D23 Expo Day 3 Recap – Featuring Imagineering Panels, Disneyland Hotel History Panel

It was the last day of the Expo yesterday, and I must say that it was a blur!  A good blur, but I started to forget what panel I’d be in during the day.  And going to about half the panels that day, that’s not a good thing for my head to do.  But, here’s highlights of the day…

Working With Walt

The morning opened with a panel of Imagineering legends.  Hosted by Martly Sklar, X Atencio, Alice Davis, and Bob Gurr reminisced about early days of working on the parks and mostly what it was like to work with Walt Disney.  I think one man summed it up during the Q&A where he said that it was an early morning, but these 4 packed the house.  Some of the interesting facts and highlights from this was Bob Gurr pointing out that Walt would politely let people know he was coming down the hall with a cough.  And this is a detail that is picked up in Saving Mr. Banks, premiering soon.  Marty Sklar pointed out how he was amazed Walt picked him to work there and his attention to detail for something like a newspaper for Main Street.  The group pointed out little details of how Walt positively encouraged work, detail, and perfection instead of having heads roll if something didn’t go completely to plan.  They commented how he was very detailed, but didn’t want very much negativity.  Each had some kind of amazement with working with him, but also felt like he was a friend.  There will be video on the YouTube channel soon.

DNA of Innovation

The next panel featured a set of Imagineers from different generations.  Hosted by Asa Kalama, this panel talked about how Imagineers seek to have innovative interactions and attractions.  The panel featured Bob Gurr, Scott Trowbridge, among others.  With slides of a history of how computers are used to design attractions, there was a video of a playtest with a pirate interactive adventure at Walt Disney World.  Entertaining stories included how they got Lucky the Dinosaur to a New York City event, which consisted of going through New Jersey and having an…outdoorsman see him and Imagineers in a park during the wee hours of the morning.  Another amusing tale was how Wall-E got left behind at an airport on his way to a press promotion.  I got a kick out of Bob Gurr commenting on how they took 4 months to build things, and all turned out fine without computers, cell phones, etc.  Also recounted by Gurr was the tale of how he kidnapped then Vice-President Nixon on the Monorail, although not really kidnapping.  We’ll also have a video up soon of this panel.

Leave ‘Em Laughing

This was the last Imagineering panel to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the department, although there were some in between.  This panel featured Dave Fisher, Joe Lanzisero, Kevin Rafferty, Jason Surrell, and George Scribner.  The group went through a bit of a history of jokes, stating that Disneyland didn’t have much humor to begin with.  Marc Davis was sort of a “founder” of humor at the parks when he put in gags to the Jungle Cruise.  The panel continued with explanations of how they deliver jokes, and pointing out some of the subtle ones throughout.  Stories of how recording sessions went, like with Jason Alexander, and how some gags are axed were especially great.  These guys were hilarious as well, and lived up to the title of the presentation.  Video soon!

Jack Wrather Organization Featuring the Disneyland Hotel

This was a panel I was looking forward to all Expo.  I know, it’s an odd one to be gunning for, but I like Disney history equally with the future.  Announcements are plentiful, but history is hard to come by.  I’ve also been fascinated with the Disneyland Hotel, having fond memories of its past incarnation and knowing it wasn’t built by Disney, I wondered what its story was.

The presentation was well done by Don Ballard.  He’s scoured the vaults of the Wrather family to find various photos and footage of the enterprises of Jack Wrather.  He owned Lone Ranger, Lassie, and several resorts.  It was great to get a history of him and some of these enterprises, even footage of how popular the Lone Ranger was back in the day.  But, what really got to me was seeing footage that hadn’t been shown to the public, or hadn’t been for a long time.  First was Annette Funicello dancing for a telethon hosted by the hotel when it was owned by Wrather.  The Mouseketeers performed too.  There were pictures and home movies of the miniature golf course that was built by Imagineers.  Lastly, Ballard found Jack Wrather’s home movie of the opening day of Disneyland!  And it was in color!  It was amazing to see the park in its original form, bright and detailed.  And there was even some of the opening day speech in color.  It was a remarkable presentation, and we didn’t get it completely recorded, but there will be a few videos.  Plus, I wanted to give some integrity and privacy to the Wrather organization and family.

Journey Into Imagineering

This is the day I got to wander through the Imagineering pavilion extensively.  I enjoyed all the great effects that were showcased in wings of the area.  One is special polarized paint that changes color in special light.  Another is the audio-animatronic of what seems to be the Hatbox Ghost, and at least a new incarnation of him.  The Imagineering archives brought in a few art artifacts from the vault of Disneyland.  In this gallery were the original paintings for the development of the park!  And the fabled painting featured in the original television show, complete with the black light effect!  I had always wanted to see how the effect worked and if it truly conveyed the night life of the park.  It did!

Well, can you believe it.  Three days, and all of this barely scratched the surface!  This was an exhausting expo, but that’s not a complaint.  There was plenty to see and do!  Disney celebrities were somewhat easily accessible as some would just be walking around, like Bob Gurr.  I even saw Floyd Norman in my elevator after the second day was done.  It was a delightful experience, and something easily shared with friends.  I even met and made some new ones there.

Be sure to check out the YouTube channel and other pages on the site to read the full experience.  And, until next time, have a marvelous day!

About the Author:

Murray the Bellhop covers Knott’s Berry Farm, Marvel, and also helps with DAPs Magic’s Disneyland coverage. He also hosts DAPscast and helps produce Geeks Corner.

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