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D23's serves up a delightful, insightful celebration of Disneyland's 55th anniversary with its Destination D event

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D23's serves up a delightful, insightful celebration of Disneyland's 55th anniversary with its Destination D event

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Okay. Quick show of hands. How many of you remember Mr. Creosote from "Monty Python's the Meaning of Life "? That grotesquely fat man (played by Terry Jones) who ate so much he literally exploded after consuming one-too-many wafer-thin mints?

The reason that I bring that character up is ... Well, after spending two full days at the Disneyland Hotel attending D23's Destination D event, I am now the Disneyana equivalent of Mr. Creosote. I have seen so many things that I've never seen before, heard so many previously-untold (in public, anyway) stories, been entertained within an inch of my life by gifted speakers & singers & presentations & panels that if I hear one more amusing anecdote, see one more slide from the WDI Photo Archives ... Well, they're going to have to squeegee me off the walls.

As for the real highlight of the event,  as I was walking out of the Grand Ballroom on Saturday night (just in time to catch that last barrage of fireworks as it exploded over Disneyland), I quizzed a few friends about what their favorite parts of Disneyland '55 at the Disneyland Resort were. And the general consensus seemed to be that one of the real high points was Friday night's "E Ticket: Music from the Disney Parks" concert. Which started out with Disney Legend Richard Sherman taking the audience through that vast collection of songs that he and his brother Robert wrote for the Disney Parks ...

Richard Sherman addresses the crowd in the Grand Ballroom
at the Disneyland Hotel.
Photo by Jim Hill

... and then segued into spirited performances by name performers like "Avenue Q" and "Johnny and the Sprites" star John Tartaglia. Who first shared a personal story about how he became a huge Haunted Mansion fan before then launching into a puppet-accompanied version of "Grim Grinning Ghosts."

John Tartaglia and his poltergeist pals. Photo by Jim Hill

Then Michael Urie & Ana Ortiz from "Ugly Betty" came onstage and - as part of their "Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)" number - performed some groan-inducing gags (EX: Why did the pirate go into the Apple store? Because he wanted to buy an iPatch) that Wally Boag would have approved of.

Michael Urie (L) and Ana Ortiz put lots of Ho-Ho in
their rendition of "Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)"
Photo by Jim Hill

Mind you, the biggest surprise of the evening came when Barrett Foa of "NCIS: Los Angeles" had to bail on his planned duet with Ms. Ortiz due to scheduling conflicts. So who did Steven Clark wind up recruiting at the very last minute to play Aladdin to Ana's Jasmine? D23's own Jeffrey Epstein. And you know what? That Disney Geek can actually sing.

Jeffrey Epstein & Ana Ortiz put a brand-new spin on
"A Whole New World." Photo by Jim Hill

But again, this "E Ticket: Music from the Disney Park" concert was just one small portion of a very full weekend of information & entertainment. It featured panels that were sometimes wistful (Take - for example - Friday's "Imagineering the Magic of Disney" panel. Where Disney Legend Alice Davis revealed that one of the main reasons that she enjoyed working on "it's a small world" for the 1964 New York World's Fair was that - as a child of the Depression - her parents couldn't afford to buy Alice any toys. So Ms. Davis never got to play dress-up with dolls until Walt Disney personally ordered her to create outfits for the 400+ Audio-Animatronic figures that appears in the Pepsi-Cola pavilion) ...

Don Iwerks (L) and Marty Sklar listen as Alice Davis describes what it was like to work on
the Unicef attraction for the 1964 New York World's Fair. Photo by Jim Hill

... while other panels were downright bittersweet (During one of his times onstage, Dave Smith mentioned that - given that he's retiring from The Walt Disney Company on October 15th - D23's Destination D event will be one of his very last public appearances at Disney Chief Archivist. The crowd's response to this news was to give Dave a standing O after this Disney Legend had completed his "Disneyland: The Way We Were" presentation).

