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Hello Dear Readers! Today, let’s take a departure from the regular format and talk about the Walt Disney Studio Archives, some pretty fantastic Disney people, and D23, shall we?

Last week I went to a media event that took place at the Walt Disney Studios. I was told the event would cover what D23 has planned for 2012. I’m sure you’ve all seen the D23 press releases with that info already and I, for one, wondered what D23 could possibly add that’d merit bothering with a media event. But I’m not one to turn down an invite to the studios, so day of, I hopped in my car and headed to Burbank expecting the usual media event kind of thing. What I got was anything but usual. What it turned out to be ... was no less than ... well, I'll let you read and find out for yourself.

While they were getting everything ready for us, we had to wait in the Studio Archives. Well, that was a trial, I’ll tell you. Can you imagine, “Sorry, we’re not quite ready yet, can you browse around in the archives?” I could have just done that, been happy and gone home.

If you haven’t had a chance to take the studio tour and see the archives yet, put it at the top of your to-do list for 2012. Which brings me to the first D23 plug … The studio tour has been so popular amongst D23 members (selling out every time), that D23 will be doubling the number of tours offered in 2012. If you’re not a member, the tour is a good reason to become one (or gift a membership to someone). 2012 includes four weekends of D23 member-only tours of The Walt Disney Studios and Walt Disney Archives in Burbank — currently planned for February 11-12, April 28-29, September 8-9, and November 10-11.

Back to the archives … I loved looking at the case filled with Walt Disney’s personal items, seeing early Mickey and Donald items, the souvenir bird in a cage that Walt brought back from a vacation (and that inspired audioanimatronics), the snow globe from Mary Poppins, a vintage Disneyland Tour Guide costume — it doesn’t get better than that, right?

But Becky Cline, head of the Walt Disney Studio Archives, decided we needed to see a few things that rarely get brought out. Becky very kindly shared original art from Dumbo and Snow White, my favorite of which was concept art for Snow White’s Huntsman (a very fierce-looking gent). Becky also brought out the Oscar Walt Disney won for White Wilderness for anyone who wanted to hold an Oscar. Those things are way heavier than they look (they weigh about eight pounds)!

One last thing about the archives, Becky Cline asked us to encourage our readers, “...that if they see something in the D23 magazine that they’d like to see more of, or if there’s something they’re interested in seeing as merchandise, to let us know. We’re always happy to take suggestions to provide our fans with the material they really want.” So Dear Readers, here’s the email address where you can write and tell Becky or anyone else at D23 about the things you’d like to see: [email protected]

Then it was time to head on in to the theatre for the presentation they wanted to show us which as I said, dealt with everything D23 is planning for the year 2012. Steven Clark, head of D23, and Tim O’Day, D23 contributor, introduced themselves and launched into a few of the past D23 events. The main thing I was interested to hear from them though was that D23 has listened to what people have said about problems at the last D23 Expo and they are working to address the issues, and also that D23 will be staging events in places other than Anaheim and Orlando. Steven said, “Hopefully everyone knows that we do listen to the member feedback and try to react to it and improve.”

Speaking about the planned 2013 D23 Expo Steven said, “We’re going to try our best to make the guest experience somewhat of a hybrid between a theme park experience and ComicCon.” Steven added that D23 wants to make sure the guest experience in 2013 is a good one, “We we are entirely committed to 2013 to bring all the great talent, all the great imagineers, and everything that’s coming from every corner of Disney.”

D23 will also be taking their party on the road by branching out to more cities with their D23 Fanniversary Celebration, staring in the Spring of 2012. Fanniversary will commemorate more than 40 Disney milestones, each of which is celebrating an anniversary in 2012. Hosted by Disney archivists, D23 Fanniversary Celebration events will be held in Orlando, New York, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, and Los Angeles and will be revisiting some of the most beloved Disney theme park attractions, animated and live-action films, TV series, and more from 85 years of Disney history. Fanniversary events will be open to the public, with special admission and surprises created especially for D23 Members in attendance.

Now, rather than telling you about everything D23 has lined up for 2012, most of which you can read about at D23’s website, I’d like to highlight a couple of the events because they are pretty special, and D23’s website doesn’t begin to describe how wonderful these events are going to be. Both events are centered around the company’s founder, Walt Disney. I also have to say that I’m glad at least one arm of the Disney company hasn’t forgotten Walt. Yesterday when I heard the news that his name will be dropped from the family film division of the Walt Disney Company and shall henceforth be known just as Disney, I was shocked. Shocked and saddened.

