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D23's EPCOT 30th Anniversary Celebration

I enjoyed the event. I have been to quite a few D23 events over the years and this one covered a topic I am always interested in EPCOT. The World Showplace venue worked out better than I had thought. I would have liked to have seen the speakers elevated more and/or shown on the large screens from time to time, it was hard to see some of them. The pacing seemed great in the morning but as the afternoon went on people started to fade. I thought the registration and seating processes went very smoothly for this event with no real hassles. I was surprised there seemed to be no real contemporary EPCOT or WDW leadership folks on hand or visible. For example at the Disneyland Destination D the president of Disneyland was there and so were others from he resort. Imagineering and the Archives were both well represented though.

Nuts and Bolts: The event was available to all D23 members and sold out a few weeks before. It took place in the World Showplace at EPCOT from approx 9am to 6pm. There was an evening reception which was a separate event and that sold out very quickly and I did not attend.

My first impressions from the presentations and panels:

Epcot: The Dawn of a New Disney Era – Marty Sklar set up the day via video due to a scheduling conflict. The video worked better than I had thought and allowed them to add some clips, music, etc.. that probably would not have flowed as nicely if he was giving a live presentation.

We Can Do It! – This panel featured seven people involved in the creation and opening of EPCOT. It was moderated (well attempted to be moderated) by Jason Surrell. Many of the folks on this panel had been on previous panels but for the most part the stories seemed different. I always enjoy these types of panels and hearing the war stories of how they pulled off the creation of the parks.

A couple interesting factoids/tidbits:

  • There was a discussion of meeting with the delegates for the World Showcase countries and the effort involved to woo them. One of the interesting points was how important family was to the process. The Disney CM families were heavily involved. To the point where if one of the delegates and their wife liked playing tennis they were paired with a Disney CM who did too.
  • There was a great story told about the porta potties that were being used. Seems if they got too bad/not clean, the construction crews would light them on fire and watch them explode.
  • They talked about the extensive search for rock painters. They ended up pulling them from Zoos across the country.
  • A memorable line about the rocks... you had to think like a rock!
Looking Back at Tomorrow – This presentation was one of two where no photography was allowed. It featured a look at some Imagineering concept art and other items from the archives. I thought this was ok. I enjoyed seeing all three of the Horizons ending videos played back to back.

Makin’ Memories: Epcot on Film – I always enjoy the old film clips and this discussion did not disappoint. I would have liked to have seen more!

Films/videos included in the discussion:

  • The Dream Called EPCOT
  • EPCOT Behind the Scenes
  • Figment Test Films
  • EPCOT Center Opening Celebration (from CBS)
  • We Are Getting Ready for You

Imagineering Epcot: An Extra Perceptive Close-Up of Things – I found this panel to be entertaining and informative. It was done by Jason Grandt, Jason Surrell and Alex Wright and at times seemed to pick up right where their Destination D presentation ended. It basically took you on a tour of the park through the eyes of Imagineers and they pointed out details and interesting trivia.

A couple interesting factoids/tidbits:

  • Next time you visit Mexico watch careful on the Donald cliff diving sequence. The sequence where you pin balls around the water splash pattern is a tilt.
  • There are over 3 hours of glockenspiel music
  • The water used for the pizzas in Italy has the same mineral content as that of Naples. It is brought in from Pennsylvania
  • The farmer statue in the American Adventure is Blaine Gibsons father
  • Impressions de France is the first all digital soundtrack film
  • Spaceship Earth factoids
    • 1.6535 billion golf balls to fill it
    • If it were a golf ball you would have to be 1.35 miles tall to hit it

We’ve Just Begun to Dream – I was disappointed with this panel. It featured the entertainment department folks. I would have really liked to have seen more pictures/videos/etc.. For example they spoke a lot about the opening celebration and I thought some clips from it to illustrate the stories would have really helped. I did find it interesting listening to how they pulled off the ceremony with some very low tech solutions ranging from stop watches to plumbers with wrenches working the fountains.
EPCOT Illusioneering and Beyond – I was also a bit disappointed with this presentation. I thought they should have had some help for Daniel Joseph who gave it. Sending a single person out to talk for an entire presentation this late in the program put him in a hard spot. I thought the subject mater he covered, special effects, in the parks was interested by in the effort to hit upon a large number of attractions I thought some were short. I did enjoy some of the history of the Imagineers and their effects but it just seemed to be lacking some punch.

Journey Into Imagination – This was the 2nd panel that allowed no photography. It featured Tony Baxter talking about some concepts for the Living Seas, and Land before he went into depth on Journey Into Imagination. I enjoyed the virtual ride of the original attraction. Also hearing from Ron Schneider and Steve Taylor (they were “friends” of Dream Finder and Figment).
The Music of Epcot Center – The panels wrapped up looking at the music from the park. It highlighted several key figures and talked about their contributions. I learned caught a couple interesting nuggets of information. It included two live performances were nice additions. I kept waiting to see what the D23 Team would pull out for the big/grand finale. A live performance of Golden Dream was nice, but had been done at a previous event, in a slightly different format and it was well done both times but not unique.

Final Note (an informal bus conversation):
One final thought – On the way back to the resort I saw some other guests with their badges on so I asked them what they had thought. They were disappointed in the event. This was the first D23 event they had ever attended and they had expectations of more of an entertainment event and less of panels and info sessions (almost lectures). They actually left early because they had had enough. They felt left out of some of the jokes and discussions because they were not at any of the previous ones and were not that familiar with the folks presenting. I had not really given much thought to this but after talking to them and reflecting back on the event I can see how someone who is not a huge disneygeek or been to several of these can have very different expectations and could have a negative view. They said they would have liked to have had an “introductory” level seminar or two. I would like to see D23 use some of the video they take at these events to share what they are really like so guests know what they are signing up for. It is a long day of presentations and information.

Do you have any questions? I am more than happy to answer, just drop me an email disneygeek@disneygeek.com

For My Pictures from this event check out the D23 Picture Section

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