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(Walt’s Desk from the Disney Archives)
So far, the D23 Expo has been a blast. Through a combination of panels, interactive displays, and museum-like exhibits, Disney has done a remarkable job at presenting a look at the past, present, and future of what the company has to offer. While there are a ton of exciting projects on the way, it is just as exciting to witness the history that they are sharing with those fortunate enough to be in attendance.
One of the most thrilling exhibits is the “Treasure of the Walt Disney Archives.” I never thought I would be standing inches from such iconic props as the original storybook featured in the opening scene of Sleeping Beauty, or Mary Poppins’ original costume, but that is where I found myself today. I was awestruck, wandering from one timeless artifact to the next. They had the original 11-foot model of the Nautilus from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the robots from The Black Hole, and even Walt’s desk, complete with various shooting scripts and signed checks. It was an unbelievable experience, seeing all of this history up close and in person.
Looking into the future, there was a tremendous exhibit on the convention floor featuring a look at various theme park attractions in development. Of course, a huge section was reserved for a sneak peek at Cars Land, coming to Disney’s California Adventure in 2012. There were models of the entire land, as well as a beautiful mock-up of the Radiator Springs Racers, the big E-ticket of this area. The theming looks to be beyond anything Disney has ever done in California. The details are gorgeous, and they really look to transport the guests into the world of the film.
Just beyond Cars Land was a more technical look at what goes on behind the scenes. There were exhibits showcasing the remarkable work that goes into creating the animatronics, as well as a video showcasing the process of implementing Barack Obama into the Hall of Presidents. Also featured was a look at the development of the Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln attraction, which is being given a remarkable looking upgrade.
It was in this area that they also showcased two extraordinary animatronics that will hopefully make their way to the theme parks. They were for a new character named Lucky the Dinosaur, and Wall-E. Both had a remarkable degree of subtlety, and their interactions with the guests were flawless. Lucky in particular was a remarkably designed character that had so much detail and personality it began to feel like a living, breathing animal.
Just beyond this area was a look at the three new areas being prepared for Hong Kong Disneyland. One of them was themed to Toy Story, another was kind of a cross between Grizzly Peak, Thunder Mountain, and Expedition Everest, and the last one was something entirely unique. Called Mystic Manor, this attraction is going to take Guests into a museum where a magic music box brings all of the exhibits to life. An Imagineer explained the entire ride to us, scene by scene, utilizing several pieces of concept art and a model of the entire floorplan. Even though I will probably never see this ride in person, I still feel as if I got to experience it for myself.
My day ended at a terrific panel where they screened several very rare pieces of animation. The first one was a film directed by Ub Iwerks during WWII, in which they demonstrated to the Canadian Army how to use a rifle designed to stop tanks. It was completely surreal seeing Disney Animation used in such a way. They also featured a short film about the spread of malaria through mosquitoes that starred the Seven Dwarves. I didn’t even know there was additional footage of the dwarves out there, and I loved getting to see them in a completely different context. Seeing Dopey swinging at mosquitoes with an axe and Doc pouring gasoline into a lake from a speedboat made this one of the most unexpectedly hilarious films shown at the presentation.
Other shorts included the legendary Salvador Dali segment cut from the original Fantasia, as well as two segments made for a proposed third Fantasia that never saw the light of day. One of them was set in Africa and featured children flying kites. The other one was an Argentinian tango that told the story of a cat driven mad after his tail comes to life. The animation, music, and storytelling in this segment were absolutely superb. It deserves a greater degree of exposure, and I really hope that they eventually decide to release this to the public in some capacity. The last short they showed was an extremely rough cut of a Mickey Mouse Short called Plight of the Bumblebee. Historically, I understand the significance of a lost Mickey Mouse cartoon, but I didn’t really think it was all that great. It was about Mickey helping a bee break into the opera business, all the while fighting the bee’s addiction to the intoxicating effects of flowers. It really wasn’t worth the buildup they gave it.
Overall, they did a great job putting all of this together. Saturday (Day#3) promises to be just as exciting, with some great presentations planned. I can’t wait to see what they have in store.