- Posted June 8, 2012 by
Los Angeles, California
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Ray Bradbury's legacy
MY HALLOWEEN WITH RAY BRADBURY
Halloween is always fun... but it's rare, however, that Halloween night contains some actual, tangible magic.
In 2007, I was invited to a Halloween dinner party at Club 33, the private restaurant at Disneyland, on the second floor above New Orleans Square. Dinner with my family and friends was lovely, of course -- but there was also a guest of honor, none other than the father of The Halloween Tree himself, Mr. Ray Bradbury.
Bradbury was a longtime fan of Disneyland, was a personal friend of Walt Disney, and was an occasional collaborator with Walt Disney Imagineering, so seeing that it was the 35th anniversary of Bradbury's book The Halloween Tree, Imagineers Tony Baxter and Tim Delaney decided to throw a Halloween party in Bradbury's honor.
Bradbury may have been frail in body, but most certainly not in brain -- he was as giddy as an eight-year-old as he regaled us with many of his Disney-related stories, on what he told the crowd was "his favorite holiday of the year". Deep beneath his wheelchair-bound, then-87-year-old skin beat the heart of a poet, an enthusiast and lover of life who ensured all of us adoring nerds in the audience that our mutual loves of science fiction, of fantasy, of what the world could indeed be, was indeed okay. It was one of those nights where it was hard to tell who was happier to be there -- the audience or the man being honored.
As if a six-course meal with one of my literary heroes wasn't enough, another surprise was in store, not only for the audience but for Bradbury himself. We all left the restaurant (nerd detail: we walked through the closed park... with all the lights off!) and gathered around a lone oak tree in the darkened town square of Frontierland, stray brown leaves strewn all over the ground. When Bradbury flipped a pumpkin-themed switch nearby, the old tree lit up with strands of tiny illuminated jack-o-lanterns -- thus, he now has his very own permanent Halloween Tree. Every year from now on at Halloween time, the tree will be decorated and lit up in Bradbury's honor, with a plaque at the base of the tree commemorating it for all who visit Disneyland.
We were also all given signed copies of The Halloween Tree -- and as I left, I picked up one of the stray (fake) "Disney leaves" around the actual tree, and timidly asked Mr. Bradbury to sign it for me as well. "I don't really have much to say, except 'thank you', your books have meant so much to me... I can't believe I'm here," I blurted to him, my hands trembling.
He took my hand quite firmly in his, looked me straight in the eyes, and said wistfully, "well, you are here, and you're wonderful."
I've posted an album of photos and a 25-minute video of the entire event (including much of Bradbury's stories, and the lighting of the tree) for everyone to enjoy.