Last evening saw the commencement of the 2010 Sip & Stroll event from Disney D23. The bulk of the event to take place Saturday, Friday night was a relatively short (but incredibly sweet) time for most of the attending D23 members and their guests. After checking in for the event, guests were invited into the rotunda of the American Adventure pavilion for a wine and cheese reception.
A wide assortment of cheeses, fruits, vegetables and bread were available to sample along with an open bar offering wines, beers and soft drinks. Although I tried to fend off the temptation, I eventually had to cave and found a new love in the form of a combination of five English cheddars coupled with the cheese fondue.
Somewhere along the middle, D23 head Steven Clark took to the center of the room to address the group, offering a toast to retiring Walt Disney Studios Archives founder Dave Smith as well as pointing out and showing appreciation to other members of the D23 team in attendance. Clark also mentioned that Dave Smith had once noted that the panels (?) of the dome of the American Adventure building were installed backwards, crippling its intent to faithfully mimic the dome of the United States Capitol Building.
For a subset of the attendees, those who were willing to spend about $100 more and got in on the limited number of tickets available, the event continued over at the VIP lounge at The Seas with Nemo and Friends Pavilion where a formal retirement/birthday dinner was held in Dave Smith’s honor.
After being led into the space (which is more commonly used as a rentable venue for affairs such as wedding receptions), guests claimed their spots at one of several tables. Each table setting included an autographed caricature of Smith along with a button commemorating the event (Clark would later explain that the pins that were ordered for the event are to come and the button was an immediate resolve). After finding their seats, guests were invited to explore the dining options which were served buffet style with multiple stations offering varying flavors of cuisine and desserts consumed multiple rooms within the space. As a nice surprise, Smith took to the floor after he had eaten himself, visiting each of the tables to meet with the guests and pose for photos.
After dining, Clark took to the podium to speak a few words about Smith as well as formally present Smith with a departing gift. Explaining that it was customary for the departing to make a wish list and that Smith was an autograph collector (mostly of the political and historical kind), Clark said that one of the things Smith requested was a Walt Disney autograph, which Clark found funny as Smith — as the chief archivist — would pride himself on not collecting Disneyana as a matter of preventing a ‘conflict of interest.’ Although it wasn’t available at the dinner itself, Clark announced that Smith would be gifted a copy of a Lady and the Tramp book signed by Walt. Clark then went on to explain another one of Smith’s ‘wishes’ was to be granted a lifetime membership of D23 and presented him with an oversized D23 membership certificate, which Clark further joked would have to be presented each year for renewal.
Clark then presented Smith with a Disney trading pin designed exclusively for the event, which is along the lines of the button that was presented to guests. According to Clark, the pins were meant for everyone attending but manufacturing difficulties prevented their timely delivery so they will be mailed to attendees as they become available.
Lastly, Clark noted that it was not only a retirement party for Smith but also a birthday party as well as Smith had just recently turned 70 years old and brought out a small cake in honor of the secondary event.
Smith then took to the podium and reflected on the past forty years as a member of the Disney family and as founder and chief archivist of the Walt Disney Studios Archives. He recalled some of his favorite memories over the past four decades and space and memory would preclude me from listing them all, but included: Meeting with Walt (and Roy’s) estranged brother Ray when he visited the Studios for the first time years after his brothers’ deaths; Going to a pizzeria with Walt’s sister Ruth; Going to the Studios when it was closed in response to the death of Roy O. Disney to meet someone who had found an old school textbook of Ruth’s complete with two drawings by Walt; mentoring a countless number of Disney cast members including Tony Anselmo, Steven Clark, Stacia Martin, Jason Surrell and plenty more; and many more memories, ending with meeting Walt at Disneyland as a teenager.
Egged on by Clark, Smith concluded by expanding on his first encounter with Walt Disney: In 1956 or so, he was at Disneyland and had seen Walt Disney walking through the park. Noting that even though everyone knew Walt’s name, his face really hadn’t entered the American consciousnesses until the television programs started airing, so he shyly shadowed Walt as he walked down the street to see who would notice Walt in the park. Being an autograph collector, he decided he would attempt to get Walt’s autograph so he ran ahead of Walt as Walt was heading towards Fantasyland and, not having a pen on him, ducked into the first shop that he saw which was Merlin’s Magic Shop. Unfortunately for Smith, the only writing implement the shop had was a two foot long gag jumbo pencil that wrote in multiple colors, but he bought it anyway just to have something. Getting the nerve up to ask Walt for his autograph, Walt ‘politely declined,’ explaining that once he started signing autographs, he would then get mobbed and be unable to perform his work. Instead, Walt suggested Smith write the Studios and request the autograph and he would fulfill the request that way. Smith did just that and received the autograph which he still has today.
After the dinner, Smith took to the lounge’s far room which has a large window overlooking Spaceship Earth (and some backstage elements) to formally meet & greet with attendees.
Photos below are not finalized and do not appear in final order in the interest of time. They should be corrected later as time allows. All photos © Stitch Kingdom. All Rights Reserved.