It started months ago…when we heard from our superconnected Disney folks they were planning something really big, a sort of Disney version of San Diego Comic-con, through the new fan group D23. Should we go? Some of the art galleries who do what we do go to all the cons, they have their own walls, they ship their art and their salesfolks, and either boom or bust. The deciding factors vary…some cons are better than others…
We’ve done a very few. and we’ve sold tons of art and we’ve sold nothing at all.
So we were thinking, what could we do? We love our Disney clients. I know a lot and have been doing it a gazillion years. We always love finding new clients… what could we do?
Lately we’ve had quite the time finding vintage Disney that we can trace all the way back to the studio, and I have to be able to do that when i sell vintage art. The wider awareness of animation as “real art” has made collectors accept and turn their focus towards Disney interpretive art: I mean, they have come to look beyond their family rooms, and accept Disney into their living rooms and bedrooms as well. and fine art interpretations of Disney subjects have allowed wider placement of the art in their living spaces…
This has been happening in no small part because of the company licensed to create and market the Disney interpretive art, Collectors Editions, headed by MIchael Young. A serious Disney insider, he saw the changing tides while still with Disney, and has made a great business of promoting interpretations of Disney subjects by fine artists, some of whom have come from other genres, some of whom are longterm Disney artists.
We’ve been, to be honest, doing incredibly well with their artists at our gallery for some time now. We have sold more images that have turned into limited editions than any other gallery. We still sell vintage Disney cels, although they have to be researched within an inch of their lives. Of course, as you know we do a swift business in the art of Harry Potter and Star Wars–and we’re expanding into other movie and illustration art, when we find amazing artists, which we’re always searching for…but as far as D23 goes, we thought we’d do well selling the Disney interpretive art.
I was pretty sure there were tons of potential collectors that had been to the Disney parks and seen or bought the Disney Fine Art limited editions, but didn’t know the originals were available or accessible. Our clients tell us stories that the “cast members” at the park stores never believe them when they say they have the originals to what’s hanging on the store wall…I thought, if they don’t know, how many collectors aren’t aware that they have access to these originals?
Michael Young knew us when we first opened our gallery almost 16 years ago, when in our first year we were asked to be on the Disney advisory board and won “Rookie of the Year” from Disney for doing so much business in our first year.
So, by virtue of our long standing success and Michael’s knowledge of my and MB’s business philosophy/wicked classiness, we asked for and were gratefully given an exclusive to represent the original art for the official Disney interpretive artists in our booth!
Collectors Editions definitely took a gamble with us. They gave us over 90 pieces of art, much of it original, and sent all the artists over to our booth, (most of whom are really good friends of ours, its true…) to meet collectors. That’s some kind of trust and faith in our success and we were honored by it.
Meanwhile, in all the time we are planning all this, rumors are circulating within the collector community that the convention is going to be an unholy, unfocused mess. Even a close Disney insider friend of mine voiced concern–You see, right after the announcement the convention was going to happen, Disney laid off a bunch of middle and upper management, many in the special events departments. Ouch!
But as Disney is wont to do, they pulled it together incredibly well just in time. Although the marketing outside California could have been way better, it was still well attended and enjoyed by the majority of the collectors with whom i spoke.
So…what happened there, who was there, how’d we do?
First let me say i had both MY Michael, (known in these blogs as MB) and my lil sis Coco helping me, which was a first. Usually MB stays in the gallery, and I’m doing these on my own, which, he has said many times, is nearly impossible and kinda nuts. After Comic-con i lost my voice for 3 weeks. And i’m a singer. Cautionary tales should be heeded!
So we closed the gallery, put a note on the door, forwarded the phone, and went to Anaheim…A few hitches excepted, we all got along really well. we’re family, so we weren’t sure….who was going to be the drama queen? our answer? apparently no one!
D23DAY minus 1:
We had to get up at 5 am and drive from Anaheim to Canoga Park, which should take 45 minutes or so, but this is LA! So 2 1/2 hours later we get the van, load up all the art, and get it back to Anaheim–2 1/2 hours later! Now i understand my friend Tony always saying “i’ll be there somewhere between 10-2pm…well, the weather was gorgeous the whole time…I have to assume that’s what inspires people to keep living there.
