Director of Heritage Communications Ted Ryan presenting on Coca-Cola and Walt Disney.
Director of Heritage Communications Ted Ryan presenting on Coca-Cola and Walt Disney.

A few weeks ago, I was invited to make a presentation to the members of the famed Club 33 at Disneyland in California. The presentation focused on the long (72-year) partnership between the Walt Disney Company and The Coca-Cola Company and included a preview of the plans to celebrate the centennial of the creation of the contour Coca-Cola bottle in 2015.

In all the years I have been speaking publicly about our heritage, this event has to be one of my favorites. Everything about the evening was done to make the event special for the members, which makes it stand out.

For those who are not familiar with Club 33, in short, after Walt Disney visited some of the wonderful VIP lounges associated with pavilions at the 1964 World's Fair, he began to explore the idea of developing a VIP area at Disneyland. French décor was chosen as the theme, and Walt and his wife, Lillian, traveled to New Orleans with famed decorator, Emile Kuri, to select many of the antiques that were used for decoration. The Club is located at 33 Royal Street in Disneyland, providing the basis for its name. 

The Club opened in June, 1967, a few months after Walt’s death. The club is exclusive and access is limited to the standing membership.

Menu inspired by Coca-Cola
Chef Marcel St. Pierre created a stunning menu inspired by products of The Coca-Cola Company.

While the Club is currently under renovation, the Club 33 staff is holding special events to provide members with exciting and unique opportunities to learn about different areas of the Disney experience. Club 33 has always boasted some of the finest dining at Disneyland, and our event was no exception. Chef Marcel St. Pierre created a stunning menu inspired by products of The Coca-Cola Company. Cherry Coke Glazed Baby Back Ribs and Coca-Cola Marinated Rib Eye were two of my favorites! The imaginative menu was enhanced with matching cocktails crafted and presented by Matthew Ellingson and Brian Van Amber. The highlight of the evening had to be the Coca-Cola lollipop that accompanied the Barq’s Root Beer-spiced popcorn!

Heritage team curated two exhibits for the event
The Heritage team curated two exhibits which were shipped to Disneyland for the event.

Justine Fletcher from our Archives team curated two exhibits, which we shipped to Disneyland and set up at the venue, Steakhouse 55. One exhibit focused on the history of the contour bottle and featured quite a bite of art and artifacts on the world's most famous consumer package. The second highlighted the special Coca-Cola Disney relationship and featured four pieces of original art created by The Walt Disney Company from 1942-1944 featuring characters from Saludos Amigos (1942) and The Three Cabelleros (1944.) This art had never been displayed outside The Coca-Cola Company, so Club 33 members were offered a special treat.

Pre-contour Coca-Cola bottles
Pre-contour Coca-Cola bottles were passed around to attendees.

I presented a short overview on the development of the contour bottle as we passed around bottles so members were able to see what the pre-contour straight side packaging looked like and how easy it was for other brands to imitate our products. I was then joined by Disney Archives Director Becky Cline to share incredible stories and rarely seen assets from decades of partnership. Becky displayed a sample script for a proposed movie joint venture from 1942! It's always a treat to get to see material related to our brand that teaches me something new about Coca-Cola. Becky was able to do just that.

The event was a fantastic way to celebrate the 72-year partnership between The Coca-Cola Company and Walt Disney. We finished the event by toasting to the next 72 years!

Ted Ryan is director of heritage communications at The Coca-Cola Company.