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Walt Disney Art Classics Mini-Convention
Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of articles we'll be having on this year's convention. This article focuses on the Studio Tour while also touching on the other aspects. Look for a pictorial on the entire convention, a merchandise-focused article and a seminar-focused article soon.
This weekend hundreds of Disney collectors gathered for the Walt Disney Art Classics mini convention. Having never been to one of these conventions I wasnt exactly sure what to expect. By the end of the weekend I had a basket of goodies, tired feet but a storehouse of magical memories and was energized with a brand new coat of pixie dust.
The magical memories began Friday evening during the entertainment portion of the welcome reception, David Nicklin, Director, Sales and Marketing of Walt Disney Art Classics introduced a Disney Legend to the audience, someone who had played such a strong role in my childhood. While my father had Fess Parker and had pretended to be Davy Crockett I could remember piling into our family Chevy Chevette heading to the local drive-in and watching Dean Jones drive an adorable VW bug. I remember how he quit his job in Snowball Express and turned a rundown lodge into a ski resort. He always seemed like such a great person but I knew it was the characters I was fond of. But now here was Dean Jones not Jim Douglas, Agent Zeke Kelso or Johnny Baxter, and as he told stories of working with Walt Disney I was just as enamored with Dean Jones as I had been with his characters. He shared a story that illustrated his memory of Walt as having "an iron fist inside a velvet glove." He spoke of the time when there were some changes he wanted to see in a script. Some lines or a moment he just didnt think were funny. So he went to Walt and told him so. After some convincing Walt relented but stated firmly, "youd better be right." The Walt Disney Art Classics piece of Herbie was presented to him and a lucky member was called on stage to receive one as well. In fact it was lucky number 53 who had registered for the convention who received the prize.
Following the evenings activities, Doobie and I joined some friends over at the Napa Rose lounge. We didnt realize that Dean Jones was in the main dining room enjoying dinner until he was leaving the Napa Rose. As he walked past our window we all waved. He paused and gave us a wave and smile that reminded me of all those movies I had enjoyed. He looked just like Agent Zeke Kelso picking up Pattys sister, Ingrid at the end of That Darn Cat! I had to call my sister. The magic continued when I called my sister to share my celebrity moment. When she answered I told her I had just seen a Disney Legend and to guess who. She knows me better than I thought as on her first guess she said, "Dean Jones." The following morning, as I get ready for the day I put on the Herbie t-shirt I had packed.
Doobie and I were unable to attend the events Saturday morning and afternoon. On Saturday evening, everyone was talking about the days activities that we missed. Sculpture classes, a pictorial tour of Tony Baxters collection, and stores from Sam and Matt McKim. Saturday evening we journeyed to Disneys California Adventure for "An Evening of Discovering Disneys California Gold". They gathered us into the Pacific Wharf area and had tables of food set up including fajitas, egg rolls, bread bowls of soup and more. The live band played a mix of party tunes. The crowd participation grew as the dinner went on and by the time the band was playing "Hot, Hot, Hot!" a conga line formed, weaving its way through the tables. Now it was game time. We were organized into teams of four and prepared for a trivia contest and scavenger hunt. We were peppered with 30 multiple choice questions about Disney history, Disney collectibles and more. Then they let us loose with puzzles to solve around the DCA. While I enjoyed the evening I couldnt help thinking and anticipating the events that would follow the next day. In fact I couldnt fall asleep until 3a that night despite feeling exhausted after wandering around DCA solving various puzzles including one that provided the Latin names of crops in the Bountiful Valley Farm and we had to supply the common English names.
Finally Sunday morning arrived! The big day! I woke before the 7a wake up call but when the phone rang I picked it up knowing who would be on the other end of the line. It was Mickey Mouse letting me know that there were, "Big doins goin on, so lets get started" and I thought "you have no idea" and prepared for the big day. We were off for a tour of the Disney Studios in Burbank. 20 or so buses were waiting in front of the Disneyland hotel to take the Conventioneers to the Disney Studios. The video screens on the bus showed a television show from the 80s hosted by John Culhane. Hes the author of several Disney film books such including Fantasia/2000: Visions of Hope and Disney's Aladdin: The Making of an Animated Film. But most Disney fans know him as the inspiration for Mr. Snoops in The Rescuers.
Id only seen him in recent years but in this video the similarity was undeniable. The video also featured scenes of the then in development Who Framed Roger Rabbit? They discussed plotlines and had pictures of the characters. There were differences in the look and definition of them including Roger and Jessica. The plotline described had Jessica as a starlet who was with Roger for her career but dumped him once her star began to rise. There was also an animated human police detective in the footage who was cut from the final film. LA traffic cooperated with us Sunday morning and before we knew it we could see the familiar Disney Studios water tower. But it wasnt Mickey holding the clapboard it was a certain intergalactic critter who makes his cinema appearance this summer ..Stitch! As we passed the guard tower we saw him perched there, too. The Studios certainly seem excited about this upcoming project.