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Thursday November 17th
 

Carol attended the D23 DestinationD convention on her own two years ago and had a terrific time.  She was determined that I should go with her this time, but after the disappointing time we had at the D23 Expo in California last year I was reluctant.  She was persistent though  . . . and after a great deal of coaxing, and her offer to pay for the trip, I relented.  I'm glad I did; it was much better than the Expo and we had a great time!

 

Thursday morning we were up at 5:30 a.m. and drove away from home at 6:30.  There was virtually no traffic on the freeways, no line at the border crossing and we pulled into Syracuse's Hancock International Airport at 8:45 and had plenty of time to enjoy coffee and a snack before boarding Jet Blue Flight #315 to JFK Airport in New York City.  We lifted-off at 10:50, 5 minutes early and only 55 minutes later touched down at JFK.  We wandered the terminal for a while and had a nice lunch at a sports bar before boarding Jet Blue Flight #1889 to Orlando.  Once again our flight took off 5 min early, at 1:55.  The pilot must have put the pedal to the metal because our smooth flight landed 35 min early.  Everything happened quickly all day; we were in our rental car driving away from the airport before our scheduled landing time.


By 6:00 p.m. we had checked in at Disney's Port Orleans Riverside Resort.  Carol unpacked and got us settled in room 2534, then it was time to head to Disney Springs for dinner at Earl of Sandwich.  We walked to Boatwright's to catch one of the Sassagoula River boats and had a nice chat with a young couple from Maine while we waited.  Unfortunately the line wasn't moving; after standing still for about 25 minutes we walked back to the room, picked up the car keys and drove to Disney Springs.  We hoped that the line at Earl's wouldn't be too long since it was after 7:00 p.m., but we were wrong.  The line stretched out the door and around the corner.  But it moves very quickly . . . and the sandwiches are well worth the wait!

After dinner we took a stroll along the new "Tree Trail" and enjoyed the display of themed Christmas Trees.

Carol made a quick trip to the Pin Store and then we drove to Fort Wilderness Campground where Carol picked up a special Chip & Dale pin for a friend back home.  We drove around a few of the camping loops admiring the Christmas decorations before heading home at 9:15.  We were both tired after long travel day.


Friday November 18th - Mickey's 88th Birthday
 

Friday was registration day!  We were up at 7:00 a.m., had a quick coffee in our room and drove off to the Contemporary Resort at 8:00.  All of the D23 activities were held in the Conference Centre at the Contemporary.  We enjoyed a nice breakfast at The Wave before meeting our friends Juanita, Carrie, Francine and Becky at the Contempo Cafe.

At 10:00 a.m. we made our way downstairs to the conference area and joined the short registration line.

 

While we waited our friends Susan and Allison showed up and presented us with some very special buttons.  They had heard that everyone entering the theme parks was receiving a special button honouring Mickey Mouse's 88th birthday, so they rode the monorail to the Magic Kingdom and came back with extra buttons to share with a few friends.  Thanks guys!

By 10:45 we were all checked in and joined the next line, waiting to be admitted to the Mickey's of Glendale shop which was scheduled to open at 2:00 p.m.  While we waited we checked out the goodie bags we had been given when we registered.  There was a birthday button in each bag, now we had an extra . . . you can never have too many!

As we waited in the second line we took turns visiting the Walt Disney Archives which featured pictures and mementos from many of the adventures Walt Disney enjoyed during his lifetime!

A dapper Walt Disney arrives at Le Bourget airport, near Paris, on June 25, 1935. This photo,

along with additional archival images, props, and models, is a part of “Walt’s Great Adventures,”

an exhibit showcasing Walt Disney’s travels and some of his most memorable projects, curated

by the Walt Disney Archives exclusively for D23 Destination D: Amazing Adventures.

Walt Disney visits Switzerland and is inspired to re-create the iconic Matterhorn mountain in

Disneyland park. This photo, along with additional archival images, props, and models, is a

part of “Walt’s Great Adventures,” an exhibit showcasing Walt Disney’s travels and some of

his most memorable projects, curated by the Walt Disney Archives exclusively for

D23 Destination D: Amazing Adventures.

The doors to Mickey's of Glendale opened at 1:50 and a few people at a time were allowed in to browse through the very exclusive Walt Disney Imagineering merchandise for sale.  Naturally there were some pins that Carol wanted!  I thought that once we were admitted to the shop the waiting would be over, but I was wrong!  There was yet another line, waiting to get to the pins!  We spent about 4 hours in line and then shopped for about 5 minutes.  Carol was happy though, she got exactly the pins she wanted!

