On Saturday, October 28, The Disney Project hosted the Disney fan event “A Day of IMAGINATION” in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. After doing two successful events in San Francisco (where I live), I wanted to try my first “on the road” event close to either Disneyland or Walt Disney World. I decided on Walt Disney World, and already being friends with original Journey into Imagination Imagineer Tom Morris made him the perfect guy to ask headline. It wasn’t long before I asked another friend, Epcot’s longest-running Dreamfinder Steve Taylor, to join the fun. The line-up was assembled.
I tried to procure a venue on Disney property. As I was organizing this event entirely by myself, however, it was pretty far out of my price range. Disney Springs was the next logical choice, and after researching all the options, I found a reasonable price and outstanding customer service at the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista. I always try to just break even with these events, so the lower the venue cost, the less I can charge for tickets.
For my first two events, I had acquired raffle prizes and gave event guests one free raffle ticket each. This time, I wanted to do a fundraiser for charity. There are so many great causes to choose from, but I ultimately decided on the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando. I am a huge animal lover, and I suddenly became very excited at the prospect of being able to raise a decent amount of money for them.
While I am pretty good at creating content, I am not so good at promotion. Luckily, several people stepped up and helped me out. My friend Estelle (always the first to help) regularly works with authors and is an expert at promotion, and was able to get some very reputable Disney fan sites to post something about the event. My friend Serena plugged the event for me on her channel, as did my buddy Spokesmayne. How Bowers gave the event a shout out on the Retro WDW Podcast, and the boys at the Disney Parks Podcast interviewed me about the event. I also did an interview with the girls over at Divas Dish Diz.
My friend Brian is a professional graphic designer, and he designed a special event poster for me (and accompanying shirt) which I decided to sell at the event, and donate 100% of the profits—along with the raffle ticket money—to the Pet Alliance. The first organization to donate a prize was the Main Street Art Corner. They donated a gorgeous print of the Dreamfinder and Figment riding in the “Dream Machine.” The Walt Disney Family Museum donated some great prizes, and Deb from allears.net donated various Disney merchandise. She also posted the event info in her site’s newsletter, gave me tons of advice via multiple emails, and purchased a VIP ticket. I am exceedingly grateful for how much work she ended up putting in for me.
Event day came, and my friend Ashley, who had already purchased a ticket, agreed to help me work the event by checking folks in, selling raffle tickets and posters, and generally assisting me. She brought her friend Angie, who was also gracious enough to help with checking folks in. Once the event started, I led things off with my presentation, “The Evolution of the Disney Dark Ride: Volume II.” I had done this presentation before, but it was for a West Coast audience, thus it featured a ton of info about Disneyland dark rides. I trimmed some Disneyland info out and beefed up the info on Walt Disney World. While the presentation went well, I miscalculated just how much material I added, and ended up running over by about 20 minutes. Thankfully, no one seemed to mind.
Next up was the original short video, The Disneyland of Walt’s Imagination, which served as a featurette on the model that resides in Gallery 9 of The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. Carol Bauman and Mark Salas generously donated their time and sat down with me for an on-camera interview to share their experiences of leading the team that created the Disneyland model. The video was surprisingly well-received, considering I was the one who produced it (let’s put it this way: in regards to filmmaking talent, I’m a pretty good writer).
After a short break, recently retired Imagineer Tom Morris gave a fascinating presentation covering his rise through Walt Disney Imagineering, mixing in vintage photographs and Disney history. Tom worked for Disney for roughly 40 years, and had some amazing stories to share. After his program we had a few folks from the Pet Alliance give a brief talk about the absolutely wonderful work they do. I was then very happy to present them with a check, which thanks to the audience (and a generous co-worker of mine) totaled $750! After I cut the check a few more people wanted to buy event posters, so I asked that they just give the cash directly to the Pet Alliance folks. All told we raised $790 that day. The highlight for me was when the dog they brought in personally thanked me.
After another quick break, I conducted a mini panel with Tom and our other special guest, Steve Taylor. Prior to the event they had both sent me several photos from their respective personal collections, including several behind-the-scenes shots and early EPCOT construction photos. I went through the slideshow while asking them questions, and the audience really seemed to enjoy hearing the first-account stories while looking at rare or even never-before-seen photos. After the mini-panel we pulled the raffle numbers to see who won prizes, and I thanked a fantastic audience for their participation. Jim Korkis was in the audience and made the extremely nice gesture of thanking me. Thanks Jim! Tom and Steve then headed to the autograph table, and I went around and personally thanked several of the folks for coming.
For the event “bonus,” I brought Steve and Tom (well technically Tom drove me) to the Imagination Pavilion in Epcot. I thought it would be fun for folks to get to hang out with these two original Imagination contributors inside the Pavilion. Steve and Tom shared more stories, and after a few minutes we all rode Journey into Imagination together.
We all went to dinner together at Nine Dragons, and the non-VIP ticket-holders then called it a night. The rest of us headed to the Top of the World Lounge for drinks with a view, where Tom and Steve shared even more stories. Sadly, I forgot to take a photo while there. But it was a great way to wrap up a fun and full day of IMAGINATION.
For those who helped me out in any way, I am sincerely grateful. For those who came to the event, thank you so much, and I hope to see you at the next one I do in your area. For those who live in the area and couldn’t make it, come to the next one! For those who live in So Cal, don’t worry, I’m coming for you. And Tom and Steve, thank you both for being my special guests, and for being good sports and literally participating in event stuff the entire day. I’m proud to not only be your fan, but your friend.