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The Mouse Castle

Great Moments with Tony Baxter and Kim Irvine

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by , 02-08-2010 at 06:10 AM
Monday, February 1st, I was treated, along with 19 other great friends and MiceChatters, to a rare, behind-the-scenes look at Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. This private event, one of the items up for bid at last September's D23 Expo Auction, was held inside the Opera House and Disney Gallery on Main Street, USA and included a wine reception, live music and the company of Imagineers Tony Baxter and Kim Irvine.

Yes, you may be jealous. ;)

The evening began at the Disneyland Hotel, where some of us stayed during MiceChat's 5th Anniversary extravaganza. We gathered in the lobby, awaiting the arrival of a cast member who would escort us to the park.

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[I]MTNGIRL and IndianaJenn[/I]

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[I]dsnylndmom, MissChristine and pixie chick[/I]

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[I]All Aglow, me and dsnylndmom[/I]

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[I]sunnygirl and All Aglow[/I][/CENTER]

Our escort Barbara, who works many of Disneyland's special events from small wedding parties to large corporate functions, arrived just before 7:30, gave us all stars and stripes Mickey pins, and led us on the hike through Downtown Disney to Disneyland's main entrance. The park was getting ready to close at 8:00. How cool is it to be led into Disneyland when everyone else is leaving? :cool:

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[I]Barbara prepares to unlock the side gate.[/I]

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[I]Hey look! I've got the keys to Disneyland![/I]

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[I]If Barbara thinks she's getting these keys back, she's out of her freakin' mind. ;) [/I][/CENTER]

If you ever want to feel really important, walk into the Disney Gallery and the Opera House while cast members line up in front of you--some with wine, some with trays of hors d'oeuvres--cheerfully grinning, ready to serve you. Then see it get even better when you realize two of the cast members are Tony Baxter and Kim Irvine. This wasn't an evening where our hosts were just going to drop by, give their presentations and go. They were there for the duration. And they didn't even run when they found out we were MiceChatters. ;)

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[I]Me with our distinguished hosts (Thanks mcow1 and Mary Read for the great pic!)[/I][/CENTER]

I chatted with Kim for a while and asked her if she ever gets tired of all us Disney geeks and our obsessions. She said not at all. In fact, she's grateful for how passionate we are and how we appreciate all things Disney. It didn't take long to realize that Kim and Tony, deep down, are really just like us, Disney fans that grew up on the magic and bought into it completely. They were just the lucky ones that got the really cool jobs.

I enjoyed talking with Danielle DuBois, one of Disneyland's ambassadors. She is the public face of Disneyland at cast member, charity and community outreach events. Before becoming an ambassador, Danielle worked at Disney Photo Imaging, which oversees the PhotoPass program. This explains why she was so good at directing us when we did a group shot inside the theater.

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[I]Me with Disneyland Ambassador Danielle DuBois[/I][/CENTER]

As everyone was mingling, sipping wine and munching, I got taken aside by Martha Blanding, the manager of Disneyland merchandise events. She was my contact after the auction and was largely responsible for organizing the reception. She asked me if we could help her with a little surprise for Tony. You see, it was his birthday and Martha wanted to know if we'd mind singing Happy Birthday to him at around 8:30.

:blink:

Yeah, ok, I guess. If we must. :razz:

So, at 8:30, we did.

And in the excitement of the moment, I totally screwed up the video. :blush:

Fortunately, it was a roomful of MiceChatters, so there were a few cameras around. SusieP. got this very nice shot:

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[I]Happy Birthday Tony![/I][/CENTER]

When asked how old he was, Tony coyly replied, "In Disneyland, everyone's timeless."

The tour officially began in the foyer, with its Griffith Park display.

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We revisited the oft-told tale of "Daddy's Day" and how Walt took his two young daughters to the Griffith Park merry-go-round and dreamed about a place where families could enjoy themselves together.

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From there, we saw the early concept art for Walt's Magic Kingdom, drawings that got bigger and more complex with each iteration and new idea.

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But, the one constant . . . there were always trains.

