In our continuing coverage of D23’s Destination D, we left off looking at some wacky & wild Disney animation, learning how to draw with personality, and seeing the evolution of everyone’s favorite pixie – click here for the previous post in the series. Now it was time to move in to the home stretch of the event. Continue reading for the Grand Finale from D23 Destination D including the voices bringing Disney characters to life, a Snow White retrospective, and a showstopping evening with Alan Menken.
Picking up where we left off, the next panel on the agenda, entitled “Hearing Voices: A Salute to Disney Voice Artists,” introduced the audience to 6 different voice talents, spanning over 30 years of feature animation. First, Bill Farmer took us into the world of Goofy by doing the voice for us followed by a clip from the Goofy Movie. It was evident he’s quite proud of being the voice of an iconic and classic Disney character, he was very personable.
Next up was Lisa Davis to talk about her time on 101 Dalmations. She shared the story of when she auditioned for the role she was actually up for the voice of Cruella de Ville. Originally, Cruella was originally meant to sound similar to Zsa Zsa Gabor because “zey bos zove furs, dahling.” Having just done a movie with Zsa Zsa at the time, Lisa was able to do a spot on impersonation of her. When she showed up for the audition, she found herself having a hard time getting through it, though. Walt Disney was reading the part of Anita, which she felt was a better fit for her, so she drummed up the courage to ask him if she could read his part. He agreed, and the rest was history!
In case you were wondering, yes – she shared her impression of Zsa Zsa with us, which was quite impressive! She also shared how truly touched she was to see so many fans of the film still today, it was really heartfelt and endearing. I hate to sound like I’m just shilling for these types of events, but this is honestly one of the things that I love most about them. There’s a great chemistry between the panelists and the audience. You have these people who are so proud to have been a part of something so special, and they’re brought into these venues filled with people who are so appreciative of the work they’ve done. It’s truly magical.
Getting back to the presentation, each of the panelists shared stories from their respective films. Bruce Reitherman, son of Disney Legend Woolie Reitherman, talked about being the first voice of Christopher Robin and being Mowgli. Kathryn Beaumont talked about being both Alice and Wendy Darling, and how much she enjoyed working with Sterling Holloway (voice of the Cheshire Cat). Chris Sanders, who not only did the voice of Stitch, but was also the film’s director, noted that the voice he did for Stitch was actually a sound he makes quite often. It’s something that just sort of naturally comes out, he said. They didn’t originally intend for Stitch to have that voice, but it just seemed to work.
D23 then turned to “Snow White: Still the Fairest One of All,” honoring the very first animated feature film. Tim O’Day was the moderator for this panel, as well. The first speaker was historian and musicologist Alex Rannie who discussed the different songs for the movie, including some of the ones that were cut from the film. He told stories about how they found yodelers from around the world, and played clips of the songs. Like Tim, he was funny and engaging, I hope D23 brings him back for more panels at the Expo.
The next panelist brought out to the stage was Marge Champion, the model for Snow White! It’s hard to believe that she’s 93 years old, she’s looks fantastic and has a big spring in her step.
Finally, CEO of the Walt Disney Family Museum, Gabriella Calicchio joined the panelists to talk about a Snow White themed exhibit coming to the museum, and she teased some events exclusive to D23 members were being planned. Be sure to check back on their websites if you’re interested for more details as they come out. Update: D23 Days at the Walt Disney Family Museum will be on November 16 and 17, 2012.
After the panel, an animated featurette entitled “Once Upon a Mouse” was screened. We decided to take this opportunity to head out for our dinner break early so we could get in line for the grand finale of the event, “An Evening with Alan Menken,” which had already formed! It’s fairly well known that Mr. Menken simply just doesn’t do concerts like this. Ever. So when the event was announced, followed by a list of panelists and performances, this concert alone sold the $225/person ticket to not just me, but most of those in attendance. I can say now that it did not disappoint!
He was welcomed onto the stage to a standing ovation and was clearly touched by the overwhelming response. He then pointed out the Disney legends in attendance and asked them to stand up. This included the familiar faces of Richard Sherman, Bob Gurr, and Dave Smith, among others. I have to say, it was really neat to see Richard Sherman in the audience, almost like the passing of the torch so to speak. Alan even made reference to him once or twice during his performance as if they were old buddies.
His concert spanned over 30 years of outstanding songwriting, starting with music he and Howard Ashman did for the musical, Kurt Vonnegut’s God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater. He then went into Little Shop of Horrors, both the stage and film versions, which had most of the audience dancing in their seats and singing along. With each song that he played, he would introduce it with the a brief story. It was amazing – the air in the room was simply electric.
Alan Menken’s vocal range was pretty impressive, too! He was really belting out the songs, which was no easy feat. I lost count of the number of songs he performed during his 90 minute performance, going through his entire Disney library, and beyond. Including The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Newsies, Pocahontas, Tangled, Hercules, and Home on the Range. When recounting his work for Enchanted, he remarked that it was basically just a spoof of all of the movies he had done for Disney, and when they seemingly couldn’t find anyone to parody him, they called him in to do it himself. Ha! He also noted that the music he did for The Hunchback of Notre Dame is some of the work that he’s most proud of, even if it didn’t win any awards.
In an homage to his friend Marvin Hamlisch, who recently passed away, he played a song called “Disneyland” written by Hamlisch & Ashman for the musical Smile. He also performed songs from the stage versions of Beauty and the Beast and shared how one of the songs was written specifically for Toni Braxton’s run as Belle in the musical. He also played songs from Newsies, a play called King David, and the stage version of Sister Act. Another piece of music he shared was a song he wrote for the recent Captain America movie called the “Star Spangled Man.” I had no idea he wrote that, and was oddly excited to learn that he had.
He ended the show with a song he and Howard Ashman wrote for Aladdin titled “Proud of Your Boy.” It was one of the last songs they worked on together before Howard passed away. It was cut from the film, but will be included in the new stage version coming to Broadway soon.
After closing to another standing ovation, he came back out to perform an encore for the audience and played “If I Never Knew You” from Pocahantas. At the end, Steven Clark, head of D23, came to the stage to thank Mr. Menken for the incredible performance, and it was over before we knew it. Writing this blog and recalling the night, I’m astounded by how many songs he performed in such a short amount of time, even if he did go 30 minutes over. It was such an unforgettable evening.
It was hard to believe the weekend was over. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience to hear from so many that worked directly with Walt Disney, and his brain trust. It was a weekend full of laughter, a few tears, and wonderful memories made with great friends… and maybe a few sore behinds (thank goodness they added in those stretch breaks between panels).
At $225 per person, it’s no secret that these events are a bit steep in price, but they offer an intimacy and an unforgettable experience that’s hard to replicate at the D23 Expo. Not to mention a guaranteed seat. I’ll admit when we saw the price for this one, we almost bowed out. Until we saw the guest line-up, then there was no way we could refuse. I’m certain we’ll be back for another.
Thanks to everyone for following along with our coverage from Destination D: 75 Years of Feature Animation, but remember, the fun’s not over yet. Adventures by Daddy will be giving away a goodie bag from the event, and you can find out the details of how you can win in this post. For more family travel news, reviews, and trip reports, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on twitter and “like” our facebook page too.
Check out the posts below for all the coverage from Destination D: