Disney Dazzles at Inaugural Fundraising Gala in San Francisco
A wonderful world of Disney superstars lit up the night at the Golden Gate Club in San Francisco's Presidio for the Inaugural Fundraising Gala of the Walt Disney Family Museum. The Gala, produced by Academy Award®-nominated producer director Don Hahn (Lion King, Beauty and the Beast), included an epicurean dining experience-provided by Taste Catering & Events-and a once-in-a-lifetime live concert by Richard Sherman and other entertainment notables.
The night began with a silent auction with dream items such as the sheet music to Mary Poppins' "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," The Jungle Book's "I Wanna Be Like You," and Winnie the Pooh's "The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers" - all signed by songwriter and Disney Legend, Richard Sherman.
As guests sipped wine and nibbled on hors d'oeuvres, those in-the-know started to point out the various Disney celebrities. All of them were much better known for either their animation work or character and voice-over work than for their appearances - but very quickly they were surrounded by fans of every age.
Bill Farmer (the voice of Goofy, Pluto, Sleepy and Toy Story's Mission Announcer - to name just a few) shared that early on, Walt Disney sought consistency in the voicings, so Farmer has been with Disney for close to 30 years now. Likewise Tony Anselmo (Donald Duck, Daisy Duck and others), Bill Rogers and Camille Dixon (Disneyland Park Announcers) and Jodi Benson (Little Mermaid's Ariel and Barbie in Toy Story) have all been in the Disney family for over 25 years. They very kindly showed off their talents, much to the delight of all within earshot.
Among the local celebrities were Chris Columbus (of Harry Potter, Mrs. Doubtfire, Home Alone, Goonies and Gremlins directing fame) and Disney Animator and Pixar chief creative officer John Lasseter (he directed Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Toy Story 2, Cars and Cars 2 and oversees all of Pixar's projects).
During dinner a rousing live auction was held and helped raise well over 100,000 for the Disney Family Museum's educational endeavors for kids K-12. Toward the end of the evening Ron Miller, husband of the late Diane Disney Miller, presented Richard Sherman with the inaugural Diane Disney Miller Lifetime Achievement Award. Named in honor of the museum's founder, the award recognizes those who have made an outstanding impact in the field of arts, education, community involvement, or technological advancements. Sherman received a standing ovation.
BWW found the highlight of the evening to be the once-in-a-lifetime live concert by Richard Sherman, produced Academy Award®-nominated producer director Don Hahn. Sherman regaled guests with Disney stories and then played and sang song after beloved song that he and his later brother Robert wrote for Disney. Everyone in the audience mouthed the words but when Sherman broke into his iconic song "It's a Small World," everyone sang along, much to the 87-year-old's delight.
Other musical guests included the Main Street Barbershop Quartet, the dazzling Oakland Youth Chorus, Juliana Hansen (Broadway's Mary Poppins) and Broadway start Jodi Benson (Little Mermaid's Ariel). She later shared with BWW that singing "Feed the Birds" with the man who actually wrote the song was the highlight of the evening for her; proof positive that "dreams can come true."
Molly Alexander also had a Disney dream-come-true moment when she got to meet Richard Sherman after the event. Alexander's grandfather, the late Bob Jackman, started in the Disney mailroom in 1955. He met his wife Virginia, who worked in the Ink and Paint department, by stealing her timecard so she would have to meet him. Jackman later became Music Department Director and was there until his retirement in 1980. For his retirement, the Sherman brothers wrote a song called "What Did Jackman Do?" set to the tune of their iconic "Spoonful of Sugar." Jackman's daughter had the song recorded for posterity and it was this recording that Molly Alexander wished to give Richard Sherman as a remembrance of her grandfather. He received the gift with warmth and gave Alexander a heartfelt hug.
We share this story with you because it speaks to the magic that was there throughout the night. The Disney celebrities were extremely gracious and they went out of their way to make themselves accessible to their fans. (Bill Farmer even did his Goofy voice on the phone to BWW's Nick Hodges, who could not be present.) It truly was a magical night, and as we made our way to the car, I swear I saw Tinker Bell flitting over the Golden Gate Bridge.
Photos by Drew Altizer, courtesy of the Walt Disney Family Museum