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Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix, editor
Priceless - Attending the Walt Disney Art Classics event

Walt Disney Art Classics

What could inspire a non-collector such as myself to pay $500 to attend a collectors' convention?

Avid collectors of the Walt Disney Classics Collection sculptures can easily understand why hundreds of people from all over the world attended the fourth annual "Made in California - A Celebration of Walt Disney Art Classics," event held April 19 through 22 at the Disneyland Resort. For many, the chance to buy event-exclusive sculptures, as well as meet the artists who designed them, is worth the cost of admission alone. The events, parties and special gifts are just the icing on the cake.

However, since I do not really collect the WDCC sculptures--the series around which this event was based--and I was already planning to attend other events this year, I set the announcement for the event off to the side. Upon obtaining the event's full itinerary, however, I knew that I had to attend.

Like most merchandise-based events, the three-day convention provided delegates with many opportunities to spend their money. The registration packet sent to each participant included a brochure listing various limited edition and logo merchandise available to order. The same merchandise was available to buy at the convention. Attendees had most of Friday afternoon to purchase and inspect their merchandise.

Artist Dave Pacheco
Artist Dave Pacheco

Four artists were on hand Friday afternoon to sign the sculptures they had created for the event, and to greet the collectors. Retired, current and pre-release sculptures were on display, along with related artwork.

Artist Bruce Lau
Artist Bruce Lau

The Welcome to California reception held Friday night was the one letdown of the event. It suffered from insufficient food, and many people left early in search of a more relaxing meal. Those who stayed, however, were treated to two surprise guest appearances.

Actor Dean Jones with a sculpture of Herbie, the Love Bug
Actor Dean Jones with a sculpture of Herbie, the Love Bug

Dean Jones, star of dozens of films including Herbie the Love Bug, shared a few stories about his time working with Walt Disney. Jones was presented with a sculpture of the famous car, and presented a matching Herbie to a lucky audience member.

Mary Costa and friends announce the newest retirement
Mary Costa and friends announce the newest retirement

Next, Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather introduced Mary Costa, the voice of Sleeping Beauty. The ladies helped to announce the retirement for several of the WDCC Sleeping Beauty sculptures. Instead of breaking the molds, the traditional method when retiring a sculpture, the fairies used their wands to turn them into a vase full of flowers.

The event ended with the announcement that Maleficent, upset at having been excluded from the party, had turned the vase back into molds, and smashed them to pieces. As guests left for the evening, they were each invited to take a piece of the broken molds home with them, along with a box of chocolates.

Displays of retired, current and upcoming releases
Displays of retired, current and upcoming releases

Saturday was devoted to Behind-the-Magic seminars. Participants were divided into three groups and rotated through a series of presentations.

The first event of the day featured a presentation by Disney Legend and Imagineer Sam McKim, along with his son and former Imagineer Matt McKim. The seminar began with a film retrospective of Sam's early work in the 1930s as child actor Sammy McKim on western films like The Three Mesquiteers. Sam later lent his skills as an artist to projects for Disneyland, sketching Frontierland and Main Street. Over the years, he worked on Disney projects ranging from the Hall of Presidents to the Haunted Mansion. Sam created the first souvenir map of Disneyland, and a number of souvenir guides to attractions like Pirates of the Caribbean.

Matt McKim followed in his artistic father's footsteps, eventually landing a position with Walt Disney Imagineering and working extensively on the Disneyland Paris project. He talked about one of his latest projects, working on the updated Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln show, an attraction his father helped to create.

Monsters, Inc. sculptures
Monsters, Inc. sculptures

The next session was hosted by Tim O'Day, known to many collectors from his numerous appearances at merchandise special events, conventions, and as the editor of Disneyland: Memories of a Lifetime, the souvenir book produced for Disneyland's 45th anniversary. Tony Baxter, Senior Vice President of Creative Development at Walt Disney Imagineering, was the guest of honor for the session, titled "Imagineering a Collection".

During this seminar, O'Day led Baxter through a recap of his career with Disney, starting as a Disneyland cast member in Carnation Gardens. Baxter went to work for WDI in 1970 and has spent the past 30 years working on projects, including Big Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain, and heading up the construction of Disneyland Paris and the New Tomorrowland project at Disneyland.

"Behind the Camera," one of the event-exclusive sculptures offered for sale  - Promotional art  Disney
"Behind the Camera," one of the event-exclusive sculptures offered for sale-Promotional art Disney

While I always love hearing tales from Tony Baxter's amazing career, the real highlight of the seminar was the photo tour of his house and Disneyana collection. Baxter designed his own home and served as his own contractor. The house itself looks like something directly from Fantasyland, and the interior reminded me of the Villains' Lair in Disneyland.

The house is filled with both Disney and non-Disney collectibles, props, and models. An authentic hourglass from The Wizard of Oz sits atop a carpet swatch from the Haunted Mansion, and is surrounded by small Villains figurines. A ride vehicle from Mr. Toad's Wild Ride sits in one room, and a prop from The Time Machine holds center stage in the dining room.

A replica of a tapestry from Sleeping Beauty's Castle at Disneyland Paris graces one wall, while Mrs. Potts and Chip from Beauty and the Beast hide on a rafter in the kitchen. Befitting of the convention theme, Baxter owns a number of WDCC sculptures, which he pairs with other collectibles in vignettes around the room. [If I win the lottery, I know who I want to hire to design my home.]

