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5/26 Highlights of Destination D, Walt Disney World – Including Dreamfinder and Figment!

 

We had a great time at D23’s Destination D last weekend!  We participated in the two day D23 Great Disney Scavenger Hunt on Thursday and Friday, and limped into the convention on Saturday – happy to be sitting for the remainder of the event.  Even though we run around the parks several times per week, the Scavenger Hunt was quite a challenge, but one that I’d do again in a heartbeat.

The Destination D conference took place over two days at Disney's Contemporary Resort.  The theme was the 40th Anniversary of Walt Disney World, and we both looked forward to reliving some of our past experiences.  My regular Walt Disney World visits started in 1976, and Jeff's first year was in 1971 – with neither of us missing a year since.  

A few of the highlights:

Grad Nite videos from the early 1970's, which made me glad that I didn't graduate until 1984!  The videos starred a witch and a couple of pied piper men, with a soundtrack that dates back to the era.

During Donald Duck's 50th birthday in 1984, Disney wanted 50 ducks to march with Donald down Main Street.  However, it turned out to be a little more complicated than expected. Donald had to bond with 50 newborn chicks, who were then kept on Disney property as they grew into ducklings.  The ducklings were part of Donald's 50th parade, small birthday hats and all!  I've never read Charles Ridgeway's book "Spinning Disney's World", but it contains this story (and many more).  We already own it, so I'll find some time eventually to read more of his wonderful stories!

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Jeff has a great photo archive himself, and this is one of his photos from the back of a float during the parade:

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Disney's Art of Animation Resort will be Walt Disney World's newest value resort, offering mostly family suites in an immersive Disney-themed environment. We've been covering it's construction in various articles and will continue to do so.  We were treated to some artwork I've not seen before, as well as room photos that showcase the decor from the different films represented at the resort.  I spent one year working at the Disney Reservation Center before spending six years as a Disney Specialist travel agent, and one thing that has been sorely needed at the Walt Disney World Resort is value priced family suites.  Combine that with a level of theming that is unheard of at value resorts, and Disney's Art of Animation is a clear winner!

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Most D23 friends that I talked with cite Imagineer Jason Surrell's seminar as their favorite. He joined Imagineers Jason Grandt and Alex Wright in fast-paced and witty seminar called "The Little Things Tell the Big Stories".  The most interesting thing I learned? That the Mickey and Oswald drawing in the new "Backstage Magic with Mickey Mouse" at the Magic Kingdom's Town Square Theater was actually drawn by Grandt as a child – and apparently his mother wants it back!  We have photos and video of this new attraction at Walt Disney World, there are so many details that any Disney fan would love.

 

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Disney Legend Richard Sherman put on a phenomenal show, as always.  I was fortunate to first see him at the D23 Expo in 2009, in a concert presentation after the screening of the boys: the sherman brothers' story (I did an interview with both Shermans' sons here with a review of the film).  Tim O'Day hosted Sherman as he played a wide variety of his compositions, from "Feed the Birds" from Mary Poppins (which he prefaced by saying, "it doesn't take much to give love") to the title song from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which I had grown up thinking of as a Disney film (it's not).  One obscure song I don't remember is "The Orange Bird Song", about which Sherman said, it's "the first time I've played it in 40 years". 

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My own favorite moment of Destination D was when Dreamfinder walked onstage with Figment. It was more than just my being a fan of the original Journey Into Imagination attraction – I miss it to this day. But we are also friends with Ron Schneider, who plays the original Dreamfinder.  He didn't hint to us that he'd be onstage during the event, and I had to wipe away tears as he made his grand entrance to the roaring delight of the crowd.  It's the type of applause normally reserved for  like someone like Johnny Depp.  Dreamfinder soon walked over to Richard Sherman and they sang  a lovely rendition of  "One Little Spark" together, before he took center stage and sang it with the audience. It was the one moment I will forever remember from the D23 convention, a reminder of the time when Journey Into Imagination was a truly unique attraction with a wonderful walk-around character in Dreamfinder. We didn't take any video since it wasn't allowed, but someone else did and you can enjoy it online.

 

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Ron Schneider talks with Disney Archivist Steven Vagnini after the show:

 

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I could write full articles on each presentation, there is so much more that would be worthy of that.  Some seminars were similar to their Destination D counterparts last year at Disneyland (such as "Weird Disney", both of which included the funny story of the New Years "baby" flying off the Matterhorn).  And I may add some photos of the small Archives area if anyone is interested.

It was great seeing some Imagineers from California here at Destination D, I've met Bob Gurr many times and it was nice to see him again!

 

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I have upwards of 1500 photos I took at Destination D, along with countless stories I heard and took notes on – but these were just a few of my favorites.  I hope to see everyone at the Destination D Expo!