Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Walt Disney Family Museum: The Smithsonian of Walt

The Walt Disney Family MuseumBy the end of my visit to the Walt Disney Family Museum, I was running out of superlatives to describe it.

"Amazing," "eye-popping," "whimsical," "profound," "fun" and "moving" all work, but none come close to capturing the experience. You have to be there to truly appreciate it, whether you're a casual Disney fan, an armchair historian, or a scholar of entertainment arts.

The museum opens to the public on October 1st, but this past weekend, members of the museum, D23 and the Carolwood Pacific Historical Society were treated to a special sneak preview of the facility, housed in a renovated former military barracks in San Francisco's historic Presidio.

Baby WaltThe museum is full of memorabilia and artifacts from Walt Disney's personal and professional life and is cleverly integrated with high-tech interactive displays. There are many video monitors and listening stations to completely immerse you in the story of Walt's life and to present him as the living, breathing PERSON he was and not just the corporate symbol he became, especially in the 40+ years since his death. It's as much a testament to his daughter, Diane Disney Miller, and the Walt Disney Family Foundation that Walt is given back his humanity while still surrounded by all the iconic films, characters and attractions so closely associated with him.

The museum gets just about everything right as it takes you chronologically through Walt's life, starting with his Midwestern childhood and early fascination with drawing. We meet his entire family through photos and rare film footage shot by Walt himself when he was a young, aspiring filmmaker in Kansas City (a clip of his parents, Elias and Flora, playfully jostling with each other is a real treat). And after Walt rides the rails west (his love of trains is a recurring theme throughout the museum) on the journey that will make him "Walt Disney," his family never fades into the background. In each of the ten galleries, no matter what significant cultural or business event is being depicted in Walt's life, you'll find plenty of family treasures, whether through pictures, film or audio clips. It's the "family" part of the experience that gives the museum its name and makes Walt as accessible as he's ever been to the public.

Letter from Walt to the Davis familyNot that you'll ever fully separate the man from the company he founded. And, let's face it, as a fellow Disneyphile, you've come to gawk at all the toys, tools and trinkets that made the man and made his studio. The museum definitely does not disappoint in that area. You'll see the original, hand-written note from Walt to Virginia Davis's mother, inviting young Virginia to Kansas City to become Walt's first silent-screen Alice. You'll also see the earliest known drawings of Mickey Mouse--most likely from the hand of Ub Iwerks, but probably with an assist from Walt. There's concept art, pencil sketches and cels representing virtually every feature-length animated film released during Walt's lifetime. My personal favorites are Ward Kimball's drawings for the never-used soup-eating scene in "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (he almost quit the studio over the scene being cut), and Bill Tytla's dramatic sketch of "Fantasia's" evil lord Chernabog, complete with production notes. Likewise fun is a multitude of concept artwork by Mary Blair for such films as "Peter Pan," "Alice in Wonderland," "Saludos Amigos" and "The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad." Of course, just when you think that Walt's artists are getting a bit too much of the credit (not that they don't deserve their share), you come face-to-face with a copy of the studio's poster-size organizational chart with Walt's name clearly displayed at the top. There was no argument about who ultimately made all the decisions at the studio.

For all his successes, Walt Disney hit more than his share of bumps in the road, and the museum doesn't shy away from them. On the heels of such artistic triumphs as "Snow White," "Pinocchio," and "Fantasia" (don't miss the multiplane camera on display--it takes up two floors!), the museum takes a somber look at the 1941 animators strike that divided and almost destroyed Walt's company. In a presentation that never takes sides, you see and hear from both the striking animators and those who aligned with Walt, as well as those who got caught in the middle trying to be loyal to both sides. Regardless of who you think was right or wrong, you come away realizing that the strike forever changed Walt and the studio--and not necessarily for the better.

Likewise objective is the treatment of Walt's 1947 testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Still stinging from the strike six years earlier, Walt was subpoenaed to Washington, D.C. as a "friendly" witness in Congress's investigation of Communist infiltration in Hollywood. The museum lets you listen to Walt's unedited testimony--he only implicated strike leaders and groups he though had "smeared" him--and draw your own conclusions.

