Inspiring Virtual Events

Hosted by The Walt Disney Family Museum

This week I took advantage of the opportunity to attend three amazing virtual events hosted by The Walt Disney Family Museum. Although it was a little trying due to my current time zone difference, I couldn’t pass up the chance to hear more about Disney Legend Mary Blair or listen to Ashely Eckstein read her book ‘I am a Padawan.’ 

Image Credit: Screen Shot from The Walt Disney Family Museum

Virtual Workshop | Celebrating Mary Blair: A Remarkable Woman Who Changed the World with Author-Illustrator Ann Shen

Mary Blair is one of my all-time favorite Disney artists. She created concept artwork for Disney Classics such as Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan. She is well known for her unique use of color as well as for her artistic vision and concept work for the World’s Fair and Disney attraction. It’s a Small World. 

Image Credit: Images from D23.com and The Magic of Mary Blair.com

It was so interesting to hear Ann Shen, another very talented artist, give the audience a quick overview of Mary Blair’s life. The last hour or so of the event was an incredibly fun workshop and concurrent Q&A session, where Shen walked viewers through the process of drawing and painting their very own iconic Mary Blair stylized child. 

It was so inspiring to see an artist at work, and I took several notes to try my own hand at making a painting once I return home. Shen has authored and illustrated three beautiful books and also has contributed to Disney’s Wonder Ground Gallery. If you are interested in her work or want to learn more, please visit her website

Image Credit: Ann Shen via her website

If you are looking for a great concise source about Mary Blair, I highly recommend Cartoons to Castle’s podcast Mary Blair episode with special guest Ashely Taylor. Ashely Taylor is another fantastic artist and Wonder Ground Gallery contributor.  

Virtual Storytime | Star Wars: I Am a Padawan with Author Ashley Eckstein

This was my first virtual storyline. Even though I might not be the target audience being an adult, I thoroughly enjoyed hearing one of my favorite role models and sources of inspiration read one of her own books. For those who don’t know, Ashley Eckstein is the voice actress of Ahsoka Tano, a beloved character within the Star Wars universe. She is also the founder of the fashion empire, Her Universe

This event began with Ashely reading her book ‘I am a Padawan’ and was followed by a rather enjoyable Q&A session. 

One of my favorite moments took place during the initial book reading. Ashley took a moment to share her Ahsoka Tano lightsabers with the group, and her face just radiated happiness. I can definitely agree with her comments that lightsabers always seem to make people happy and put a smile on their faces. 

During the Q&A, Ashely revealed she is about to start writing her third book and take part in some new animation projects featuring new characters. Although she didn’t indicate that these endeavors are Star Wars related, she stated that she was interested in exploring what it means to be a Jedi from a mental aspect. 

Ashley discussed what it means to be a Padawan and that a Padawan is really just a student. Anyone, no matter their age, is a Padawan if they are a student. She added that if you’re a little bored in class, think of Star Wars. Jedi Padawans have to sit through numerous courses in the Jedi Temple before becoming Jedi; it is simply part of the process. Maybe next time I’ll think of this when I have to sit in a boring briefing at work.  

Drawing inspiration from key Star Wars Clone Wars episodes, Ashely aimed to pass on important lessons in her book. In particular, I think many of us can relate to – the struggle with ‘being in the moment. Sometimes we get anxious or nervous, or our thoughts race away from us. Ashely led the viewers through a breathing exercise: 

Breath in for 3 sec, out for 5 sec, and at the end, say, “ I am one with the Force, and the Force is with me” Do this exercise 3-5 times, and it will center yourself and slow down the moment. As a treat, Ashely falls into her Ahsoka voice during the exercise. It’s something simple you can do, and it really works. 

One viewer asked Ashley what three words she would use to describe Ahsoka. Surprisingly she has never been asked this question before and, after some thought, replied – Kind, Light & Hope. 

Just before this question, Ashley spoke at length about the importance of being kind. She explained that being kind takes a lot of strength and that it’s a powerful trait to be kind. The world can always use a bit more kindness. 

Finally, Ashley shared one more fun piece of info for fans of Galaxy’s Edge. Customers can order Bantha cookies by themselves at Oga’s Cantina even though they do not appear that way on the menu. Although I have been to Oga’s Cantina, I have yet to try out these cookies, so I’ll be trying this out next time I get to Disneyworld. 

Virtual Talk | Building an Empire: Creating Her Universe with Actress, Author, and Entrepreneur Ashley Eckstein, Moderated by Voice Actor Bret Iwan

How you can Curate Your Dreams 

The best part of this Virtual Talk was the dynamic between Ashley and Bret. They are clearly very good friends, and it was so much fun to see them play off one another. This discussion felt more like a quick overview of Ashley’s book It’s Your Universe, You Have the Power to Make It Happen. However, it was still engaging and interesting, even if you have already read the title. Ashely’s slide show included beautiful Alice and Wonderland artwork by Ashely Taylor. As a fellow Alice fan myself, I could definitely relate to the Alice in Wonderland narrative. 

Ashley spent a large portion of her discussion on the My Plan slide, leading viewers through a series of questions that are aimed to assist them in answering the question – “Who Are You?” 

Since the Q&A portion was closer to midnight my time, I didn’t have the energy to take any additional detailed notes, but a lot of the discussion focused on inspiring viewers to find what makes them happy and stressing its ok to have more than one dream. 

Walt Disney Family Museum 

The Walt Disney Family Museum is located in San Francisco, CA. These three virtual events are the first ones I have ever attended, but I will most certainly be going to more. Also, even though I don’t live anywhere near the actual museum, I may become a member just to get access to their member’s portal and video archive. I don’t know why it took me so long to stumble upon this gem, but I’m glad I know about it now and look forward to seeing what comes next!

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