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Want to see where Walt Disney grew up & vacationed? D23 will take you there in 2012

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Want to see where Walt Disney grew up & vacationed? D23 will take you there in 2012

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You know what they say: the third time's the charm.

As D23 mapped out its plans for 2012 ... well, Steven Clark knew that it was going to take more than just charm to make the third year of operation for the Official Disney Fan Club memorable.

"Heading into Year No. 3, we felt that it was time that D23 did some different types of events," Clark explained in a recent phone call. "We wanted to create events that go 'beyond the berm' and really take Club members to places that they've never, ever been before."

Walt Disney got away from the grind of running the Studio by driving
out to Palm Springs and then vacationing Smoke Tree Ranch.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Which is why - during the first few months of very eventful 2012 - D23 is producing experiences that give its members the chance to literally walk in Walt Disney's shoes. The first of these special events is a journey back to Walt's boyhood home, Marceline, Missouri , for a daylong tour led by Disney archivists.  It's the first time Disney has led a tour of Marceline, which of course inspired Main Street, U.S.A.

And before that happens, D23 has also also made arrangements to get a select number of members into the Smoke Tree Ranch in Palm Springs, CA., which Walt loved so much.  "You're actually going to be able to vacation the way that Walt Disney did.  Walt called the Smoke Tree Ranch his 'own laughing place,' and we want to create amazing memories there for our members," Steven said.  "From January 23 to 25, D23 members will be able to spend the night in a genuine Smoke Tree Ranch bungalow, where they can try their hand at some of the very same things that Walt did when he came out to Palm Springs to relax, including lawn bowling and horseback riding, plus nights around the campfire where some very special guests will be providing the entertainment."

Steven added, "This Smoke Tree Ranch experience is going to be very, very different than a theme-park experience about Walt, but still completely, authentically Disney."

The same could be said about D23's Journey to Marceline event in March. Which will take D23 members via motorcoach to Walt's boyhood hometown for a full day of activities.

Marceline, Mo. The small town that is said to have provided the inspiration for Disneyland's
Main Street, U.S.A. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"We're working right now with the town of Marceline to plan out all of the details of the day, but we will plan to have a screening at the Uptown Theater - the only theater in Marceline - of a movie that meant an awful lot to Walt and has strong ties to his upbringing there," Clark continued.

And speaking of screenings ... Given that 2012 is the 75thanniversary of the world premiere of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," D23 is using that as an excuse to celebrate the animated feature with its next "Destination D" event. Which will be held at the Disneyland Hotel in August.

"We've really dug deep into the vaults to come up with the programming for next year's Destination D, whose theme is '75 Years of Disney Animation.' We've found some things that even the most avid Disney fans have never, ever seen before," Steven stated. "If you're a Disney animation fan, this is really an event that you won't want to miss, because we're putting together presentations and panels that will look at these films in really exciting ways."

But in addition to these ambitious new events, D23 will also be bringing back some of the more popular events from its past. Like its member-only tours of the Walt Disney Studios and Walt Disney Archives in Burbank.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"These tours have been hugely popular with Club Members. The only complaint that we've ever gotten about them is that people have repeatedly tried to sign up for these Studios & Archives tours but keep missing out because their capacity is so small. We've grown it and grown it since we started, and now we're going to schedule four weekendsof tours, not four individual days.  We'll take D23 members around the Walt Disney Studios and the Archives on both Saturday and Sunday, which will double our capacity," Clark said.

There'll be all this ... plus the Official Disney Fan will supplementing its already-popular "50 and Fabulous" film series with a brand-new series of screenings, "From the Vault." Which will then allow D23 members to celebrate some of Walt Disney Studios' more contemporary productions like like "Newsies" and "Sister Act." They will also be doing seasonal events like "Disney and Dickens" and "Magic & Merriment" (which are both sold out for this year).  The "Sip & Stroll" event will take on a new guise this year, literally, when it moves to October and becomes "Sip & Scream."

