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Blast to the past at D23's Disney World & "Rocketeer" anniversary events

Blast to the past at D23's Disney World & "Rocketeer" anniversary events

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Whenever Walt was asked about where he got the idea for Disneyland, he'd always trace that project's origin back to ...

... when my daughters were very young. And Saturday was always Daddy's day with the two daughters. I'd take them to the merry-go-round and as I'd sit there, sat on a bench, you know, eating peanuts, I felt that there should be some kind of an amusement enterprise built where the parents and the children could have fun together.

So where did the idea for Epcot come from? Well, according to Disney Archivist Steven Vagnini, to get an answer to that question, you then have to look to the next generation. To be specific, Diane and Sharon's children. Walt's grandkids.

Walt with his grandchildren Tammy, Joanna and Chris at the May 1960 grand opening of
Disneyland's "Mine Train through Nature's Wonderland" attraction. Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"I mean, here was a grandfather looking at the decay of the urban landscape in the 1960s and thinking 'What sort of legacy are we leaving for our grandchildren," ' Vagnini explained. "And Walt being Walt ... Well, he can't just sit idly by and not do anything. So he dives right in, learns as much as he can about urban planning. About what the cities of the future be like, should be like ... And that's where Epcot really came from."

And trust me, folks. Steven knows what he 's talking about. After all, he's spent the past six months getting ready for Destination D: Walt Disney World 40th. That two-day long event that D23 - the Official Disney Fan Club - will be presenting in the Fantasia Ballroom at Disney's Contemporary Resort May 14 - 15th in honor of "The Vacation Kingdom of the World" 's upcoming 40th anniversary.

"It's been great fun going to the Archives' satellite facility in Burbank and then pulling out all of the 'Project Florida' boxes. Looking at files that probably haven't been touched for decades at this point," Vagnini continued. "All in an effort to find those bits of Disney history, those rarer-than-rare items that we know D23 members will really appreciate."

Walt in 1966, standing in front of the original site plan for "Project Florida."
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Mind you, Vagnini's looking to use a lot of the archival material that he just recently unearthed as part of Destination D's "EPCOT: Walt Disney's Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow" presentation. Which is why Steven and Disney expert Paul F. Anderson will walk you through Walt's Epcot. The futuristic city and innovative industrial center that the Company's founder hoped to build out there in the swamps of Central Florida.

"Just wait 'til you see that Epcot movie that Walt made in 1966. Ed Hobelman (Editor's note: Hobelman is the Manager of Media Preservation at The Walt Disney Company) has just finished restoring this footage. So it's never looked better," Vagnini said.

But it's not just archivists and historians who will be sharing their thoughts about how Walt Disney World came to be. D23 has persuaded people like Robert Foster - the lawyer that Roy O. Disney turned to 1963, entrusting him with the seemingly impossible task of acquiring the thousands of acres of land that were necessary to build Walt's dream - to return to the Resort that he helped create and then talk about what is like to be part of the early, early days of Walt Disney World.

Marc Davis working on the model for "Western River Expedition," the never-built attraction
which was supposed to have put a cap on "Phase One" of Walt Disney World's
construction. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"We've also got just plain fun presentations like 'Weird Walt Disney World.' Where Becky Cline and Paul Anderson will show you some of the stranger stuff from WDW history," Vagnini stated. "And Tony Baxter will be doing a 'Walt Disney World That Never Was' presentation. Which will feature concept art and storyboards from all sorts of rides, shows and attractions that never made it off the drawing board."

All this - plus Tim O'Day's sure-to-be-entertaining talk with Disney World veterans like Jack Lindquist, Bob Matheison, Tom Nabbe, Charlie Ridgway and Bill Sullivan. Not to mention Disney Legend Marty Sklar holding court with other Disney Legends like Orlando Ferrante, Bob Gurr and Ron Logan. If you're a Disney history buff, the Fantasia Ballroom is really where you want to be on May 14 & 15th.

If - on the other hand - you're a fan of Joe Johnston's wonderful 1991 film, "The Rocketeer," then where you want to be this morning at 10 a.m. PT is online. To be specific, at the D23 website. Which is where & when the Official Disney Fan Club will be releasing information about its June 21st event at the El Capitan Theatre. Which will be celebrating the  20th anniversary of this Walt Disney Pictures release.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Given that this late 1930s pulp period piece is primarily set in and around Hollywood ... Well, there's no better place in the world to stage a "Rocketeer" tribute than at the El Cap. But wait. It gets better. Prior to the screening, D23's arranged for a selection of cast & crew members to come by the theatre that night and reminisce about what it was actually like to work on this much beloved motion picture. "And who's going to serve at the MC of this 'Rocketeer' panel?," you ask. None other than writer & director Kevin Smith.

And the fun will continue even after this screening is over. After the last reel of "The Rocketeer" is shown, event participants will then be encouraged to hike on over the Hollywood Museum (which is located inside of the historic Max Factor building). Once there, people will be able to explore all four floors of the museum's exhibits. Which will include - for one night only - a special selection of "Rocketeer" props & costumes culled from The Walt Disney Archives' collection just for this event.

So if you're a "Rocketeer" fan, the El Cap is the place you really need to be on June 21, 2011. Mind you, the only way that you'll be able to get a guaranteed reserved seat for this once-in-a-lifetime event is if you're a member of the Official Disney Fan Club. Otherwise ... Well, you'll just have to wait 'til seats go on sale for the general public (which is May 23rd) and hope that something is still left at that point.

The interior of the El Capitan Theatre, one of Hollywood's last true movie palaces.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

For further information on D23's Destination D: Walt Disney World 40th event, "The Rocketeer" 's 20th anniversary screening and/or how one goes about obtaining a membership in the Official Disney Fan Club, might I suggest that you drop by the D23 website?

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