We put all the art up. It looked gorgeous, and we were the only booth in the retail section of the show (“collector’s showcase”) with actual walls. ($1400, if you’re curious) Proud of ourselves, we went back to our room at the Candy Cane Inn, the only family owned hotels near Disneyland, had some wine and cheese, and went to bed…oh. and then got up at 12:00 am to meet some potential new clients for drinks!
An incredible line, as you’d expect, to get into the show, which opens at 8 am. An incredible line to get into the “Dream Store”, which it turns out is a major weak link, having mostly the same stuff you get elsewhere. Big missed opportunity for Disney…A client actually called it “pedestrian”! We give that section our first grade, and lowest score, a C-!
We had a mellow beginning in our neck of the woods, which was an enormous room sectioned off between retail businesses and Disney consumer product licensees promoting, but not selling, their wares. Radio Disney was in the middle of the room, blessedly far from us, because they played Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers incessantly. I like them both just fine the first 100 times i hear one of their songs…
I forgot to mention something REALLY cool.
Out of all the galleries in the world, we got selected to premiere a new kind of limited edition called “Courvoisier Miniatures”, which this famous restoration guy Ron Stark is creating using all the original colors and paints and equipment they used at the time–for more on that, go HERE….We got the worldwide exclusive for the art, which was amazing, and the piece is lovely–but it needs explanation or it just looks like another pretty piece of cel art. It’s a cel of Snow White with chipmunks. Hand inked, painted, airbrushed, it is representative of an era, an homage to a gallery that saw Disney cels as art from the very beginning. We did well with it, although i will say it might have helped, if– anytime during the presentation Ron did on Courvoisier and restoration, which was PACKED with people–he mentioned there was a piece was for sale…(!) I mean, as Dr. Evil would say, “throw me a bowie, here!”
I would try to explain the history and importance of Courvoisier and what the art was and passersby took me for a carnival barker. We sold it to our clients, to people who already knew us, or already knew about Courvoisier. The art series is going to take such time and effort i hope it will serve to educate a larger audience than just that! His presentation was interesting but i’d still give it a C for not even mentioning the art at the end of it…
Anyway. There were LOTS of galleries specializing in vintage animation art there. One gallery friend had a Disney interpretive artist, Mike Kupka in their booth, with his originals, but only our gallery presenting so much interpretive art originals. We did have to continually explain that they WERE the originals, but once we did, Disney fans were really into it. They enjoyed meeting the artists, learning about the art, talking about their collections, and just appreciating–whether or not they could afford the art–the beauty, creativity, and skill that a diverse group of artists can bring to subject matter they know so well.
We made some great new clients, enjoyed talking to collectors, and especially to our booth guests! Tim Rogerson, who had created the official art for D23, spent a lot of time signing art and talking to fans. He had really long lines of fans waiting for his signature, and his pieces sold out every day. By Sunday he looked like he could use a break, but he was a trooper. Tim gets an A for both art and effort, for sure! He was always either at an event, on his way to one, or coming back from one!
We had a beautiful piece he did of Simba, Timon and Pumbaa from Lion King that some new clients were interested in, so i introduced them to Tim–He said, “Lion King is the reason i’m an artist.” Apparently he saw the making of the Lion King right before the movie came out, and then saw the movie. That night decided he wanted to be an artist. Nice, story, Tim! Later our new friends/clients jokingly asked if we’d planned that meeting!
We met the artist Noah for the first time, who is large (6’5) and lovely–someone inside Disney had said how hot he was, so of course to me that meant he had to prove himself. It turns out he’s a really close friend of Mike Kungl’s, and he was incredibly sweet to our client’s baby, without pretending. kids can always tell…so that’s enough for me to like him. He did a presentation on the Dream stage, which was next to the Dream store, and while he painted, he talked about how he chooses his colors, how he sees his paintings progress, and was incredibly comfortable and gracious with his crowd of fans. His presentation–and, ladies, his smile– get an A!
Once we met him and liked him, we sold the heck out of him! We are also excited about a new style of art he’ll be doing involving classic movies, that will be really cool. If you love Casablanca, or Wizard, or Hitchcock, or whatever, you’ll be really into it too.
Jim Salvati, the movie production painter who’s work we sold so well at the Harry Potter convention, stopped by, and we talked about the movies he’s worked on and what he’s doing next, which as usual is top secret. James Coleman, who created backgrounds for Little Mermaid, Black Cauldron, Fox and the Hound, and lots of other Disney movies, hung out with us in our booth with his new limited edition.Michael loved talking to both of them, and they had some amazing stories. Jim Salvati worked with Andy Warhol! James Coleman worked with some of Disney’s nine old men!
