I’ve almost finished Netflix. During this quarantine, I’ve watched so many shows some good (The Umbrella Academy) some bad (The Tiger King). I’ve re-watched some of my favorites (Sherlock, Schitt’s Creek & Warehouse 13). I’ve watched DVD’s, BluRays, digital movies, Amazon Prime, and Apple TV. I miss work so much. I’m still taking care of my clients, but with no one traveling, and with most people waiting to see what’s going to happen, I’ve had very few new inquiries on future travel. (No matter that it’s an ideal time to plan a future vacation…with great pricing & refundable deposits, why wait?)
The original hat used in the production of Mary Poppins and worn by Julie Andrews. Photo taken by me during one of my visits to the Walt Disney Archives.
Anyway, last night I happened upon a new program on Disney+ called Prop Culture. So far, I’ve only watched the first episode, and I immediately fell in love with this program. Here is a description of the show from Disney’s website:
Film historian and prop collector Dan Lanigan reunites iconic Disney movie props with the filmmakers, actors, and crew who created and used them in some of Disney’s most beloved films. Throughout this journey, Dan will recover lost artifacts, visit private collections, and help restore pieces from the Walt Disney Archives to their original glory. Among the films featured this season are Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Mary Poppins, The Muppet Movie, Tron and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Prop Culture is produced by ABC Studios, a label of Disney Television Studios. The series is executive produced by Jason Henry and Dan Lanigan.
As many of you know, before landing my dream job at Modern Travel Professionals, I owned Enchanted Gardens in Stockbridge, GA. It was a florist that specialized in high-end Disney Animation art. I loved that job, and feel so privileged that I was able to get to do as many cool things that I did. Looking back, I was in the perfect job at the perfect time. Disney was releasing collectible merchandise that any true Disney Nerd would love. I gathered quite a collection during this time. But, the extremely cool thing was that working as close to Disney as I did, I got to do some extraordinary things and meet some true Disney Legends.
Photo: Kenneth Reece
Through Disney, I was able to meet a lot of the people that were featured in Prop Culture’s episode of Mary Poppins, and I visited many of the same places as well. I’ve been to the Disney Studios, The Walt Disney Archives, I’ve toured Ink & Paint, part of the prop warehouse, The Julie Andrews Soundstage, and countless other places. (the day I visited the Julie Andrews Soundstage, they were set up to film the season one finale of “Alias”!) I’ve been to Walt’s Barn, The Tam O’Shanter & I’ve seen the carousel at Griffith Park. Unfortunately, when I visited all of those places was during the time that I didn’t own a digital camera, and Facebook wasn’t a thing yet, so I don’t have as many photos as I would have today. Also, I’ve moved three times, and some photos are lost in boxes who knows where. On one of my visits to the studios in Burbank, I was able to get a picture of myself holding one of Walt Disney’s personal Oscars. Not a reproduction, his Academy Award. Where that picture is, I have no clue. I’ve searched and searched. I hope it turns up one day.
In 2001, I met the choreographer of Mary Poppins, Dee Dee Wood. I think Marc Breaux was with her as well, but I just can’t remember for certain. I don’t have any pictures. I didn’t get her autograph. But, I was extremely fortunate to get to meet as many Disney Legends as I did. Sadly, many have passed since then.
That time when one of my friends invited me & my family on a tour of the Walt Disney Studios one day during our Disneyland Vacation! (photo circa June 2011)
Watching the Mary Poppins episode last night, brought back a flood of memories, and inspired me to go around the house and document which Mary Poppins collectibles I have on display. Now, unlike the items featured on Prop Culture, mine are not the real thing, but are limited edition reproductions. I thought I’d share some of my collection and their stories with you.
These four items represents some of my favorite things in my collection, and get a lot of talk from visitors. They are displayed in the foyer, so everyone walks right by these items. I purchased all of them (I believe) through the Disney Catalog, back when they sold cool stuff. The Carpet Bag, Hat & Scarf are all reproductions and are supposed to be as accurate as possible. The umbrella is the same, but is an actual working umbrella. I have never opened it, for fear of damaging it.
This set are the first releases from the film “Mary Poppins” to the Walt Disney Classics Collection. The “WDCC” (For short) was my absolute favorite line that I ever sold in my store. I remember when I was told that Mary & Bert were going to be released…I was working at an event for a friend’s store in Warm Springs, GA. Jodi Benson (The original Voice of Ariel, the Little Mermaid) was appearing there for a signing event. Good Times!
Here are two Precious Moments sculptures inspired by Mary Poppins. When I eventually got the right to carry Precious Moments in my store, I was thrilled. It literally took about three years to be able to order them for my store, and then we had to fight with them to sell us more than we were allocated. By the time they introduced Disney characters, most people had stopped collecting them. These are two of my favorite “PM’s”.
