Hey Boys and Girls, the public adoration that surrounds any and everything to do with the Walt Disney Company - animation, parks, features, merchandise, you name it Ė is very serious business. So much so that the wise folks running the Magic Kingdom decided to gather all the devoted in one place: The fan-club member only conventions called D23 Expo (ďDĒ for Disney and ď23Ē for 1923, the year Walt Disney first came to California and began his company.) started in 2009 and have grown in prominence, bringing out their biggest stars, rarities from the Disney archives and exclusive previews of upcoming projects to delight the faithful.
For those who canít make it to Anaheim, there is a traveling mini-version of the D23 Expo experience called D23 Fanniversary. This road show goes to various cities across America and highlights special Disney anniversaries: For example, 2013 celebrates the 85th Anniversary of Mickey Mouseís national debut in Steamboat Willie, which may be a pretty well-known fact, but did you know that it is also the 80th year of the omnipresent Mickey Mouse wristwatch? Many of the folks packed into the small auditorium in New Jerseyís Newark Museum of Art, would have been well aware of that and much more Disney trivia, which is anything but trivial to them. The fans that came to this event are the hardcore; multi-generational Disney acolytes who were thrilled to bask in the communal glow their shared love of the world of Walt and Mickey. We experienced a fun presentation of the anniversary celebrations and background info about each by Disney archivist Justin Arthur and D23 Web Editor Billy Stanek, who spoke with us about the Fanniversary and clued us into all the Disney luv.
Justin Arthur and Billy Stanek
The Lady Miz Diva: Gentlemen, please tell us why weíre here today?
Justin Arthur: Well, we are here to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Walt Disney Company and also every Disney theme park attraction, show, film, television show or business thatís having a milestone anniversary this year. Weíre so excited because we have so much content to go through in this presentation and itís only 90 minutesÖ
Billy Stanek: We couldíve made it 5 hours.
JA: We could have, yeah!
LMD: That actually brings up a big question. Iím sure many Disney fans would love a full-blown D23 Expo fan convention in New York City, or perhaps Disneyworld in Orlando. Why did you limit yourselves to a short presentation in small hall in Newark, New Jersey?
JA: We do quite a few different events that are more full-blown convention things and the reason itís a shorter show is that this is great show that we can pack up and take on the road with us. If we did 8 hours of just us talking, I think it would be kind of boring after a while.
LMD: How did you choose the archival materials that we see in the presentation?
JA: They originally had said weíre going to bring different things to different cities just to keep it exciting and different, so we kind of brainstormed and we thought about what were some of the cooler anniversaries that weíre celebrating? And we have a little bit of input, too; I think, there were a few things - The Nightmare Before Christmas, for example - that we think are especially awesome and we thought that people would geek out over, as well.
LMD: How did each of you became part of the Walt Disney Company?
JA: I actually started during college. I started in Walt Disney World as an attractions host at the Jungle Cruise and Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean. I ended up working there through college then I went over to Disneyland for a while and worked there. I had gotten involved with the archive side of things; the research and history side, and got very, very fortunate when they had a position that fit my particular skills, and so I got hired about 2 years ago, and itís amazing! I work specifically for the archives. I do all sorts of things, but research is sort of my specialty.
BS: I have a very similar backstory, except that mine started in Disneyland. As the fans out here, I started as a Disney fan in Nebraska, collecting McDonaldís toys and films and anything I could just to experience Disney. I moved to California, so, Iíve been working there for 10 years. I was with the Grand Californian Hotel for a while in guest services. Iíve had a lot of positions throughout the company, but my current title right now is Web Editor for D23.com.
LMD: Is there any piece in the archives that is really your favourite?
BS: The one thing in this presentation that I absolutely adore because itís the 25th anniversary of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and I loved that movie. When I saw the characters at the end of the film when I was little, it was just the coolest thing to see all these characters - kind of like what Disney Infinity is doing now with all the different characters. But we have a clip that was test footage and you can see some different concepts of what Roger Rabbit wouldíve looked like and also Jessica Rabbit, and thereís a character that was cut from the film. So, that was one of my absolutely favourite pieces in the show. One of the cool things we do in this show that you wonít see anywhere else is we have interviewed some of the Disney legends and they talk directly to our D23 members in the audience and they tell them some really interesting stories. For example, one of those is Tony Baxter, who worked for Imagineering, and he has an incredible story about Fantasyland and when they were doing the new Fantasyland, cos thatís one of the anniversaries weíre celebrating. Itís just an incredible story.
JA: There are a lot of exciting things in the archives that we havenít necessarily shown. One of my favourite things of all that we have is from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea; we have one of the Nautilus submarines and itís huge, too. I mean, itís a miniature, but itís still 8 or 10 feet long. Itís actually on display right now at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. We have a big exhibit there. Iím hoping that in a few years when we have the 60th anniversary of the film, we might be able to do something cool with it. Itís my favourite Disney movie.
LMD: Whatís your favourite Disney film, Billy?
BS: I always say Mary Poppins, but I also love Robin Hood. I grew up watching that a lot and itís in our Fanniversary presentation today. We have a lot of visual concept art from the movie with all the different characters. Just seeing that I think itís one of the lesser-celebrated Disney films and itís absolutely one of my favourites cos itís just so much fun.
LMD: What for you is the best part about D23 Fanniversary?
BS: The Fanniversary tour is a great example of how weíre able to talk to so many D23 members. Thatís the coolest part for us on this tour is talking with the D23 members in all the different locations and hearing their stories. Because thereís something about Disney that we all love and thatís why weíre here, and for every single person in the audience today, thatís different for every single one.
JA: Itís fun, too, to hear them interacting. Even a minute ago Ö we have great volunteers from the Disney Store here and they were recognising people that shopped at the store, and it totally brought me back to when I was a teenager and the people at my local Disney store in North Carolina told me they were gonna adopt me when I was old enough to work full-time. I went over to the parks instead, butÖ
BS: We have so many D23 members, too who have met each other at the events. So, thatís a cool part about this, too, is because theyíll meet each other and then theyíre like best friends. Theyíll go to future events together, or theyíll just hang out together, and I think there was even a couple that had met and gotten together at one of the events. So itís really cool; itís like-minded people coming together to celebrate.
Some more milestones celebrated at the D23 Fanniversary:
80th Anniversary of Disneyís Three Little Pigs
75th Anniversary of Ferdinand the Bull
70th Anniversaries of Saludos Amigos and the debut of Chip Ďní Dale
60th Anniversary of Peter Pan
50th Anniversary of The Sword in the Stone
40th Anniversary of Robin Hood
30th Anniversaries of the Disney Channel and Tokyo Disney
25th Anniversary of Who Framed Roger Rabbit
20th Anniversary of Tim Burtonís The Nightmare Before Christmas
15th Anniversary of Mulan
10th Anniversaries of Finding Nemo and Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
~ The Lady Miz Diva
March 23rd, 2013
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