By 3:30 we were all finished; we hopped in the car and stopped at Walgreens and Wal-Mart on our way back to our hotel.

We met friends Juanita, Carrie, Susan, Allison, Francine and Becky at the Grand Floridian Resort at 5:15 and spent some time in the lobby admiring the giant gingerbread house. 

Juanita, Carrie, Becky, Francine, Allison, Susan & Carol

Then it was time for dinner with friends in the Grand Floridian Café.  We both ordered salmon, it was great!


After a quick browse through the shops we headed back to our room, put on our swimming gear and headed to the pool.  The quiet pool right beside our "mansion" was a bit chilly so we walked over to the Old Man River pool and had a refreshing dip followed by a soothing soak in the hot tub.  Aaaah!

 

After a little bit of television it was "lights out".


Saturday November 19th
 

The conference started today and there was a terrific line-up of Disney executives and Imagineers scheduled to appear.  We were up at 6:45, anxious to get the day started.  We left the Riverside resort at 7:30, headed to The Wave for breakfast.  I dropped Carol at the front door so she could return a t-shirt she bought the previous day then headed to the restaurant.  There was a long line at Mickey's of Glendale so Carol joined the line to enter the conference hall.  By the time I finished breakfast and joined her she had secured some great seats for the morning session, on an aisle about 15 rows back from the stage.

The meeting room was huge and there were about 1,300 in attendance, so being only 15 rows back was a very good thing!

The emcee for the weekend was Dr. Albert Falls, the character often mentioned by skippers on the Jungle Cruise attraction at the Magic Kingdom.

After Dr. Falls had covered a few ground rules for the conference the parade of speakers began, starting with Bob Chapek, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.  He reflected on the history of the parks and drew a hearty chuckle from the crowd when he lamented that he really missed those sour pickles in a plastic bag that used to accompany many meals in the parks.  Where have they gone?

Next on the stage were film producer Don Hahn and Disney Archives Director Becky Cline.  They reviewed the old series of "True-Life Adventure" films which earned the Walt Disney Studios eight Academy Awards.

During their presentation they ran a hilarious film clip in which Roy Disney Jr. talked about a Disney film crew which scoured a number of frozen lakes in Minnesota, tossing ducks and skidding them across the ice to get the perfect shot of colliding birds Walt wanted to see.  It brought the house down!

The final session of the morning featured Disney Legend and retired Imagineering Ambassador Marty Sklar who shared his firsthand knowledge about the development of many of the attractions in Disney Adventurelands around the world.

 

As we left the hall at 11:50 a.m. for a lunch break we were each given a set of four prints showing scenes from Pandora, the bioluminescent world from the movie Avatar.

Carol took a minute to return the t-shirt at Mickey's of Glendale then we headed up the escalators to the Contempo Café.  There was a huge line, so we went back down and joined the line outside the West Rotunda where a number of barbecues had been set up to serve our group.  It was quite disappointing . . . without a doubt the worst $10.00 cheeseburgers we've ever had!

 

After lunch we sat outside in the concourse in front of the Contemporary Resort, enjoying the sunshine, then at 1:30 headed back in to line up for seats at the afternoon session which began at 2:00 p.m.

The first session was a panel of speakers which included Disney Imagineers Tony Baxter, Jason Grandt and Luc Mayrand.  They talked about the Adventureland areas in all of the Disney parks around the world, and shared plenty of personal insights and pictures.  Since the Shanghai park had just recently opened, it turned out to be their principal focus.

ROWING THROUGH ADVENTURE ISLE –– Guests can explore the wilds of Q’olari River by canoe in Shanghai Disneyland. Adventure Isle is the newest “adventure land” in a Disney theme park. Beginning with Disneyland in 1955, Adventureland has inspired adventures in Disney theme parks around the world, from the Jungle Cruise to Pirates of the Caribbean.

AHOY FROM TREASURE COVE –– Guests can enter a town taken over by pirates in Treasure Cove at Shanghai Disneyland. The adventures of Captain Jack Sparrow, Captain Barbossa, and the rest of the motley crew have inspired attractions and entertainment at Disney theme parks around the world.