I have to say that I knew about both of these events I’m going to mention before I went to the media presentation, but wasn’t all fired up to attend either of them till I heard what was involved. I mean, on the surface they sounded like great fun but I didn’t really care all that much about going to them. After hearing the whole story though, I’m dying to go to both of them, you may want to give them another look-see too. I’m talking about Journey To Marceline and Smoke Tree Roundup.

Let’s talk about Smoke Tree Roundup first — it takes place January 23rd through the 25th, 2012. Smoke Tree Ranch is located in Palm Springs and was the place where Walt Disney and his family vacationed. If you’ve ever noticed that strange STR symbol on Walt’s tie on the Partners statue and wondered what the heck is that? Well, it’s Smoke Tree Ranch’s symbol. This event will be the first time Disney has ever really done anything with Smoke Tree Ranch and I think it’s going to be grand.

“We really did try to create events that will take you outside of the parks, that will take us around the country to different locations, and again, that goes back to member requests,” Steven Clark stated as he began to explain why D23 is holding an event at Smoke Tree, “We’ve always wanted to do something at Smoke Tree Ranch. We’ve wanted to go visit and see what it was all about, so our excuse was to go and say that maybe we’re doing an event — we want to come check out the ranch.”

“They couldn’t have been more hospitable,” he continued, “and the ranch couldn’t be more beautiful. When you go there and you see how beautiful it is, you fully understand why Walt and his family would vacation there. What we wanted to do was to recreate a few days of what Walt would have done when he was vacationing. So we’re billing the event as Vacation The Way Walt Did.

Desert and ranch are not words I think of when planning a vacation, so the thought of going to Palm Springs didn’t appeal to me, but as Steven continued, I sure changed my mind, “We’re doing a big breakfast in Indian Canyon just like they used to do back in the day when Walt and his family vacationed there. Walt would take the horses and Lillian would take the car or the truck. So we’re doing the pancake breakfast up there, we’re doing lawn bowling — Walt really enjoyed lawn bowling. We’re doing a campfire in the evening and special dinners — I won’t spoil what some of the secrets are of the special dinners but everything is steeped in the tradition of Smoke Tree Ranch, it’s not Disney tradition, but it’s what Walt really experienced when he was vacationing there.”

It sounds like a wonderful location and D23 members participating in Smoke Tree Ranch Roundup will get to enjoy all of the Ranch’s amenities, such as swimming, horseshoes, golf, tennis, hiking, horseback riding — in short, everything the ranch has to offer will be open to the D23 members over the three day period. Members will also get the chance to see where Walt’s home at the ranch was. And if that’s not enough Walt for you, Smoke Tree Ranch’s social hall is called the Walt Disney Hall and there are photos of Walt in all the cabins and the main lodge as Smoke Tree Ranch is extremely proud of their association with Walt.

There will be a few special guests attending Smoke Tree Roundup, a couple of which I can tell you about. Long-time Disneylanders will be familiar with Dana Daniels. For many years, he was the sub for Wally Boag at the Golden Horseshoe and one of the key showcase jugglers in Fantasyland. He’s been Magician of the Year, and is often the opening act for many top-named talent. In case you’ve never seen him, let me tell you, Dana is a lot of fun to watch perform. Also coming, is Pete Renoudet. The name may not be familiar but if you’ve ever been in a Disney theme park, you’ve heard his voice. Pete was the voice of Henry the Bear from Country Bear Jamboree, the voice of the skipper on the submarine voyage, and Captain Nemo down in Walt Disney World. O’Day said, “He is a great guy who doesn’t make that many appearances so it’s a real treat for us to have Pete join us.”

The Smoke Tree Ranch Roundup will accommodate up to seventy guests but Steven stated that D23 would like to keep the guest list at around 50. Sounds like a wonderful opportunity to experience a vacation the way Walt Disney did and in a very nice, uncrowded, setting.

For more info on Smoke Tree Ranch Roundup, visit this link.

The second event I want to detail for you is Journey to Marceline & it’s another D23 event centered around Walt Disney. For the first time ever, a special tour of Walt’s boyhood hometown—Marceline, Missouri—will take place for D23 Members on March 14th, 2012. Led by Disney archivists, the daylong Journey to Marceline will explores this small town (population 2,221) in ways that will have special resonance for Disney fans.

