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Memories of Mouse Club conventions past

Memories of Mouse Club conventions past

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I didn't make to that convention that the National Fantasy Fan Club held at Walt Disney World back in October.
Gary Sohmers (far right) leads a panel discussion that looks back on the life &
career of the late great Disney artist, Ralph Kent. Photo by Max Schilling
I know. I should have made the effort. After all, my shop is located just a few miles away from the Resort. I could have driven over to the Regal Sun for the day. And from what I hear, the Florida Adventurers convention really was a great time. With some terrific panelists taking part in this third annual NFFC event in Orlando.

Jim Korkis talks about the history of Pleasure Island's
Adventurers Club. Photo by Max Schilling
And -- of course -- those conventioneers got to experience something truly memorable. Which was to spend an evening at the Adventurers Club just days after Pleasure Island had closed for good.

The NFFC conventioneers pose at PI before making their final visit to the
Adventurers Club. Photo by Max Schilling
But given that I have such fond memories of conventions past, I sometimes a pass on these modern day events. Figuring that there's just no way that any of today's Disneyana conventions could ever top some of the stuff that I've experienced in the past.
"Like what?," you ask. Well, let me take you back a quarter of a century to the Summer of 1983. I had come cross country to attend the opening of Disneyland's New Fantasyland. And while I was in Anaheim, I thought that I'd take in a Mouse Club convention.
Now by modern standards, Mouse Club conventions were rather modest affairs. Hosted by Ed Levin, these events were often held at the Jolly Roger Hotel (Which is located at the corner of Harbor & Katella. How much closer to Disneyland could you get?). And they had the most amazing guest lists.

Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved
Who was on hand for the 1983 con? Would you believe Clarence Nash, Wayne Allwine, Adriana Caselotti, Bob Moore, Floyd Gottfredson, Bill Justice and Ward Kimball?
Wait. It gets better. There were no long lines to chat with your favorite Disney stars. Everyone at this event was incredibly approachable and very generous with their time. I remember sharing drinks & many laughs with Adriana in the Jolly Roger's lounge. It was amazing how Caselotti could still call up that little girl Snow White voice after almost 50 years. She'd recite lines from the film and you'd immediately see that moment from the movie again in your head.

Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved
As for Ward Kimball ... When he pulled into the hotel parking lot with his brand-new Corvette, I just had to go over and compliment him on his choice in cars. You see, I myself owned a Corvette at that time. And when I told Ward how handsome I thought his car was ... Well, imagine my surprise when Kimball invited me to come join him for a ride. What a gas it was to tool around Disneyland property in that bright yellow Corvette while Ward reminisced about the good old days.
It was three full days of fun & surprises like that. Like when Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston dropped by the Jolly Roger. These legendary animators weren't even scheduled to appear at that year's event. They just came by the Mouse Club convention because Frank & Ollie genuinely enjoyed hanging out with all their old friends as well as getting the chance to meet with their new fans.
Now you have to remember that this was back before events like this got so big and corporate. When Disney artists were still happy to sign autographs & provide modest drawings without a thought as to how much that item might soon fetch on eBay. Which is how I was able to acquire many of the items that I've used to illustrate today's article.

Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved
In fact, it was at this very Mouse Club convention that I decided to become more involved with the purchasing & collecting of Disneyana. Since that time, I've become a dealer in all sorts of vintage collectibles that relate to the entertainment field. And after years of being strictly a brick-and-mortar guy, I've just launched my own website -- gregwhitecomics.com -- which features thousands of collectible items. Disneyana, comic books, Big Little Books, TV & Film-related items,lunch boxes, Lionel Trains, Rock 'n' Roll memorabilia. You name it. I've got it.
And all of this because -- while I was out in Southern California back in the Summer of 1983 -- I decided to drop by the Jolly Roger and see what a Mouse Club convention was all about.
Please try & keep that in mind the next time you tell yourself that you just don't have any time for side trips. That you're far too busy right now to do anything fun or frivolous. You see, you just never know when one of these side trips might suddenly send your life off in a whole different direction. One you never ever dreamed of.

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Happy Holidays!

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  • The jealousy I feel right now if overwhelming. But then again, I wasn't born until six years later. Clearly in the wrong decade to experience the cozier, friendlier days of the Mouse House.

    Still, thanks for sharing! Those are some awesome autographs. :)

  • Greg, I can't promise drives around Disneyland in a famous Disney animator's sports car, but there are still a lot of fun moments to experience and opportunities to interact with Disney legends.  The NFFC conventions are a lot of fun to attend - please join us in California in July or in Florida next October!  

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