Friday, December 11, 2009

Bopping Around Europe

I saw some pictures yesterday of friends of mine who were going around Europe with their back packs in the late 1990's.  They went to London, France, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and then up into Sweden and Norway (I’ve been to London and Norway myself, but not to those other countries).

It looked like a lot of fun.  It must have been summertime by the way the light was in the photos, and I could tell that the trip was pretty well planned by how many sites they got to see in the number of days they were on the trip.  I’m sure that traveling was a bit easier and not as worrisome as it is in our post-911 world.

It made me think of the time I would have done this myself. It would have been just about the time I went to work at the group-homes (see the post two days ago).  I was either motivated or pressured to work right away after graduating university, so the beginning of my traveling and exploration ended up being a decade later. 

It was in 1996 that my production manager told me I needed to go to London to carry a ¾” videotape to a CGI conference that would take place over a few days.  Ironically, someone had just before this told me to get a passport because companies like Disney at the time were known for sending employees around the world for things.

So my first steps outside of the U.S. were at Heathrow Airport.  I was sent with three other employees; David, a visual effects supervisor, Beth, another assistant production manager like me, and Kathleen, an operations person.  Upon arrival, the one person with us who had traveled abroad the most, David, told us all to try to stay up all the rest of that day, and then go to sleep that night.

This, I found out, was impossible for me.  As soon as I got to my hotel room, I went to sleep on my bed for a few hours.  Upon waking up and finding the others roaming around the hotel, David saw me and said, “Oh, you couldn’t stay awake, could you?” By then it was around dinnertime, so we all went and got something to eat nearby; I forget where.

And really, the whole thing was preposterous.  My job, as I said, was just to bring the tape to this conference every day.  It was basically just a free trip to London.  I was on the production, “Fantasia 2000.”  There were others from Disney and who were from another production, “Dinosaur,” who were also there.  Each of the, maybe three days I was supposed to be there, once I brought the CG tape back to the hotel after the conference, I was free to explore.

David, Beth, Kathleen and I went to see the changing of the guard, the Palace, Big Ben, and a lot of other sites.  We found a pub not far from the hotel which was near Hyde Park, and went underground to see get drinks.  We got pretty smashed that night and walked back to the hotel.

Even more ridiculous was that when our three days were up, and the conference was over, we all called our higher up’s at Disney and asked if we could just stay the rest of the week and through the weekend, making it an even week.  I remember about a half hour of having to wait for calls back from Disney with a decision.  But in the end, the decision was that we could stay and that Disney would re-arrange our departure flights for the end of the seven days.

We went to visit an animation studio called Richard Purdum Studios.  Again, David lead us since he had been there before and knew his way around.  It was a small studio where Richard, the director and owner, had his own drawing studio upstairs in what all I can describe as a bird perch.  He had a glass dome office that looked out onto the city; it was really beautiful.

A few nights later, I found myself sitting with David, Beth, Kathleen, some producers who happened to join in for the evening, and Roy Disney and his wife.  There I was, only two years at Disney sitting at dinner with Roy Disney in London.  I almost had to pinch myself.

Knowing what I know about Disney and the economic situation now, this would never happen.  In fact, with the exception of when Disney flew me to Montana with a director and animator about a year later, few people except executives and directors were sent on trips after about year 1998.

Looking back, I still would have liked to have done the Euro-backpacking thing about ten years earlier when one doesn’t have to worry about such things as jobs and income; when the parents just send one off to see the far sides of the Earth.