Two amazing days celebrating animation

It was an animation junky’s paradise when hundreds of Disney’s most devoted fans turned out for “Destination D: 75 Years of Animated Features,” a two-day event hosted by D 23  —  the official Disney fan club  —  at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim Aug. 11-12.

The event was loaded with appearances by people who have created, voiced or modeled for some of the Walt Disney

Burny Mattinson has been with the Walt Disney Co. for nearly 60 years, lending his talents to such animated classics as "Lady and the Tramp," "Sleeping Beauty," "One Hundred and One Dalmatians" and "The Jungle Book." Photo by Sherry Barkas

Co.’s greatest animated movies, including “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” “Lady and the Tramp,” “Fantasmic,” “Pinocchio,” “The Lion King,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Jungle Book,” “One Hundred and One Dalmatians,” “Little Mermaid,” “Pocahantas,” and too many o

thers to list.   Marge Belcher Champion was the living model for Snow White and a number of other early Disney characters. The 93-year-old made a rare West Coast appearance and was an amazing treat for the hundreds of D23 members who filled the hotel’s Grand Ballroom.
It was her skills as a dancer that she said won her the job.

“I am endlessly grateful to Disney,” she said.

D23 members were also treated to showings of never-before-seen animated shorts and cartoons locked away decades ago. Plus some clips of films currently in production, including “Wreck-It Ralph.”

 Another highlight was the showing of James Baskett performing “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” in the 1946 film, “Song of the South,” which has never been released on videotape or DVD.   The song can be heard on one of my favorite rides, Splash Mountain.   The weekend started with a look at the “Golden Age of Disney Animation,” when Walt Disney was still alive. The opening panel featured Disney legends Burny Mattinson and Joe Hale along with Ted Thomas, the son of Frank Thomas who was one of the studio’s original animators and one of Walt’s “Nine Old Men.”

Mattinson has been working at the studio for nearly 60 years, starting in the mailroom, with the hope of one day joining the animation team.“ Lady and the Tramp” was his first animation project. The list today includes “Sleeping Beauty,” “Mary Poppins,” “The Jungle Book,”  “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin” and “Mulan,” to name a few.

Hale’s 43-year career at the studio started in 1951, also in the mailroom before he began lending his artistic talents to such movies as “Peter Pan,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” and “The Black Cauldron.”  Both said their first encounters with Walt were on an elevator. Mattinson recalled being on the elevator when Walt also stepped on.

“Hello, Mr. Disney,” Mattinson recalled nervously saying.

Bill Farmer (right) talks to the audience about being the voice of Goofy. Next to Farmer is David Frankham, the voice of Sergeant Tibbs in "101 Dalmations;" Kathryn Beaumont, the voice of Alice in the original "Alice in Wonderland" and Wendy in "Peter Pan;" Bruce Reitherman, who as a child was the voice for Mowgli in "Jungle Book" and Christopher Robin in "Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree;" and Lisa Davis, who gave Anita in "101 Dalmations" her voice. Chris Sanders, the voice of Stitch in "Lilo and Stitch" was also part of the "Hearing Voices: A Salute to Disney Voice Artists" panel on Aug. 12, 2012. Photo by Sherry Barkas

“It’s Walt,” the studio head replied.   Hale had a very different encounter when the doors were closing just as Walt was approaching the elevator Hale was already on. Hale said he didn’t know how to stop the doors, so as they closed he just shrugged and yelled out, “I’m sorry.”   Roy Patrick Disney, son of the late Roy E. Disney and Walt’s grand-nephew, participated in a panel focused on “The Second Golden Age of Animation.” It was in the 1980s when the studio was in turmoil and CEO Michael Eisner and others on the Disney board wanted to do away with animation.

Roy E. led the charge to not only keep the company’s foundation intact, but to build on it with such animated features as “The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin,” “Beauty and the Beast.” He also led the production of “Fantasia 2000.”

“He was the defender and savior of animation,” Roy P. said.   His father also brought computerized technology for the ink and paint end of animation into the studio, which to that point had all been done by hand.   Today, the company’s animation division thrives under the leadership of John Lasseter and with the partnership Disney has formed with Pixar Animation.

The weekend also included a salute to the voices of some of Disney’s best known characters, including Bill Farmer who has been voicing Goofy since the 1980s; Chris Sanders, the voice of Stitch; Kathryn Beaumont, who brought her voice to Alice in the original “Alice in Wonderland,” and Wendy in “Peter Pan;” David Frankham, Sergeant Tibbs in “One Hundred and One Dalmatians;” Lisa Davis, Anita, “One Hundred and One Dalmatians;” and Bruce Reitherman, Mowgli in “The Jungle Book” and Christopher Robin in “Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree.”

Margaret Kerry and Ginni Mack, two of the three original models for Tinker Bell, also turned out along with Disney animation historian Mindy Johnson who has a book, “Tinker Bell: An Evolution,” due out in the fall of 2013.   Dick Van Dyke and the Vantastix performed Broadway and movie tunes for more than an hour Saturday night, including numerous songs from such Disney classics as “Mary Poppins,” which he starred in alongside Julie Andrews, and “The Jungle Book.”

He had the audience singing along to “Let’s Go Fly A Kite.”

Richard Sherman, half of the Sherman Brothers songwriting team that composed all of the music for “Mary Poppins,” was in the audience, also singing along. Such a sweet moment.   Oscar-winning Composer Alan Menken, who penned songs “Pocahontas,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin,” “Tangled,” and numerous other Disney movies, spent nearly two hours performing Sunday night.   It was an amazing, unforgettable weekend.

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