Neil Armstrong. Safe to say, a space fanatic. Once he achieved the ultimate by walking on the surface of the moon, I imagine the monotony of everyday life on earth was never the same again.
Very much in the same sense, after I won a stay in Disneyland's Dream Suite back in 2009 - the monotonous everyday life of this ordinary Disney fanatic was never, and will never, be the same again.
March 10th, 2009 - the day D23 memberships were revealed and made available for purchase. I jumped at the opportunity to be included in Disney's 1st official company-created and sponsored fan club. I am officially, a Day One Charter Member of D23. From the very start I had this feeling deep down that I was going to be a part of something truly great. Boy, was I ever.
The ultimate for me occurred while attending the opening ceremony address by the Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger at the Inaugural D23 Expo. At the end of his remarks, standing on stage with the mayor of Anaheim, Curt Pringle, and Mickey Mouse, Mr. Iger calmly explained that he had one more surprise for a lucky fan in the audience. Under one fan's seat was an envelope. The whole arena of 4,000 plus or minus attendees began to frantically shuffle, looking under their seat. I reached under mine, felt something, but tore off a piece of a label tag attached to the chair. Not me, and not surprised. So there I sat, as time awkwardly went by with no envelope found. So I looked again. Reaching further back, there it was - THE envelope! Oh the rush of adrenaline! The amazing thing was that I wasn't in my original seat I had chosen. There were rows in front of me where I had initially sat that were reserved for VIPs. Once everyone was seated they then allowed us to all shuffle closer to the front to fill the still vacant seats. Basically we all shuffled up one row. I bet the people initially seated in the winning row were besides themselves!
Everything from there was a blur. They whisked me on
stage to accept my one-night stay in the Disneyland Dream Suite complete with 2-day Disneyland passes and character breakfast for myself and five other people! I did an impromptu interview on stage where I briefly talked about my love of Disney stemming from my Dad who had worked at Disneyland as a street sweeper in his youth, to the collective "awwwwwe" of the audience. I was taken back stage for an interview and to set up the logistics for my stay. I was invited to sit next to Bob Iger at a follow-up press conference following the opening ceremony. There I sat awkwardly while all questions were addressed to the CEO - I was but a mere awkward spectator. For the rest of the D23 Expo, I was a rock star, immediately recognizable by all in attendance. The number of congrats and questions was overwhelming merely walking the halls of the Anaheim Convention Center. It was.... truly GREAT. Here is a short slideshow with some pictures from my experience:
It was all a blur. I didn't want to sleep. I wanted to stay awake and soak it all in. They took us on an after-hours walking tour of the park while we sported plush terry cloth robes. We watched the testing and play through (minus the actors) of Fantasmic from the balcony in the wee hours of the night. We experienced the magical room transformations known as the "kiss goodnight" multiple times over prior to finally falling asleep against our will.
I was given an engraved crystal bowl that functioned as a gift basket commemorating my prize. In the months to follow I was interviewed and featured in an article for the Spring 2010 Disney Twenty-Three magazine. My life as a Disney fanatic will never be the same.
I had no idea at that time the scope of opportunity that was to be afforded to me by D23, the brain child of Steven Clark - the initial founder and head of D23. His development of this official Disney fan club gave way to an unprecedented level of accessibility to renowned Disney Legends past and present. My most prized Disney collectible can be attributed to this interaction and participation between Disney Legends and fans. It is a goofy hat signed by what I refer to as, "Disney Dignitaries." The signatures include:
Steven Clark - founder and first head of D23
Robert "Bob" Gurr - famed imagineer to developed most of Disneyland's ride vehicles
Bill Farmer - voice of Goofy
Margaret Kerry - reference actress for Tinkerbell
Paige O'hara - Voice of Belle from Beauty and the Beast
Richard Sherman - Disney classic song writer extraordinaire - co-wrote songs from Mary Poppins, It's a Small World, etc. etc. with brother Robert Sherman
John Lasseter - animator and film director, who is the chief creative officer of Pixar Animation Studios, Walt Disney Animation Studios, and DisneyToon Studios
Some of the signatures were obtained while attending the D23 expo various years and some were obtained at a special one year anniversary event held in Fantasyland at Disneyland. This particular event was incredible as various
Disney Legends actually mingled with guests. I actually snapped a photo with Margaret Kerry who jokingly sat in my lap and flirted! My friends and I spoke with Bill Farmer for quite some time and was able to meet Richard Sherman in person and express gratitude for his creative talents. Amazing.
Needless to say I owe a debt of gratitude to D23. It truly is a rewarding fan club that I am fortunate to be a part of. Even to this day D23 continues to impress with it's lineup of events that cater to Disney fanatics in ways that were previously unimaginable. If you aren't already a member, don't delay and sign today: SIMPLY CLICK HERE!