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Trio of special events tempt Southern California’s Disneyana fans

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Trio of special events tempt Southern California’s Disneyana fans

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This coming Saturday (provided – of course – that the Bay State isn’t still under water), I’ll be down in Avon, MA. taking part in the 15th annual Janet McDonald Memorial Walk Against Cancer. This fundraiser is something that my family does every year in order to honor the memory of my late cousin. We walk the 5-mile route that Janet did every day in order to raise money for the Immunotherapy Research Department at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

But if I had my druthers … I wouldn’t be plodding through puddles in Randolph, MA. I’d be on the other side of the country. In San Francisco, CA. to be specific. Where – from April 2 – 4thWonderCon 2010 will be filling the Moscone Center South with all sorts of wonderful Disney-related events & programming.

“What sort of events and programming?,” you ask. Well, let’s start with what’s going on in the Esplanade Ballroom from 3:45 – 4:30 p.m. Where you’ll get to see the April 6th episode of ABC’s hit series,”V” (which has a rather ominous sounding title: “Pound of Flesh”) 4 days ahead of the rest of the country.

Prince Naveen and Tiana from Disney's The Princess and the Frog
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

And then – from 4:30 – 5 p.m. – Walt Disney Animation Studios will be presenting a panel about the Art of The Princess and The Frog in Room 220. The film’s directors – Ron Clements & John Musker -- will be on hand. As will be “TPATF” art director Ian Gooding, the movie’s head of effects Marlon West as well as animation legend Eric Goldberg (who was the supervising animator for Louis, the jazz-playing alligator). As they discuss many of the creative choices & artistic challenges this team faced while they were producing Walt Disney Pictures’ return to hand-drawn animation.

But perhaps one of the more intriguing events at this year’s WonderCon is happening well away from the Moscone Center South. At 1 Market Street in the Embarcadero, to be exact.

“So what’s happening here?,” you query. Well, at 8 p.m. tomorrow night, Alan Bradley will be making an appearance in Justin Herman Plaza. Where this Encom International exec will then be introducing that company’s latest addition to their product library.

Bruce Boxleitner as Encom executive Alan Bradley
Bruce Boxleitner as Encom executive Alan Bradley in "TRON: Legacy."
Copyright 2010 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

And what’s so cool about that? Well … Alan Bradley is the name of the character that Bruce Boxleitner played in “TRON.” And Encom is the name of the computer corporation that that 1982 Steve Lisberger film was built around. So what do you want to bet that Friday night’s “press conference” winds up being another cool tease for “TRON: Legacy” ? Just like that “Flynn’s Arcade” display that Walt Disney Pictures set up off-site at last year’s Comic-Con International in San Diego.

Long story short: If you’re a “TRON” fan, you really, really, REALLY want to be in Justin Herman Plaza tomorrow night at 8 p.m.

Then – on Saturday, April 3rd … Well, that’s when the tough decisions start. For – from 11 a.m. to 12 noon – you can either sit in on a hand-drawn animation demo (where Eric Goldberg will discuss how he came up with the look of his character for “The Princess and the Frog”) in Room 204 & 206 OR catch the premiere screening of that new ABC series, “Happy Town” in the Esplanade Ballroom. (And did I mention that members of that show’s cast & creative team will be on hand afterward to field questions from the audience?)

ABC's new series Happy Town
Copyright 2010 American Broadcasting Corporation, Inc. All Rights Reserved

If it were me, I’d probably go with the “Happy Town” screening. If only because the panel that follows this in the Esplanade Ballroom is the one WonderCon event that Disneyana fans really don’t want to miss. For – from 12 noon to 1:45 p.m. – Walt Disney Pictures & Disney•Pixar will be screening exclusive footage from some of their films for the Summer of 2010.

And who better to be on hand to introduce footage from “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” than Jerry Bruckheimer, that film’s producer? Or – for that matter – Jake Gyllenhaal (i.e. the actor who plays the title character in this Walt Disney Pictures release), Mike Newell (the industry vet who directed “The Sands of Time”) and Jordan Mechner (the gentleman who created the original “Prince of Persia” game)?

Then – once the “Prince of Persia” team has left the Esplanade Ballroom – Bruckheimer will bring the cast & crew of “The Sorcerer's Apprentice” up on stage. And among the folks from that film that are expected to be on hand this Saturday afternoon are Nicholas Cage, Jay Baruchel and Teresa Palmer as well as the movie’s director, Jon Turteltaub.

Nicolas Cage and Jay Baruchel in The Sorcerer's Apprentice
(L to R)  Nicolas Cage and Jay Baruchel in Walt Disney Pictures and Jerry
Bruckheimer Films' "The Sorcerer's Apprentice." Copyright 2009
Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

And if that weren’t already entertaining enough, this Walt Disney Pictures and Disney•Pixar presentation wraps up with Lee Unkrich taking the stage. Where this Pixar veteran will then give WonderCon attendees a sneak peek at “Toy Story 3.”

Now please note that most of the venues at the Moscone Center South have very limited seating. Which is why all of the panels & programming at WonderCon 2010 is done on a first-come, first-served basis. And since these rooms will not be cleared between programs … Well, if you want to actually have a seat for Saturday’s sure-be-spectacular Walt Disney Pictures and Disney•Pixar presentation, you should really probably plan on attending that 11 a.m. – 12 noon premiere screening of ABC’s “Happy Town.”

What’s that you say? You’re not going to be in San Francisco this coming weekend but you’d still like to attend a cool Disney-related event? Well … Then perhaps you should plan on heading over to Buena Park, CA. on Sunday, April 18th? Where you can then attend the book release party for Christopher Merritt’s “Knott's Preserved: From boysenberry to theme park, the history of Knott's Berry Farm.”