Movie poster artist John Rowe came by for a while and we sold several of his pieces. His collectors really like him because he’s into symbolism and can explain everything he does in his art. Mike Kungl came by, and hung out quite a long time with us. Then Noah came by and that’s when i discovered what close friends they are! We’re very good friends with Mike and his wife Dana, and showed up at our booth with a brand new piece from a series he’d been up until 4 in the morning painting, called “Tink-tini”–It got a HUGE amount of attention. He’s been all over the entertainment news lately, which has made his art more expensive, so he created this new series that collectors could more easily afford, by painting a great image of Tinkerbell in four colors. (good idea, good marketing!) Of course i’d only give my lovely artist friends an A. Not a grumpy or pretentious one in the lot, only happy, grateful, lovely guys. The artists who were supposed to show up and didn’t get an incomplete. Remember those from college? You’d get them for not showing up? Enough of them and you’d fail. Who says there are no parallels to real life in the educational system?
Meanwhile, outside our little world, there were big events with John Lassiter, where they played the whole of the new 3D Toy Story. There was a Princess and the Frog panel with all the major animators where they showed 1/2 an hour (!!) of the movie. I don’t know much about the events with ABC and Disney tv stars, although i know Miley Cyrus was involved, and there was some kind of fracas at the Kelsey Grammar event involving security and police, which somehow Donny Osmond restored order to and then the fun resumed (D turned into B+, extra credit to Donny!)….The highlight for most attendees was a panel with Johnny Depp and Tim Burton promoting Alice. That was loved by everyone who went to it–A. For each of these events they took everyone’s phone into a “phone and camera check” , so some of the events were poorly attended that followed the biggies, and i heard it took a LONG time to get them back, so we give that part a C-.
They showed Nightmare in 3D, had a Sleeping Beauty showing with her voice, Mary Costa, and a Beauty and the Beast showing with her voice, Paige O’Hara, who premiered her own paintings of Belle that i sold at the show! I spoke to her quite a bit and she was delightful, and so wonderful with her fans. That all gets an A, but you can’t give Mary Costa anything else, really. She rocks.
I know lots of other events happened, but we were there by 7:30 in the morning and were so busy we rarely left the booth–especially when we had artists there! The consensus is everyone had a great time. There were a few glitches here and there, and it could have been better attended, i think they said 40,000 attendees. Hopefully next year it will be better promoted from the onset. I think it has a good chance of turning into a pretty fair approximation of the Disney version of Comic-con long term, but it took them many years to become what they are now… which some would argue is: bloated, overpressed, overhyped, overcrowded–(remember my Harry Potter panel had 175 seats and 600 in line!) so we all hope Disney’s D23 will grow slowly and carefully, and keep offering new and exciting events for the fans every year.
After D23 was over and we took back the art we hadn’t sold, and drove into LA to stay at the awesome and laid back swanky Sunset Tower Hotel. I saw Elizabeth Moss, who plays Peggy on the awesome show Mad Men when we pulled into the hotel driveway! We had $20 martinis, saw a bunch of movie stars and musicians, and i got to hold a new friend’s Emmy!!
MB, Coco and I finished our trip by going down to Santa Monica with good friends. Randy Martinez, a Star Wars artist and recent author of “How to Draw Monsters”. I have all the original art from it and will be premiering in late October in honor of my favorite holiday! We also loved seeing his partner Denise Vasquez, with whom he’s writing a book on sketch cards. We all met up with Mike Kungl and Dana, and Mike Kupka. That’s two Mikes we’ll be doing more art shows with, so check back on that…! We took Coco to the Santa Monica pier for the first time, and put our feet in the ocean, thanking LA for a great and successful show. Santa Monica and the beautiful weather get an A too. We expect to at D23 next year breaking this year’s record for making sales and great new clients. Afterwards i’ll have find someone’s new Oscar to hold!
If our experience with D23 were a high school report card, we could almost get a full ride at the college of our choice. Almost. but they might expect us to plump up the aspects that are lacking. And so we say Disney, plump up the aspects that are lacking, and your fans will give you a free ride.
Of course, maybe you should all go next year and decide for yourselves. I am notorious for finding something to like in everything…. I grade on a curve.