San Francisco BayOne of the most spectacular sights at the museum isn't even in the museum. Turning the corner from a darkened Gallery 7, full of memories and memorabilia from the the post-WWII years ("Cinderella," "Peter Pan," "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea"), you emerge into the bright light of Gallery 8 - Walt and the Natural World. On your right are video monitors, cleverly hidden inside a variegated white wall resembling a cliff face. On your left is nothing but glass, giving you a breathtaking view of the San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. The video monitors tell about Disney's "True-Life Adventures" and "People and Places" documentaries. You're excused if you forget to look at them.

The one gallery you won't forget is Gallery 9, the largest and most elaborate room in the museum. On display here are the trappings of an entertainment icon who, after decades of making a name for himself as a producer of (mostly) animated films, is still looking for worlds to conquer. For all the accomplishments and life experiences we've witnessed in the previous galleries, this room may be the one that epitomizes the artistic genius at the height of his creativity.

DisneylandFollowing a walkway that gradually winds and slopes from the upper level to the ground floor, you first pass Walt's beloved Lilly Belle, the 1/8 scale train he built and operated in the backyard of his Holmby Hills home in the 1950s. You learn about the development and construction of Disneyland and see the Circarama (also known as Circle-Vision 360) camera with nine individual cameras arranged in a circle. I was surprised to see the camera that shot "America the Beautiful" for Tomorrowland looked much smaller than I expected. There is the original torso frame for the first Audio-Animatronic Mr. Lincoln at the New York World's Fair, monitors showcasing the many Disney television shows of the 1950s and '60s, and even Walt's personal Autopia car. The display that is the most jaw-dropping, mouth-gaping experience, however, is the "Disneyland of Walt's Imagination," a scale model of the park not just with all the rides and attractions open at the end of Walt's life, but also with those that were under construction or in development at the same time. So not only will you see a mini Main Street, Mine Train and Monorail, you'll also see Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion and Tomorrowland 1967, which were completed after Walt's death. There's a wispier, more ethereal Space Mountain too, consistent with its '60s-era concept art. Walt's Disneyland is a miniature Magic Kingdom on steroids, an Olszewski model gone slightly mad with plenty of whimsical touches. And yes, Tinker Bell is there, making magic above the castle. You could study the display for hours and still pick out new details. It's simply amazing.

Your tour of the museum concludes with a final, fitting tribute to Walt in the form of the world's reaction to his death in 1966. Editorial cartoons mourning his passing adorn the walls while a period television plays the network news stories that honored his memory. Move to the next room of this gallery and you'll see, one last time, a splashy medley of old photos, films and quotes about him. It's a touching coda for the life of a man who may have been "Uncle Walt" to millions, but was foremost a son, brother, husband and father.

And isn't that what a family museum should be about?

Walt reads to his daughters
For more information on the Walt Disney Family Museum, visit If you're planning to visit, make sure you order your time-stamped tickets in advance through the website. You should allow at least 4-5 hours for your visit. Museum memberships are also available.

Friday, September 11, 2009

D23 Expo - Day One Recap

Impressions, thoughts, and maybe a picture or two from day one of the D23 Expo in Anaheim:

Anika Noni Rose performs during the opening session at the D23 ExpoRobert Iger's Opening Keynote

A great, big, beautiful commercial for Disney (not that the whole of the D23 Expo isn't anyway) with an opening video splash of all the elements in the Disney universe. Everyone had their favorites and the crowd showed its appreciation accordingly. "Alice in Wonderland" (Johnny Depp especially), "Lost," and "High School Musical" all drew generous shares of applause. The audience positively roared for "Tron Legacy," though. Anticipation is very high for the 2010 game geek movie release.

Iger was pleasant and professional and apologized to the crowd for a nearly half-hour late start. He blamed it on giving more time for all the attendees to be seated. You could argue it was about crowd control, but it also could've been an issue of attendance--the arena was only about 2/3 full.

He talked at length about the Disney legacy and how we all grew up with it. Iger even admitted that, as a child, he owned a Davy Crockett coonskin cap. Nice. He followed it up with a montage video of Walt and the entertainment world he created.

