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Disney Convention Draws Obsessed

September 12, 1998

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) _ Frank and Marilyn Pancotto’s kitchen in North Carolina is decorated with a Mickey and Minnie motif. The dining room is resplendent in Beauty and the Beast decor and the living room has a decidedly Snow White and Fantasia flair.

Robert Sher doesn’t have enough room for all his Disney memorabilia in his New York City apartment, so he keeps much in storage. Dan Casteel has thousands of Disney figurines and 190 animation cells in his Clifton, N.J., home.

If there were a support group for these people, it would be called Disneyholics Anonymous. Instead, these Disney collectors and 2,000 other Disney fanatics find their support, and hundreds more items to buy, each year at the Official Disneyana Convention.

This year’s convention held at Walt Disney World wrapped up Friday.

``It’s something inside you that as a kid was never satisfied. This helps you feel like a kid again,″ said Dr. David Burnsides of Columbus, Ohio.

He and his wife, Mary Lou, spent $6,000 on Disney collectibles and merchandise at the seventh annual convention.

Attendees known as ``ConventionEars″ paid at least $1,185 for a week of seminars, theme parks visits, speeches, auctions of Disney memorabilia and spending sprees on Disney merchandise. There were special appearances by the actors who give voice to Mickey and Minnie, Disney animators and Diane Disney Miller, Walt’s oldest daughter.

At this year’s auction held Wednesday night, a businessman from New Canaan, Conn., paid $22,000 for a flying elephant car from the theme park Dumbo ride. A vehicle from the recently closed Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride sold for $13,000.

``These are our most loyal fans,″ said Ed Storin, manager of events and specialty merchandise at Walt Disney World.

Attendees entered a lottery for the chance to buy, among other items, a porcelain figure of Pinocchio with Gepetto for $775 or a bronze figurine of Jiminy Cricket for $1,400.

The best deals, however, were theme park props Disney was selling in an area called ``Mickey’s attic.″

There, conventioneers could buy a two-story birthday candle that sat atop Cinderella’s Castle during the Magic Kingdom’s 25th anniversary for $500, or lifesize cut-outs of cartoon Hercules that used to be in Disney-MGM Studios for $150.

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