Tony showed off a copy of the famous Peter Ellenshaw Disneyland painting that Walt unveiled on national television in 1954. The original was painted with touches of glow-in-the-dark paint, so when seen under black light, it magically glowed just like the park eventually would at night. Tony said 55 years later the original painting still looks great under black light.

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I really like this picture. Tony Baxter has a great appreciation and respect for Disneyland history and readily acknowledges that he stood on the shoulders of giants to get where he is today. Imagineering geniuses like Herb Ryman, Marc Davis, Rolly Crump and Blaine Gibson inspired and mentored Tony and were his direct link to Walt Disney, who died years before Tony joined the company.

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With a look to the past, Tony relishes handing the torch to new generations of Disney Imagineers. Hearing him talk about it only makes you optimistic about the future of the parks.

This display case contains an early model of Splash Mountain . . . and a little touch of Walt. The small white dots that represent flowers in the model came from a beat-up old suitcase that belonged to Walt. He had a longtime fondness for miniatures and stored decorative materials in the suitcase. Take a close look at the display the next time you're in the Opera House.

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BTW, the model was almost destroyed while it was in storage. Nice save, Tony!

The tickets in this display don't belong to Disney, they belong to Tony. He's a collector of old ticket books and does a fair amount of trading on Ebay.

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He says if he ever gets annoyed with Disney, he's taking them back. ;)

Kim discusses the buildings in Disneyland that were actually used for overnight guests. That includes the apartment over the fire house on Main Street, where Walt and his family often stayed. It wasn't unusual for cast members to come into the park early and find Walt already up and roaming around, having spent the night in the apartment.

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What is now the Dream Suite in New Orleans Square was intended to be a larger residence for the Disney family so they could entertain guests. It remained unfinished after Walt's death in 1966 but later was used as the site of the original Disney Gallery.

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Leading us back to the current Disney Gallery, Kim pointed out the design elements in the former bank building including statuary, stamped tin ceilings and a foot-traffic friendly tile floor that replaced the original slippery marble. It also has an onsite artist's studio that will be used for upcoming exhibitions and special events.

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[I]Chillin' in the Disney Gallery. dsnylndmom isn't at all excited to meet Tony Baxter[/I]. ;) [/CENTER]

Here, Tony holds up copies of concept sketches, one by him and one by the artist of this depiction of Gettysburg, to show the evolution of a scene in the film that precedes Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.

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Before the evening was over, Tony gave them to me (the sketches, not the painting ;) ). Everyone at the event also received a Lincoln lithograph signed by Tony and Kim. We rock. :cool:

Visitors to the American Adventure at Epcot will recognize the spirit statues behind Tony.

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One of the things I appreciated about the new Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln is how the galleries and theater presentation take the original Lincoln attraction and seamlessly blend in touches of American Adventure, America the Beautiful, The Walt Disney Story and The First 50 Magical Years. It's at once a tribute to Walt Disney, a celebration of Disneyland history and a top-notch retooling of a classic attraction. Good show!

Annnnd, here's where my camera died. Stupid battery. :botox:

After a tour of the lobby, with it's model of the U.S. Capitol and all the Lincoln/Civil War artwork, we entered the theater and saw Mr. Lincoln come to life. We sat in the third and fourth rows--the ideal spot to see the show we were told. Villains Fan may have had the best idea, though. She sat in the fifth row, next to Kim and Tony. Smart girl. :smart:

I am happy to report that during the show we sat quietly in our seats and there was no flash photography. :angel:

There are plenty of other great pictures which I hope everyone will share, including some group shots after the Q&A in the theater.

What a fantastic night! Thank you D23, Disneyland, Tony Baxter and Kim Irvine for making it truly memorable. And thank you to my awesome friends for being there. Events like this mean nothing unless you can share them with the people you love. :squeeze:

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[I]The Lincoln Gang. Kneeling (l. to r.): RonNYC, Mary Read, Fishbulb, pixie chick and MissChristine. Standing: Dustysage, Skywaygrl, aashee, Villains Fan, The MiceChatter Formerly Known as ScarLion, SusieP., MTNGIRL, dsnylndmom, mcow1, Anders, sunnygirl, All Aglow, disneytim, IndianaJenn and Grumpy4.[/I][/CENTER]

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