Thursday, May 31, 2012

Pacific Northwest Mouse Trek - WDFM

On May 5, 2012, I attended an event called "The Pacific Northwest Mouse Trek," which took place at the Walt Disney Family Museum. Now my regular readers know by now that I am not from the Pacific Northwest. But that’s one of the great things about this organization. You don’t have to be in order to attend their events.

Don Morin, Keith Gluck, Jeff Kurtti

The Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet is an annual event and fan club that was started back in 2009 by Don Morin. Don became a Disney fan back in High School, thanks to one fateful history assignment: Write about a historical figure from the 20th Century. Don chose to write about the greatest creative genius of all time, Walt Disney. Throughout his research Don’s admiration for Walt grew exponentially, and he continued to study Walt and his philosophy long after High School. One day, Don decided he wanted to share his love of Disney with the world.

Per the official site, the PNW Mouse Meets are comprised of: Disney Celebrities & Disney Community Celebrities (including podcasters, authors, and travel experts), Disneyana Collectibles, vendors, Disney Fan Collection Displays, pin trading, trivia, food, hidden Mickeys, and much more. The inaugural Meet took place on Saturday August 15, 2009, at the Lynnwood Convention Center in Lynnwood, Washington. It featured such Disney names as Lou Mongello (host of the “WDW Radio Show Podcast”), and Margaret Kerry (the original model for Tinker Bell).

Don with Margaret
Pic courtesy of

The club also hosts what they call “Mini Meets.” In the past these have included local Lynnwood events, like “History of Disneyland Meet and Greet Characters (1955-Present),” as well as field trips, including a trip to the Disneyland Resort for a special viewing of World of Color (that particular mini-meet featured a special guest, original Disney Imagineer Bob Gurr).

Don, Bob Gurr, PNWMM staff member Marc Morin
Pic courtesy of

Needless to say, this club is cool. Their May 2012 Mini Meet brought them to my backyard, the Walt Disney Family Museum in the Presidio, San Francisco. My friend and Disney Historian/prolific author/Museum creative consultant Jeff Kurtti was the lone special guest for this event, and in addition to delighting everyone with his knowledge and stories, he was also preparing to host a presentation called “Walt on the Screen.” I was not going to miss that.

I did miss the first half of the day, however (softball duty called), which consisted of: a morning meet-up over coffee and pastries in the Museum CafĂ©, an informal chat with Jeff in the Main Lobby, two hours to roam through the Museum’s galleries, and lunch in the Special Exhibition Hall, complete with gift bags full of cool swag. I got there in the middle of lunch, and immediately began mingling with the friendly folks at my table. After lunch, we all headed down to the theater to get ready for Jeff’s presentation.

Audience gathering in the WDFM's beautiful theater

Walt on the Screen

Jeff in action

Jeff started us off with footage of a teenage Walt Disney, fooling around with the camera. Walt had learned how to overlay footage creating the special effect of three different Walts sharing the screen. The effect actually looked quite good. Walt had done it himself, and it was 1920.

He then showed us a few clips that fans of One Man’s Dream would instantly recognize; Walt drawing at his desk (which Jeff reminded us was actually filmed outside due to lighting constraints of the time), smoking and scratching his forehead as he drew. The next clip was young Virginia Davis peeking into Walt’s office. Now films were still silent then, but we knew what she wanted thanks to a title card which read, “I would like to watch you draw some funnies.” Walt invited her in, and the two watched an animated sequence with a dog and his doghouse, while they were in the same frame.

Walt and Virginia

“Mickey Mouse Signs Up” was the next clip, and this one, complete with sound, featured multiple takes of Walt at his desk surrounded by RKO executives as he signed a contract with them. A few of the outtakes showed Walt introducing the executives to Mickey and Donald (in the form of stuffed dolls), and Walt even showcased a bit of his sense of humor when he playfully told them, “You can count on me working out here, while you’re in New York in the snow.”

Several more clips followed, including: Walt introducing us to the seven dwarfs, Walt in front of a mic performing dialogue in Mickey’s voice, Walt at his studio with the U.S. government during WWII, and Walt from his first television special, “One Hour in Wonderland.” The scene we watched depicted Walt interacting with the magic mirror, while showing off a bit of his underrated acting prowess.

From one TV special to another, next up was “Disneyland goes to the World’s Fair.” The entire special is close to 50 minutes in length, but we just got a small taste. Walt with a baby brontosaurus, and later, singing “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” with the Sherman Brothers. After the song Walt spoke to the viewers briefly about Progressland and the “General Electric Carousel Theater.” I wonder if Jeff threw that part in there just for me?

Walt and his pet brontosaurus

Robert Sherman, Richard Sherman, Walt Disney

Walt introducing a model of the Carousel Theater

Did you know that in 1965 Walt Disney appeared in a short sketch on the Jack Benny Hour? In it, Jack beats around the bush trying to convince Walt to comp him 110 free tickets to Disneyland. Walt plays obtuse marvelously, as the camera cuts to him just staring at Jack while he clumsily implies to Walt what he wants. In the end Jack gets his tickets, and we get six minutes of absolutely delightful footage of Walt, once again displaying genuine acting ability.

Walt with Jack Benny

The presentation wound down with two of Walt’s final onscreen appearances. The first of which was an excerpt of the famous “Florida Project” film, in which Walt discusses his plans for Disney World. For as many times as I have seen that, and seeing what he had planned, especially for Epcot, it never stops amazing me. Epcot the city would have been nothing short of revolutionary. The last clip of the afternoon featured Walt speaking in a public service announcement on behalf of the National Wildlife Federation, in the “National Wildlife Week” series. In the clip, Walt was stressing the importance of preserving our land; that it be developed as such that tomorrow’s Americans may have the land to enjoy as well.

While I could watch footage of Walt Disney all day, that brought the program to a touching close. Jeff stuck around afterwards to autograph any of the dozens of books he has authored, answer questions, and to pose for a few pictures.

Jeff signing away

And yes, as always, I bothered him for a photo.

Jeff, and me fresh from a softball game

The next Mouse Meet, on August 4 of this year, unfortunately is already sold out. The line-up that afternoon will feature: Jeff Kurtti, Disney Legend Paige O’Hara (best known as Belle in Disney's Beauty and the Beast), Disney Executive Tony Baxter (Senior Vice President of Creative Development at Walt Disney Imagineering, and responsible for some of the most cherished attractions in all of the Disney parks), and Disney Legend Marty Sklar (former International Ambassador for Walt Disney Imagineering, and the only person to be involved in the opening of every one of Disney’s theme parks). Not bad for a little fan club that just started a few years ago, huh? It just goes to show you, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”

If you are in or near the Pacific Northwest, I highly recommend looking this organization up. This was the first of their events I've attended, and I had a blast. Thank you Don, PNWMM staff and its members for creating such a fun and friendly environment. See you in August!

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