So now that we’re (sadly) finished with one more Destination D, it’s time for a look back on some of the outstanding moments in my memory.
I have to confess, when they had all the dancers/fans rush out in flash mob fashion to dance around to traditional music mixed with that oddly synthetic hip hop beat overlay they like to use for all the shows nowadays, I had PTSD flashbacks to the Disney Dance Crew moments from the 2010 Destination D (“Drink up me gangstas, yo ho!”) This is not to take anything away from the performers, who were as exuberant as anyone could wish, but one of my pet peeves is the attempt to modernize tunes that were already really pretty good as they were. I am OK hearing music the way the Sherman Brothers wrote it, without having someone with a synthesizer go to town on it, and I would wonder how many people interested in 75 year old animated films might feel the same.
Fortunately, the first panel fulfilled all our yearnings for nostalgia by giving us insight into each of the “Nine Old Men” from guys who were actually there, working with them.
One interesting note Joe Hale gave us, was that the Nine Old Men originally resented the title a little, as they weren’t really that old when it was given to them…but they grew into it.
A few of the panels, while still fascinating, didn’t really yield entirely new information. If you saw, for example, Waking Sleeping Beauty, you already had a large amount of context for the talk on the second golden age of Disney animation. Similarly, if you had attended Comic-Con, you had already heard a lot of what they had to say about Wreck-it Ralph.
Paperman, however, presented by Producer Christina Reed and Supervising Animator Patrick Osborne, was entirely new and really a beautiful piece of work. Their new hybrid technique of animating faces in CG, removing parts and then redoing it in hand-drawn animation yielded a very clean-looking style that perfectly complimented the simple but oh-so affecting story. They said they would like to try a longer project with the same process, but still need to work out different aspects such as color, etc. Even if you weren’t going to go see Wreck-it Ralph (which you should, because it looks great also,) Paperman is worth a trip to the cinema.
One of my absolute favorite panels brought three of the Imagineers responsible for Disneyland Paris (among other projects too numerous to mention) together to share stories and reminisce about their mentors in the company.
Tony Baxter spoke at length on his appreciation for Claude Coats’ openness to the ideas of others, and his unflappable attitude towards the constantly changing nature of his projects–his faith that a given creation would ultimately be fine, although probably different from what he originally envisioned. His specialty was creating environments which were real, and which made good park rides.
Eddie Sotto gave a presentation on Herb Ryman–emphasizing his genius in placemaking and his insistence on research as an essential tool in grounding fantasy with elements of authenticity.
One part I found fascinating was when Sotto pointed out a pair of nuns Ryman drew for a movie storyboard…
…That seem to turn up in quite a variety of places…
It could be speculated that either Ryman was periodically placing them in the background of various renderings as an inside joke, or those two nuns wound up perpetually traveling the globe in their jeep.
The only negative about the panel was the time constraints–although the audience would happily have sat through a talk twice as long, it was clear that Tom Morris could have spoken longer about the two legends he knew personally, Marc Davis and John Hench.
Hopefully they’ll have these guys back again soon…maybe for a Disneyland Paris event?
Of course the first concert of the weekend, Dick Van Dyke and the Vantastix, was wonderful. There isn’t much to be said about Dick Van Dyke, except to hope that he keeps performing forever…which from the looks of him, seems entirely possible.
Among the many exciting panels of the next day, watching Andreas Deja effortlessly sketch out a number of his trademark characters was a definite highlight. Also: If you’re the person who found this sketch under your seat? I hate you.
Any time you get a chance to hear from the Disney voice artists, it’s always a good time–from the genial jocularity of Bill Farmer (Goofy,) to the gentle mannered tones of Lisa Davis (Anita,) to the…sounds…of Chris Sanders (Stitch.)
Davis recalled her casting as developing from a movie she did (Queen of Outer Space) with Zsa Zsa Gabor, who apparently proved to be a touch difficult, which led Davis to developing a satirical impression of her. Disney heard of this and thought it might be an interesting take on Cruella, and had her come in to read lines, while he read Anita. Quickly perceiving that she was much more Anita than Cruella, she suggested a switch and subsequently had a wonderful time preparing for the role by playing with puppies they brought in for her, in the Hyperion Bungalow.
An absolutely astounding moment was when Marge Champion was presented, as the original live-action reference model for Snow White.
Looking at her, there is no way you are going to think this woman is 93 years old. Clearly her years of activity as a dancer has stood her in good stead.
And then there was the grand finale, as Alan Menken brought it all home with a phenomenal concert. The raised seating in the back of the room was just lousy with Disney Legends, all out for a marvelous night.
(While sitting in the row in front of luminaries like Tony Baxter and Richard Sherman was good for photos, it became slightly terrifying as waves of adoring fans came racing over to greet them, clearly completely unconcerned if they had to stomp on your head to get to them, a la Gene Kelly’s death in “What a Way to Go!”)
Menken gave a great performance. I found that through the years, I’ve heard some of his songs from Mermaid or Beauty so frequently, that I actually ceased to pay attention to them anymore–they had just become part of the audio wallpaper of the parks. To really listen to them again was to remember just how good they are, and why they are played so frequently, even today.
In sum, it was a really fun weekend. The presentations that revolved mostly around video clips were a little problematic, because in this day of YouTube, it’s hard to find footage to show that everyone doesn’t have readily available to them…but it’s always fun to see Back to Neverland or Song of the South on a big screen again.
Sunday was definitely lighter in programming than Saturday, and here’s another pet peeve of mine: All throughout the show, they kept hammering at us that they listen to what everyone says, and scheduled fewer talks because people complained that they wanted more free time to socialize and use the facilities. Really? People want to pay that much for an event, and then more than anything, want to have free time? Even if they did, why wouldn’t they just skip the panels in which they weren’t interested? I would think that for a person who doesn’t attend a presentation, there’s no difference whether the content is scheduled or not–asking them not to schedule it only means no one else gets to see it. Why is it I can’t see more stuff, just because you want three hours for dinner?
If the thought of waiting in lines forever at Expo gives you the vapors, but you still want to experience presentations on Disney past, present, and future, the Destination D series is a great option. You’re guaranteed a seat, although people still line up for hours to jockey for location, so the stress level involved is much lower. The emphasis is on historical content however, so if you come expecting new and ground-breaking announcements about future projects, you’re likely to be disappointed. For people who want to see and hear about the Legends–the creators who were there at the beginning of the Disney company, when animation was new, and theme parks were only a fool’s dream–it’s a treasure. A gift of lore and anecdotes from people whose pride in their work and their association with the company shines through even 20, 40…80 years later.
Don’t take too long pondering over whether to attend the next one, however, because many people and their stories are gone already, and unfortunately none of us are getting any younger…with the possible exception of Dick Van Dyke and Marge Champion.