Friday, August 12, 2011

Walt Disney World hosts its first Disneyana convention, as told by Dave Smith in 1992

Whether it’s early Mickey Mouse watches, original cartoon cels, recent limited edition figurines, or 1955 Disneyland guide­books, Disneyana collectibles have a fascination for Amer­icans young and old. And, with the opening of Disney Parks in Japan and France, and the expansion of The Disney Stores throughout the world, what started as an American hobby has grown to where it is enjoyed worldwide today.

Disney Archivist Dave Smith with the first Disneyland
attraction vehicle ever sold at a Disneyana convention

To provide an event where Disneyana fans could gather together for several days of collecting, guest speakers, good food, special merchandise, and the fun experi­ence of a Disney Theme Park, Walt Disney World Attractions hosted its first Disneyana Convention. Held September 24-27, the Convention Center drew over 750 Disneyana collectors and fans to Disney’s Contemporary Resort.

Guests arriving on Thursday morning took care of their hotel check-in and convention registration, then rushed to the Disneyana Collectible Shop where special merchandise featuring the convention logo had been placed on sale. Eager collectors grabbed up ornaments, decals, buttons, T-shirts, spoons, and even stropping bags. The hottest items were a $25 plate—in a limited supply of just 500—and a watch. One watch had been given to each registrant, winch left less than 500 available for sale.

The convention began in earnest Thursday evening with a welcome reception Ice Cream Social. The Fantasia Lobby was decked out with banners flags, park benches, gazebos, and greenery, along with tables loaded with ice cream, pastries, and other delectable taste treats. Disney characters were on hand to greet guests, and as a special added attraction, three of the original Mousketeers—Bobby, Sharon and Sherry—were there to autograph photographs in a Mousketeer Clubhouse in the West Rotunda.

Friday dawned with a buffet breakfast outdoors in front of the Convention Center. Mickey Mouse and Dick Nunis, Chairman of Walt Disney Attractions, made a grand entrance in the LiMOUSEine. Other members of Mickey’s gang gathered with some of the Park’s singers and dancers for a couple of musing numbers to lead guests into the Fantasia Ballroom for the opening session.

After the surprise entrance of the Voice of Disney—Jack Wagner—to emcee the events, the morning got off to an exciting start with a kinetic audio-visual presentation covering the history of The Walt Disney Company. The morning speakers were Dick Nunis, reminiscing on his many years with Disney, landscaper Bill Evans sharing experiences in creating the natural scenery in all of the Disney Parks, Max Howard speaking on the expansion of the feature animation division in Florida and showing pre­views of Aladdin, and Esther Ewert of Disney Art Editions, relating the history of Disney animation art in the market­ place. The climax of the morning ses­sion was the introduction of the Al­addin characters in a festive parade complete with a live camel and horses.

For the afternoon, convention-goers had many choices. They could attend a Limited Edition sale and Artist Signing, where a number of very special pieces had been created especially for the convention by the likes of Lladro Goebel, Armani, R. John Wright, Ron, Laurenz, and others. Nearby was a Disneyana Fair, where Disney signs, artwork, and props—many never before offered for sale—could be purchased.

There was a preview of auction items, and, upstairs, a Disney Business Group Presentation included displays from Disney Art Editions, Disney Stores, Disney Vacation Club, Disney Gallery, Disney Classics Collection, The Disney Channel, Disney Publishing, the Magic Kingdom Club and other divisions of the Disney organization. Finally, down the hall was a Disneyana Trade Show where independent dealers displayed their wares. It was almost more than a collector could han­dle in one day.

The day was capped by a thrilling Disneyana auction, with selected pieces from the Disney vaults bringing record prices. An original Dumbo attraction unit from Disneyland brought $16.000, as did a bronze-cast Mickey Mouse statue. A Carousel horse brought $4,000 and the art for a Little Mermaid plate $8,250.

At Saturday morning’s session, my assistant, Robert Tieman and I had the thrill of being delivered into the banquet with Mickey Mouse it an armored truck, bring­ing 30 Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives for show and-tell. Tony Baxter, from Walt Disney Imagineering, brought insight into Euro Disneyland’s design, and a high­light was a conversation with 98-year-old Joe Fowler, builder of Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

The public was allowed to join conven­tioneers at the various fairs and trade shows on Saturday and then the convention culminated with a deli­cious banquet, followed by comments by Dick Nunis, and Bob Bowman and Bo Boyd of Disney Consumer Products. The Kids of the Kingdom brought the house down with The Best of Disney and each guest received a valuable medallion as a keepsake.

It was an exhausting three days, but those in attendance praised the conven­tion planners. The First Disneyana Convention had been a rousing success. Now, off to Anaheim for the next one in September, 1993.

From Disney News, Winter 1992.

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