Iger's mention of Disney's recent acquisition of Marvel Entertainment drew a pretty good round of applause. Disney fans (this group, at least) seemed to be ok with Wolverine standing side by side with Mickey Mouse.

The highlight of the opening was the screening of the first half-hour of "The Princess and the Frog," Disney's return to 2D animation coming out on November 25th. The movie definitely has a "Little Mermaid"/"Beauty and the Beast" feel to it--and I mean that in the most positive way--telling the story of Tiana, a working class woman with dreams of running a high class restaurant in New Orleans, who has a curious encounter with a cursed frog-prince. The movie has an jazzy musical score that absolutely grabs you. "Friends on the Other Side," performed by the the film's voodoo-practicing villain, Doctor Facilier, is an absolute show stopper. Think "Oogie Boogie's Song" meets "Under the Sea." Disney's return to fairytale story telling is going to be a hit. As an added treat after the preview, Anika Noni Rose, the Tony Award winning actress who voices Tiana, performed music from the movie.

Betty White and Robin Williams share a laugh with Mickey Mouse at the 2009 Disney Legends ceremony at the D23 Expo. Photo courtesy Disney/D23.Disney Legends Ceremony

In a rare public ceremony, Disney inducted this year's Legends honorees. Among the highlights:

Bob Iger singling out 97-year old Legend Art Linkletter (inducted 2005). He still looked pretty spry.

The daughters of Leota Toombs Thomas accepting the award for their mom with a warm and sincere speech. Leota did so much more in her decades of service to Disney Imagineering than just be a head in a crystal ball.

Tony Anselmo accepting his Legends award with a Donald Duck pitch-perfect "Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!"

Betty White jumping the gun before host Tom Bergeron and Bob Iger finished introducing her. Even better was her later admission that she still owns a Mickey Mouse doll from when she was a child. She's one of us.

Robin Williams marveling at how Disney animators kept pace with him during his brilliant voice work as the Genie in "Aladdin." Who knew you could ever squeeze Jack Nicholson and William F. Buckley into a Disney cartoon?

It's tight, make no mistake. For the arena events (Bob Iger yesterday, Dick Cook today), when they say no cameras, recording devices or cell phones, they mean it. Bags are searched, electronic items must be checked and, oh yeah, you'll be wanded just to make sure you're not sneaking anything in. It makes for a tense situation, though. Can that many people be without their iPhones and Crackberries for three hours or more? Scary.

Richard Sherman performs at the D23 ExpoMost Pleasant Surprise: Richard Sherman

The piano on stage was a dead giveaway, but how nice to see songwriter Richard Sherman perform following a showing of "The Boys: The Sherman Brothers Story." The movie is a nostalgic and touching look at Disney's prolific musical team, who wrote "Chim Chim Cher-ee," "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," "I Wanna Be Like You," "It's a Small World" and many, many more. The film focuses not only on Richard and Robert's songwriting successes, but also the decades-long strained personal relationship that leaves them virtually estranged from one another today. Richard performed some of their lesser-known songs, "Won't Be Long Until Christmas," "Your Heart Will Lead You Home," "The Ugly Bug Ball," and "River Song," but he couldn't resist reverting to the tried and true, leading the audience in a chorus of "It's a Small World." A terrific performance from a songwriter who, with his brother, doesn't get as much credit as he deserves for helping write the Great American Songbook.

I've got plenty more to share from the D23 Expo. On tap today is Dick Cook's Walt Disney Studios keynote--Nicolas Cage, Tim Burton and Robert Zemeckis will be paying a visit. Also slated is a screening of "Tron" with a sneak preview of "Tron Legacy," and look at the new "World of Color" nighttime water show headed to Disney's California Adventure next year.

See you real soon . . .


Thursday, September 10, 2009

D23 Expo Opens Today!