This is a limited edition WDCC sculpture of Mary Poppins with her umbrella & carpet bag. She was available at a weekend event held in my store for one day. In the background you can see one of my Jim Shore Disney Traditions of Mickey as a beefeater and a phone booth replica I picked up in London on Portobello Road (yes, that Portobello Road!) before Disney Cruise Line’s Inaugural British Isles Cruise. (This is an itinerary I WANT to re-visit!).
This is one of my sericels. This is a limited edition (edition size was 5,000 I believe). This is a serigraph printed on a cel. A cel is what was used to make animation come alive on the screen. Julie Andrews & Walt Disney are on a photograph mounted behind the clear cel which contains the images of each of the animated characters. Sericels were printed in the same kind of way as t-shirts are screened. Each color was printed individually on the cel until the image was finished. So, if 40 colors appear on the cel, the cel had to printed 40 times to produce the artwork.
These Mickey Hands are signature plaques that were produced by the Walt Disney Classics Collection. I usually carried them around during my trips and got some of the people I met to sign them for me. Unfortunately, I didn’t have them around with me all of the time. (I’m thinking of you, Dee Dee Wood) If you’ve read this far, I’m going to assume you are a Disney fan, and know who Richard & Robert Sherman are. I’ve met Richard several times, but only was able to meet his brother Robert once. My favorite memory of Richard is running into him and his wife at the Grand Floridian and just talking to him. Such a wonderful person. And, oh yeah, there was a piano there, and he sang “Feed the Birds” to us. We were a group of about 7 including him and his wife. Oh, to have had an iPhone then!
Bill Justice was an animator for the Walt Disney Studios, and did the stop-motion animation in the nursery scene for Mary Poppins. He also directed almost every classic Chip & Dale animated short that was produced. He animated Thumper for “Bambi” as well. I remember first meeting him at a cocktail party on the eve of Disneyland’s 45th anniversary. He was in a wheelchair, and on oxygen. If a woman asked for a picture, he asked them to sit in his lap, and laughed! He sat at my table along with Dickie Jones (Original voice of Pinocchio) and Alice Davis (costume designer for a lot of things, but widely known for her work on “Pirates of the Caribbean” & “It’s A Small World”). What stories were told at that table of 8 that night! I’ve never looked at the Hitch-hiking ghosts from the Haunted Mansion the same again. (that story is for another blog entry)
Peter Ellenshaw, I met once at the first ever Celebration of Walt Disney Art Classics. (WDAC was the company owned by the Walt Disney Studios and produced 2D & 3D paintings, cels, sculptures, etc. and my main source of product for my store). I remember him being nice but brutally honest. He was a painter for the studios, and did all of the background paintings for Mary Poppins. He talked about his work for Mary Poppins and also his work for “The Black Hole”. He said that was a beautiful movie, but it was “boring as hell”. I have three of his limited edition works. I have the Seven Dwarfs coming home from work, I have Maleficent descending upon Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, and I have his version of the Chimney Sweeps dancing on the rooftops of London. For my copy, he personally painted one of the fireworks on the printed copy…making it a “Deluxe Edition” but basically a one-of-a-kind cherished treasure.
And, finally we come to my favorite piece in my collection from the film “Mary Poppins”. It’s a hand-painted cel, produced in the Ink & Paint Dept. of the Walt Disney studios, using the original hand-drawn images from the Archives & the exact paint mixture that was used for the film production. For the movie, these penguins would have each been drawn individually on paper, then copied onto a cel, then hand painted. It took 24 paintings of each character to produce one second of screen time. Here, each of the penguins were hand-painted on one cel and mounted with a photograph of Julie Andrews & Dick Van Dyke. Their photograph was also hand-signed by them as well. Those are powerful signatures for a Disney Nerd like me to have in his collection.
Truly, one of my favorite pieces in my collection!
I miss going to my store and getting to talk to people about their Disney collections, but now, I do get to help them go to Disney’s Magical Destinations around the world. At least, I will get to do that again one day…hopefully soon. If you are watching Prop Culture, and would like to visit the Walt Disney Archives, the Walt Disney Studios, Walt Disney Imagineering, and a host of other places that normally doesn’t allow visitors…let me know. I happen to know a bit of magic. One of my absolute favorite vacation experiences actually can take you and your family on a small group tour through Disneyland & Southern California. Adventures by Disney is an incredible experience and practically the only way you’ll get to tour these famous behind-the-scenes places. You’ll get to experience the how & the where Walt Disney created the magic that has become a part of us. If you’d like more information about their Disneyland & Sourthen California toure (Or any of their other amazing destinations):
I hope you enjoyed this tour of my Mary Poppins collection. If you are bored, and have Disney+, I highly recommend trying out “Prop Culture”. It was a fascinating show, and I can’t wait to see the second episode! Although, I’ll probably be watching Mary Poppins tonight.