Enthusiastic “Conventionears,” made up not only of collectors but also serious investors, could find every kind of Disney collectible imaginable—from T-shirts and buttons commemorating the convention itself to vintage production reels used to create Walt Disney’s animated classics such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs; from original illustrations to a memo signed by Walt himself.
The event was an impressive collection of museum-quality art, Disney icons, entertainment heritage, and personalities that make up what has come to be referred to as “Disneyesque.”
The event, which ran September 16-19, included a “funtastic” evening reception held in Mickey’s Toontown at Disneyland Park. The evening’s highlight was a sneak preview of Toontown’s newest attraction, a wacky ride on the wild side of town.
Many conventioneers opted for one or more of a variety of unique tours of Disneyland. One of these tours included a ride in the Lilly Belle car on the Disneyland Railroad, a tour of Walt’s apartment above the firehouse in Town Square, and a guided tour of the Disney Gallery above Pirates of the Caribbean (which had originally been slated to be Walt’s official apartment.
As important and exciting as the mesmerizing memorabilia and countless collectibles at the show was the wealth of memorable and equally valuable information and history shared by an impressive collection of speakers. In his opening remarks, Judson Green, President of Walt Disney Attractions, welcomed the gathering by offering a look at some future plans. He modeled, then gave away a baseball hat from Alien Encounter, a white-knuckle thrill attraction to be built in Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort.
President of Walt Disney Imagineering Marty Sklar took this opportunity to tell a few first-hand stories about Walt Disney: The King of Disneyland and His Court. His favorite Walt story was the day science fiction writer Ray Bradbury visited Walt at the Studio to persuade Walt to run for mayor of Los Angeles. Walt’s response: Why should I want to be mayor when I’m king of Disneyland?”
Appropriate to Mickey’s 65th birthday, Dave Smith, Director of the Walt Disney Archives, spoke about the genesis of Steamboat Willie. Quoting letters written by Walt during his three-month stay in New York City, he told the history-making story of putting sound to a cartoon (considered a novelty at the time) and getting a theater to show it. Walt was pretty sure he had a hit on his hands, and, in Mickey, a character that would be “as well known as any cartoon…” When he showed his creation to the people at Paramount who were attempting to do the same thing, he was positive. “They laughed at it while it was being shown, and looked around amazed when it was over.” Walt wrote at the time.
Pam Haynes, Director of Disneyland Costuming, recounted the historic evolution of outfitting the Theme Park Casts through the years. She also described the monumental task of designing, maintaining, and replacing those costumes. Haynes explained that the job doesn’t stop with the human Cast. “The next time you sail through It’s a Small World or explore Pirates of the Caribbean,” she said, “remember that each of those performers has had our special touch of magic.” She then presented a fashion show of Disney costumes, highlighted by the uniforms of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.
On Friday, the col conventioneers attended an auction that offered the ultimate in Disney-oriented collectibles: animation cels featuring the likes of Snow White, Pinocchio, and Roger Rabbit; illustrations used for advertising and merchandise: sculptures, displays, and even a check and a copy of the origin book, Lady and the Tramp, signed by Walt himself. These last two extremely coveted items brought in winning bids of $4,250 each.
The auction was as Disneyesque as the items on the block. Introduced by Ariel and a few of her underwater friends, the terms and conditions of the auction were listed to the tune of “Under the Sea.” Then David Redden, Senior Vice President of Sotheby’s, conducted a lively and most unusual auction. Imagine this dignified gentleman taking bids from a crowd waving mouse-ear placards to indicate their bids!
That same evening, hearty collectors, armed with pillows and lawn chairs, waited through the night to have first crack at the objects d’art, which had been created in very limited quantities to be on sale the next morning.
An Lladro Peter Pan figurine, a 14-inch Annette Funicello doll by Madame Alexander Dolls, and “The Disneyland Barbershop Quartet” lithograph by Disneyland Master Illustrator Charles Boyer were among the items offered. Other world-renowned artisans with limited edition pieces included Goebel, Gund and Arman. Adding to their value, most pieces were signed by the artists at the time of purchase.
During the course of the Convention a peerless collection of Disney talent was on hand to meet and greet their fans: Artists and animators like Carl Barks, Ward Kimball, Eyvind Earle, Marc Davis, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnson. The Disney Trivia Book authors Dave Smith and Kevin Neary were on hand to answer questions and sign autographs, as was animator/illustrator David Pacheco, and many more.
And speaking of autographs, what true Disneyana collector could pass up the chance to add the signatures of original Mouseketeers like Cubby, Lonnie, Bobby and Karen to their collection?
Displays by the Disney Business Groups were designed to update passer-by on what’s going on in the Company’s many and diverse divisions. Included in the assemblage were Disney Software, The Mighty Ducks, Disney Collectibles, The Disney Collector Society, Hyperion Press, the Magic Kingdom Club and Disney News, The Disney Store, Fairy Tale Weddings and Honeymoons, and more.
The trade show, comprised of independent collectors rounded out the entire affair with a myriad of vintage Disney collectibles of nearly every shape and size.
The Saturday night banquet featured keynote speaker Jack Linquist, President of Disneyland, and a finale that showcased a never-before-performed song called “Mickey, Donald Duck, Goofy and the Gang,” A joyful recounting of Walt’s cartoon contributions to the world, the song was written anonymously shortly after Walt’s death in 1966. This was the song’s public debut.
All in all, the experience enjoyed by this year’s “ConventionEars” was fun, entertaining, inspiring, informative- an experience of which dreams are made. Disneyesque.
From Disney News, Winter 1993.