D23 Expo at the Anaheim Convention CenterDisney's official fanfest, the D23 Expo, opens in just a couple of hours at the Anaheim Convention Center. Over 30,000 attendees are expected for this four-day event, showcasing everything Disney has to offer in movies, TV, theme parks and merchandise. There'll be a significant dose of history too as Disney unlocks the vault to display "Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives," an exhibit of memorabilia that includes costumes from "Mary Poppins" to "Tron" to "Captain EO" to "Hannah Montana." There will also be the original Nautilus from "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" and the jewel-encrusted storybook used in the opening scene of "Sleeping Beauty."

As far as events today, tops on the list are president and CEO Bob Iger's opening keynote and a rare public ceremony to induct this year's Disney Legends. Honorees include Robin Williams and the cast of "The Golden Girls."

I'll be at the Expo all week with photos, news updates and commentary. You can follow me on Twitter or Facebook and, of course, you can check back here for daily updates on my blog.

I'm heading over to the Expo right now. I've heard there's a big line forming already. Cover me, I'm going in.

See you real soon . . .


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

What to See at D23 - Day Four

Pixar takes center stage on Sunday, the final day of the D23 Expo. Expect a heavy dose of "Toy Stories 1, 2 and 3" and an eye-popping print shirt on John Lasseter. Besides the shirt, here's what else stands out:

Sunday, 9/13/09

9:30 a.m. - The Making of Toy Story Midway Mania!, Storytellers Theater
It may seem like just a ride through a video game with "Toy Story" characters in it, but Midway Mania is a lot more than that, a technological marvel that integrates state-of-the-art ride mechanisms with elaborate gaming systems. Get the inside skinny on how the Disneyland and Walt Disney World versions all work and, most importantly, how you can improve your score playing the game.

11:00 a.m. - The Future of Disney and Pixar Animation, D23 Arena
In what will probably be the most heavily attended presentation of the weekend, John Lasseter, the man who helped bring animation into the 21st century and the guiding force behind ten straight quality hit movies, will hold court in the D23 Arena, previewing not only what's in store for Pixar, but also what's waiting in the wings for Disney Animation. There'll be clips from "The Princess and the Frog," "Rapunzel" and "Toy Story 3" to be sure, but the main attraction will be the man himself. Lasseter is highly regarded by Disney fans, and deservedly so--he was a Jungle Cruise skipper, for God's sake! Don't miss what he has to say.

12:30 p.m. - Silver Banjo Barbecue Panel With David and Ron DeFore, Stage 23
A couple of years ago, I had the chance to meet Ron DeFore and had the most fascinating conversation with him about the early days of Disneyland. Here's a guy who, with his brother David, literally grew up at the Magic Kingdom where his father, TV personality Don DeFore ("The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet," "Hazel") operated his own restaurant. There'll be plenty of tales told about Walt and Disneyland at this session, a fun and fanciful trip through the wayback machine.

1:00 p.m. - Special Muppets Presentation, Walt Disney Studios Theater
There's not a lot of background information on this presentation, making it all the more intriguing. Disney hasn't exactly done a lot with the Muppets since taking them over from The Jim Henson Company in 2004. Goodness knows "MuppetVision 3D" could use some freshening up. In August, promotional videos were shot at Disneyland featuring the Muppets, so it appears Disney is looking to give them a higher profile. Also, a new theatrical Muppet movie has supposedly been in the works for a while. Will it finally be time to put on makeup and light the lights again? Fingers crossed.

2:00 - How to be a Disneyana Detective With Tom Tumbush, Stage 23
Mickey Mouse meets the "Antiques Roadshow" when Disneyana expert Tom Tumbush shares tips on figuring out the value of your Disney collectibles. He'll even be available after the presentation to take a look at your old school memorabilia to see if you have any hidden Disney treasures.

3:00 p.m. - Imagineering Pixar for the Disney Parks, Storytellers Theater
Boy, produce ten straight animated hit movies and suddenly they want to build rides about them. Pixar has inspired a number of attractions at the Disney theme parks, including Toy Story Midway Mania, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage and the upcoming Cars Land in Disney's California Adventure. John Lasseter returns, this time with a group of Pixar peeps and Disney Imagineers, to talk about what other Pixar projects are being developed.