Steven said that feedback from D23 members also helped them make a decision to take their events on the road this year.  Since it's D23's anniversary, and the anniversary of a number of Disney movies, theme-park attractions and TV shows, a D23 "Fanniversary" celebration will come to six different cities - Los Angeles, New York, Orlando, Chicago, Boston and San Francisco.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"If I had to sum up what it is about 2012 that's going to make this year really special for D23 members, it's that - in the coming year - we're going to give you the chance to get to know Walt Disney in ways that you never have before. You're going to get to visit his boyhood home. You're going to get to vacation like him and watch movies in the exact same theater where Walt viewed his studio's works-in-progress. We've always said being part of the official Disney fan club gets you insider access - and we want to really deliver on that promise like never before and provide what many longtime Disney fans have often dreamed about."

And the dream becomes reality in 2012. For further information on what D23 has in the works for next year, keep an eye out for the official press release for these upcoming Official Disney Fan Club events & activities.  Which is due to pop up on the Web sometime later today.

Your thoughts?



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  • sounds fun and also historic for fans will get to literlely walk in Walts shoes going to his old haunts plus can not believe it will be 75 years since snow white hit theatres  75 years.

  • I can't believe people really want to see such a tour. It . Palm Springs and Marceline sound like a bore. Only the Walt Disney Studios seems like it might have some interesting things to see, but to me, they bungled their D23 event to such an extent at the Anaheim Convention Center that I wonder if anyone should take them seriously.

  • Gimbo, if you think Palm Springs and a historic town like Marceline sound like a bore, I'd hate to imagine what you do in your spare time and how limited your creativity is.

  • IrvThal, do you need creativity to imagine that Palm Springs and Marceline are interesting? Have you actually been there or are you kidding. Maybe Walt got out of Marceline for a reason, like developing his creativity elsewhere. I'm not sure why you picked this fight, but its clear that this is blind Walt bolstering.

  • Come on, Walt Disney used Marceline as his blueprint for Main Street, and if you know anything about him, you know he said often it was one of his happiest memories.   It is integral to his story.  I would love to see it.  As for Palm Springs, it's majestic. No wonder Walt spent so much time there.  I never knew what was on his tie until a few years ago.  These sound like fantastic events, plus there are screenings, things happening at Walt Disney World, and this "Fanniversary" happening in different cities.  Doesn't sound to me like there is anything to complain about. But some Disney fans will anyway.  Always.

  • Gimbo -  Maybe Walt got out of Marceline because he was only 10 years old when the family moved to Kansas City.

  • If you are a fan of Walt Disney - the man, not the corporate icon - I would think this would be fascinating.

    Jim, did they happen to say (and can you say) who might be providing the "special" campfire entertainment?

  • Matthew --

    RE: "Did (Steven Clark) did happen to say who might be providing the 'special' campfire entertainment?" Yep.

    Can I reveal who it is? Nope. Not yet, again.

    But what I maybe do here is offer a large-ish if somewhat oblique hint: We're actually talking about two performers. And both of them have Frontierland in common. But where this gets interesting is one of these individuals is associated with the West Coast version of Frontierland while the other person is best known (to theme park fans, anyway) for their work on a specific Frontierland attraction at Walt Disney World. But that's all that I'm allowed to say. For now, anyway.

    Beyond that ... I have to admit that I'm kind of surprised to have people like Gimbo denigrating the idea of D23 members being excited to get the opportunity to visit Marceline and Smoke Tree Ranch. I have to admit that both of these tours / Official Disney Fan Club events really appeal to me. But then again, I'm a Disney history buff. So to get the chance to finally go to these places and then get some sense of how Marceline and/or Smoke Tree Ranch impacted Walt ... Well, I think that an experience like that sounds very entertaining and informative.

    But -- then again -- I'm a Disney history buff. I'm the type of guy who gets really excited whenever I'm down in Orlando and -- instead of spending the day wandering around inside of some theme park -- I then get the chance to burrow down deep in the files at the Disney Depository, going through old Eyes & Ears and newspaper clippings looking new story ideas for JHM & HuffPo. So Gimbo's idea of a fun experience / place to visit versus mine may not exactly match up.

