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D23’s Epcot 30th Anniversary Celebration

I knew some time ago that I was a blessed gal. This was no exception, as I was gifted a ticket to the D23 Event yesterday by a friend of the blog. I was so excited, and I have to tell you, I wasn’t prepared for how I felt afterwards. Curious? Read on.

Let’s start with that morning, sun is shining, it’s 7:30 a.m. Craig has dropped me off to start my day, and I find my friend who is already in line. One line. A Cast Member comes by and we ask her “We can s register inside right?” She says “No, you have to go the Guest Relations Window.” Now, she was a “higher up” CM, so we did trust her. We shouldn’t have. So we get OUT of the looooooong line, and another gal follows us. There is the long line, and there is us, the three lonely souls waiting at the Guest Relations window, which by the way, is a ghost town. NOONE is coming over to us, near us, nada. So finally after a good 10 minutes, I went up to another CM, he looked like he had it together, and told him the issue. He said “No, she told you wrong. You can register Inside.” Great, there went our place in line.

So they snuck us in on the breakfast line, quietly as to not start a riot among the good D23 Members.  We were there early and had a great place in line, we weren’t looking to “get a pass,” we just wanted what was fair.  Thank you to the great Cast Members who helped us, it was very kind.

We were IN the Park, yay! Everyone hoofed it on over to World Showplace and got in line. Even the VIP’s had to wait their turn in their own line.  They let us in and one line was for registration and the other for handing your merchandise form in.  I had found out on Saturday that you COULD indeed pre-register for this event, pick everything up that you needed, and then hand your merch form in on the day of with having some time to look at everything. I had no control over getting mine early as I was a guest of the actual D23 Member, but I will say that if it were me, I would have had it picked up the day before.

The register line went smoothly, and we were in! Erika held us a spot, and we were in I believe the  4th row on the right side of the center. We were nice and close to the stage, plus we were also centered with one of the projector screens, which we would look at quite a bit during the rest of the day.  Great choice of spot!

We were given a run-down of what would be happening, when, and so on. I really wrestled in how I wanted to explain this to you all so I thought I would basically highlight what I remembered and my favorite moments.  We were allowed to take pictures only at certain times, but absolutely zero video was allowed.

Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. LOL Ok, they started us off with a introduction film about Epcot. It set the tone, and I know that in my opinion, it got my VERY excited for what the day held. Whoever made it, you did a WONDERFUL job!  It’s kind of an odd feeling when you first see Horizons again on film, or my FAVORITE, World of Motion.  Just goosebumps- and we had ONLY just begun!

The first presentation was by Marty Sklar. I can’t lie, I had got my hopes up he would be there. I knew I wouldn’t be able to see him today, so I was hoping. But alas, he was on video only, but it was still cool to hear all of his wonderful stories about Walt and the creation and imagination it took to make Epcot a reality.  I just remember listening and watching him, and every time they would show a note from Walt’s desk with his signature on it…I got chills. I can’t even comprehend what it would have been like to see him strolling in Disneyland among everyone there. Or mobbed I guess.

The next presentation was by the Epcot Legends themselves- Duncan Dickson, Bob Matheison, Jim McCaskill, Tom Nabbe, Charlie Ridgeway, Howard Roland, Bill Sullivan, and hosted by Jason Surrell.  First off I have to say that this was one of several presentations that had me in stitches I was laughing so hard. You get a group of guys, with some age on them, telling stories about muck, and you are in for a treat! Yes folks, MUCK! They said they had removed the muck from the Epcot site and put it where Caribbean Beach Resort is today.  I thought it was kind of cool.

But what I will take away most from that panel was the story of how one was literally saved by Mickey Mouse. He was in Argentina and they were filming for the World Showcase. They were pulled over by the Federales and had their hands behind their heads, standing next to a ditch. It was a life and death situation, until one of them saw his film case with a Mickey head on it. They started to laugh and point at who it was, and they LET THEM GO. Mickey LITERALLY saved his life! What a powerful Mouse he is, and how awesome that so many know what he represents.  That story gave me chills.

After a small break of free water, yep, just water folks. was given out, we were back in our seats.  The next panel was hosted by Archivists Steve Vagnini and Michael Crawford.  They were taking us back to the old school Epcot, and again, I was like a kid in a candy store.  They went through each Epcot attraction and we were asked to applause at our favorites.  What I didn’t expect was that we would get to SEE the original rides as they were, on film of course.  We were asked to pick our favorite ending of Horizons, and they treated us to all three. You could have heard a pin drop in the place people were so quiet and fixated on the screens.  It’s amazing how your childhood can come screaming back at you, and mine did with that showing.  It was almost hard to see it, as you know it is never going to be that again.