6:30 p.m. - 'Toy Story 3' Special Presentation
7:00 p.m. - 'Toy Story' and 'Toy Story 2' Double Feature Premiere Screening
The first two "Toy Story" films have been retooled in 3D, which will not only create synergy with next year's "Toy Story 3(D)" but also a mountain of cash for Disney/Pixar. These back-to-back presentations will be the first public showings of the original movies in 3D (they hit theaters on October 2nd) and a sneak peek of "TS3," which will tell the story of what happens to Woody and Buzz and company when their owner Andy grows up.

Alrighty then, that finishes my take on all four days of presentations and previews at the D23 Expo. It all starts Thursday with an estimated 30,000 - 40,000 attendees through the weekend. The complete schedule can be found on D23's website. Tomorrow, I'll have more on the can't-miss pavilions to see at the Expo and, don't forget, live updates all week on Facebook and Twitter.

See you real soon!

Monday, September 7, 2009

What to See at D23 - Day Three

If armchair Imagineering is your thing, Saturday is your day at the D23 Expo, with no less than four sessions dedicated to the nuts and bolts of theme park creativity. Throw in two digitally-restored screen princesses, one brand new one, and an auction of exclusive Disney merchandise, collectibles and events, and you've got a jam-packed day from morning 'til night.

Saturday, 9/12/09

9:00 a.m. - So You Want To Be an Imagineer?, Storytellers Theater
At 47, the boat may have sailed for me to become an Imagineer, but I'm fascinated by the creative process and by people who follow their passions. This panel discussion, led by retired Imagineer Marty Sklar, takes a look at the skills and drive needed to join the ranks of many a Disney geek's dream job.

11:00 a.m. - Imagineering the Future of Disney Theme Parks, D23 Arena
This one could be interesting. For a lot of hardcore Disney fans, there's no love lost for Saturday's keynote speaker, Jay Rasulo. As chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, he's drawn plenty of fire from critics who've accused him of diluting the individual character of Disneyland and Walt Disney World by creating the homogenized "Disney Parks" brand, of lowering maintenance and aesthetic standards in the parks, and of being out of touch with consumers, Disney employees and especially the fan base. Rasulo may also have shot Bambi's mother, we're not sure. The crowd's response to him, as he reveals what's in store for the parks worldwide, will tell all.

12:00 p.m. - 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' Panel Discussion Followed by a Special Screening of the Restored Print, Walt Disney Studios Theater
Walt Disney's first feature-length animated film will be released on Blu-ray October 6th. Get an early look at the digitally-restored version and enjoy a panel discussion led by Disney producer Don Hahn ("Beauty and the Beast," "The Lion King"). Is Snow White still the fairest one of all? You betcha.

12:30 p.m. - Growing Up Disney With Roy P. Disney, Stage 23
Roy Patrick Disney dishes on his grandfather Roy O. and granduncle Walt and talks about what it's like to be part of such a legendary family. There'll be lots of photos and film footage too. A great companion session to the Walt Disney Family Museum preview later in the day.

3:00 p.m. - 'The Princess and the Frog' Panel and Screening, Walt Disney Studios Theater
Something old: A princess in 2D animation. Something new: She's African-American. Fans get a sneak-peek at Disney's hugely anticipated fall release and a conversation with directors John Musker and Ron Clements and animators Andreas Deja and Eric Goldberg. This is one to be excited about.

3:30 p.m. - Sneak Preview of The Walt Disney Family Museum, Stage 23
Another one to be excited about, and of course it's running at the same time. The Walt Disney Family Museum opens October 1st in San Francisco, a labor of love spearheaded by Walt's daughter, Diane Disney Miller. Founding executive director Richard Benefield will give an early look inside the museum, paying tribute not to just a corporate icon, but a living, breathing human being who just happened to build an entertainment empire.

3:30 p.m. - The Making of the U.S. Presidents, Storytellers Theater
Tony Baxter and a group of fellow Imagineers will talk about the return of Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln to Disneyland later this year, as well as the earlier addition of Barack Obama to the Hall of Presidents at Walt Disney World. Missing from the proceedings will be Blaine Gibson, who sculpted the original Lincoln figure as well as 41 of the presidents at Walt Disney World (Try to catch him at the "Imagineering Legends" presentation on Thursday.).

