Destination D: Celebrating 75 Years of Disney Animated Features

DAPs Magic Disney News – by Caitlyn Fonda

Wow, where do I begin to describe Destination D? Let’s just say, this might get a little detailed, so you may want to grab some coffee or a snack. When I first found out about Destination D in November, I absolutely knew I had to go! I have never been to any of the previous Destination Ds or the D23 expos, so I was really looking forward to this event. My mom and I drove down Thursday so that we could have time to play in the parks before the convention. I mean, how could we be at Disney without going to the parks? We checked into the Disneyland Hotel, spent time in the parks and checked in for the convention on Friday. It was fun to get our check-in packets, because not only did each have all the info we needed for the weekend, but also a badge, buttons, and a sketchbook! The little extras were a fun surprise! There was plenty of D23 merchandise available as well throughout the weekend, which was mostly D23 items that they have at other events, with the exception of a few new Destination D items.

Anyway, you want to hear about Saturday and Sunday. Fast forward to Saturday morning, and people were lined up and ready to go pretty early in the morning. Once in our seats, an announcement came on to tell people that the event would be starting soon. I recognized the voice as Bill Rogers, THE voice of Disneyland, and was excited to think he was there! My mom mentioned that it was most likely canned, but I looked over to the tech booth to see him sitting there. For me, that was a pretty cool way to start things off. The welcome started with Steven Clark, head of D23, greeting everyone and introducing an animation video….when, all of a sudden, a flashmob started. It was cheesy fun as typical Disney flash mobs always are. Then, confetti exploded, the audience roared with applause, and everyone was now super amped up for the next thing. Steven came back to introduce someone special, “the man with all the Hawaiian shirts, John Lasseter”. I think it’s safe to say that everyone got really excited, and then that died in a matter of seconds when a video of him came on the screen. It sounded like “WOOOOooo….oh”. To be honest, it was pretty hilarious.

Now, I didn’t go to every panel, but the ones we went to we thoroughly enjoyed. The first was special, because it was about Walt and the golden age of animation. Burny Mattinson, Joe Hale (both former animators) and Ted Thomas (son of Frank Thomas of the 9 old men) were all there with stories about Walt, the 9 old men, and what it was like to be at the studios during that era. After that panel was over, we had a short break which mom and I used to go and meet Bill Rogers. I was expecting a quick, “Hi, how are you? Nice to meet you. Can we take a picture?” moment, but was surprised because we spent some time chatting with him. It turns out, he’s really good friends with Bill Farmer (voice of Goofy). Bill (Rogers) not only records voice work for Disneyland, a little bit for Disney world, the cruise line, and even some work for the parks abroad. He spends 2-3 hours a week recording whatever is given to him for the parks that week, and says he has the best job ever. Who could argue with that?

The next panel was about Roy E. Disney and the second golden age of animation. The guests included Roy P. Disney (son of Roy E.), Don Hahn (producer of Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, etc.) and Ron Clements and John Musker (Directors of The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, etc.). The panel was about the life and contributions of Roy E., which included a number of family photos, as well as rare videos. Roy P. told stories about his dad, and at the end, was presented a Mousekears award by Steven Clark, for all that his dad did for Disney, and for saving Disney animation.

The next segment of the day was awesome, and definitely one of my favorites! It was hosted by Darrin Butters, a very funny Disney animator, and we got a sneak peek at what the Walt Disney Animation Studios are up to. They showed us “Tangled Ever After” to start, and shared a great deal about Frozen, due out next year. We were among the first public audience to see concept art, hear about the storyline and characters, and even hear a song from the movie! The only bummer was that they told us the ending, but I’m still excited to see it. This was a project of Walt’s that he wanted to do, but never came into fruition. It’s been in the works for quite some time. Next we were shown concept art and the process of animation for the upcoming short, “Paperman,” that will premiere before Wreck It Ralph. Not only did we get to see all of this cool concept art, but we were the first people to see the entire short! It’s up there as one of my favorite shorts now. And last, but not least, we got a look inside the digital world of Wreck It Ralph. We got glimpses into each of the 4 “worlds” in the film, complete with clips and directors commentary. Afterwards, everyone received lithographs featuring Wreck It Ralph, “Paperman”, and “Tangled Ever After”.

After the lunch break, there was an hour and a half of which we got to see rare and never-before-seen animation, hosted by Don Hahn and Dave Bossert (Creative Director, Walt Disney Animation Studios). We saw old commercials, old attraction videos, shorts, and even the “Zip-a-dee-doo-dah” scene from Song of the South. I think the strangest clip we saw, were sketches for the original concept for the “Pomp and Circumstance” scene from Fantasia 2000. We were forewarned that it was very strange, and it’s safe to say that, it’s a good thing they changed it for the final film. Basically, it was a processional of the princesses (up to 1994) approaching a castle with crowds of other Disney characters watching. Donald tried to follow close behind carrying a pillow holding 6 small crowns (do you see where this is going?). Donald is taken by the villains,  then escapes and returns to the processional in time for the storks to arrive. Yes, I said storks. Each prince and princess receive a bundle of joy, and each baby gets a crown, and Snow White ends up with twins. There you go, the short version. People clapped, but it was definitely an awkward clap. Overall, this one was fun to see, just because the clips were all around funny.

The last panel of the day was “Animating the Disney Parks,” which featured Imagineers of past and present, Tony Baxter, Tom Morris, and Eddie Sotto. We got a glimpse of the parks and little bits of the design process into attractions. I don’t remember too much from this particular panel, but I will tell you, that Tony said that they’ve heard our opinions about Alice and Wonderland [the attraction], and they just received the permits to fix the outside and make the safety features look much better. Expect to see changes within the coming months.

Once the panels were over, many people headed next door to the ballroom to stake out spots in line for the concert that evening. That’s normally what happened during the lunch and dinner breaks, you got in line and someone would go get food. It wasn’t terrible, just a lot of sitting and waiting. My mom was so awesome and held our place in line while I walked around, or ran up to the room. At one point, I saw Don Hahn hanging out in the lobby, so I chatted with him for a little bit, and Dick Van Dyke just so happened to walk by. What’s funny is that the whole moment was totally surreal, but it seemed totally normal. Yet another awesome memory that I have from that weekend.

The Dick Van Dyke concert was amazing! Dick was such a crack up and still has quite the spring in his step for an 86 year old. The Vantastix, made up of Bryan Chadima, Eric Bradley, and Mike Mendyke, were so talented and just as enjoyable to listen to. The 4 of them together blend so well as an a cappella group/barbershop quartet. Bryan was quite hilarious, Eric has film credits, including the whistling part of Walter from The Muppets, and Mike was the one who met Dick 12 years ago. Mike and Dick met at a Starbucks, when Mike brought up Dicks love for barbershop quartets. Dick asked Mike if he’d be interested in starting a group, and Mike called Eric and Bryan, and the 4 of them have been singing ever since. Of course, they covered a number of Mary Poppins songs, as well as a number of tunes from different genres. It was a blast!

Phew! That was a long one, and only the first day. Stay tuned for more tales and pictures from day 2!

Caitlyn

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