(L to R) Dave Smith, Ed Hobelman, Tony Baxter and Tim O'Day at
Saturday night's "Disneyland, U.S.A." screening and panel.
Photo by Jim Hill

Mind you, there were also some wonderfully silly moments. Like when Tim O'Day joined Becky Cline and Paul Anderson onstage during their "Weird Disney" panel to talk about how Paul Castle (i.e. the "Ice Capades" veteran who wound up being Disneyland's go-to performer whenever they needed someone of small stature to appear in a character costume) was once flung off of the Matterhorn - dressed as Baby New Year, no less - during one particularly memorable New Year's Eve celebration that was held in the Park during the early 1960s. And then - to put the cherry on top of the sundae - O'Day showed actual film footage of Castle kicking & screaming & swearing as he flew over Fantasyland wearing only a top hat and a diaper.

Rob Klein (L) and Tim O'Day prove that David Hasselhoff couldn't dance back in the 1980s
either when they screened this "Knight Rider" star's performance in Disneyland's 30th
anniversary TV special. Photo by Jim Hill

Yeah, Tim was a big part of the fun at this Disneyland '55 at the Disneyland Resort event. Whether it was when - as part of his "Disneyland Through the Eye of Television" presentation with Disney Archivist Rob Klein - Tim got all 1300 D23 members who were seated in the Grand Ballroom of the Disneyland Hotel up on their feet. So that - just like the Pledge of Allegiance - they could then recite (along with Walt) what's written on Disneyland's dedication plaque.

All together now: "To All Who Come to this Happy Place, Welcome! ..."

O'Day also brought many in the hall to tears when he recalled what it was like to be at Disneyland on September 12, 2001. When the world was still reeling from what had happened in NYC, Washington D.C. and Shanksville, PA. Tim then talked about this grief-stricken woman he encountered in the Park that morning, who - after collapsing on a park bench in Town Square -- told him that "... I had to come here. I couldn't watch anymore ..." After watching the Towers fall over & over & over again on television, she needed to be reminded there was still kindness & goodness out there somewhere in the world. Which is why she went to Disneyland.

Geri Bumpass (L) and Tim O'Day listen in as Jack Lindquist explains his
1990s-era promotional plans for welcoming the Muppets to Disneyland.
Which included (for one summer only) painting the Matterhorn
Kermit-the-Frog green. Photo by Jim Hill

Disney Legend Jack Lindquist (who's got a book coming out, by the way. "In Service to the Mouse: My Unexpected Journey to Becoming Disneyland's First President." Which is available for pre-ordering on November 15th) told a similar sort of heart-tugging story about the important, emotional place that this theme park occupies in many of our hearts. Jack talked about how he was one of the Cast Members who wound up working at Disneyland on December 24, 1955. As they were gently noodging that last handful of Guests who were still on Main Street U.S.A. to head for the exits,  Jack encountered this family of four (i.e. a father, a mother, a son and a daughter in worn but clean clothing) who were lingering in front of the Emporium. And after the little girl had taken one last longing look at all the toys in the window, Lindquist then heard the daughter turn to her mother and say: "You're right, Mom. Going to Disneyland was a lot better than getting a visit from Santa Claus."

It's stories like that - coming straight from the people who actually experienced them, some of whom worked side-by-side with Walt in order to make the magic happen - that made Destination D extra-special.  Oh, sure. This event wasn't all about looking backwards. Tom Fitzgerald - as part of his "A Long Time Ago ... The Making of Star Tours" presentation - introduced D23 members to two of the new droids who'll be appearing in the revamped version of this Tomorrowland attraction. Aly San-San (voiced by Allison Janney of "The West Wing" fame) ...

Image courtesy of Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

... as well as Ace, the pilot of that StarSpeeder 1000 we'll all be flying in next Spring. Who's supposed be as different from the RX-24 droid that Paul Reubens voiced, as you can possibly get.

Image courtesy of Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All
rights reserved

And speaking of Star Tours ... during his "A word with the President" panel (which was hosted by KABC meteorologist Garth Kemp), Disneyland Resort President George Kalogridis revealed that "Star Tours: The Adventure Continues ..." will feature 54 distinctly different variations on its ride film. Which means (in theory, anyway) that you'll never have the same trip twice whenever you board this simulator.

