Continuing on the first day of D23’s “Destination D 2016: Amazing Adventures,” film producer Don Hahn and Becky Cline, Director of the Walt Disney Archives took the audience on “A Look Back at Walt Disney’s True-Life Adventures.”
(No photography or recording was permitted during the presentations. All photos thereof are courtesy of D23.)
Through a variety of rarely-seen photos and video clips, Hahn and Cline gave us a glimpse at the many challenges of filming and producing the nature series that was one of the key inspirations for the original Adventureland at Disneyland.
Breaking the topic up into categories of “C’s,” they spoke of the filmmakers’ concerns with
Companions: 50% of the photography was done by couples;
Camera equipment: One team developed what appeared to be an armored Winnebago where they shot footage and lived from, for three years;
Courage: Photographers were seen in all manners of horrific circumstances, from having to dress as bison, to being attacked by swarms of bees;
Climate: Many shoots were in less-than-hospitable environments such as the Arctic, and required any number of innovative living conditions;
Contraptions: In order to get the shots they needed, they would periodically invent devices, such as a camera that resembled a rifle to improve their accuracy in obtaining footage of birds in flight.
Hahn also spoke briefly about DisneyNature’s upcoming film “Born In China,” and showed the trailer for it. Referencing an early video clip they had shown of Roy Disney’s troubles manufacturing a funny nature bit for Walt, Hahn pointed out how far they had come from the early days of Nature documentaries: “This is no longer the era of ‘throw-a-duck.'”
Next up was Disney Legend Marty Sklar describing some of the giant contributions Imagineers Harper Goff and Bill Evans made to realizing Disneyland’s Adventureland in “The Wonderland of Nature’s Own Design.”
From a recounting of how they first met Walt, to their involvement with concept art and practical construction design, Sklar showed some of the genius the two men put into the creation of Disneyland’s most lush and mysterious land.
Destination D regular Jason Grandt moderated the next panel on “Disney Adventurelands Around the World,” with fellow Imagineers Tony Baxter and Luc Mayrand.
Although they touched on the Adventurelands at all the parks, given Baxter’s past role as executive producer of Disneyland Paris and Mayrand’s recent position as creative lead on Treasure Cove at Shanghai Disneyland, it was kind of a “salute to all Adventurelands, but mostly Paris and Shanghai.”
–Imagineering research revealed a big Western Europe interest in the tales of the Arabian Nights, leading them to retheme the entry to DLP’s Adventureland in that vein.
–Similarly, they found few people there connected to the tales of Tom Sawyer, resulting in the substitution of the pirate-infested Adventure Isle.
–Over in Shanghai, a tepid response to their proposals for Frontierland caused the Imagineers to reallocate its space and integrate it with their initial Adventureland into two large lands–Adventure Isle and Treasure Cove.
–Camp Discovery, with its dramatic Challenge Trails just won a TEA (Themed Entertainment Association) Outstanding Attraction award for 2016, along with Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure.
–The area’s signature snack, turkey legs, became so popular the lines sometimes ran up to two hours, with people who worked their way through the front of the line selling them to people at the end for profit.
A look at the lighter side of Adventure came with former Jungle Cruise skippers Archivist Justin Arthur, Skipper Canteen’s Trevor Van Dahm, and Imagineers Chris Merritt, Wyatt Winter, Kevin Lively, and Alex Grayman who recounted some of the history of the legendary attraction and its jocular narrative in “Tales from the Jungle Cruise.”
Afterwards, in “Disney’s Polynesian Resort 45th Anniversary,” D23’s Steven Vagnini, Disney Vacation Club’s Ryan March, and Disney artists Casey Jones and Richard Terpstra commemorated the occasion by giving us a glimpse into the iconic resort’s genesis and development.
–The first concept of a South Seas resort was shown on the map of the EPCOT project Walt displayed on television.
–Welton Becket, designer of landmark structures such as the Pan Pacific Auditorium, the Ford and GE pavilions for the 1964 World’s Fair, and the Contemporary, also designed the original look of the Polynesian Village.
–A John Curry memo from 1969 reveals that “Contemporary” and “Polynesian” were originally working names that eventually stuck with minimal additions.
–Although the resort started operation on October 1, 1971, the opening ceremony for the Polynesian was October 24th. The occasion was marked by the premier of the Electric Water Pagent and the Fantasy in the Sky firework show.
–Some early guests to the resort were Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, and Fred MacMurray.
–The Polynesian Tiki was designed by WED in the late 1960s, likely based on a carving from an Oceanic Arts shield.
–It was originally considered to be Maui, but after various different representations of Maui were created, it became known as the Polynesian Tiki.
–In a particularly nice homage, original Polynesian cast member Auntie Kau’I, cultural representative Ku’ulei, and musician Kalei joined the group onstage to reminisce about Kau’l’s history at the resort and give a brief hula lesson.
To finish off the day, Screenwriter Jared Bush spoke on WDAS’ latest blockbuster “MOANA: Building a Legend.”
Always a dynamic speaker, Bush reiterated much of what has been discussed in some of the presentations I’ve written about earlier, in the film’s pre-release:
The Moana theme continued later that night, as guests were treated to an advance screening of “Moana” out under the stars on the Polynesian beach.
…And that was just the first day! More from the second day of Destination D: Amazing Adventures,” to come!