Last week, I was able to attend a special Disneyland Diamond Celebration Merch Event. It was kinda of a splurge but this panel I attended was well worth it. Moderator, Tim O'Day, asked a panel comprised of decades of Disney creatives a series of questions ranging from how they got their start with Disney and their takeaways. Most of them are still either employed or affiliated with Disney in some capacity.
The panel of "Disneyland Dreams & Doers" were (from left to right):
- Tom Morris (WDI, Imagineer)
- Stan Freese (Talent Booking and Talent Director, Disneyland)
- Marilyn Magness (Director Creative Entertainment)
- Tim 0'Day
- Kim Irvine (WDI, Art Director)
- Don Dorsey (Production Consultant)
- Shari Allen (Mickey Mouse Club, Mouseketeer)
- Bobby Burgess (Mickey Mouse Club, Mouseteer)
The panel discussion was just a little over an hour. There are bits and pieces of conversation that you can find on Parks and Cons YOUTUBE channel. Here are just a few questions Tim posed to the panel and their answers.
Question: "What was an A-HA moment for you?"
- Don Dorsey: "When something you create connects with the Guest." (fireworks shows)
- Kim Irvine: She told the story of how Disney Legend and Imagineer, John Hench, would come to Disneyland once a month to walk through the Park. He would point out details and stories of props and materials that had been purchased for the park. Irvine said she could see the sense of ownership and pride Hench had for Disneyland and he commented one day, "It really does work," as he witnessed Guests enjoying what WDI had created.
Question: "What is your proudest moment?"
- Stan Freese: He is responsible for pitching and creating Magic Music Days which brought the Disneyland Band to local schools to introduce and educate elementary kids regarding marching band music and instruments. As a result, millions of Orange County kids have been exposed to this program. Magic Music Days has now evolved into Disney Youth Programs.
- Tom Morris: Iconic attraction like Splash Mountain and Star Tours almost never happened due to lack of space at Disneyland. Working closely with lead Imagineer Tony Baxter, they found creative ways to develop these two rides at Disneyland. Learning the ins and outs of a flume ride was a big challenge to figuring out where Splash Mountain could be installed and how it would function.
- Marilyn Magness: She fought for atmosphere entertainment like the Dapper Dans or the daily Flag Retreat. More people actually see Disney atmosphere entertainment than something like a big show such as Mickey's Magical Map. There is value in having a large amount of Guest experience atmosphere entertainment throughout the Parks.
- Don Dorsey: Realizing that pyrotechnic technology had evolved so one could create the a Mickey Mouse head firework display.
Question: What does Disneyland mean to you?
- Marilyn Magness: "Brave enough to remain innocent and yet remain fun."
- Bobby Burgess: "Disneyland is special because it has the Walt Disney touch."
There was a variety of personal anecdotes and stories that were shared in the panel discussion. There are a couple more interesting notes. Bobby Burgess was there on Opening Day (July 17, 1955). Tom Morris had a paper route when he was a teenager and Thurl Ravenscroft was one of his customers. Kim Irvine's mother is Imagineer Leota Toombs, who projected as Madame Leota on the Haunted Mansion attraction. Don Dorsey would accompany Walt Disney President Card Walker to Disneyland when it used to be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, and they would drive up and down through Main Street in Walker's big sedan to get from one end of the Park to the other.
There is nothing as good as hearing it from the actual source. These "Disneyland Dreamers & Doers" are influencers who shaped the Disneyland story and continue to build on the Disneyland legacy. To end the panel discussion, Mickey and Minnie made an appearance along with the Dapper Dans, too. A great end to a special event.