I wrote an earlier post about my D23 Expo experience. It was shortly after the Expo closed and much of the piece was about the positive experience I had. Now that we are a couple of months from the Expo, I still have very good feelings about the 3 days I spent in Anaheim. If someone asks me if I will attend the next one, I would say, unequivocally yes. But, as with all things in life, nothing is perfect. I believe that with time, comes wisdom. So, now that there has been some time since the Expo I think I can speak objectively about the aspects of the event that still leave me less than satisfied and some thoughts on what might be done to improve upon what is already a very good event.
I think some level setting and caveats are necessary to put my comments and thoughts into the proper perspective. I’m only commenting about this year’s Expo. This was my second after attending the 2015 Expo, so I’m using that for comparison. Second, when I attended in 2015, I had not been to a Fan event like this since the first Star Trek Convention in 1972 (I was a trekkie before I was a Disney Fanatic). Third, I’m 57 years old and live in the New York City suburbs. Finally, I went to the Expo a second time because I thoroughly enjoyed my first visit.
I did not go to the Expo as a reporter or critic looking for bad or things or breaking news to write about, but as a fan. I didn’t do any real time tweeting or live streaming so I could just have fun. Why does any of this matter? If you poll a thousand Expo attendees you’ll get a thousand different opinions and experiences, so my thoughts are my own. I think these factors will be important so my readers can put my comments into perspective. Otherwise, it’s like reading a bad steakhouse restaurant review from someone I didn’t know is a vegetarian. Now that we’re all roughly on the same page, let the commenting begin.
Hall D23 Sessions
Since, they are a big part of the Expo’s draw, I’m going to start with the large Hall sessions. I did want to attend the animation and live action sessions , but I did not get in (last year I saw both, plus the Legends presentation). My issue is not with the limit on seats (no matter how big the room, someone isn’t going to get in). I was on line outside the convention center by 5:30 am both days for those Hall D23 sessions and was told, upon arriving, that no more seats were available. As frustrating as it was, nothing was going to get me to camp out on floor of the convention center. Why, I ask, should that preclude me from having any chance to get into those sessions? Maybe Disney should set it up like an episode of Survivor. Anyone who can’t stay awake for 24 sleeping hours, sleeping on a concrete floor doesn’t get in? I had the same morning schedule last expo and had no trouble getting a seat.I do have a theory. It looks like the first Expo to feature Marvel content was 2011. Disney acquired Star Wars in 2012 which means that the first time we saw any of the Lucasfilm properties at an Expo was 2013. My limited knowledge of the Comicon/Sci-Fi world, which go back to the seventies, is that some fans camp out for many days for a chance to see, get or do something that has limited availability. I’m not sure that the typical Disney fan has had decades of built up enough disappointment to get them to go to those lengths for a chance to get a preview that will be publicly announced right after the session anyway. So, my theory is that the Marvel/Star Wars fans have been ready and prepared to camp out since 2011. This group has begun to push the day before/early morning windows for those sessions. I’m not blaming the fans. But, I’m not sure the D23 organizers have made adjustment to account for these new fan tolerances to discomfort and lack of sleep. That means, that for future Expos, since I’m unwilling to sleep over or get up too much earlier, I will expect not to be attending those sessions. It’s a shame, since there was something special about being in a room with so many like-minded fans and feeling the excitement for the announcements or surprise star appearances.
My suggestion, because of the popularity of the sessions, would be to offer a reservation system for select sessions. At least I know would know beforehand whether I was getting in. I would be less disappointed, Disney would get a happier convention attendee, the D23 staff would answer thousands of less questions and complaints and maybe I spend some extra money on the show floor. Everyone wins. Not everyone get a table at Be Our Guest, and we all manage to make adjustments and have a good time. Why should this be any different?
The Morning Wait to Enter the Convention Center
Does D23 still think that it’s possible for all the people waiting, in the morning, outside the convention center to get it inside in time for sessions scheduled to start at 9 or 10 am? It’s not like being at the rope drop at the parks. I might not get the first ride on Space Mountain, but I’ll get to ride. Not so with the autographs sign-ups or other sessions. My 5:30 am arrival did get me in just in time for the 10 am sessions. But, the multitude behind me, who were unwilling or unable to get there that early were out of luck. I understand that D23 is trying to please many different kinds of fans and I appreciate the number and diversity of sessions and other live presentations. I also realize from my many years of business conferences, that you can’t get to everything. But that 9 am start time no longer takes into account the massive crowds that they have to move through a couple of doors in the morning.
I’m not a logistics expert, but my suggestion is to take advantage of the fact that there are many different reasons that attendees get there so early. Some want to get to a session, some wanted a voucher for a meet and greet later that day, some were interested in getting to the show floor to buy something in limited supply or others wanted to get into the Hall D23 sessions. Why not create different lines for different purposes? If I have no interested in the limited edition pin at the Dream Store, but want to get to a 10 am session, why do we have to have to fight to get through the same door?
While on still no the subject of sessions, I was not all that disappointed that I didn’t get into Hall D23 presentations because I had such a great time at the other smaller ones. Overall, I found the content to be first rate including the speakers and the presentations. However, other than a brief, often hard to understand introduction of the speakers by the moderator or host, the names of the participants are nowhere to be found. Not in the official app, on the website or anywhere else that I can find. I realize that the sessions might change as things get closer to the Expo. But, how hard would it be to update the app? Or, at least put the participant’s names on the screen so we can remember who we’re listening to both during and after the session.
Queue ManagementNow, about those lines. We Disney theme park people know how to wait on lines. It comes with the territory. To help people avoid accidental line cutting and keep some kind of order to the waiting, D23 does have those “End of Queue” signs that the cast members dutifully hold up. I know I’m not the only one who had to ask “Is this the line for. . .?” I did get the wrong information once. So, how expensive could it be to have the sign what everyone’s waiting on line for? Overall, I could do with an Expo where I didn’t have to constantly ask for information and directions. I’ve been to one time business conferences that were clearer about where and when things would happen. How about a daily agenda sign outside the different rooms? It may seem like something very small. But, when you’re trying to make decisions as session availability changes, quickly being able to determine that you’re waiting in the right place can make things easier. Disney is supposed to be experts at this kind of queue and information stuff. They do it every day at the Parks. Why not do it at the Expo as well?
Charter Member Lounge
This year I was disappointed that they did not offer food and drink for sale in the Charter Member’s Lounge. Free water and coffee were the only choices. Often, they were empty. Yes, it was a nice quiet place away from the chaos, but I did like the convenience of purchasing something to eat or drink.
Companies like Disney don’t stay successful if they aren’t always looking for ways to capitalize on things they do well and minimize or eliminate mistakes. I know that the Disney company no longer accepts unsolicited ideas because they’re afraid of rights suits later. I’m not sure how the Disney D23 people go about correcting some of the shortcomings of the Expo. I filled out the D23 survey they sent and tried to be as specific as I could. I hope they take the criticism to heart and continue to improve the Expo experience for everyone. I do expect that I will go back again for the next Expo. Not only do I enjoy the Expo itself, but it gives me an excuse to go to Disneyland, which I wouldn’t do otherwise, being an East Coast person. I’d love to hear about your Expo experience, good or bad. Perhaps, my Blog will get so much attention that someone from Disney will sneak a peek at what we have to say. I’ve collected some of my D23 Expo photos here, if you’re interested.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, positive or negative about your D23 Expo experiences.