Everyone who knows me personally knows I’m a Disney fan and collector. I belong to a club, the Disneyana Fan Club, that has a convention in Southern California every July to coincide with Disneyland’s birthday. I’ve been attending these conventions since 1988 and they have given me many great memories. Here are some of my favorites from the first ten years. (These were originally published on the website LaughingPlace.com.)
1990 Convention – Disney Legend Van France, who originally set up Disneyland’s training programs, on working on the 1964 New York World’s Fair training:
Well, fortunately my boss was smart enough, because we knew at Disneyland when you have a fair or park, there is no place to do training. So we had leased a motel, called the Fair Motor Inn, where we were going to train all of our Disney people and all of our UNICEF volunteers. … So I stayed there, my wife and I stayed there, and I had all these handbooks all over. And one time a housekeeper came and she said “You know, my boy Tim is sick, and I wonder if I could give him one of these handbooks?”
“Shoot, take one.” I had plenty.
She said “Would you mind signing it?”
And I thought well, your kid’s not going to know Van France. So I said aw, it’s New York, I could do… There were several people that could forge Walt’s signature. I wasn’t one of them. I said aw, so I wrote down “Get well soon, Tim,” or what it was, “Walt Disney”.
And it was like feeding seagulls! Every bartender, housekeeper, waitress in that hotel had a sick kid!
1993 Convention – During a luncheon honoring Disney Legends and animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, Frank Thomas made the following remark:
Everybody who talks to a group like this takes credit for everything on the pictures, from hiring Walt down to… [the rest was drowned out by laughter].
1994 Kick-Off Event – Susan Bonds, Show Producer for Disneyland’s Indiana Jones Adventure talked about working with landscaping artist and Disney Legend Morgan “Bill” Evans as she pointed out features on the attraction’s plan:
Now, Bill Evans, the landscape architect who worked on the original Jungle Cruise, is also working with us. And it gets really interesting walking out there with him, because he’s showing you every plant and tree, whatever. He remembers exactly where he got it, he remembers exactly what it was like, when he planted it, and it’s been really neat for us, because as we’re trying to go back in, and since we are cutting this new channel right here, we’re working with him to get plants and specimens that blend in so they don’t look like they’re brand new and the rest of the jungle’s 35 years old. So they blend in and they have the same history as he originally set up the jungles of the world.
And it was really neat, [Director] Skip [Lange] and I can tell a funny story when we were down here looking at where the baboons are on the rocks. Bill pointed out this tree, I can’t remember the Latin name that he said for it, but he said “You know, if you break the leaves on that tree and rub them in your eyes, you’ll go blind.”
Okay, that’s a good thing to know!
1997 Convention – Disney Legend Ralph Kent spoke on “My Disney Career as a Character Artist”:
I was in Publix shopping, and there was this young lady coming out, and she had a Goofy sweatshirt shirt that I had just designed. So I said “That’s my shirt.”
And she said “No it’s not! That’s my shirt!”
“No, you don’t understand. I designed that shirt.”
And she said “Sure you did!”
I showed her my ring, I bring out my ID, I showed her my watch. And she never believed that I designed that shirt!
A personal note: The really nice thing about these conventions is that you can actually meet and get to know these legends. For example, after this seminar, Ralph Kent gave me one of my most endearing Convention memories by coming up and asking (in a tone I thought was surprisingly deferential), “Can I have lunch with you?”
My first instinct was to look around to see who he was really talking to.
“Me? Oh, uh, sure, Ralph!”