   

Next onstage was a panel comprised of Disney historians, Imagineers and former Jungle Cruise skippers, Justin Arthur, Alex Grayman, Kevin Lively, Chris Merritt, Trevor Van Dahm and Wyatt Winter.  They used some wonderful film clips and photos to take us on a historical journey through time, starting with the design and construction of the original Disneyland attraction, then described how it changed over the years from a solemn and serious presentation about the major waterways of the world and became the irreverent, corny joke filled trip we now enjoy.

They wrapped up by describing how the Jungle Cruise first changed to the "Jingle" Cruise for the holiday season four years ago.

After a short coffee break we returned to review the history of Disney's Polynesian Village Resort which, along with the Contemporary Resort and Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, is celebrating it's 45th Anniversary.  The cast member who currently portrays Auntie Kau’I in the luau show at the Polynesian Resort has been part of that show since it's inception in 1971.  She and two others from the cast joined Disney artists Casey Jones and Richard Terpstra, Disney Vacation Club's Ryan March and D23's Steven Vagnini in the presentation and helped give everyone in the audience a hula lesson.  I'm glad there was no video of that . . . no one needs to see me trying to hula!

 

The afternoon wrapped up with a very entertaining presentation by Jared Bush, the screenwriter for the newest Disney movie, Moana.  He held our attention for a full hour as he described how the movie concept was developed, showed us pictures of the original storyboards, walked us through the casting process as they searched for voice actors, then showed us clips from the final film, which we were going to preview that night on a giant screen set up on the beach at the Polynesian Village Resort.  It was a terrific way to wrap up the first day of the conference!


Afternoon session ended at 5:30 and as we left we were each given another gift, this time a Pinocchio print.

Carol and I quickly boarded the monorail and rode to the Polynesian Resort to meet our friends Al and Jane for dinner at Captain Cook's.  Jane was a bit under the weather but Al was there to meet us.  We had a nice dinner and enjoyed chatting with Al, catching up on all happenings at Fort Wilderness since we left a week and a half prior.  Carol headed off to get in line for the movie on the beach while Al and I wrapped up dinner with some tasty pineapple floats!

 

Carol was waiting by our chairs when I arrived, aisle seats near the back with a great view.  The only negative factor was the temperature . . . it was about 50 degrees with a light breeze.  (For you Canadians that's about 10° Celsius)  That's a bit chilly to be sitting out on the beach for two hours!  But the movie was worth it, it was a very entertaining story.

 

After it was over we hopped back on the monorail, rode back to the Contemporary Resort and drove to home to Riverside.  It was nice to get back to our warm and cozy room at 10:45.


Sunday  November 20th
 

Once again we were up bright and early and got away from our resort in good time.  Just like Saturday, Carol, who is not a breakfast eater, lined up to get us seats while I had a leisurely meal at The Wave.  This time she got us aisle seats about 18 rows back, still very good seats.

The mornings activities kicked off with Disney historians Kevin Neary and Susan Neary who were interviewed by Justin Arthur.  The husband and wife team have written a book which charts the creative artwork and history of Disney park maps over the past 60 years, from Disneyland in 1955 to today.

It sounds like something I need to add to my Disney library!

The morning's second session looked at new adventures, focusing on the newest developments at Walt Disney World.  Caitlin Busscher and Nathaniel Palma, Walt Disney World Ambassadors, introduced the session then Wyatt Winter took us behind the scenes as he described the design and construction of the new Frozen Ever After attraction at EPCOT's Norway Pavilion.

After Wyatt concluded Tom Vazzana took over and told us about the new Jingle Bells, Jingle BAM! projection show he directed during it's development for Disney's Hollywood Studios.  It was amazing how much vitality Tom had at 9:45 in the morning, it was a totally upbeat presentation.  I'm not sure what Tom is slipping into his morning coffee, but I think I need some!  He used still pictures and film to illustrate the new show, stopping now and then to show us a few of the "peanuts" or hidden Disney tributes in the projections.

After a short break we resumed with Jason Grandt and Alex Wright who guided us through 45 years of Walt Disney World adventures.  It was a nostalgic look back at some of the great old attractions we can no longer enjoy.

Do you see Mr. Smee on that Jet-Ski?