    To each his own, I guess.

  • Thanks, Jim.  Sounds great to me.

  • Quoto: "I have to admit that I'm kind of surprised to have people like Gimbo denigrating the idea of D23 members being excited to get the opportunity to visit Marceline and Smoke Tree Ranch"

    I'm surprised that you think it matters one way or another. Certainly, I can appreciate the motive of "get some sense of how Marceline and/or Smoke Tree Ranch impacted Walt", but its like going on someone else's vacation or sleeping in someone else's bed in trying to know someone that you admire (via Walt's room at Disneyland's New Orleans suite.) Let's collect someone's memory. Trace every step they take. It's almost like crossing the line from history buff to unhealthy obsession. If he is still alive, I'm sure Walt would be amused.

  • This all sounds great to me, but since it's D23, its going to be VERY, VERY expensive.

  • Gimbo --

    So if I'm to buy into your way of thinking, people who go to the Old North Bridge in Concord, MA and/or the battlefields of Gettysburg are also somehow mentally deficient / obsessed weirdos. All because they might then want to visit a place where history happened?

    Sorry, Gimbo. But this really isn't the weird / boring activity that you're trying to pretend it is. No one's going to Marceline and/or Smoke Tree Ranch because they're looking to channel Walt's spirit or collect some of his DNA. I mean, based on your original post (i.e. " ... they bungled their D23 event to such an extent at the Anaheim Convention Center that I wonder if anyone should take them seriously"), it's fairly obvious that you have an agenda here. That no matter what the Official Disney Fan Club was proposing for 2012, you were going to go out of your way to bash it.

    So, okay. We get it. You don't like D23. Other people do. More to the point (just based on the comments following yesterday's article), there are Club Members who are genuinely looking forward to these events. But for you to pretend that the people who might want to visit Marceline, MO. and/or the Smoke Tree Ranch now have an "unhealthy obsession" with Walt Disney ... Do the people who go to Mount Vernon and/or Salem, MA. have an "unhealthly obsession" with George Washington and/or witches? Or are they just interested in learning more about American history?

    More to the point, are the people who go to Hollywood and then sign up to take part in backstage tours at Warner Bros. or Paramount obsessed weirdos too? Or are they just tourists who might want to learn more about the entertainment industry and/or Hollywood history? If it's the latter ... Then why are D23 members so strange for then wanting to do things like take the tours of Disney Studios and/or make special trips out to Marceline & Smoke Tree Ranch to learn more about Walt Disney & the Company that he founded.

    Again, I think your obvious dislike of D23 is kind of blinding you to the idea that these weekend-long visits / motorcoach tours might be enjoyable and informative for even casual Disney fans. So you prefer to paint those who'd express an interest in taking part in these activities as being bores and/or obsessed weirdos. Which I don't really think is the case.

    So do have you got another argument that you can trot out here? Because -- to be honest -- I'm not buying this one.

  • No, I don't have another argument. I want to clarify my remark.

    Did history happen at Marceline and Smoke Tree Ranch? You make it seem like they are the equivalent of the Old North Bridge in Concord, MA and the battlefields of Gettysburg. Disney's only contribution to Marceline and Smoke Tree Ranch is that he grew up there or visited there. I thought the line was crossed when people want to trace his every step. I didn't say those who attended are weirdos, but I take full responsibility for saying they may have an unhealthy obsession.

    As for D23, I've never been there, but you certainly have. I read your reviews and others. Every single reviewer described how awful Disney manages the conference. I certainly read a few that said they won't ever return. They would rather read about it in the internet than make a trip where they wait for hours and can't get in.

  • Gimbo --

    Look, I don't mean to make you the pinata here. But you have to understand that a lot of folks enjoy visiting the places where the people that they admire lived, worked or played.

    Take -- for example -- the Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, CT. I love to tour that facility (especially this time of year. When the staff attempts to replicate the over-the-top holiday decorations that Sam & Livy used to put up all over the house so that the three Clemens daughters would then have a truly memorable Christmas) because it then gives me a window into the world of one of my favorite writers. How Mark Twain lived, how he worked, etc.