Clark described the event for us, “The Disney Company Shareholders meeting will be on March 13, 2012 in Kansas City, so we’re actually going to start the event with the shareholders meeting. We’ll have a reception in Kansas City the evening of the shareholder’s meeting and then the next morning we are boarding motor coaches to Marceline. We were going to try to do the train, but that didn’t work out. They were going to open the Marceline depot but then that didn’t work out, those pesky trains, whatcha gonna do? But we did try. So, we’re going to take the motor coaches out to Marceline.”

D23 Event Planner Laura Sanchez elaborated about Walt’s boyhood town, “It’s the most wonderful little town, everyone is so kind and they just love Walt Disney and the Disney company and everything about it. This event will be a full day in Marceline, there’s so much history of Walt, even though he was only there for five years - he loved the town and he gleaned so much from it. They have the Uptown Theatre — Walt did a presentation there in the 1950s so we will be going to the Uptown Theatre to watch a movie, and we’ll be going to the Walt Disney Hometown Museum that shows the history of the whole Disney family, and we’ll also go out to Walt’s family home and the barn.”

Now here’s were that good old Disney magic came in. At the end of the presentation, O’Day announced that he was going to make a shameless plug and launched into why the D23 membership is so great and how the D23 Magazine is a great benefit of membership (the current issue is great — go get it). He talked about the Spring issue of Disney twenty-three magazine and said that it will be dedicated to 75 years of Disney Feature Animation, “One of the cornerstones of that issue is gonna be a very, one-of-a-kind photo that as we speak is being taken out on the lot. And we want to invite you out to see this photo being taken. We have gathered ten people representing over 500 years of Disney experience.

So out on the lot, in front of the original Disney Animation Building, we have Ruthie Thompson (supervisor of Scene Planning department — Ink & Paint), Ruthie is 101-years old, Tyrus Wong, who painted all those beautiful backgrounds for Bambi and who is 100-years old, the beloved Alice Davis, Imagineer and costume designer, Lisa Davis who was the voice of Anita in "One Hundred and One Dalmatians", some fellow by the name of Richard Sherman, I don’t know how he got on the list,” Tim joked, “Burny Mattinson, legendary storyboard artist, Floyd Norman, the great animator and story man, the voice of Alice and Wendy Darling, Kathryn Beaumont, the model for Tinker Bell, Margaret Kerry, and the voice of Pinocchio, Dickie Jones.”
“So they’re all outside and we want to take you outside in a minute to see this historical photo being taken and afterwards we’re going to have a little reception at the Archives Library and you’ll get to meet all these folks. I think that’s pretty special.”

Indeed. It was. Not only did we see the photo of all the wonderful people taken, we got to be in the photo, and then we got get to wander the aisles of the Archives Library perusing the collection (my favorite was Oscar from Country Bear Jamboree who was just kind of sitting in a corner in his display case), and we got to mingle with all those wonderful folks who’ve made the Disney magic over the years, and then … Richard Sherman sat down at Walt’s piano — Walt’s piano that Becky Cline had just had restored and tuned, and placed it in the climate-controlled room of the Archives Library. No one had played the piano since it was moved. Who better to break it in then, than Richard Sherman? He moved over to the piano and told all of us that, yes, he’d play a tune. But he wouldn’t play for us. He’d play for Walt. He sat down, and hit the keys … Feed The Birds.

It was one of those misty-eye moments. Mr. Sherman succeeded in bringing everything up tempo again with a rendition of Supercalifragilisticexpealidocious, and bade us all sing along, which the whole room did. I thought to myself, it doesn’t get more magical than this, surrounded by Disney artifacts, listening to Richard Sherman play Walt Disney’s piano, at the Walt Disney Studio, in the Studio Archive Library. Whoa. Pinch me.

The icing on the cake was yet to come though. After a wee bit of persuasion, Mr. Sherman sat down at the piano again and played a little tune he and his brother Robert, wrote for the film Mary Poppins. It was a tune that never made it into the film, so it was a rare thing to hear. He explained the song was written 40-something years ago about the children in the film acting up and Mary Poppins threatening to put them in a zoo, in a cage. The song was called Chimpanzoo.

Yep, Disney Magic. When it’s good there’s nothing else like it on this earth.


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FTC-Mandated Disclosure: As of December 2009, bloggers are required by the Federal Trade Commission to disclose payments and freebies. Sue Kruse did not receive any payments, free items, or free services from any of the parties discussed in this article, unless otherwise explicitly noted.

© 2011 Sue Kruse