6:30 p.m. - D23 Expo Live Auction, D23 Arena
If you've got money to burn, or just like watching people who do, then don't miss Saturday night's live auction. Up for bid are 49 lots of Disney memorabilia and special event opportunities guaranteed to make you get your geek on. Among the more impressive items are a framed personal check signed by Walt Disney, original "Jungle Book" and "Sleeping Beauty" animation cels, an original 1940 "Fantasia" souvenir program, admission to the world premiere of "The Princess and the Frog," a personal tour of the Walt Disney Studios and Archives by archivist Dave Smith, and a slightly used pirate ship ride vehicle from Peter Pan's Flight. Expo attendees may watch the auction action at no additional charge, but auction participants must purchase a $40 auctioneers package in addition to their Expo admission. Look for me. I'll be right there on the arena floor with paddle in hand. And no, I'm not telling you what I've got my eye on.

10:00 p.m. - '50 and Fabulous' Screening: 'Sleeping Beauty' Panel and Screening
The best of the "50 and Fabulous" screenings during the Expo, even if this wasn't Walt's best princess story. "Sleeping Beauty" was artistically ambitious, with stunning background visuals and some nice visual effects, but the overall animation is flat, which is disappointing for a movie meant to thrill the senses in 70mm Technirama. Except for the exciting, climactic battle between Prince Phillip and the dragon Maleficent, the story plods along and really not a whole lot happens. The fire-breathing dragon makes it worth it, though, so don't miss this opportunity to see it in its original widescreen glory.

The D23 Expo is just days away with plenty more to preview. Don't forget to follow me on Facebook and Twitter as I post live updates and photos from the Expo during all four days.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Back to Nature - Gallery 8 at the Walt Disney Family Museum

The Walt Disney Family Museum shares a few more images with us. Gallery 8 spotlights "Walt and the Natural World," a look at Walt's True-Life Adventures and People and Places documentaries. We also get a glimpse at Walt Disney, the outdoorsman.

An artist's rendering of Gallery 8:

A movie poster from the 1955 True-Life Adventure "The African Lion." The film was directed by James Algar, narrated by Winston Hibler and edited from over 100,000 feet of footage shot by documentarians Alfred and Elma Milotte:

Walt Disney was an accomplished horseman and, in the 1930s, an avid polo player. He was also a regular participant in the Ranchos Vistadores, an invitation-only trail ride event near Santa Barbara. Here is a silver mounted saddle from the ride:

The Walt Disney Family Museum opens October 1st in the Presidio in San Francisco.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What to See at D23 - Day Two

Robin WilliamsUpdating Day One, Disney has announced the honorees for this year's Disney Legends awards:

Robin Williams - Star of "Aladdin," "Flubber," "Good Morning, Vietnam" and "Dead Poets Society".
The Cast of "The Golden Girls" - Bea Arthur, Estelle Getty, Rue McClanahan and Betty White.
Leota Toombs Thomas - The WED Enterprises model builder Disney fans know best as the face of Madame Leota in the Haunted Mansion's seance room.
Tony Anselmo - The voice of Donald Duck since 1985.
Bill Farmer - The voice of Goofy since 1986
Harry Archinal - Former president of Buena Vista International, Disney's overseas film distributor.
Don Iwerks - Veteran film systems designer who did extensive work on "Mary Poppins" and Disney's "CircleVision 360" films. Don is the son of Ub Iwerks, Walt Disney's longtime friend and animator.

BTW, Disney has made very clear that cameras and recording devices will not be allowed during Bob Iger's opening keynote and the Disney Legends presentation. If you think they're kidding, just try them.

And now, the best of the D23 Expo's day two, which may have the strongest lineup of the four days. Lots of terrific sessions here, with more than a few scheduling conflicts to resolve. I believe Ursula put it best. "Life's full of tough choices, in'nit?"

