Back Row: Michelle DeLora, Mickey Mouse, Carol Perez, Pluto, Deborah Rusnock, Noah Rusnock, Goofy
Front Row: Aranya Mom, Donald Duck.
One Phone Call Lead to 86,000 Meals and a World Record!
By Deborah Rusnock

After finishing the Canstruction® Orlando event in late October 2009, I received a rather strange, yet interesting phone call. Rob Hamberg from Walt Disney Entertainment (WDE) wanted more information about this thing called “Canstruction®”. He had gone to the Canstruction® Orlando web site, checked it out, and decided to give me a call. So we spent about 20 minutes on the phone and then scheduled a meeting at the BHM office in Lake Mary for the following week.

We met and very shortly after that they asked me to sign a non-disclosure statement so that they could tell me more. And boy, was there more to tell! Disney was planning a “Media Moment” to help launch the “Give a Day, Get a Disney Day” campaign and they wanted to find out if Canstruction® could be an integral part of the event.

How could we marry the idea behind Canstruction® with a Disney media event?

Oh, and lest I forget, they wanted to shatter the world’s record for the largest structure built out of canned food! For those of you who know me, this was right up my alley! Helping the hunger issue AND making a statement…well, the gauntlet was down!

But, how could we do it? How could we marry the idea behind Canstruction® with a Disney media event? Would National Canstruction® buy into the idea? And what could we build?

Here is what I loved about working with Disney. We talked about possibilities as if they could actually happen! Our first meeting was fascinating. The WDE design team put forth several ideas for structures. As with most people, the assumption is that almost anything can be built of cans. Those of us who know the ropes, know full well, you just can’t make cans do everything! As we discussed the ideas, it was clear that a new idea would have to emerge. So we brainstormed a design and sent it back to the WDE design team to refine.

Original concept from Disney Imagineering. Burke Hogue Mills, Inc., was able to replicate the design almost exactly.

What emerged was buildable and iconic in nature! And most importantly, it spoke to the essence of what the Media Moment was all about – Celebrating Volunteers!

My firm, Burke Hogue Mills Architects was hired to take the Disney design and create it out of cans! The challenges were many – like assuring that there would be 100,000 cans used in the structure and finding just the right food product that matched the Pantone colors of the characters. We spent two months refining the plans, finding the products to use, ordering all the food and supplies, erecting character test builds, and coordinating the build over 4 days at Epcot.

So, our office became a “secret” pre-build sanctuary for Mickey, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto! There was so much food in our office it looked like a warehouse! Visitors would come and we would steer them clear of our large conference room. All the while, our working relationship with Disney was amazing! Imagine building a canstruction and not having to worry about the cost of the product to use…only the color! You see, Mickey has a salmon colored mask and Donald, well the best white can for us to use was a Publix pineapple can - 3,000 of them!

Our office became a “secret” pre-build sanctuary.

Perhaps the greatest challenge was the black cans for Mickey and Goofy. We knew that other canstructures from other cities had used a black olive can so we did our research. Yes, we found the can – Mario Camacho Black Olives – and we thought we were home free when we saw that Walmart carried the product. What we didn’t know was – although these olives ship out of Plant City, Florida – FLORIDA DOES NOT CARRY THEM – ANYWHERE. So, we contacted Plant City and had 7,000 cans of black olives shipped to us from North Carolina!

And Mickey’s ears were another challenge. After four attempted builds, we ended up using Jiffy Pop Popcorn wired to gator board. It took four people to get the ears onto Mickey’s head!

Oh, and one more thing – when you look at the picture understand this – the base of this structure was 3' 8" tall and comprised of 61,000 cans of food! That works out to be 10 cans high! So, we built our characters on top of this base – very carefully!

We had over 100 people helping de-canstruct this structure!

There are so many stories to tell – how our Orlando volunteers helped the Disney VoluntEARs create this structure, and how every can that entered the stage had to be “hand counted” by Guinness and certified as being used. Unbelievable as it may sound, this structure came down in 5 hours with Second Harvest Food Banks of Central Florida, Miami and Atlanta reaping the benefits. Talk about organized chaos – we had over 100 people helping de-canstruct this structure!

So, when all was said and done – Guinness certified that 115,000 cans created the World’s Largest Structure of Canned Food, with over 130,000 pounds of food which means that over 86,000 meals were made from this structure.

All of this from a phone call and a question “Can you tell me about this idea called Canstruction®?” You just never know….


Deborah Rusnock is the CFO and a principal at Burke Hogue Mills which specializes in Architectural Design and Interior Design. She has been involved with Canstruction® Orlando for over 16 years.