Sunday, August 12, 2012

Destination D: 75 Years of Disney Animation, Day 2

Yesterday was a wonderful day at D23's Destination D: 75 Years of Disney Animation. Amazingly, today was even better!

Today there were five panel presentations on the schedule, followed by a once-in-a-lifetime concert, created just for this D23 event, with the great Disney composer Alan Menken.

Some of today's highlights:

...An engaging and educational presentation by longtime Disney animator Andreas Deja was a highlight of the weekend.

Armed with just a pen, paper, and some drawings from the Disney Archives, Deja used an overhead to pass on countless interesting bits of insight into the animator's art, such as the need to "cheat" and change Mickey's proportions when switching from profile to face forward drawings, or Mickey comes out with a really large nose dominating his eyes, as demonstrated here:

Click any photo in this post to enlarge the picture.

Deja discussed fun tidbits such as the debate on where to put Scar's scar in THE LION KING (1994) and the reason Jafar has such wide shoulders in ALADDIN (1992) -- so Iago would have a "platform" to walk on!

He also shared a number of drawings by classic Disney animators. It was interesting to learn, for instance, that Briar Rose's face looked quite a bit younger in early concept drawings for my favorite of Disney's animated films, SLEEPING BEAUTY (1959):

...A panel of voices from classic Disney animation included Bruce Reitherman (THE JUNGLE BOOK and WINNIE THE POOH AND THE HONEY TREE), Bill Farmer (Goofy in THE GOOFY MOVIE and other projects), Chris Sanders (Stitch in LILO AND STITCH) and Lisa Davis and David Frankham (ONE HUNDRED AND ONE DALMATIANS). Dick Jones, the voice of PINOCCHIO, was a last-minute cancellation.

Most thrilling for me was seeing Kathryn Beaumont, the vocal star of two of my very favorite Disney cartoons, ALICE IN WONDERLAND (1951) and PETER PAN (1953). Beaumont's voice is part of one of my earliest childhood memories, listening to a "storybook album" with bits from the ALICE and PETER PAN soundtracks. Beaumont's voice hasn't changed in the last six decades!

...An interesting panel on the evolution of Tinker Bell included the women who were the models for her face (Ginni Mack) and body (Margaret Kerry), as well as actress Mae Whitman, who has voiced Tinker Bell in recent films.

Cameras were not allowed in the Tinker Bell panel, which included rare photographs from the 2013 book TINKER BELL: AN EVOLUTION by Mindy Johnson.

...There was a wonderful discussion about the film which began it all 75 years ago, SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS (1937), including music historian Alex Rannie and dancing great Marge Champion, who as a teenager was the live-action reference model for Snow White.

Marge was also the model for the Blue Fairy in PINOCCHIO (1940) and the dancing hippo in FANTASIA (1940). She looks like she's maybe in her 60s, not 93!

Having been a fan of Marge's dancing in MGM musicals, years before I ever knew of her Disney connection, it was a thrill for me to be able to speak with her briefly and receive her autograph.

...Later in the evening there was a joyous party atmosphere as the excited crowd filed in to hear a rare performance by composer Alan Menken. The VIP row just behind me was filled with names like Marge Champion, Disney Archivist Emeritus Dave Smith, Imagineers Tony Baxter and Bob Gurr, animators Burny Mattinson and Floyd Norman, voice artist David Frankham, and composer Richard Sherman.

I was struck that Sherman, the composer of the Disney music of my childhood, was in the audience to hear the man who composed the Disney music of my children's childhood!

It's not a very good picture, as my flash was off, but here's a peek at Tony Baxter and Richard Sherman before the concert began, with Baxter on the left and Sherman on the right:

Menken, perhaps more than any other single contributor, defines Disney's "Second Golden Age of Animation." It's impossible to think of Disney cartoons of the last couple decades or so without his music.

Menken entertained the D23 audience solo for nearly two hours without an intermission, telling anecdotes, playing the piano, and singing from the scores of THE LITTLE MERMAID (1989), BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1991), ALADDIN (1992), NEWSIES (1992), POCAHONTAS (1995), HERCULES (1997), ENCHANTED (2007), TANGLED (2010), and more.

Menken told the wonderful anecdote about Angela Lansbury, who was initially dubious about performing the song, nailing the Oscar-winning "Beauty and the Beast" in a single take:

Menken said he thought Disney had looked for another composer to spoof his style for ENCHANTED, then decided just to go ahead and hire him!

Note the title that happened to be used in the TANGLED artwork...if you ask me, it's the correct title:

My all-time favorite Disney songs include "Part of Your World" from THE LITTLE MERMAID, "A Whole New World" from ALADDIN, and "Colors of the Wind" and "Just Around the River Bend" from POCAHONTAS.  Hearing the music performed by the composer himself was a deeply moving experience for all the Disney fans who were present tonight, and what a delight to be able to express our appreciation. A fantastic end to an unforgettable weekend.

For additional photos from Destination D, visit All Ears Net for Day One and Day 2, as well as the new "Dateline Disneyland" column at MiceChat (scroll down near the bottom).

Update: Lots more photos at Inside the Magic.


Blogger Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

What a blast. My brother, who's very interested in the history of animation, would have loved this. Thanks for sharing the experience.

4:49 AM  
Blogger Will McKinley said...

Marge Champion is amazing. She and I were on the same floor of the Roosevelt Hotel at the TCM Film Festival (not sure if it was 2010 or '11), and rode the elevator together a number of times. Each time I encountered her she was unaccompanied, chatty and remarkably active for a woman in her 90s. When she appeared at the TCMFF screening of SNOW WHITE this year, she shared the stage with Ginnifer Goodwin from "Once Upon a Time" (I think you were there too, Laura). Needless to say, everyone wished there was more Marge and less Ginnifer.

8:45 AM  
Blogger Irene said...

What a wonderful sounding day! That concert sounds amazing. Glad you had such a good time. Thanks for letting us come along your journey :)

8:58 AM  
Blogger Meredith said...

Wow! What a great set of panels. How wonderful especially to get to see Marge Champion. I didn't know of her disney connection either so thanks for this.

9:26 AM  

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