Knotts Preserved by Chris Merritt book cover
Copyright 2010 Angel City Press. All Rights Reserved

“And what does Knott’s Berry Farm have to do with Disney?,” you ask. Well, as Merritt points out in this handsome 160-page hardcover, if it hadn’t been for Walter Knott and that Chicken Dinner Restaurant that he and his wife Cordelia ran out in Orange County with its Old West street & Ghost Town … Well, one wonders if Walt Disney would have actually picked Anaheim as the perfect place to build The Happiest Place on Earth?

Anyway … To honor the history of Knott’s Berry Farm (as well as explore this theme park’s many connections to The Walt Disney Company), there’ll be a day-long event on Sunday, April 18th to celebrate the release of Chris' 15-years-in-the-making book.

This event will include tours of the Park’s Grand Avenue & Ghost Town areas led by Orange County Historians Phil Brigandi and Chris Jepsen. And from 10 a.m. to 12 noon, Merritt and his co-author, noted Los Angeles historian & preservationist J. Eric Lynxwiler will be on hand in the Chicken Dinner Restaurant. Where – along with Imagineer Tony Baxter (who wrote the introduction for this Angel City Press release) – Chris & J. Eric will be happy to autograph your copy of “Knott’s Preserved: From boysenberry to theme park, a history of Knott’s Berry Farm.”

The Bird Cage Theatre
Copyright Cedar Fair Entertainment Company. All Rights Reserved

Then – from 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. – attendees will gather at the Bird Cage Theater for a multimedia lecture on the early history of this property. Which will then be followed from 5 – 7 p.m. by a group buffet dinner at the Chicken Dinner Restaurant.

After this comes the real highlight of the “Knott’s Preserved” event. Where – from 8 – 9:30 p.m. – former Imagineers Rolly Crump, Chris Crump and Eddie Sotto (along with Knott’s veterans Dean Davisson and John Waite) will gather at the Bird Cage Theater for a panel discussion. Where these five will then talk about the many classic KBF rides, shows, attractions and events that they had a hand in building and/or designing. Among them “Knott’s Bear-y Tales,” “Wacky Soap Box Racers” and the Halloween Haunt.

This promises to be an extra special day for theme park history buffs. But be warned: Space for the “Knott’s Preserved” event is extremely limited. In fact, the last time I checked (on Tuesday of this week) there were only 30 tickets left. And when they’re gone, they’re gone.

Knotts Berry Farm and Ghost Town poster
Copyright Cedar Fair Entertainment Company
All Rights Reserved

So if you’d like to get on in the fun that’s sure to be had at Knott’s Berry Farm on Sunday, April 18th, you’d better click on this link and then fax in your request for those remaining tickets ASAP.

Of course, if you’re looking for a truly exclusive Disney-related experience, you might want to consider signing up for that once-in-a-lifetime rail trip that the Carolwood Foundation will be holding over the Memorial Day weekend.

This trip starts on Saturday, May 29th. Where a limited number of guests will leave LA’s Union Station aboard a private railcar and then journey up the California coast. And while the views out the window are sure to be spectacular, the on-board entertainment won’t be half bad either. These include presentations by Disney Legend Bob Gurr, noted historian & author Michael Broggie, animator John Kimball (son of Disney Legend Ward Kimball) as well as Imagineer Ray Spencer (who’s currently riding herd on the Red Car Trolley installation project at Disney’s California Adventure).

View of the California coastline from the Silver Zephyr
Photo courtesy of The Blue Parrot. All Rights Reserved

And did I mention that all the meals that you’ll be served as you ride aboard this historic observation car will be prepared by a private chef and his staff?

But wait! The fun doesn’t stop once your train gets to Oakland. You’ll then be whisked by private motor coach to the Hilton Hotel in Emeryville, CA. Where -- following a restful night’s sleep -- you’ll then be driven into San Francisco. Where – after a tour of the Walt Disney Family Museum – you’ll then adjourn to the Fantasia Theater. Where you’ll enjoy a rare public screening of “The Great Locomotive Chase,” that 1956 Walt Disney Productions release that stars the late Fess Parker.

After this screening, you’ll then head down to Fisherman’s Wharf for a night of fun, which will be followed by a return trip to the Hilton in Emeryville. Then – come Monday – this private railcar departs Oakland for the return trip to Los Angeles. Where – while you’re once again enjoying that spectacular view – you’ll also have a chance to interact with the event’s guest speakers as well as bid on some rare collectibles & autographed items.

A view of the California coastline from the train known as the Silver Zephyr
Copyright The Blue Parrot. All Rights Reserved

Now admittedly the cost of this trip is a bit pricey ($500 per person. Plus your two night hotel stay at the Hilton). But the net proceeds from this event will go to an extremely good cause. You see, the Carolwood Foundation is in the process of acquiring and restoring the original Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad combine car. Which it then plans on displaying at Walt Disney’s Carolwood Barn in Griffth Park. So if you’d like to help preserve this piece of Disney history – an artifact that Walt not only personally owned, but once declared to be his favorite piece of the Disneyland Railroad – then you should definitely sign up for this trip.

Be warned, though: All reservations for this amazing trip up the California coast aboard a private railcar must be made by April 10th. And given that space is (obviously) limited, you’re encouraged to book your tickets ASAP.

For more information on this unique fundraiser or the Combine project, drop by the Carolwood website.

So there you have it: A trio of special events that are sure to tempt Southern California Disneyana fans now through Memorial Day. Which -- come to think about it -- is just about when I expect my shoes will finally dry out from plodding through all those puddles during Saturday's Cancer Walk.

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  • And on that train trip over Memorial Day Weekend? Roger Colton as your Steward and Shelly Smith as your Bartender... Gets better all the time!

  • Oh, make me feel even guiltier that I can't make it, Roger. :)

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