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For a few hours, Philadelphia was "the
happiest place on earth" for more than 200 fans of the Walt
Disney Company. It was standing room only at the Rainey Auditorium
at Penn Museum in University City as Disney's official fan club
D23 rolled out its Fanniversary celebration welcome mat for Disney fans in the
City of Brotherly Love.
Upon arriving at the museum
on South Street,
guests were checked in by cast members of the Disney Store in Cherry Hill, New Jersey
and they were presented with an official D23 Fanniversary pennant and a Disney
Fanniversary button featuring Chip and Dale. And just like waiting to get
onto Splash Mountain or Test Track, fans cued up in
line prior to entering the theater.
The auditorium was packed
for the two-hour presentation hosted in part by original Disney Geek Jeffrey
Epstein and fellow cast member Justin who worked at one time at Walt Disney
World in Florida. While Jeffrey and Justin were nicely attired in their
official D23 polo-shirts and name badges, fans were decked out in everything
Disney, from Mickey Mouse t-shirts to Disney Cruise Line hoodies complimented
by Minnie Mouse necklaces and Avengers watches.
Being a lifelong
Philadelphian, I had never visited the Penn Museum but Rainey Auditorium in the
basement of the museum provided the intimate setting for the action-packed,
fun-filled trip down memory lane complete with video and audio clips that took
guests back to the origins of such Disney characters like Oswald the Lucky
Rabbit as well as Goofy, Daisy Duck and Huey, Dewey and Louie, all of whom are
celebrating significant anniversaries in 2012.
Guests were asked numerous
times prior to show time to turn off cell phones and cautioned that no
photography or video recording of any kind would be allowed during the
presentation. Also fellow Disney Geeks were asked not to blog about the
show while it was in progress. At one point a cell phone rang in the middle of
the show and in his best Maleficent impression, Jeffrey shot a stare at the
audience which not only sent a message to the cell phone culprit but to the
rest of the fans that cell phones are a distraction not only to the performers
on stage but as well to the people gathered in the auditorium.
Philly Phanatics turned
Disney fans for this one-night engagement gave a rousing warm welcome to
Jeffrey and Justin and the audience was equally receptive to the presentation
prompting Jeffrey at one point in the show to say that perhaps D23 should come
back and visit the Northeast section of the country again real soon.
While D23 has staged other events in New
York City, the Fanniversary was the first celebration
since Disney took their fan presentations on the road.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.All rights reserved
Jeffrey is a natural on
stage, comfortable and able to execute his hosting abilities without a
hitch. Even when dealing with a difficult water bottle which kept falling
off a table onto the floor next to him, Jeffrey was able to ad lib his way out
of the situation. When his co-host lost his spot in the script, Jeffrey
stepped in and ribbed Justin about "perhaps having one too many Philly cheese
While the fan celebration
was action-packed in taking the audience through key anniversaries of the Walt
Disney Company, more attention could have been paid to a movie that has a
"The Happiest Millionaire,"
released in 1967 was given a brief mention in the segment of the presentation
marking 45-year anniversaries. Besides being the last film that Walt
Disney was involved in prior to his death in 1966, "Millionaire" starring Fred
MacMurray was based on the true story of Philadelphia
millionaire Anthony J. Drexel. The screenplay was by A.J. Carothers based
on the play from the book "My Philadelphia Father" by socialite Cordelia Drexel
Biddle. While showing production photos and posters of the film on
screen, one of the graphics showed a cover of Biddle's book. Perhaps a
bit more attention to on-screen content coinciding with the script would have
made the presentation feel a bit more tailored to the Philadelphia audience especially in marking
"The Happiest Millionaire" milestone.
Fanniversary organizers could have also tipped their mouse ears to "The
Happiest Millionaire" by staging the event at the Mandell Theater on the campus
of Drexel University founded in 1891 by Anthony J.
A true testimonial to any
good show is always leaving the audience wanting more. D23 Fanniversary
did not disappoint as guests leaving the packed house talked excitedly about
the program and offered up their personal reflections of their own favorite
theme park attractions, movies and television shows from the Walt Disney
Company as well as expressing their desire to attend the next fan event. Jeffrey and Justin mingled with fans leaving
the auditorium and even posed for a few photos.
D23 Fanniversary events are
also scheduled for Seattle,
Atlanta and Dallas.
With a bit of creative
liberty from "the happiest cruise to ever set sail," it was a good show after all.