pictures of the museum and Air Force One. visit my site..

Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives

One last picture on the way out. Here you can sort of make out the tent structure that was added and the stairs leading to it for the Disney exhibit.

Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives

So ultimately, should you go? Granted, the drive from the Disneyland area is long and occasionally painful, it's a great exhibit filled with many items never seen before. Having said that, a lot of it did seem somewhat familiar--the first room, detailing Walt's early life and career was very similar to galleries you could find in the Walt Disney Family Museum. Some of the Oswald-specific items were recently displayed at the E3 convention. A few of the costumes and props have been shown at the D23 Expos and on the Disney Studios Tours.

If, however, you didn't/don't have a lot of time and opportunity to attend all these different events, then this is definitely your best bet to see a comprehensive collection of artifacts spanning the length of the Walt Disney Company's existence. I think if you were determined to read everything and watch all the videos, it would probably take you a good 3-4 hours to do it all. There is also an audio tour available as well, although no one I spoke with had listened to it, or knew how long it went (estimates were for 45 minutes.) Although I didn't have an opportunity to check out the rest of the Reagan Museum, it seems as though that could easily take up another few hours to fill out a day trip there.

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Frankly, I think Disney is missing out if they do not produce some sort of a shuttle between Disneyland and the exhibit at least for the Destination D weekend--I'm sure this would be of interest to a great many attendants who might not have the means or the motor to get there.

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The exhibit D23 Presents: Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives will open to the public July 6, 2012, at Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, 40 Presidential Drive, Simi Valley, CA 93065. Tickets, which include regular admission to the rest of the Reagan Library can be purchased online at www.ReaganLibrary.com/Tickets or at the box office. General admission is $21, with discounts for seniors, youth/children, and military. The exhibit will run there until April 2013.


Hope you enjoyed this highlight tour of the Disneyland Resort. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full Disneyland Update I posted on my site, http://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.



January 11, 2012

A Tribute To Richard M. Sherman

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On Sunday, January 8th, the El Capitan Theatre held a tribute to the music of Richard Sherman, Disney Legend and long-time tunesmith for Walt Disney.

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Hosted and largely performed by the El Capitan resident organist Rob Richards on the theater's large and ornate organ named "Ethel," it was a brief look at a small portion of Sherman's extensive musical catalog. Accompanied by pianist Alex Zsolt, Richards started off the evening with a sampling of some of the many songs Sherman wrote for several live-action films, such as "Fortuosity," "Are We Dancing," "Step in the Right Direction," and "Hushabye Mountain."

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In the next segment, Richards was joined again on the piano by Richard Allen, Music Director for the recent Richard Sherman/Milt Larsen musical Pazzazz, as they did a set of songs by Sherman's songwriting father, Al Sherman, including "You Gotta Be a Football Hero" and "(What Do We Do on a) Dew Dew Dewey Day."

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After another collection of organ renditions such as "That Darn Cat," and "Tiki Room," Richards brought in vocalist Dina Bennett to sing "Sister Suffragette," and "For Now For Always."

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After telling the anecdote that the best way to irritate the Shermans was to compliment them on "Bare Necessities"--which they did not write--Richards did a medley of the songs that they did write from Jungle Book, followed by one of his compositions from the documentary The Boys, "A Prayer," and the Overture to his newest musical, Pazzazz.

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A few numbers later, they brought out the "Classic Dans," with a few words to the effect that, although they were "dapper," and "Dans," they were not allowed to use the two words in conjunction to describe them. They went on to sing a group of numbers including "Meet Me Down on Main Street," and "I Love to Laugh."

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One charming part of the program were some hitherto-unseen outtakes from The Boys, including some footage of Sherman playing selections from one of his lesser-known albums "Sherman & Larsen's Smash Flops," which contains songs prematurely celebrating famous misadventures in history. (Example from "Bon Voyage Titanic: "Bon voyage to you new Titanic/Say hello to the Statue of Liberty/To wish you a safe crossing is unthinkable/
We know with what you're costing you're unsinkable!")

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As a finale, Richard Sherman himself took the stage, accompanied by Mickey Mouse, and gave a short concert of some of his songs from Winnie The Pooh and Mary Poppins, finishing with "It's A Small World," sung in the original ballad tempo.

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The show ended, as many Disney productions do, in a flutter of confetti and streamers. It was a charming show, honoring a great composer. Considering how integral the Sherman Brothers' songs are to almost every aspect of the Disney experience--the attractions and the movies alike--and how widespread they've become across the globe for the last fifty years or so, it may not be an overstatement to say that Richard Sherman's music may be among the most influential of all contemporary music.

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My recommendation? Any chance you get to see Richard Sherman and hear his amazing recollections of his time with Disney (both the man and the company,) take it. While you're at it, you would certainly not be disappointed by dropping in at the beautiful El Capitan and visiting Rob Richards and Ethel as well.

