I arrived right about 8am (due to some unexpected freeway traffic - a given around southern California) and found a parking spot out on the street. When you walked up to the gate there was a cast member handing out wrist bands, an informational flyer, and a ticket to the presentation.
|Front of the Flyer|
|Back of the Flyer|
|Detail of Map - you can see the fountains and covered seating area|
|The ticket for the presentation|
When it was time to line up for the presentation, the line wrapped around part of the huge foam model of the seven dwarfs mine train. It was pretty neat to peak inside and see some of the track plans. We were brought into the building (I believe it was the actual 1401 Flower street building) and ushered down the John Hench graffiti art wall. There were all kinds of drawings by different artists, and I spotted Snow White in a few of them (Dopey too). We were brought into the presentation room and sat down. The walls had big posters some of the newly completed Disney World projects and upcoming changes (like Disney springs).
The presentation featured six imagineers and one animation cast member.
Dave Bossert: Producer, Creative Director and Head of Special Projects at Walt Disney Animation Studios
Chris Beatty: Executive Create Director on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Jon Georges: Executive Producer on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Dave Minichiello: Executive Field Art Director on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Cliff Welch: Production Designer on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Derek Howard: Ride Concept Designer on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Rebecca Bishop: Executive Concept landscape Architect on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
They started the presentation by welcoming us and telling us how excited they were to have us in the building as it was the first time Disney has ever allowed a group like this into the building. They also explained all the construction. They were getting ready for next weekend's family and friends open house and were completing the Monorail tunnel that will feature a whole bunch of LCD screens to show off latest projects. We had actually passed by the pallets of TVs on the way in.
The panel began by showing us some of the concept art that was initially done and discussed how the final product really hadn't moved too far away from those initial drawings. They knew early on that they didn't want this attraction to be a "book report" and just retell the Snow White story like the Scary Adventures of Snow White did.
From there they discussed the mine vehicle itself. Dave Minichiello talked about something he had been working on and how it fit perfectly into this project: the swinging ride vehicle. They showed us footage of them riding in a swinging plywood box that was attached to the back of a flat bed truck that drove around the parking lot. We also got to see a variety of foam mock ups and concept drawings for the vehicle. The final mine cart was built in Europe and they showed us the different paint stages which was pretty impressive.
They also discussed how they had hired some polka dancers to come in to film. The team knew they had to have Snow White make an appearance and decided it would be at the cottage, after the dwarfs have arrived home. One of the imagineers built a temporary cottage set out of cardboard and paper and filmed the dancers dancing around inside to get an idea of what it would be like to see the action from all the different mine cart's viewpoints. They pointed out that they built this in the very room we were sitting in.
The also discussed the plants on the exterior of the mountain. At some point, going up the mountain, the plants change into artificial plants. The reasoning was that they wanted to keep the story consistent, they wanted the mountain to always have the same look, just a kiss of spring, so that could only be achieved with artificial plants. Rebecca Bishop wasn't sure with the idea (being landscaping) at first, but she talked of a trip to China to the plant that made the artificial products. She went to look at grasses, because apparently, grasses that look realistic didn't exist. She talked about how the colors mixed to create new hues. She tried a bunch of shades, and many didn' work. But her favorite was the pink. It made it look like just a touch of spring. Bishop also mentioned that you never know what to expect with the design, sometimes they want trees and sometimes they don't (they being the design leads) so she was excited to work on a project with lots of trees. Chris Beattly also talked about putting moss on rocks to create the illusion that they had been there a long time, and then having to explain to the cleaning crew that they should not clean the moss off.
Next they showed us some construction photographs. They mentioned that the ride structure was the brown steel and the building structure was the gray steel. The two must be separate or the whole building would shake as the coaster runs. The crews were all working at the same time, people outside and inside. It took quite a bit of careful planning! We also got to see photos the black light image mock ups that WDI built here in Glendale and then sent out to Florida to sit in the construction so artists could model the area around the characters. Beatty talked about getting nervous because every time he visited he worried because there was always a cement truck where the cottage was to be. However, the cottage is there now (and built in only about 5 months). Cliff Welch's wife built an exact replica of the cottage window, the one Snow White peaks in during the film. All hand done the original way.
The last thing they talked about are the next generation audio-animatonric: the dwarfs. I think it was Jon Georges that pointed out that with he 50th anniversary of Tiki room, theses dwarfs are something Walt would have been proud of. The imagineers talked about how they can be a kind of jaded group, but when other imagineers, who weren't on the project, saw these figures, they were blown away. And I can see why! They are amazing. One guest asked how they did it, and the answer was magic (they want to keep the cards close at this point Dave Bossert said). Beatty said that the Doc figure right before one of the climb is the most complex (I'm not sure if he meant of the ride, or overall). I am so excited to see these in person soon!
After the presentation was done I did some shopping. I had been given a blue wrist band with numbers on it. They called the numbers in groups to go in to avoid really long check out lines. They had passed my number while I was in the presentation, so I got to go right in. I bought pins, so my wrist band was collected. If you wanted to wait until everyone had a chance to shop once, people without wrist bands could go in again at the end of the day. There was only one Seven Dwarfs Mine Train product I didn't get and that was the Tshirt with the shilotte of all seven dwarfs.
|The hat available as a S/M or L/XL|
|Back of the hat|
|The pins are Imagineer exclusive limited edition 300|
|Three of the four T-shirts available - the sleeve says grand Opening 2014|
|The jumbo pin Imagineering exclusive limited edition 300|
After shopping, I joined the line for the lithograph and autographs. At 11:30ish they did announce that people who did not want to get it signed could turn in the yellow wrist band and get their lithograph. I did wait in line to have mine signed.
|The lithograph signed by all the Imagineers (Dave Bossert was not at the signing) Look for an upcoming post with more details of the lithograph.|
Overall, it was a fantastically fun day and I'm so glad I had a chance to visit the WDI campus and hear from the imagineers.