Monday, April 8, 2013

Disney Celebrates "Fanniversary" in Seattle

How would you like to spend your workday surrounded by other Disney fanatics, where the most controversial conversation of the day is whether or not the new Star Wars movie will include the original Luke Skywalker or not? If so, Billy Stanek and Justin Arthur are living your dream.

Billy and Justin work just outside of the Disney Studios in Los Angeles for D23, the official fan club for Disney fans. Stanek serves as the Webmaster for the D23 website while Arthur is a Researcher and Collection Specialist for the Disney Archives. Though technically working in two different departments, the pair often work together for special events including last Friday’s D23 Fanniversary event held at the downtown Seattle library. Seattle was the second to last stop of the 10 city tour that included Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Orlando, Chicago, Washington D.C., Newark, Boston and San Francisco.

Justin Arthur and Billy Stanek were the evening's gracious hosts.

The Fanniversary is sort of an appetizer to the large D23 Expo event which will be held on August 9-11 in Anaheim. Although small potatoes in comparison, the Fanniversary is still a pretty big deal. Excited fans, some from as far away as Canada and Oregon, came together to geek out over Disney History. After a brief recorded introduction by Bill Rogers, the “voice of Disney,” the hosts shared interesting stories about many “magical milestones” beginning with the Mouse himself and ending up with the 15 year anniversary of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the movie “Mulan” and the Disney Cruise Line. The pair shared movie clips, interviews, rare photos and more as they told interesting stories about 90 years of the Disney Company. Highlights included a clip of the newly restored “Ferdinand the Bull” short, an interview with Katherine Beaumont (who was the voice of both the movie and the Disneyland attraction, “Alice in Wonderland”), video footage of an early interview with a very young Tim Burton and a couple of artifacts flown directly from the Disney Archives.

Swag given out to guests.
Guests were given copies “For Your Consideration” booklets for “Brave,” “Wreck-It Ralph” and a flip book version for “Frankenweenie,” that were given to members of the Academy Awards Committee for this year’s Oscars and a button to remember the event. At the end of the presentation, the hosts unveiled two artifacts: a movie reel canister from the movie, “Roger Rabbit” and a doll given to Walt Disney from representatives of South America during his trip in the 1940’s and filming for the movie, “Saludos Amigos.”

Everyone who meets Billy and Justin want to know how these guys got their jobs but there isn’t an easy answer. They both confess that they got their positions by being at the right place at the right time. Neither grew up in California. Both started out working on attractions in the theme parks (Autotopia for Billy, The Jungle Cruise and the Haunted Mansion for Justin) and moved from position to position within the company to where they are now.

"The Collector" is a short that was featured at
the D23 Fanniversary. Start the video at 2:00.

Billy tells me that the best part of his day is working alongside Disney geeks and being with people just like himself. “There are a lot of ‘pinch myself’ moments,” adds Justin. “My mom still can’t believe that I work for Disney.” When asked what a typical day is like for him, he tells me that no two days are alike. One day he is picking up merchandise from the Disney Store, the next he made be called in to help with a special event at Disneyland. One story he shared is one back in 2011 where the park was holding a “Disney Legends” ceremony and was asked about one hour before the presentation, “Do you have anything nice to wear?” “I got to hand out awards to the celebrities. It was pretty surreal running after Regis Philbin and telling him that he didn’t need to hang on to the thing. That we would ship it to his home.”  

For all that D23 does throughout the year; you would think that Billy and Justin work with a large cast of characters. Truth be told, Billy pretty much works with two other people and the Archives have about 10 employees. Because of this, they stay pretty busy – this year especially. In addition to the Fanniversary and main D23 Expo, the crew is also preparing for their first expo in Japan.

The Walt Disney Archives was created in 1970 by Dave Smith, (a Disney Legend himself) who recently retired from the company. The goal then and now is to collect, preserve and make available for research historical materials related to the Disney Company.

For information on this year’s D23 Expo, click here. include Luke Skywalker or not.vie will include Luke Skywalker or not.gladly t

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