    That's why -- me personally -- I'd be interested in visiting Marceline and/or Smoke Tree Ranch. Just to get a bit more insight into who Walt Disney was. The way this guy lived, worked and played.

    I mean, it's not like D23 is talking about putting together some sort of holy pilgrimage. Which is why I think your earlier "unhealthy obsession" comment was kind of out of line. But since you've been gracious enough to admit that that comment was kind of over-the-line ... Well, I'll consider the matter closed.

    As for the D23 EXPO ... Look, I'm not going to pretend that -- because I had a media credential for last August's event (more importantly, because I was a moderator for one of the panels) -- that my D23 EXPO experience was typical. I mean, it wasn't every member of the Official Disney Fan Club who got to spend 45 minutes sitting at John Lasseter's elbow and then talking about animation, theme park history et al.

    But that said, I still feel that a lot of the negative criticism that Disneyana fans made about this year's event were completely unjustified. To put it bluntly, the D23 EXPO was not a theme park. It was a pop culture event very much in the style of Comic Con.

    And as any Comic Con veteran will tell you, just because you get on line for a particular presentation doesn't mean that you're actually going to be able to get into the room where this panel is being held. There are only so many seats. More to the point, there are fire codes about how many people can safely be allowed to occupy these  individual meeting spaces.

    But to read what was Tweeted over the course of that three-day-long event, with people relentlessly complaining about how "I couldn't get into this panel" or "I stood on line for hours and still didn't get into that screening" ... All I can say is come with me to San Diego next July to the 2012 Comic Con International. Where people will camp out overnight, actually sleeping outside on the ground, just to make sure that they can then make it into Hall H the following morning for a "Twilight" panel.

    Again, I know. People went on and on about how "Disney has decades of experience when it comes to moving crowds. Why didn't they do a better job at the Anaheim Convention Center back in August?" Because -- to be blunt -- the Anaheim Convention Center isn't / wasn't a theme park. And the disgruntled D23 members who kept going on & on about the long lines and the line management issues ... Well, it just got silly after a while. They kept harping on the 10% of things that went wrong at this year's EXPO, rather than talking about the 90% of the event that went right.

    But again, there are people who are predisposed to be negative scanners. To find fault in virtually every experience that they have in their lives. And social media like Facebook and Twitter have given these negative scanners an awfully big microphone. Which is why -- in addition to sabotaging their own opportunity to possibly have a good time -- they then actively go out of their way to spoil the party for others.

    Tell you what, Gimbo. In March of 2013, come on out to Anaheim. Experience the D23 EXPO for yourself, rather than listening to the negative naysayers. I'll even stand on line with you for a couple of these panels or screenings. I think that you'll be pleasantly surprised by how much you'll enjoy this Comic Con-like event.

    Yes, it'll be crowded. Yes there will be long lines. But you're also going to get to see things and experience events that you just can't do anywhere else. And -- yes -- that includes a Disney theme park.

    So give a shot, okay? I think that you'll see that the positive aspects of the D23 EXPO experience far outweigh the negative.

  • "But since you've been gracious enough to admit that that comment was kind of over-the-line ... Well, I'll consider the matter closed."

    I did not admit this. I'm surprised that you think I did since I was directly responding to you on your incorrect caricature of "weirdos," which is an "over-the-line" interpretation. I standby my remark of "unhealthy obsession." It's not necessary to take offense. I'm obsessed with many things too. Sometimes they verge on unhealthy.

    Your response is too defensive as I was not criticizing you. In fact, I defended you in another thread about Dreamworks.

    Thanks for your kind invite for the next D23. I suppose I should visit since I only live 20 minutes away. The truth is I really can care less. As much as a Disney fan and similarlly a Star Trek fan, I never attended these events. Never been to a Star Trek conference either. I save my time and money for the real thing. Besides, I actually seen some Star Trek actors purely by accident of living in the area. Meeting them wasn't what I expected. Nice to know them, but non-essential.

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