The last session of the morning was one we had all been waiting for.  Imagineer Joe Rohde, who oversaw the design and construction of Disney's Animal Kingdom, was joined by movie producers James Cameron and Jon Landau to tell us about Pandora The World of Avatar currently being build at Animal Kingdom.  The presentation we had all been waiting for turned out to be a real yawner!  There was absolutely no new information, nothing that hadn't already been told or shown at D23 Expo in Anaheim over a year ago.  The only new item was a closely cropped picture of a small section of the floating mountains.  That picture was mixed with about a half-dozen images from the original concept art which kept cascading as the three men spoke.  It was an utter waste of time!

Flight of Passage, the centerpiece of Pandora – The World of AVATAR at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, will allow guests to soar on a Banshee over a vast alien world. The spectacular flying experience will give guests a birds-eye view of the beauty and grandeur of the world of Pandora on an aerial rite of passage.

Journey through the bioluminescent rainforest to discover the full beauty of Pandora in Na’vi River Journey, coming to Pandora – The World of AVATAR when the new land opens at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park summer 2017.

Concept of Pandora – The World of AVATAR, coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom summer 2017.

We broke for lunch at 11:50 and this time Carol and I made our way directly, and quickly, to the Contempo Café where we enjoyed some terrific sandwiches.  We decided to sit in the concourse again and soak up some more rays.  On our way there we stopped to look at a new bus format, the "Sorcerer Class" bus.  It plays Disney music, themed for your destination as bands of lights inside the bus flash, pulsate and change colour in time with the music.  That's just what you need at the end of a long and tiring day in the theme parks.  Nope, I don't think I'll ever be riding one of those buses!

 

We chatted with friends Susan and Allison out in the sunny concourse before heading in for the final afternoon of the conference.

At 2:00 p.m. Imagineer Chris Merritt spent an hour telling the story of Disney Legend Marc Davis.  Davis began his Disney career as an artist and animator and was part of the group Walt Disney fondly referred to as his "Nine Old Men".  He worked as an animator on the earliest animated feature films, including Snow White but Davis was also a talented draftsman.  In later years was actively involved in the design and construction of many theme park attractions including The Jungle Cruise, The Enchanted Tiki Room, The Carousel of Progress, It's a Small World,  Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion.

Disney Legend Marc Davis reviews concepts for the 1967 Disneyland attraction Pirates of the Caribbean.

A Disney Studio animator and member of Walt Disney’s “Nine Old Men,” Davis also designed memorable

characters and scenarios for many Disney theme park attractions.

Disney Legend Marc Davis creates concepts for a never-realized attraction inspired by the Snow Queen.

A Disney Studio animator and member of Walt Disney’s “Nine Old Men,” Davis also designed  memorable

characters and scenarios for many Disney theme park attractions, including the Jungle Cruise, It’s a Small

World, and Pirates of the Caribbean.

In the second session of the afternoon Disney Legend Tony Baxter teamed up with Shanghai Disneyland Portfolio Creative Director Luc Mayrand to give us an in-depth look at the development of the Indiana Jones Adventure at Disneyland and the new Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure at Shanghai Disneyland.

Imagineers Claude Coats, Tony Baxter, and David Schweninger review a model of Big Thunder Mountain

Railroad for Magic Kingdom park at Walt Disney World. Originally designed for the Florida resort,

the attraction first opened at Disneyland park in 1979 and later inspired versions at Tokyo Disneyland

and Disneyland Paris.

 

Shanghai Disneyland Portfolio Creative Executive Luc Mayrand shared details of Shanghai Disneyland’s Treasure Cove, which is home to Eye of the Storm: Captain Jack’s Stunt Spectacular and Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure is a spectacular indoor boat ride that takes guests on a new rollicking adventure with Captain Jack Sparrow to steal the priceless treasure of Davy Jones. The Shanghai Disneyland attraction is the newest iteration of the classic attraction, which opened at Disneyland park in 1967.

I always enjoy listening to Tony Baxter; I think he could read the phone book and make it interesting!

After a short break Dr. Scott Terrell, Director, Animal and Science Operations, took the stage to describe all the new evening activities at Disney's Animal Kingdom and to share with us how the changes were designed to have minimal effect on the animals and how the animals were prepared for the changes.  There were gratuitous appearances by a vulture and an aardvark.  Neither animal had anything to do with Dr. Terrell's message, but it was fun to see them!

A black vulture from Disney’s Animal Kingdom joins Dr. Scott Terrell, Director, Animal and Science Operations, as he shares how his team has prepared animals for the extended nighttime hours at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Live animals roam the savanna during a new nighttime excursion on Kilimanjaro Safaris in Disney’s

Animal Kingdom Park.

