Disney brings fan event to Philly

When Billy Stanek first saw the footage of a 1970s ABC “World of Entertainment” interview with “Mary Poppins” star Julie Andrews, he was nearly in tears.

The interview, only aired once on television, had been buried inside the Walt Disney Archives for decades. Stanek and his team in Burbank, Ca., had been on a quest for “gems” like the Andrews tape since about February, when production began on the 2014 “D23 Disney Fanniversary Celebration.” The event, now in its third year, will travel to Philadelphia on Sept. 21 for a show at the Franklin Institute.

The celebration recognizes milestones within all divisions of the Walt Disney Company, including its theme parks, films and animated characters. This year, the event will recognize the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney’s “Mary Poppins,” Donald Duck’s 80th birthday, Walt Disney’s contributions to the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair and more than a dozen other Disney landmarks.

Stanek, a writer and host of the 105-minute show, said he has fun bringing the Disney experience to fans throughout the country, in cities like Philadelphia, Boston and New York. The event is open to the public, with a discounted admission price for members of the D23 fan club.

“It’s great to get out of Southern California and see such passion for the Disney product, especially with the archival presentation,” Stanek said. “A lot of the fans eat up some of the stuff that we get to see every day.”

Disney will also showcase rare items from the Walt Disney Archives at the Franklin Theater, including a hat worn by Andrews in “Mary Poppins” and a “Duckster” award – a bronze-colored figure with the likeness of Donald Duck, honoring individuals who made significant contributions to Disney throughout its 91-year history. Walt Disney himself was once a recipient of the prize.

D23, which is named in honor of the Hollywood studio Walt Disney opened in 1923, offers its members exclusive online content, discounts and a “greater connection to the entire world of Disney” through a quarterly publication, “Disney twenty-three.”

In 2012, D23 held its first iteration of the “Fanniversary” show at the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Museum. The club also offered its Philadelphia-based members an advanced screening of “Saving Mr. Banks” in December 2013 at the Ritz Five Theater.

Stanek said D23, now in its fifth year, has been a great opportunity for Disney fans – in Philadelphia and other cities nationwide – to gather and celebrate their love for the company.

“There are members that will plan to meet up with each other and they are Facebook friends and they go to the park together,” he said. “It creates a place for them to meet likeminded people and geek out over Disney.”

Avery Maehrer can be reached at avery.maehrer@temple.edu or on Twitter @AveryMaehrer.

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