January 7, 2011

A Pilgrimage to Pixar

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On November 6th, the Cartoon Art Museum of San Francisco held its Seventh Annual Cartoon Art Museum Benefit at the Pixar Animation Studios. Since I'd always wanted to take a look at that bastion of animation excellence, I made the 6 hour drive up to the Bay Area to attend.

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It's a pretty boring drive.

There were two price tiers to the event--one was from 1pm-4pm and allowed guests to tour the facility, have snacks, meet assorted animators, see screenings of the Pixar shorts, and participate in learn-to-draw classes. A considerably more expensive tier went from 11am-4pm, and included all of the above in addition to lunch, shopping at the Pixar company store, and a screening of Toy Story 3 in the Pixar Theater.

As I drove over from the hotel that morning, I stopped to take a look at the main entrance gate to see how it compared with the Hollywood Studios replica. Sadly, it was under construction, so probably not a fair comparison.

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In front of the building, there's a huge representation of Luxo Jr., and his ubiquitous ball.

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Entering the building, there is a large glassed-in central atrium, around which are situated the cafe, the store, the theater, various offices and meeting rooms, and a few recreational areas.

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As anyone who's ever been to any event similar to this knows, the first concern is to line up for the shopping. There are few things a Disney fan enjoys more than purchasing memorabilia, and one of those things is purchasing memorabilia not generally available. Unfortunately, the store was about the same size as a room at Pop Century, so people had to line up until enough people cleared out to admit more, and then navigate another line to check out.

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One of the other fundraisers for the Cartoon Museum was an auction of art from various Pixar animators. They were as fabulously cute as you might imagine, and ended up commanding prices to match.

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I think the idea behind all the recreational areas opening out into the central area is to encourage all the artists to constantly meet and interact with each other, and decrease the likelihood of people working in isolation.

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I don't know where you work, but if this doesn't look like more fun than your workplace, you're better off than I am.

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Around this time, they began setting out lunch, which largely consisted of a fair selection of sandwiches and salads.

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After I got my food and sat down, I noticed a small line of people gathering around one guy in a hat -- it was Toy Story 3 Director Lee Unkrich!

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So I abandoned my food and pretty much all my possessions and ran over to get some stuff signed by him. Fortunately, it must have been a fairly honest group of people visiting Pixar that day, because all my bags were still there when I got back.

After lunch, it was time for the Toy Story 3 screening, introduced by Unkrich. The theater was itself pretty cool, as stars shine from the ceiling once the lights come down, some of which are shooting stars.

Later, we had a couple hours left to attend Learn to Draw classes, taught by actual animators, wander around the lobby and upstairs encircling hallways, or hound other animators for autographs and sketches. While they were also offering a showing of their short films in a different theater, I opted to spend the time looking around since I had already seen them on DVD.

The lobby is decorated with large figurines (really, really big figs) of various characters.

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On the walls hang large representations of more of their fantastic art.

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In a prominent location near the front of the lobby is a large case holding all the many awards they've won throughout the years.

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At the end of the day, they finished up the art auction, and a lot of money was raised for the Cartoon Museum. My personal favorite offered up for sale was this almost painfully cute one by Pete Doctor.

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Alas, not having the extra thousands of dollars it went for as disposable income, I've had to settle for having a photo of it, instead of the real thing.

Ultimately they did shoo us out of the building sometime after 4pm, but it was a great day filled with activity. For anyone interested in checking out the Pixar compound, I highly recommend keeping an eye open for the Museum's next benefit there, at their webpage http://cartoonart.org/.

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September 24, 2010

Marvelous Mechanized Magic Kingdom

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On September 18, the 1313 Club and Ape Pen Publishing presented an event: Marvelous Mechanized Magic Kingdom, at the Disneyland Hotel. It was a night dedicated to the history and development of storytelling through mechanical means, and primarily through Audio-Animatronics.

The evening began with a reception area encompassing several rooms, the entry of which held a variety of familiar Disney props, pictures, and vehicles.

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In the center was a table displaying items up for silent auction including many signatures from Disney Legends.

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The next room was filled with mechanical creations--some "alive," and some not--most of which were supplied by Garner Holt Productions, a company who provides many Audio-Animatronic figures for the Disney parks.

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In the last room, there was a great deal of music, as both the Singing Busts from the Haunted Mansion (with a slightly different cast,) and a group called "Windows to Sky" were playing in opposite corners of the room. Off to the side, Doombuggies.com shared a table with Brian Crosby, Disney Artist and Imagineer, and the Mousetalgia Podcast.

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On the way into the ballroom, Disney Legends Alice Davis and Xavier Atencio were nice enough to take photos, give autographs, and generally be entirely charming to all their admirers.