Then it was time for the last onstage session, Imagineer Joe Rodhe took the stage, solo this time, and held our rapt attention for a full hour as he told about the original development of Animal Kingdom, then he bridged to the new evening activities and the advent of Avatarland and Pandora.  Joe shared his passion for Animal Kingdom as he described the original vision for the park, then he explained how all of the current changes are remaining true to that original vision.  He can be a mesmerizing speaker and his message this afternoon, when he wasn't sharing the stage with those movie producers, was captivating.  An excellent note on which to end the conference.

The iconic Tree of Life at Disney’s Animal Kingdom undergoes an extraordinary “awakening” throughout each evening as the animal spirits are brought to life by magical fireflies that reveal colorful stories of wonder and enchantment. Projections of nature scenes take on a magical quality as they appear to dramatically emanate from within the

Tree of Life.

As we left the hall for the final time we received our last gift, Marvel comic book #1, The Enchanted Tiki Room.

The new Limited Edition second generation Magic Bands included in the goodie bags we were give when we registered on Friday included a one-day admission to the Magic Kingdom and an open FastPass at The Jungle Jingle Cruise so we walked from the Contemporary Resort to the Magic Kingdom.  We arrived just in time to watch Elsa "freeze" Cinderella Castle in the nightly castle-lighting show.

We wandered over to Columbia Harbor House for dinner then wandered across to Adventureland where we cashed in our FastPasses for a spin around the rivers of the world on the Jingle Cruise. 

 

Since we were in the area, and even though it was a cool evening, we picked up a pineapple float for me and a citrus swirl for Carol.  Delicious!

 

Our last attraction of the trip was in Tomorrowland.  Carol whupped me at Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin!

 

It was getting late, and it was getting cool, time to go home.  As usual Carol browsed through the Emporium while I waited on a park bench in front of City Hall.  We rode the monorail back to the Contemporary Resort and were back at Riverside by 10:00 p.m.

 

I loafed while Carol packed for our trip home!


Monday Nov 21st
 

I woke up at 6:45 to the sound of Carol coughing.  She was getting a cold . . . nothing to do with a chilly night on the beach I'm sure!


While Carol did the final bit of packing I drove to Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground to pick up the Fort Wilderness 45th Anniversary button that our friends Al and Jane had picked up for us.  These buttons were only given out to cast members and I don't know how Al and Jane managed to get them, but we sure are grateful.

 

It was a cool 48° when we pulled away from the hotel at 9:15.  We checked our luggage at the Bell Captain's airline check-in then gassed up on our way to Disney Springs.  We enjoyed one more meal at Earl of Sandwich; even their breakfast sandwiches are great!

 

Carol browsed through the Pin Store and a few other shops and at 11:15 we said goodbye to Mickey and headed to the airport.

 

By noon we had dropped off the rental car, cleared security, taken the monorail to the gate area and were enjoying lunch in the food court.  We boarded Jet Blue Flight #656 to Syracuse at 1:45 and took off a few minutes before scheduled time of 2:10.  It was a smooth and comfortable flight.

 

We landed on a snow-packed runway at 4:45 and as we taxied toward the terminal Carol's cell phone chimed - it was our cell provider, Bell Canada, with a "welcome to the USA" message.  Only four days late - they're getting better!

 

We just love flying out of Syracuse . . . by 5:05, just 20 minutes after touch-down, we had our luggage in hand, and five minutes after that we were driving away from the airport.  Road conditions were not very good, there were gusty winds and lots of "lake-effect" snow was coming down.

 

Carol needed to stop at the Disney Store so we took a brief jaunt south to the Destiny Mall.  She was in and out in a jiffy and at 5:45 we began our northbound trek.  The roads were nasty in places, conditions varied from snow-packed to icy to track-bare and occasionally the roads were only wet.   Wind gusts were sometimes a real challenge, several times the car was pushed sideways a foot or more by the wind.  We saw lots of cars and even two big tractor-trailers in the ditch; wind and snow can be a bad combination.

Conditions improved noticeably as we approached Watertown and we pulled off at 7:15 for dinner at Cracker Barrel.  From there it was a short hop to the Thousand Island border crossing; we were back home in Canada at 8:40.
  Roads were bare and dry!

 

We picked up a pair of happy dogs at Carol's mother's house and got home at 9:30, tired after a terrific weekend.