Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Story of Walt, WED, and WESTCOT: Part One

The series of events that led The Disney Project to host its first ever Disney fan event is a collection of comedic and not-so-comedic anecdotes, of which I will do my best to compile for you now. It all started back in the spring of 2013. My friend Jeff Heimbuch and I were full steam ahead on the bi-weekly column Dueling Disney, and our readers had remarked more than once as to the entertainment value of our banter. The chemistry was solid, so Jeff suggested I help him out with a little presentation he was planning to give at the upcoming Disneyana convention that summer in Anaheim. He was going to talk about the infamous (and failed) WESTCOT project, and I happily agreed. Not only did it sound like fun, but I’ve been a frequent Disneyland guest since birth, so I actually remember when WESTCOT was announced.

Photo © Disney

We created a Google doc and began organizing the slideshow. I am more of a writer than a PowerPoint guy (well, more than anything, really), so I focused on gathering literature. Jeff, ever resourceful, had obtained dozens of concept images of WESTCOT from a former Imagineer who was assigned to the project. The program was looking good, and we actually had a little bit of buzz going. But then, we were run over by a dog. And his blog.

Jeff received an email from the Disneyana organizers advising us that they had the opportunity to host a panel featuring the stars from the Disney Channel series “A Dog with a Blog”. I am not sure if the dog was going to be one of the panelists. The problem was, there were no more available spots by that point. So we got bumped, for a Dog with a Blog. Let me repeat: we got bumped, for a Dog with a Blog. We weren’t thrilled, but hey, we understood what the Disneyana folks were thinking. I believe more than a few people watch the Disney Channel, so in terms of promotion, it sort of made sense. Maybe not in terms of quality, since Jeff and I had planned on killing it in there, but alas, what was done was done. The mockery of the show began, however, if for nothing else to quell our bitterness.

"Fighting" over a souvenir at the D23 Expo, August 2013 

Then one fine day I made a joke to Jeff. “Maybe we should go to Disneyana anyway and give our presentation out in the hallway.” He laughed, I laughed, we moved on. Or, did we? At that point I said to myself, “Hey, why can’t we give that presentation somewhere?” There was no reason why we couldn’t. So we immediately began looking for other conventions to serve as venues for our highly (and by highly, I mean moderately) anticipated WESTCOT talk. The search proved fruitless, however, and it looked like we might just have to wait till the next Disneyana convention in the summer of 2014. Not long after that realization, I made yet another joke that once again didn’t remain a joke for long: “Why don’t we just have our own little expo?”

Another Google doc was born. Where would we have it? Anaheim, of course. Who else could we get to appear? We both know Bob Gurr. I am friends with Jeff Kurtti. Mister Heimbuch “kind of” knows Rolly Crump. Between the two of us we realized we had the amazing fortune to know/be friends with several prominent Disney personalities. It seemed doable. Jeff and I could do WESTCOT, and some other Disney folks could do presentations of their own. So before long the Google doc was filled with over a dozen possible Disney-related presentations. Our “little expo” had turned into a weekend-long event. And why not? Many of the other Disney fan conventions were that length. Disneyana goes on for 4 days, in fact. But, the Disneyana folks have done this before. Cue the reality check.

It was too much for us to plan. At the time we were both busier than ever, and the thought of making our very first event consist of two full days of programs seemed arduous at best. As much as I hated to do it, we had to cut it back down to one day. The search continued for a venue in Anaheim, but early on, nothing in our price range seemed appealing. Then one day I was hanging out in the back offices at the Walt Disney Family Museum here in San Francisco, talking to my friends who work there. “Hey,” I said to one of them. “How much does it cost to rent our theater?”

The WDFM's beautiful theater

It was affordable. Meaning, it was an amount I would comfortably be able to put on my credit card until we sold enough tickets to cover the fee. The Museum’s theater is gorgeous, so that was a huge plus. The lower lobby came with the price of the rental, so maybe we could do autographs for whichever Disney personality we brought along? And since the theater itself has a state-of-the-art audio/video system, maybe we could also do a short film or two for entertainment value? It all seemed plausible. The downside was that we could only book it for 4 hours. Jeff and I discussed the pros and cons, and decided that the shorter time block would work out to our advantage. With less time we could keep it to just two programs, one being WESTCOT, the other being hosted by our special guest(s).  In between programs we could do autographs, show a short film or two, etc. It was perfect.

I corresponded with the events coordinator at the Museum. I was given some paperwork to fill out, and contracts to sign. By this time it was fall of 2013, and the venue was secured. I asked Bob Gurr to be our special guest, and Jeff asked Rolly Crump. They both agreed. Jeff and I had a few ideas for some short films we could create specifically for the event. We were both very much looking forward to putting together the content for our first mini event, which for a while we had nicknamed “The HeimGluck Expo”. Since we booked the WDFM, however, the event quickly became known as, "A Night at the (Walt Disney Family) Museum". Everything was going along great.

That is, until, the wheels fell off.

part two coming soon!

1 comment:

  1. I'm not sure there's anything greater than being bumped by Dog with a Blog. Can't wait for part 2!