With the 90th anniversary of the Walt Disney Company coming up quickly on October 16, the D23 team is hitting the road for the second year in a row to commemorate the anniversaries within the company through a presentation called D23’s Disney Fanniversary Celebration. The 10-city tour is traveling coast to coast with D23 hosts and never-before-seen artifacts from the Walt Disney Archives. I had the opportunity to attend the kick-off showing in Burbank, California at the Walt Disney Studios backlot.
The presentation began with hosts Cynthia from D23, and Rick from the Walt Disney Archives. We went back in time 90 years ago to the opening of the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studios. From 1923 to 2003, the presentation included a series of rarely seen videos and photos, as well as an explanation of their origins. Mickey Mouse is celebrating his own anniversary this year, as he will officially turn 85 on November 18th with the anniversary of Steamboat Willie (though it has been revealed his true debut was a few months earlier to a small audience in Plane Crazy). A 1963 interview with Walt himself gave more insight into how the cartoons were made and the sound recording process. I was excited by the plethora of interviews and clips featuring Mr. Disney, as he was far before my time, and most of the footage in existence is kept locked up tight in those archives. Our audience was mostly adults, but the children in attendance commented that they enjoyed the cartoon clips and some of the funny animal scenes, including an interview with Roy O. Disney regarding sliding ducks.
We sailed through time to the 1930s to review the Three Little Pigs and Ferdinand the Bull, which surprisingly had more involvement from Walt than you would expect. The 1943 film Saludos Amigos celebrates its 70th anniversary this year, and we were introduced to a gaucho doll that was handmade at the Syndicate Press of Argentina and stylized after Walt as a gift during the making of the film. Host Rick explained, “nobody has ever seen except the twelve people maybe in the archives.” This exclusive treasure was also on display in San Diego, and will be making an appearance in Phoenix, as well. I asked Rick about some of the items on display for other cities, and he told me they will have a film canister prop from Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (25th anniversary) in Seattle and San Francisco; a foam pumpkin prop from the hill scenes of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas (20th anniversary) in Washington D.C., Newark, and Boston; and a collection of medals and patches from the Audio-Animatronics® on Epcot’s Horizons (30th anniversary) in Orlando and Chicago.
Our presentation continued through the 50s and 60s with anniversaries for films such as Summer Magic, True Life Adventures, Blackbeard’s Ghost, and The Sword and the Stone. Park lovers weren’t disappointed by knowledge of hidden items that aren’t on the standard Mickey circuit including two paintings from the celebrating films. We also took a look at a series of theme park anniversaries, including the Alice in Wonderland attraction grand opening and re-opening. Kathryn Beaumont (the original voice of Alice) gave an exclusive D23 Fanniversary interview about her experience re-recording a soundtrack specifically for the attraction’s re-opening.
As the presentation came to a close, we covered some of the younger anniversaries including Disney Channel’s 30th anniversary, and some of its programs such as Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers and Halloweentown. Host Cynthia told us, “I am a Disney Channel fangirl, so it was nice to see what the early version of the channel looked like.” I agreed! It was finally my turn to recall shows I watched growing up, and I became quite nostalgic as we wrapped up with Mulan’s 15th anniversary and took a look at some of the concept art for the film (which I will be getting on Blu-ray on March 12).
D23’s Disney Fanniversary Celebration is happening through April 7, 2013 and tickets are still available for Phoenix, Orlando, Chicago, Washington D.C., Newark, Boston, and Seattle to both D23 members and non-members.
Coverage brought to you by Surf and Sunshine Contributing Journalists, Melissa Rogers and Jayda Knight. Thank you to Disney D23 for providing press access to this event. All opinions are original.