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When it comes to D23's Fanniversary events, it's all about making those connections

Jim Hill

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When it comes to D23's Fanniversary events, it's all about making those connections

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So what does it actually take for D23 to pull together those Fanniversary events that they've been presenting around the country for the past few weeks? According to Jeffrey Epstein, spokesman for the Official Disney Fan Club, it takes a solid six months of behind-the-scenes effort to produce each of these two hour-long annual presentations.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"We know that D23 Members are already incredibly knowledgeable when it comes to The Walt Disney Company's history. Which is why -- when we're preparing one of our Fanniversary events -- we always dig down deep in the Archives. See if we can unearth that rare photograph or piece of film or video footage that most Disney fans haven't ever seen before," Epstein explained.

Mind you, as far as Jeffrey's concerned, that's one of the perks of his D23 gig. That he's among the first that actually gets to see this material before it's then sprung on members of the Official Disney Fan Club.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"Take -- for instance -- 'Melody Time .' We were looking for a way to celebrate the 65th anniversary of this Disney anthology feature. And we then came across this great photograph of Roy Rogers, Bobby Driscoll, Luana Patten, Walt and Trigger together," Epstein continued.

Of course, sometimes the real challenge of putting together a D23 Fanniversary presentation (which typically covers a lot of Walt Disney Company history in a relatively short amount of time) is by finding fun new ways to make older pieces of archival material come to life. Take -- for example -- that interview with the late Roy E. Disney which is featured in this year's show. Walt's nephew tells this very funny story about working on "The Vanishing Prairie," one of the Studio's True-Life Adventure films.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

"We did a similar sort of thing with the 'Peter Pan ' portion of our programming," Jeffrey said. "We were looking for a fun way to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the release of this Disney animated feature. So we decided to showcase some of Marc Davis' original concepts for Tinker Bell. During this part of the presentation, we also mention a brand-new book that will be coming later this year called 'Tinker Bell: An Evolution ' which takes an up-close look at that Disney icon."

So as you can see, as far as D23 is concerned, Disney history is all about connections. And the real fun of these Fanniversary events is then being able to pointing out  these connections to Official Disney Fan Club members.

Producer Les Perkins (L) helps Kathryn Beaumont go over her lines
during a recording session for Disneyland's New Fantasyland
attractions. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

"For example, I love how Kathryn Beaumont is one of the few people in Disney Company history who has been able to voice the exact same character for decades. She was the voice of Alice for the animated feature that the Studio released back in July of 1951. And then over 30 years later, Kathryn was called back by the Company to come voice this same character again for the revamped version of Disneyland's 'Alice in Wonderland' dark ride, which the Imagineers built as part of  that theme park's New Fantasyland project.Which then opened to the public back in May of 1983," Epstein stated.

But it's the actual finding of the material which then illustrates & supports these stories which has proven to be the real challenge for the archivists who assemble this programming. Which is why -- during the prep phase of these annual Fanniversary presentations -- the Archives staff poured through files on each subject, sometimes going to off-site locations to source information, photographs and video footage that has been seen in years.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"But it's all worth it when you come across that one photograph that you know Disney Fan Club members will have probably never seen before. Like the shot we feature in this year's Fanniversary presentation which shows Hans Conried behind-the-scenes in his Magic Mirror make-up," Epstein said.

And given hugely popular these Fanniversary events proved to be last year (D23 had initially only planned on presenting 6 of these shows at various cities around the country. But given how quickly those first 6 shows sold out, the Official Disney Fan Club then decided to add four additional Fanniversary events to the schedule. Which were deliberately staged in other parts of the U.S.), it's probably not all that surprising to reveal that 8 of the 10 Fanniversary events that were scheduled for 2013 are already sold out.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"We still have some tickets available for both our Boston & Seattle shows. And we're actually bringing different artifacts from the Disney Archives to showcase at each of these presentations. At the Boston Fanniversary events, we're going to have one of the pumpkin props that was used in the making of 'The Nightmare Before Christmas' as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of that Tim Burton film. And then in Seattle, we're going to have one of the film canister props that was used in the making of 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit ' as we celebrate that film's 25th anniversary," Jeffrey continued.

"Why vary the props that are being shown around the country?," you ask. Well, again, that's D23's goal with these Fanniversary events. Surprise Official Disney Fan Club members with things that they haven't ever seen before. Even if it means sending different props to different parts of the country as part of each year's presentation.

During the first round of 2013 Fanniversary events, members of the Official Disney Fan
Club got to check out a gaucho doll that was presented to Walt Disney during his
goodwill tour of Central & South America during the Fall of 1941. Copyright
Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

And what about 2014's Fanniversary events? What might D23 have up its sleeve for next years presentations?

"It's a little too early to talk about 2014," Epstein laughed. "We still have 5 more of the 2013 Fanniversary shows to present around the country before we wrap things up at the end of the first week of April. Then there's the D23 EXPO in August. Followed by our first-ever EXPO in Japan in October. So let's wait 'til we get through all of the fun stuff that the Official Disney Fan Club still has in the works for this year before we then start talking about 2014, okay?"

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

For further information on D23 and/or this year's Fanniversary events, please click on this link.

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  • I hope that one of the 2014 events recognizes one of the most important events in Disney history - the 1964 New York World's Fair.  Disneyland gained several attractions such as Small World and Walt Disney World's very existence is tied to the Fair.

  • I second Lou's suggestion - and if D23 doesn't do it, I can think of a certain Disney blogger who may want to consider putting something together...

    Anyway, as for D23: I can't decide when I look at D23 and what they're doing if they're brilliant or desperate.  I commend D23 for putting togethersome great events, like the Treasures exhibition at the Reagan Library and the 2013 Expo, and for making an effort to do more things outside of southern California and central Florida. But four years after D23 began, they're not only offering discounts for new members to join, they're offering discounts for renewals, and as we all know, Disney doesn't discount unless they feel they have to.   Why do I keep getting the feeling that D23's only one step away from getting its plug pulled?

    D23 Expo Japan's a great idea - I love the Tokyo Disney Resort, and I wish I could make it to Tokyo to attend, even if most of it's going to be in Japanese - but I'm not sure what they're trying to accomplish.  I mean, the whole purpose of these events, including the Expos, is to encourage hardcore Disney dweebs to join D23, right? But as far as I can tell from Disney's US and Japanese websites, you can't really become a D23 member internationally without jumping through some serious hoops, and with some major limitations; I can't really find anything about D23 on disney.co.jp except for the Expo.  They're certainly not doing it to get D23 members in the US to come to Japan.  What am I missing here?

  • I really like D23, and I am a charter member.  I thnk it's only fair that renewals come with some kind of discount this year since new memberships have been getting discounts for a couple of years already.  I find the club "worth it" based on the magazines I get delivered to my doorstep and the nice membership and renewal gifts I have gotten.  But I do feel like there is some diminishment in the club.  The exclusive merchandise was pretty nice at first, though it was expensive.  Now the exclusive merch has pretty much dried up.  No more shifts, hats, or orther fun stuff.  Just some overpriced pins.  The events seem to be offering less and costing more.  I have only been to one D23 event, a Fanniversary last year.  We arrived a few minutes late and were told that all of the attendance gifts had been given away.  I told them that we had reservations and items should have been held for us, instead they were obvoiusly given to other people.  We did wind up getting some, in the mail, weeks afterwords.  The event itself was a bit dull frankly.  Perhaps we didn't have good presenters.

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