KABC meteorologist Garth Kemp (R) chat with Disneyland  Resort President George
Kalogridis. Photo by Jim Hill

Over the course of this two day-long event, D23 members got all sort of peeks in the future. Be it the Disney Dance Crew (who'll begin performing at Disney California Adventure next month) ...

The Disney Dance D23 gave Destination D attendees a preview of the high-energy dance
routines that they'll begin performing next month at the Disneyland Resort Parks.
Photo by Jim Hill

... or taking part in a test run of the Ultimate Disney Trivia Tournament, which will be one of the events presented at the 2011 D23 Expo. Which will be held August 19 - 21st at the Anaheim Convention Center.

The winner of this test game was then automatically entered in the semi-finals for next
year's debut edition of the Ultimate Disney Trivia Tournament. Photo by Jim Hill

But after seeing what the Star Tours flight cabin looks like from the outside ...

Photo copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
Image courtesy of Jeremy Marx

... as well as a T-Rex fly through the sky as it makes its way from Ford's Magic Skyway to Disneyland's Primeval World ...

Photo courtesy of Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

... I knew that I had to get away from magic & dreams & wonder for a while. Especially since Steven Clark revealed - as they were bringing Saturday's show  to a close -- that D23 would be holding a Destination D event at Walt Disney World in the Spring of 2011 (at dates that the Official Disney Fan Club will be announcing shortly) which will then celebrate the history & the heritage of that Resort.

It was at that point - knowing that if I heard one more thing about Disney and /or Disneyland, my head would explode - that I quickly made tracks. Trading the Happiest Place on Earth for one of the scarier places on the planet: Knott's Scary Farm. Home of Halloween Haunt.

Photo by Jim Hill

And I'll be telling you about my trip to that Southern California seasonal favorite next week here at JHM.

Your thoughts?

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  • Your story was featured in DisMarks! Here is the link to vote it up and promote it: dismarks.com/.../D23s_serves_up_a_delightfu_celebration_with_its_Destination_D_event

  • Nice article, and good to see you at Destination D, Jim! I agree - D23 did a good job with their show. If I could just finagle a comped ticket for their event at WDW in April...

  • This event is designed for the die-hard fans, who are equivalent to the Star Trek Trekkies (or Trekkers). I'm a fan of Disney and Star Trek, but I never attended any Disney or Star Trek event. The analysis is a bit of a yawn. Sure, there's a lot of stories to tell, but they are so esoteric. Certainly, the Disney stars are there. Wonderful, but I never wanted to see William Shater, neither do I want to see a ... Disney Executive.

    And the news...  Star Tours Droids?  Anything else?  A dance routine?

  • Sounds like a lot of fun, but you just made a certain Disney Geek's ego even bigger.  Great.

  • They were going to paint the Matterhorn - Walt's Matterhorn - Kermit-the-Frog green?


    Guess there's a silver lining to Jim Henson's untimely passing after all. It put a lot of such harebrained schemes on permanent hold. Jesus.

    Anyway, that horrific revelation aside, it sounds like you  had a hell of a good time, Jim. Wish I could have attended, but an injury of mine is still mending. But I'm planning on going to the WDW show for sure. Hope it's as lavish as this one seemed to be.

  • *** you Gigglestock.

    Your constant bitching about the Muppets has gotten old.

    Anyone who hates the Muppets has no soul. There ARE MANY people today who love the Muppets and are glad that they are doing new things, and if you can't respect that, go to hell.

  • Gigglestock is a hater and an ***.

  • Gigglestock, just STOP bitching about the Muppets. Its not cool.

    And stop posting those anti-muppets comments on the Disney Parks Blog.

  • ...Sorry, I meant Blue Sky Disney Blog....

    But still, aside from my mistakes, I'm not the only one who is sick of your hater comments.

  • ^The above comments prove that the Muppets get the fans they deserve.

  • Have you noticed that Dale - as he's represented within the D23 world - is almost always wearing

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