Over the weekend I was fortunate to attend Destination D, the event for D23 members. D23 is the Official Disney Fan Club and it’s head, Steven Clark (above), welcomed Members from 40 states, four provinces in Canada, as well as attendees from Australia, Bahamas, Germany, Netherlands, and United Kingdom on Saturday morning. He then introduced Walt Disney World’s very first ambassador, Debbie Dane Brown, who kicked off Destination D in style as she reminisced about the resort’s grand opening.
Debbie Dane Brown & Nigel Worrall
Next to take the stage was Walt Disney Archives Director Becky Cline and Disney historian Paul F. Anderson, who gave a superb and often humorous presentation on some of the strangest and most bizarre parts of Walt Disney World history. Becky and Paul had obviously been very busy as they searched through the Disney Archives with one thing on their minds: to find the most hilarious photos and video clips. “I was keeping an eye out for peculiar Walt Disney World footage,” Becky said. “I had a stack of DVDs that needed to be reviewed and I ended up finding this great Grad Nite footage.” This footage was well received and the most obvious thing that everyone noticed was the style of clothing everyone wore back then!
Dave Smith & Nigel Worrall
Walt Disney Archives founder Dave Smith then treated us all with a presentation entitled “Walt Disney World: The Way We Were.” There were some fabulous early construction photos of Walt Disney World as well as photos of some of the attractions that are now long gone. During lunch, D23 Members were invited to browse through a special Walt Disney Archives display set up for the event and the exhibit included The Three Caballeros, who originally appeared in the Mickey Mouse Revue in Fantasyland as well as several other Audio-Animatronics® and interesting pieces from the resort’s past.
Paul F. Anderson & Nigel Worrall
The afternoon sessions on Saturday included EPCOT: Walt Disney’s Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow with Archivist Steven Vagnini and Disney expert Paul F. Anderson, Past Forward: A History of Walt Disney World on Television with Disney Archivist Rob Klein and Disney author and historian Tim O’Day, and The Walt Disney World That Never Was with longtime Imagineer Tony Baxter.
To end the day, Baxter then returned to the stage with O’Day to showcase films that had not been seen in years. They covered the entire Walt Disney World Resort, from before the resort’s groundbreaking moment up through the creation of EPCOT Center.
Day two started with a surprise as Jennifer Mason and Norman Vossschulte, Walt Disney World’s 40th anniversary ambassador team, stopped by to welcome Members to the second day. They told a few stories about what it’s like to be a Walt Disney World ambassador and shared their team motto, which included a Disney-themed fist pump to go along with it!
After their visit, Steven Clark, head of D23, searched for the next contestant in the Ultimate Disney Trivia Tournament, which will be held at the D23 Expo August 18-21. He led the room in three rounds of trivia questions and after a short onstage contest he narrowed it down to one Disney expert to join the semi-finals in Anaheim. John Kurowski from Orlando, Florida was named the official winner of the Destination D trivia challenge and he recieved two tickets to the D23 Expo, and a spot in the semi-final round at the Ultimate Disney Trivia Tournament.
To conclude the morning, Imagineers took D23 Members through some of the hidden design gems that are featured throughout Walt Disney World. Alex Wright, show designer, Jason Surrell, senior show writer, and Jason Graham, concept designer, unveiled the stories behind the details found within WDW attractions and Wright said: “There are little things you want to embed into a project to give it your own personal spin. It adds more depth, so people can pick up on them as they experience the attraction on their third or fourth time.” Surrell added, “It’s kind of a tradition that we carry on and pay tribute to the people who came before us.”
Kathy Rogers, who has just completed work on Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, Chris Beatty who is working on the Fantasyland expansion, and Gary Hoffman, currently in development on the Art of Animation Resort,then gave Members the latest updates on their respective projects at Walt Disney World. They also announced that The Enchanted Tiki Room (Under New Management) at Magic Kingdom is undergoing a magical transformation that will pay homage to the original show. “I think it’s fitting that for the 40th anniversary we pay homage to the original,” Chris said. “This really is our core audience and it’s always great to share with them and find out if we’re on the right track with our decisions. If you can please this group, you can please any park guest.”
Sunday afternoon was then spent listening to the stories from Walt Disney Pioneers in two panel discussions. The first included the resorts initial team, 1971 Walt Disney World Ambassador Debby Dane Browne, Disney Legal Counsel Bob Foster and Disney Legends Orlando Ferrante, Bob Gurr, and Ron Logan. The second panel then focused on the leaders who inherited Walt Disney World from Walt and his Imagineers, including Disney Legends Jack Lindquist, Bob Matheison, Tom Nabbe, Charlie Ridgway and Bill Sullivan.
Concluding the event with the grand finale was Richard Sherman who took the stage and enraptured the audience with a medley of attraction songs that rounded off off an extraordinary weekend perfectly. Naturally there were a few surprises thrown in as Denny Zavett, Billy Flanagan, The Main Street Philharmonic, and the Kids of the Kingdom performed an unannounced finale that had D23 Members clapping, singing and simply glowing with delight. It was an extraordinary way to end an unforgettable weekend and left everyone waiting for the next event!
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