Let me start out by saying that I am not usually a right-place-at-the-right-time sort of girl. More often than not, the events I’d most like to attend take place in California or New York; rarely does something occur in a location that’s convenient for me. So, when I got an exciting Twitter notification while we were on our most recent Walt Disney World vacation, I was completely blown away by our unusual turn of good fortune.
Before we left for our trip, I had heard that there would be a weekend celebrating The Good Dinosaur at Disney Springs while we were there. I didn’t think too much of it, beyond maybe stopping by – I didn’t expect more than a DJ dance party (WDW is all about its dance parties, after all) and maybe a few cool little freebies. So needless to say I was utterly shocked, as I stood in line to enter the Magic Kingdom the morning of November 21, to learn that Pete Docter and Jerome Ranft would be meeting fans and signing autographs later that afternoon at Once Upon a Toy! Not at Disneyland in California, as is typically the case – right where we were, in Florida.
My husband laughed while I freaked out at the gate to the park, frantically texting my friend who we were vacationing with and who is also a huge Toy Story and Pixar fan. Fortunately for us, our dining reservations weren’t until evening – not that we would have let conflicting plans stop us. After a few spazzy hours at the Magic Kingdom, we headed to Downtown Disney (er, Disney Springs now) to grab a quick lunch before securing our place in line.
We checked in at Once Upon a Toy, and were told that anything Pixar-related we purchased from the shop could be signed. I chose a Toy Story comic, while my husband picked up a couple Good Dinosaur postcards for himself and our son. We were told to come back for wristbands an hour before the event was set to start, which would guarantee our place in line. When we returned, we found ourselves to be amongst the first there, so we took a seat on the pavement in the queue area outside the door, and waited.
I’ll admit, I was nervous. I don’t do well on the spot. I’m the type that thinks of brilliant things to say about two hours after the fact, and either freezes or babbles like an idiot in the moment. And despite the mouse ears I was wearing, I didn’t want to come across as crazy – I’ve read a lot about Pixar and have the utmost respect for the brilliant and creative folks who work there. The only other time I’ve been remotely close to meeting someone meaningful to me was when Jim Henson’s daughter Lisa stayed at a bed-and-breakfast I worked at in Palm Springs, CA – I never mustered up the courage to tell her how much I admired her father, and still regret it to this day. I resolved I couldn’t let that happen again.
We were only the second group to be allowed in the shop for the signing. I had never participated in something like this before; and without getting to watch the interactions of the people in front of us, it was a little bit daunting, to say the least. We were guided to Pete Docter first. He spoke to my 8-year-old son, then I was able to get out a few coherent sentences myself. As he signed my comic book, I told him what a big fan of Pixar I was; that it was an honor to meet him; and that I was looking forward to Toy Story 4. Now, I’m realistic enough to know that anyone involved with the film cannot and will not spill any details – especially to a stranger at a fan event – but he did tell me that it’s coming together nicely.
After taking a photo, we were moved along to meet Jerome Ranft. He signed a photo card for me, and also signed my husband’s and son’s postcards that Pete Docter had already autographed. I regret that we didn’t get a photo with Jerome Ranft as well – the Cast Member taking photos for guests made it appear that both Pixarians would be included in our photo, but that didn’t turn out to be the case when I got my phone back afterwards. It would have been nice to fully document the privilege of meeting both men; both were down-to-earth and personable, and they each have made (and continue to make) their own significant contributions to so many of the movies I love. I would’ve liked to have had more time to talk with them, too; but I’m thankful for the time, the photos, and the autographs we did get, and the memories we’ll always have of the occasion. That night, still reeling from the experience in the best possible way, we celebrated with dinner at Be Our Guest, a perfect ending to an unforgettable day.
It still amazes me that we met people from Pixar – influential people from Pixar, no less, ones who are fundamental to the operations of the studio and its creative process. And just knowing that I spoke a few words to someone who has been there since the first Toy Story movie 20 years ago – and someone who is now involved with the making of Toy Story 4, and knows every little detail that I’m desperate to discover – pretty much blows my mind. Even better, when we watched Toy Story at 20: To Infinity and Beyond a few weeks later, my son was so excited to see someone he had met on the television screen. “Pete Docter!” he exclaimed, pointing at the TV. How many other 8-year-olds even know who he is, let alone can say they met him? It was a proud momma moment, and one I’m glad to have been able to make happen.
This wasn’t my only encounter with someone associated with the Toy Story films in 2015. Watch for a future post to find out who else I got to meet. It was definitely an unbelievable year for this Toy Story fangirl!