Friday, 9/11/09

9:00 a.m. - Early Bird Books: 'Kingdom Keepers'/'Peter and the Starcatchers' with Authors Ridley Pearson and Dave Barry, Stage 23
I'll admit I haven't read "Peter and the Starcatchers" or any of the "Kingdom Keepers" books. But, I'll also admit I've been a big fan of Dave Barry from his many years as a nationally syndicated humor columnist with "The Miami Herald." The guy is flat-out funny, even if he'll only be at D23 via video feed. Pearson and Barry's new book "Peter and the Sword of Mercy" will be out in October.

11:00 a.m. - Disney Movie Magic: Inside the Walt Disney Studios, D23 Arena
Disney Studios honcho Dick Cook will screen clips from upcoming releases "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time," "Alice in Wonderland," "A Christmas Carol" and "The Sorceror's Apprentice." In a perfect world, he'll also bring a few celebs with him. What say you Tim Burton? Johnny Depp? Helena Bonham Carter? Anne Hathaway? Jake Gyllenhaal? Jim Carrey? Robert Zemeckis? Nicolas Cage? Fans aren't coming to see suits. They'd like to see some star power. It could happen. Just sayin.'

12:30 p.m. - Author Jason Surrell Discusses the Haunted Mansion, Stage 23
Surrell has written two of the best theme park attraction histories with his "From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies" books on Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion. I'll remember him (and forever be grateful) for rescuing an abysmal webcast on the red carpet at Disneyland for the 2006 premiere of "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest." MSN's entertainment reporter, Dish Diva, was in over her head and unprepared for the 2 1/2-hour live show, but Surrell, along with fellow Disney historian Tim O'Day, saved the day with their insightful comments about POTC. Surrell knows his stuff and it will be a pleasure to see him in person.

1:00 p.m. - Screening of 'The Nightmare Before Christmas' in Disney Digital 3D, Walt Disney Studios Theater
I saw it during its original theatrical run. I own two DVD versions of it, plus the soundtrack. However, I've never seen Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas" during any of its seasonal 3D runs. So what better time to see it than in a convention center full of Disney geeks? Also, Burton's early shorts "Frankenweenie" and "Vincent" will be shown with it. It makes me wonder if Burton himself might put in an appearance. Again, just sayin'.

2:00 p.m. - The Making of 'World of Color,' Storytellers Theater
Visitors to Disney's California Adventure during the past year have seen a lot of construction activity in the drained Paradise Pier lagoon. Find out what it's all about when Imagineer Steven Davis gives you a sneak preview of "World of Color," DCA's "water-and-fire" spectacular debuting next year.

4:00 p.m. - 'Tron' Presentation, Walt Disney Studios Theater
I can't recall ever seeing so many fanboys get so worked up over a sequel to a movie that sucked so bad. Seriously. OK, the 1982-era special effects in the original "Tron" were kinda nifty and the light cycle race was totally cool--but the rest of the movie was Sominex dull. Still, Disney is getting major buzz for the CG-intense "Tron Legacy" coming out in 2010, and this early trailer hasn't exactly hurt its prospects. The presentation will include a screening of the digitally-restored original and a conversation with director Steven Lisberger.

5:30 p.m. - Disney Rarities, Stage 23
An opportunity to see some of Walt Disney's earliest animation efforts as well as other rarely seen short cartoons. Producer/author Don Hahn and Disney animator Dave Bossert host a session that I hope will include footage from Walt's Laugh-O-Gram work in Kansas City in the early 1920s.

7:30 p.m. - 'Walt & El Grupo' Panel and Screening, Walt Disney Studios Theater
This one is a tad misleading, since the screening will be of "Saludos Amigos" and not the new documentary about Walt Disney and his staff's 1941 goodwill trip to South America. "Walt & El Grupo" will actually be playing up the street at the AMC Theatre in Downtown Disney. Still, this promises to be a fascinating look at Walt and a select group of artists during uncertain times caused by financial problems at the studio, a debilitating animators strike and an American nation on the verge of World War II.

I'm only half way through the D23 Expo schedule and there are still plenty of goodies to look forward to. Make sure to check back soon for my look at days three and four. The Expo is just a week away!