Disneyana collectors find nirvana

Will Keck, an L.A.-based reporter for USA Today, inherited his love of Disney from his father, a huge collector who died when Keck was 5.

“I only got to know him through stories and things he left behind and I developed a love for Disney based on his love of it,” Keck says.

Keck’s father had been collecting a series of Anri wooden music boxes before he died. “He had collected seven of the eight in the series and so my whole childhood we never had that last one of Donald Duck with his nephews. My mom and I looked for it for years. This was long before the days of Ebay. We’d go to toy shows, but we could never find it.”

When Keck was 21, he went to a big Disney toy show at the Shrine Auditorium — and came across the missing music box. “It was a little worn but I cleaned it up and polished it and I presented it to my mother as a gift from my father and myself.”

Keck’s been collecting ever since, mostly figurines from the Disney Classic Collection. He has complete sets from “Pinocchio” and “Peter Pan,” to name just two. “I go crazy for them. I can’t count how many I have now. I keep saying no more, but I can’t stop.”

Perhaps his most extravagant purchase was two big statues — the Cheshire Cat and Pluto — from Disney Stores that were closing. “I think with shipping they came to $800 each,” he says.

“It’s more than a connection to my father, although that’s a lot of it, continuing my dad’s legacy,” he says. “I think Disney was my first experience with the movies. It’s going back to my childhood.”

Carmel, who asked not to be identified by her last name for fear that her enormous Disney collection might be stolen, used to live close enough to the park to drop in almost daily. Now that she and her husband live two hours away in San Diego, they can only make it to the park about twice a month. They were also sorry to say goodbye to their Mickey Mouse-shaped pool when they moved.

They’ve been to all the Disney parks many times, including attending the opening of Disneyland Paris in 1992. “There we were at 3 in the morning waiting for it to open,” she recalls.

For Disneyland’s 50th anniversary, she says, “On July 17, we’ll be staying at the Disneyland Hotel and be there early in the morning to get into the park. I would not miss the 50th birthday of the park for anything.”

She and her husband belong to several Disney collector clubs, including Once Upon a Classic and the National Fantasy Fan Club. “It’s just like being part of a family, to share a camaraderie with people who share that same love for Disney,” she says.

At the conventions, Carmel loves getting to meet the people behind the scenes, like the Imagineers and animators. “It makes you feel closer to Walt Disney, to meet people who knew him. It’s a real magical thing,” she says.

She also visited Walt Disney’s hometown of Marceline, Mo., for the centennial of his birth. She and her husband are planning on taking a Disney cruise through the Panama Canal this year. And she has a niece who’ll be performing in the onboard entertainment.

“I can take some credit for passing on my love of Disney to my nieces,” she says proudly.

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