Tim O’Day, which sounds like Tom Selleck, and Imagineer Bob Garnier discussed Epcot on film.  It was really cool to hear how they made all of the films for the attractions, especially Horizons. They said they filmed the “Ocean” ending of the ride in a Studios in CA by filming the set with dry ice, so it looked like you were really under water. It was pretty cool, as they showed us the clip again later on. Also the Countries films- it was cool to see the “behind-the-scenes” of the China film and how the camera was hanging from the helicopter.  It was TRULY at this point of the day that I started to see all of it differently.

Lunch, sweet sweet lunch! It was time for a break, a two hour one that was much needed. Sitting was starting to get hard on my back, so I was up for running around for a bit.  How convenient that  Food & Wine were not only there, but they were RIGHT outside the hall. And IRELAND of all places! With Fishermans pie in hand, Coke in the other, we all relaxed with lunch and a brief wind in the heat.  Not full, we headed to Canada where we enjoyed the Beef Tenderloin and Cheese Soup. YUMMY!!! It had to be my FAVORITE thing to date!While we were in line I met Jim Korkis and other Disney legends!

We were now back in line to grab our seat again, as they didn’t let you hold it while you were out on break.  We chatted while we waited, and were back in in no time, and in the 2nd row this time!

Imagineering was discussed next with Jason Surrel, Jason Grandt, and someone I know, Alex Wright.  I really enjoyed their segment, even the discussions about Zombies! It was like watching a Comedy team on stage, they meshed really well and they kept it super fun and light.  They discussed all of the hidden Easter eggs around Epcot, including one about Donald on the El Rio DiTempo. When he is diving, he makes a pinball sound as he falls on the rocks- if you watch the water splash up it spells “TILT.” I LOVE stuff like that!

The next presentation was about the opening ceremonies of Epcot. The panel included:  Ron Logan, Carol Campbell, Gene Columbus, Gary Paben, Tony Peluso, Bob Radock, and Steve Skorija. Carol told a very moving story of how they spent 4 days with all of the performers from all the around the World for these festivities and had met up at the American Pavilion to watch the “American Adventure.” She spoke of how moving it was to see everyone gasp and react to Walt when his picture appeared on screen. She said they were all moved to tears and that they barely could hear the end of the movie over the hugging and emotional outpour that was going on. Then she said a voice in the back of the room started singing their song for the ceremonies called “No Place like World Showplace.”  They also shared that the Fountain of Nations wasn’t ready for opening day, so they had to que the plumbers on when to turn the water on to the beat of the music.  It must have been a feat!

Following that was a presentation on special effects in Epcot. Hosted by Daniel Joseph, it was cool to hear all of the stories about the “Wizard” and how he created all of the ground breaking fiber optics in the rides, along with more discussion that Disney was the VERY FIRST to not only CREATE but USE the 3D Camera.  I almost cried when they showed the fiber optic lights of the old Spaceship Earth ending, it brought back memories of myself riding it with my family as a teenager.  The “Wizard” in the film is also the Dad in the “Two Brothers” film that is played during the “American Adventure” movie.

After our last break of the day, which was mainly to stretch and use the restrooms (which by the way, those had to be the largest restroom I have EVER seen in my life!) we were back in our seats for the rest of the day. But as I was heading to my seat, I ran into my pal, Jeff, and we saw Ron Schneider. Yeah THE Ron Schneider- the original Dreamfinder. I had met him last year, and he was more than happy to get a picture with me, and Jeff, and talked to us for awhile. Such a sweet guy!

Of course then the next segment was on IMAGINATION! Yay, a favorite of mine as well (the ORIGINAL) I should note.  Ron was on stage along with the “other” Dreamfinder, Steve Taylor….. AND TONY BAXTER!! Seeing all of these legends all day was starting to make my head swim, it was just so amazing! I learned that Ron was only Dreamfinder for the first 5 years, and Steve did it for 15 after him- WOW!! We got to see concept art of what Figment was going to first look like, and old film of them testing out what he would look and sound like.  My FAVORITE story was about how they got that little dragons name.  Tony said they couldn’t think of a name until an Imagineer or himself, were watching an episode of “Magnum P.I.” and in it the English fellow says the line “It was like a figment of your imagination.” BAM- our favorite purple dragon had his name!  They showed us the clip from the TV show, and it was so cool to see where it came from. I have to say, the whole day made me feel like I was a part of something special.  So back to Figment, his yellow and red shirt came from the KODAK colors that he was sponsored by- another cool thing!  I so remember running through the rainbow tunnel, and sliding my hand across the metal needles they had to play with to imprint yourself with. Gosh I miss the upstairs of that Pavilion so much.

The last presentation of the day was focused on the music of Epcot. Hosted by Russell Brower, Greg Ehrbar, Tom O’Day and Steve Vagnini.  This was a fun segment, as they had us guess each piece of music and from which attraction it came from. Did you know that the Epcot loop music around the Future World area has been the same for the past 18 years? Love that!!

