Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Reluctant Dragon (1941) 75th Anniversary Celebration at the Walt Disney Studios

This afternoon I had the pleasure of attending a wonderful event on the Disney Studios lot, a 75th Anniversary Celebration of the Disney film THE RELUCTANT DRAGON (1941).

The festive gathering was sponsored by Disney's D23 Official Fan Club. D23 went all-out providing a terrific look back at THE RELUCTANT DRAGON, which I first reviewed here in 2012. As described at length in my original review, THE RELUCTANT DRAGON mixes live action and animation, with the live action sequences providing a marvelous tour of the then brand-new Disney Studios lot.

The fun kicked off in the studio theatre, where I've been privileged to see films on a handful of prior occasions. Free buckets of popcorn from Disney's El Capitan Theatre were up for grabs along with chilled water bottles. There was also memorabilia from the film on display in the lobby; that's a bust of Robert Benchley's head which was used in the movie.

The first 90 minutes were spent on four different panel presentations with a variety of knowledgeable speakers including Imagineering legend Tony Baxter, Ted Thomas (son of Frank Thomas, one of Disney's "Nine Old Men"), Bill Farmer (the current voice of Goofy and Pluto), and Bret Iwan (the current voice of Mickey Mouse). They touched on the film's history, the history of the Disney lot seen in the film, and the background of some of the cast and creators.

In a particularly fascinating segment, we were shown screen shots to be watching for in the movie. In addition to the PETER PAN (1953) figurines I noticed on my first viewing, seen in this film a dozen years (!) before PETER PAN's release, we learned there was also early artwork for LADY AND THE TRAMP (1955) visible on screen. I was especially interested to see multiple sketches by Mary Blair for an unrealized project called PENELOPE AND THE TWELVE MONTHS were in the background of one scene.

The discussions were immediately followed by a showing of a beautiful print of the 74-minute movie, after which we adjourned to continue the festivities elsewhere on the lot.

While no photography was allowed during the panel discussions, the presenters were available for a post-movie autograph session in the cafeteria. Most attendees chose to have some wonderful RELUCTANT DRAGON artwork we received signed; the art was so nice I decided to have a plain white backing provided signed instead, and I'll probably frame them side by side.

There were photo ops set up on the lot, including the dragon himself at Pluto's Corner, which was created for the film and has been the lot's most famous landmark ever since. Samples of Walt's famous chili and ice cream bars were also handed out to guests.

More photos from this special day, starting with Pluto's Corner:

The Animation Building:

Ted Thomas liked my "75 Years of Disney Animation" t-shirt! That's Tony Baxter sitting next to him.

Bret Iwan, Bill Farmer, and Ed Ovalle of the Disney Archive:

Bill Farmer:

Both Iwan and Farmer were delightful and seemed genuinely happy to know that their work is appreciated and enjoyed.

As we left we passed this sign on the soundstage where Julie Andrews filmed both MARY POPPINS (1964) and THE PRINCESS DIARIES (2001). Click to enlarge for a closer look.

What a wonderful day! Thanks to everyone at Disney for making it so special.

A closing note, this month the ClassicFlix site published my latest article, on "Disney's Hidden Gems." My selections include THE RELUCTANT DRAGON.


Blogger DKoren said...

Wow, all of that sounds fabulous! How very cool that all is!

8:33 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

It was a wonderful day, Deb! I feel so fortunate to have attended it.

Best wishes,

11:27 AM  

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