On June 25, the Walt Disney Archives celebrated its 40th Anniversary, along with the retirement announcement of its founder, Dave Smith. To commemorate the event, D23 invited its members onto the Studio Lot for a presentation and reception.
On checking in, guests were presented with a wristband and a souvenir pin, and guided over to the studio theater area. Outside the theater, a booth displaying a variety of D23 merchandise was up, along with an adjoining sales table doing brisk business. Most of the merchandise was from past events or enclosures from back issues of D23 magazine, but there were some new articles as well, such as purple and gold Archive 40th Anniversary polos.
Around 5pm we were let into the theater for the program. Steven Clark welcomed everyone and officially announced Dave Smith’s intent to retire in October, which had been written up in the LA Times that morning. Bob Iger then came up and related how instrumental Dave Smith had been in acquainting him with the history and legacy of the Disney Company when he first became CEO. He then presented him with his 40 year award, a small statue of Donald Duck.
Subsequently, Leonard Maltin and Dave Smith took seats at the front of the room, and proceeded to have a conversation about Dave Smith’s long tenure at Disney, with an emphasis on the early days of Roy O. Disney and The Nine Old Men. Dave initially worked at the Library of Congress after finishing his degree in Library Science, and then at UCLA, where he eventually came in contact with the Disney company while researching a bibliography on Walt Disney. After the death of Walt Disney, UCLA had apparently requested his papers for their archive, only to quickly realize that they did not have the facilities for the sheer volume of material that was involved. They suggested Disney start their own archives, and Dave volunteered to take a sabbatical from his job there to help start it up. The rest, is history.
Highlights of his career at Disney included the time Roy O Disney paid him to travel around the country and up to Canada to research the Disney family tree; riding on both Ward Kimball and Ollie Johnson’s personal trains; and determining the official date of both the start of the Disney company (10/16/23,) and Mickey Mouse’s birthday (11/18/28, at 1400.)
In his spare time, Dave does not collect Disneyana (he felt it would be a conflict of interest,) but does collect historical autographs, including presidents and Declaration of Independence signers (he has all of them except Button Gwinnett.)
After the Leonard Maltin discussion, Becky Cline, the new Archive Director presented awards to the Archives Angels–people who have made significant contributions to the Archives–and introduced the presentation of new acquisitions:
From ABC’s Lost: Showrunner Carlton Cuse donated an Oceanic boarding pass (their offer of the Lost airplane having been denied,) and John Locke’s knife.
From the Walt Disney Studios: President of Production Sean Bailey presented the Red Queen’s scepter from Alice in Wonderland; the Dead Man’s Chest from Pirates of the Caribbean; the Dragon Ring from the upcoming Sorcerer’s Apprentice; and a disc from the upcoming Tron: Legacy.
From The Disney Channel: President of Entertainment Gary Marsh gave a wand from the Wizards of Waverly series and a jacket worn by Joe Jonas in the new Camp Rock 2: Final Jam movie.
From the Disney Family: Roy Patrick Disney, grandson of Roy O. Disney donated a personal letter from Walt to Roy following the resolution of a three year rift between them.
From Ned Nalle, Producer of Legend of the Seeker: the Sword of Truth; and from his wife, Disney child star Karen Dotrice, Jane Bank’s coat from Mary Poppins.
Following the new acquisitions, a new featurette from their People and Places series was shown, entitled “Archiving the Archives.” It was a fun and entertaining documentary about the collection and the people who work to accumulate and maintain all the items within it.
Finally, Steven Clark presented Dave Smith with his 40 year pin, and said that his last day wasn’t officially until 10/15/10…which was two days after Dave’s birthday, on 10/13*. “There’s going to be a big party…so if you want an invite, you better start sucking up to Dave now!”
We were then invited outside to a cake and champagne reception where a multitude of Disney employees–past and present–mingled with the D23 guests. People in attendance included Kathryn Beaumont, Tony Anselmo, Richard Sherman, Bob Gurr, Tony Baxter, and Daniel Roebuck. On the way out, Dave Smith was signing autographs and received the thanks of happy people grateful for his role in preserving Disney history.
*If you would like to get Dave Smith a birthday present, I suggest something with Button Gwinnett’s signature on it.