As it closed, they showed us another film and the original song for Horizons, called “Tomorrow’s Windows” was sung live by a very lovely singer who also was celebrating her birthday as well! They surprised is also with “Golden Dreams” sung by Billy Flannigan. Imagine watching images of Walt and the dream of Epcot while listening to that song, I was trying so hard not to just outright sob! He was EXCELLENT and he also shared he has been with the Company since day one and represented the USA when they had the Nations pour their own land’s water into the Fountain of Nations for the opening ceremony.

I wanted to close with the notes I took during it that I thought you would all enjoy.  It was an amazing experience and I want to, once again, thank the team at D23 who put it all together. I laughed, I cried…I can’t wait to do it again for the 40th! A special shout out and thank you to Eric, Erika, and Jeff for hanging out all day with me along with all the others who stopped and said hello to me. Enjoy the notes and have a great day!

*Joe Rohde tried out to be Dreamfinder- we heard his audio clip of his audition

*We heard the recording of the Sherman Brothers singing “One Little Spark”

*Journey Into Imagination was supposed to have rollercoaster type drops on the ride

*Photo Capture was started at Disney World’s Imagination Pavilion

*3D Film started with the DNA Chain from the Horizons attraction

*Horizons was tested in a Circus Tent

*Universe of Energy is referred to as “Riding on Sunshine” as the panels on top of the ride use solar energy to move the attraction vehicles.

*We saw videos of Yale Gracey

*The Marching Band on opening day was referred to as “500 kids blowing their butts off” (It was funny)

*The Off-Kilter Stage was originally used for building things for the Canadian Pavilion

*Buildings in the UK area are showcased after some shown in the movie “Mary Poppins”

*The Rose and Crown Pub represent 4 different types of English Pubs

*Jason Grandt himself bought 80% of the Exhibit you see in Japan, including the infamous Watermelon box. FYI- Watermelons are VERY expensive in Japan!

*The “Two Brothers” film in the American Adventure has a scene that was filmed at the Disneyland Train Station

*Mexico and Canada are stationed in front of the World Showcase because they are neighbors in real life.

*Funny, but they encouraged us to ask to touch the dough in Via Napoli. They have some they wind up throwing away and they said it is a cool thing to feel.

*The China Pavilion has stairs that go to nowhere, a nod to the symbolism for it.

*The Norway area was built around one cottage

*”The Computer who Wore Tennis Shoes” is referenced in Journey into Imagination.

*The Garden Grill used to be called the “Good Turn” restaurant

*The Mosaic area in The Land Pavilion is meant to look like a slice of the Earth, like a slice of pie.

*CONCEPT was another name that they thought of using for Epcot Center.

*World of Motion had several other choice names, including: Pistonorama, Stickshiftorama, Wheelsorama, Transport America, and many more!

*”Future Probe” was another name for “Horizons”  Yes folks- FUTURE PROBE!

*Characters that never saw the light of day- “Commuicat” for Communicore, “Juicy Lucy” for “Kitchen Cabaret” and “Captain Salty Finder” for the “Living Seas.”

7 Comments »

  1. Amy, I am a D23 Charter member and the events are usually nice. I wrote you last Dec. because my daughter and I and were attending the Magic and Merriment event. That is a nice event and if you have friends that are not going but can let you attend as a guest with their membership but to take Emily you would need 2 separate members to get you both in because only 1 guest per member can go and you need D23 ID’s to sign in.
    Every year they have taken us into the Castle Suite and I guess this year would be no different. Emily would love that, the suite is beautiful. You get about 10 minutes in the suite. Hopefully we make it down there again this year tickets are usually on sale by mid Oct and only 2 people can attend per membership. There is alot of stuff going on during that event and I am waiting to find out what they are doing this year. Hopefully if we do make it down there maybe me and my daughter can meet up with you and your family. I wanted to meet you last year but never heard back from you. My daughter is 10 so her and Emily would get along pretty well. I will write you when the dates get closer. Check with your D23 friends maybe you can atend the event. The tennative dates are Dec 7&8 and 9&10. It is held 2 days each on 2 separate times. I can send you more ifo if you are interested or you can go to the D23 website and view for free.
    God Bless talk later
    Dizneydad Paul, Indiana

  2. Fun fact… BIlly Flannigan…I met him a few years back when I was a Partylite consultant at one of the national conventions the company did…he is one of their entertainers, one of “the guys” hehe…LOVED learning he worked for Disney!! 🙂

  3. I attended the D23 event, but didn’t take any pics. I knew there were talented people like yourself who would do a much better job. Thank you!
    I saw you for a fleeting moment outside the meet, but you were walking like a woman on a mission. Maybe I will have the privilege another time.

  4. Thanks for the great write up – we weren’t able to make it over for the festivities, but thoroughly enjoyed your essay of the day!!! What a great experience!!! We hope to make it over on Friday, for our first visit to the F&W Festival this year.

  5. finally had time to read this and you did a wonderful job of capturing the day Amy, I’m sat here in tears which means that as a writer you aced it, what an incredible experience you got to have, just awesome!

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