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The dinner program started with a slideshow of construction footage from Disneyland, which was followed with a short performance by Can Can Dancers, and a brief appearance by C-3PO and R2-D2. The Can Can Dancers reappeared afterwards to present Garner Holt with a birthday cake, as he had just turned 50 the day before.

Moderator Brian Sommer then introduced our guest host for the evening: Neil Patrick Harris.

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The first presentation, "How It All Began: Mr. Lincoln Goes to the World's Fair," by Disney Legend Bob Gurr and Imagineer Josh Shipley, started off with one of the funniest moments of the night, as Bob Gurr entered the stage driving a working monorail mock-up...possibly the slowest moving monorail in history. After he dismounted (without spilling his martini,) NPH took over the task of driving it off, which took long enough that he eventually had to ask "is it still funny?"

The rest of the talk had Bob Gurr recounting the original development of Lincoln with Walt and Royal Dano, and Josh Shipley showing footage of the refurbishment process they went through just recently, to restore him.

Next up were Michael Broggie, son of Roger E. Broggie, and Michael Campbell, President of the Carolwood Pacific Historical Society, who spoke on "The Early Days, It All Started with a Train." They spoke on Walt's love affair with trains, and the evolution of his collection, from the construction of a minature railway in his backyard, to the considerably larger one that encircles Disneyland.

"The History of Audio Animatronics" was a presentation Senior Conceptual Designer Larry Nikolai, and Senior Show Animator Ethan Reed had put together to inform the new generation of Imagineers how technology advanced from the original singing bird Walt picked up in Europe, to the oversized Mr. Potato Head in Toy Story Mania, and the newly refurbished Abraham Lincoln figure.

"MAPO Magic" was a panel discussion with Imagineers Rick Berryman, Butch Borcherding, Roger Broggie, Jr., Rudy Pena, and Corky Wilds. MAPO was the original construction arm of Imagineering before it was all incorporated together--Walt created it with the profits from Mary Poppins, from whence the name comes. They told a number of anecdotes about how they came to work there, and the general state of bewilderment they were often in, trying to accomplish the impossibly innovative demands Walt made on them. Of course, because they were all engineers, a lot of the punchlines ran along the lines of "...but they were steel brackets! Ha!"

After an intermission, the program resumed with Kathryn Beaumont (the voice of Alice and Wendy,) and Cartoonist Floyd Norman, in "From Paper to Life," in which they discussed what it was like meeting and working with Walt Disney. Kathryn Beaumont also related the process by which they brought her back to re-record some lines as Wendy for the refurbished Peter Pan ride, and Floyd Norman talked about some of his recent work on Toy Story 2 and Monsters Inc., with Pixar.

"Crossbones, Tombstones and Singing Dolls" brought Alice Davis and Xavier Atencio onstage to recount how they came to work for Disney, and the means by which they wound up in careers very different from what they had originally intended. Alice had initially wanted to be an animator, however she was placed in costume design after being told that women could not be animators--only ink and paint girls. Subsequently, she went on to do costumes for It's a Small World, and Pirates of the Caribbean: "I went from sweet children to Dirty Old Men." X. had started as an animator on Pinocchio, but was then sent off to war for 4 years afterwards. When he came back, he was transitioned to Imagineering, where he was put in the story department and later came up with the song "Yo Ho, Yo Ho." "A song was born--and a songwriter with it." Their ability to recollect the events of Walt's time was remarkable--their only concession to age was their comment when the panel was done, that they'd prefer to be placed earlier in the program next time. "Old folks get tired!"

Darrin Hughes, Senior Figure Programmer, presented "It's Alive! Programming Creatures to Life," and spoke of his work and methodology in working with the figures and his computer console to bring movement and action to the now dressed and storywritten figures...and also of the occasional hazards of trying to program electrical structures in the field, subjected to elemental whims.

Finally, Garner Holt, President of Garner Holt Productions, Inc., gave his talk on "The Next Generation, From Mice, Dragons and Beyond!" In it, he detailed his history in the industry, from deciding on a career in figure animation in fourth grade, to being paid by malls to build haunted houses in high school, to eventually creating the first Audio-Animatronic figures for a classic Disney attraction not made by Disney when his company created the Haunted Mansion Holiday overlay. Although he was never able to work for Disney, as they said they couldn't advance him without a college degree, he's been creating their outsourced figures for several years, in attractions ranging from the Mythica floats in Tokyo DisneySea, to the new characters in It's A Small World, to some of the current Tiki Birds. He's currently working on creating a Yeti, which on completion, should be the most complicated Audio-Animatronic built to date.

The program was a long one, but jam-packed with interesting discussions and featuring legendary Disney personalities--a night not to be missed for fans of Disney history and technology.


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About Other Disney Exhibits and Shows

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

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