Painting in three dimensions is not as easy as it looks
Painting in three dimensions is not as easy as it looks

After the second session, participants enjoyed a luncheon and WDCC 10th anniversary retrospective program. The trouble-ridden auction from past events was replaced with a Very Merry Un-Auction in the form of a raffle. Guests won prizes ranging from WDCC jackets to retired and hard-to-fine collectible pieces. After lunch, participants were reminded to dress comfortably for the evening party, then sent to the third and final class.

The last session of the day was spent learning to paint in three dimensions. Upon entering the classroom, each participant was given a porcelain Mickey Mouse statuette, and directed to find a seat at one of the tables which were provisioned with smocks, paints, brushes, and assorted paraphernalia. Artists from the Walt Disney Studios' Ink and Paint department, and some of the featured WDCC artists, taught the class how to paint their very own sculpture. The resulting paint jobs ranged from "interesting" to near-professional, but everyone appeared to have a great time. In any rate, those who participated gained a new respect for the craftsmen who hand paint all of the WDCC sculptures.

Atmosphere entertainment at Saturday's party
Atmosphere entertainment at Saturday's party

After a long day of classes, participants were ready to enjoy a party at Disney's California Adventure. The Pacific Wharf section of the park was set aside for the buffet dinner, with musicians and roving entertainers keeping the energy level high. After the nightly Electrical Parade performance, participants were instructed to form teams for four players each for on a scavenger hunt.

After answering a series of trivia questions, teams were sent out to complete 10 different challenges in just over one hour. Quests took teams from one end of the park to another, in search of obscure Latin plant names and half-hidden signs. When time was called, the exhausted teams enjoyed dessert while the scores were tallied up and the winners announced. The prizes included WDCC jackets, serigraphs, and lithograph sets.

"Ariel's First Breath", from the Wyland Disney collection
"Ariel's First Breath", from the Wyland Disney collection

By the time the event ended at midnight, participants were ready to catch a few hours' sleep before gathering again early Sunday morning. The Disneyland merchandise staff greeted everyone as they exited DCA, sending them home with another gift.

Sunday morning came entirely too soon, but the anticipation of the exciting events ahead was enough to get everyone out of bed and loaded onto buses for the trip to the Burbank. Upon arrival, everyone was separated into groups, and led to the first session of the day.

Tim O'Day and Leonard Maltin
Tim O'Day and Leonard Maltin

Some of the participants spent the morning in a wonderful session with Leonard Maltin, again hosted by Tim O'Day. Maltin reviewed the range of Disney films and TV shows, and provided a look into their historical significance. Martin also talked about his career, how he came to be fascinated with the Disney films, and how his admiration of Walt Disney led him to create the first annotated list of Disney movies ever created.

Leonard also answered questions from the audience, and gave a sneak peak into the next four Disney Treasures DVDs to be released: Black and White Mickey, The Complete Goofy, Disney at War, and a Behind the Scenes at the Studios edition, which includes "The Reluctant Dragon."

A backlot picnic

A backlot picnic

A backlot picnic

The studio commissary prepared a Hollywood backlot barbecue, serving up grilled burgers, hot dogs, and "Walt's chili." A western quartet entertained the audience while Jessie and Woody from Toy Story II posed for photos. The biggest surprise came when it was announced that Ollie Johnston, one of Walt's "Nine Old Men," would be joining the event for lunch.

Ollie Johnston, Mary Costa and Leonard Maltin
Ollie Johnston, Mary Costa and Leonard Maltin

A line formed as soon as Ollie took his seat next to Leonard Maltin and Mary Costa. The trio posed for photos with delighted fans. Soon thereafter, participants began the main event of the day - a tour of the Walt Disney Studios. [The tour was so full of detail that MousePlanet will be publishing a separate article on it in the near future.]

Participants enjoyed the air-conditioned bus back to Anaheim after a hot and tiring trip back in time. On the way through Los Angeles traffic, the tour guides led another trivia contest about Disney movies and characters. Each participant was given a copy of Leonard Maltin's book, The Disney Films. Upon arrival at Disneyland, participants turned in event evaluations, received lovely parting gifts, and said good-bye to the people they had come to know during the course of the weekend.

A sneak preview of the WDCC sculpture for the 2002 Official Disneyana Convention
A sneak preview of the WDCC sculpture for the 2002 Official Disneyana Convention

So my answer to the original question, "What could inspire a non-collector to pay $500 to attend a collectors' convention?" in short, reminds me of a MasterCard commercial.

Tickets for two to the WDCC convention: $1000. "Where the Magic Begins" sculpture: $160. "Behind the Camera" sculpture: $295. Spending the weekend meeting new friends, Disney legends, and the man who drew the 1956 Disneyland map; painting a sculpture; seeing Tony Baxter's home and collection, and the studio Walt created; and thanking Ollie Johnston in person: Priceless.

The fifth annual celebration of Walt Disney Art Classics is scheduled for May 2003 on board the Disney Cruise Lines. We will provide more information here on the site as it becomes available.


Priceless  - Attending the Walt Disney Art Classics event

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ABOUT THE EDITOR

Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix is the super-shopper behind MouseShoppe, your personal and unofficial shopping service for the Disneyland Resort, and the owner of CharmingShoppe, a Disney collectibles store located in Anaheim.

In addition to scouring the park to find you the latest and greatest merchandise, she keeps you updated on all of the merchandise events happening in the parks.

If you want to talk to her about this column, merchandise, or events, contact her here.

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