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Animation insiders share their favorite Disneyland memories

Animation insiders share their favorite Disneyland memories

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"To all who come to this happy place: Welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past -- and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. 
Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams and the hard facts that have created America -- with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world."

Walt Disney
Disneyland Opening Day
July 17, 1955

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

In honor of  Disneyland's 60th anniversary celebration, I recently spoke with a number of animators & voice actors and then asked them to reflect on the first time they visited the Magic Kingdom.

For Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera (i.e., the talented director & producer behind Pixar's most recent box office smash, "Inside Out"), their fondest memories of visiting Disneyland involved birds, pirates and a dropped cell phone.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"Welcome to a tropical hideaway, you lucky people, you
If we weren't in the show starting right away
We'd be in the audience too."

-- Jose, Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room

"Two highlights for me," offers up Docter.  The Tiki Room comes to mind first for the creative genius behind "Inside Out," "Monsters, Inc," and "Up."  "I still remember as a kid going to the Tiki Room and seeing these birds come to life all around," Docter chirps.  He says while some guests might think  the attraction is "quaint and maybe a little rinky-dink, to me that was absolute magic and I wanted to somehow do that myself."

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me.
We pillage, we plunder, we rifle and loot,
Drink up, me 'earties, you ho."

"The same with Pirates," Docter continues.  "I think Pirates of the Caribbean was one of the other things that was so formative.  You walk into what you know is a building and suddenly you are in the middle of the bayou and then you are in the midst of a ship skirmish, with the fort," the director reflects.  "It was such a cool thing."

(L to R) "Inside Out" director Pete Docter and Producer Jonas Rivera.
Copyright Disney-Pixar. All rights reserved

For Rivera, who has worked closely with Docter on many of Disney Pixar's blockbusters, he confesses that he has spent so much time at Disneyland that he would need a day to talk about all of his experiences but he singled out a pair during our interview.  "My two memories are first going through as a kid, which I remember vividly, it was 1974. I can picture it," he fondly recalls as if it was yesterday.

His second memory involved taking his daughter, Elsa, (named before the enormous popularity of the character with the 2013 release of "Frozen") to Disneyland for the first time.  "It was the day that Monsters, Inc. opened in California Adventure," and just like his colleague, he and his family took a ride on Pirates of the Caribbean.  As he held his daughter and climbed into the boat, "my cell phone slipped out of my pocket and went 'ploop' right into the water and is still down there in Davy Jones' locker."

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Just like director Docter, producer Rivera credits the Disneyland experience for influencing him and allowing him to pursue his creative ambitions.

Another creative-type remembers his first visit to Disneyland but perhaps for the wrong reason.  I have to admire former Disney animator/director and Stitch voice actor Chris Sanders for admitting that his most vivid recollection upon seeing Disneyland is that he got sick to his stomach. Sanders says as a young boy growing up in Colorado he always wanted to visit the Happiest Place on Earth.  "I so idolized the place," Sanders says.  At the age of seven as he and his family visited Disneyland, Sanders recalled "when I actually got to see it, I threw up because I was so excited."

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Legendary voice actor Jim Cummings fondly recalls one of his favorite theme park memories when he came face to face with two of the characters that he was responsible for bringing to life.  Cummings, perhaps best known as the voice of Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, too, says while he was riding on Disneyland's "Skyway To Tomorrowland" he looked over the gondola to the ground below and spotted the two costumed characters.  Cummings said he thought it would be fun to approach them once he got off the ride and have his photo taken with them.  Easier said than done.  The actor said he had to convince Pooh and Tigger who he was by providing them and their cast member handlers with some dialogue.  "It was fun," Cummings says adding that the characters were "very gracious, you know, lots of hugs and kisses and it was just a lot of fun." 

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