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Posts tagged ‘D23 Expo 2017’

The D23 Expo is Still a Fixer-Upper

Fixer-Upper.pngI 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.

overnight

No campfires allowed

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

IMG_5909Does 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?

Session Participants

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 Management

end of queue sign blowup

Which Queue?

Now, 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.

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Oh Where, Oh Where Has My Disney Muse Gone?

shutterstock_194759198Frequent visitors to The Disney Connection may have noticed I missed my usual Sunday night post last week. Setting aside some personal and professional craziness that has caused disruptions in the Land of Brad, I’ve had a hard time finishing a post over the last couple of weeks. I can tell you I made several starts which all seemed very promising, including one about the passing of Marty Sklar, improvements needed for the next D23 Expo, my thoughts on The Great Movie Ride and something about Imagineering. I would be kidding myself and all of you if I “wrote” off my creative block as a failure to find anything that clicked and would meet my own personal standards of quality and applicability to the Disney Connection’s mission. The truth is, I couldn’t get my creativity on track. I was blocked, even though I set out to write about something I love.

shutterstock_325327667One part of me wanted to post something. The other part of me was unable to come up with something I felt I could be satisfied to share with you. I’ve published 30 posts on this blog, at a pace of nearly one per week since January of this year. I’d like to thank the hundreds of visitors who regularly read my thoughts, opinions and ramblings about how Walt Disney, who has been gone 51 years this December, still impacts the Disney Company, people like me and maybe you. Many weeks I’ve been completely stunned by the traffic, many likes, comments and number of people who are now following the Disney Connection blog. Thank you all for supporting my work and giving me the satisfaction of knowing that I’m not talking only to myself. So, since I consider you all fellow Disney lovers, I hope you’ll keep reading if I take a tangential trip into CreativityLand, slightly afield from my usual posts.

Over the years, I have tried my hand at various writing projects. I participated in NANOWRIMO , National Novel Writing Month, (an amazing not-for-profit thatnano_12_winner_detail encourages people of all ages to write, including kids) and completed 50,000 word drafts of three novels. I’ve written several full length plays and dozens of shorter theater pieces and had privilege of hearing my work performed by professional actors at public staged readings here in NYC. I’ve written technical white papers and many reports for the customers who I have worked with in my day job over the last 20 years. Those of you who write regularly, particularly for work as I do, may have found that it’s often easier to write when someone else is setting the deadline and determining the topics.

I have always enjoyed writing. But for some time, I had only written professionally. So, I started writing this Blog as a kind of test to see if writing was going to continue to be part of my life. I’m happy to say that writing for the Disney Connection has offered an opportunity for me to rediscover the joy of writing. I take pride in publishing posts that I believe are interesting, amusing, timely and, perhaps, thought provoking. I have no advertisers who are expecting eyeballs on pages, so the only motivation to put hands on the keyboard is that I have a topic which appeals me. I write this Blog because I want to, not because I must.

Anyone who has put pen or brush to paper, hands to clay, a hammer to stone or raised their voice in song can attest that the creative spark is a harsh mistress who can both satisfy and punish any artist. I was just at the D23 Expo and sat very close to Imagineers like the late Marty Sklar, Tony Baxter, Rolly Crump, and musicians Richard Sherman and Alan Menken and others who have somehow managed to be consistently successful in using their skills, imagination and vision to not just be creative, but prolifically creative under financial, deadline, and global fan pressures. They have carried on the work of a man who German philosopher Schopenhauer would have described as both an artist, someone who can hit a target no one else can hit, and a genius as someone who can hit a target no one else can see.

I try to keep my goals for the Disney Connection modest. I do think I occasionally reach some level of artistry in my work on this Blog. Inspiration can be found everywhere. So, it is frustrating to wake up and find one’s muse has taken an unexpected leave of absence. Walt Disney is one of those rare people who was an artist and a genius in everything from animated and live action films to theme parks and education. I remain in awe of his accomplishments and will continue to be inspired by him as an example of what can be achieved. Everyone’s time is valuable and there are plenty of places on the internet, TV, movies and the world that you can all spend it. The more I’ve worked on the Disney Connection the more I have felt a commitment to those of you who have carved out enough time in your busy lives to read my writing. I want all my readers to finish a post feeling that their time has been well spent. If I keep up my end of the bargain, I hope you will too. Thanks for your support.

In the meantime, I’ve put up up a page of pictures from my time at D23 Expo 2017.

Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge — We’re not in Kansas Anymore

star wars opening

1977 – No on-line ticketing or midnight openings LACY ATKINS/AP

As a someone who loves science fiction in all its permutations, Star Wars: A New Hope, (or just plain old Star Wars as I knew it as a kid), was a perfect movie. It had a little of everything I went to the movies for: Adventure, action, sword fights, humor, plausible science, space travel, easy to identify good guys and bad guys (although, George, why are Storm Troopers dressed in white?), a damsel in distress, an unlikely, underdog hero, a wise cracking leading man, a sweeping and pulse quickening score, and spoiler alert (I do know someone on this planet that has not seen a single Star Wars movie) an explosive, exciting, happy ending.

So, I am thrilled to think of walking into that movie world when Star Wars Land opens in 2019 at Disney Studios. I was sitting in the packed auditorium at the D23 Expo in 2015, when Bob Iger announced the plans for the park additions. The place went crazy and the hair stood up on the back of my neck. As the plans have gone from concept paintings to more detailed information, my excitement has not waned.

Our appetites have now been further whetted by the amazing model displayed at this year’s D23 Expo. (See my post D23 Expo 2017 Magical Afterglow for more on the Expo). The Theme Park’s pavilion rolled out the new land name, “Star Wars, Galaxy’s Edge”. The model reveals, not only, the scope and scale of Disney’s largest theme park addition ever. (I confirmed that both US theme parks will get exactly the same addition) But, gives us a view of the park most of us will never get once we’ve entered. Galaxy’s Edge continues Disney’s continued emphasis, started with Pandora, of providing a totally immersive experience.

sw model.jpg

Reports describe much more than the current Studios Streetmosphere to add to the theming and mood.  We will find First Order troops and Rebels roaming the streets. Success or failure on the Millennium Falcon attraction may have an effect on Park’s inhabitants responses to you later in the day. The model also showed the location of the other headliner attraction, a battle inside a Star Destroyer. This might include a new kind of light saber.

This is all very exciting. But, it leads me to a sobering, but inevitable, thought. I will miss the old Disney/MGM Studios and all it represented. Before you start yelling at the screen, I am not one of those, “Don’t ever change my Disney theme park” people. Walt knew technology, and our ideas about entertainment would change or, as he often did, he could change them. The Parks, unlike Disney movies, were built so he could continue to tinker. I believe Walt always thought that while he did the best he could creating his films, he always believed, he could’ve done better if he had: (pick one or more: more time; more money; better technology). Other director’s from George Lucas to Ridley Scott have voiced similar regrets. Once a film is produced, it’s frozen in time. Yes, I know there are director’s cuts of films like Blade Runner. And if you’re George Lucas, you change them and make us all buy new versions. But, the Parks were a chance for Walt to always make things better. He’s famously quoted as saying, “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.” Walt’s approach to theme parks wasn’t that different from films. He used storytelling to enhance the attraction experiences. The theme park was a way for Walt to always try to “get it right”  – even if it took him more than one try to do it.

Let’s remember what Michael Eisner was after when he built, what is now called, Disney Hollywood Studios. It was a working film and television studio that would, not only, give us a chance to see “how it’s done” in television, film and animation, but would take us back to the golden age of Hollywood. A time when the studios controlled everything that had to do with making a film and the movie theaters were palaces with uniformed ushers. (See Grauman’s Chinese or Radio City Music Hall). Hollywood was truly tinsel town. MGM boasted it had “More Stars than there are in the Sky”. I love movies that take place at that time in and around L.A. during that period, like Singin’ in the Rain, Chinatown, L.A. Confidential and Barton Fink. Walking through the Park, always felt like being on a movie set in that period. The atmosphere was reinforced with: The Streets of America recreating a studio backlot; iconic buildings like Grauman’s Chinese; and the store fronts and building architecture (yesterland.com has a great overview of architectural inspirations for the Park). And to top it off, there was actual hand drawn animation going on within the nondescript walls of the working studio itself, including work on Brother Bear and Lilo and Stitch (See my post The Art of Animation for my thoughts on animation).

I still get a special feeling when I enter the Park and become enveloped in the eclectic architectural styles reminiscent of Hollywood and the surrounding areas from the 20s-50s. More than Epcot or Animal Kingdom, I think, Studios comes closest to Walt’s use of Main St. USA as a way to calm and prepare us to enter a world of fantasy, as well as begin to tell the story of the Park itself. We walk down a Main St USA that’s from a different time. Did you ever notice that the pathway under the Railroads in Disneyland and Disney World are red? You’re walking the red carpet into a theater! Ever notice how directors often fill the opening moments of a movie with sights and sounds to set the time and place the film. Car styles, store fronts, license plates, welcome signs, music serve the same purpose on Main St. USA and Hollywood Boulevard. Upon entering the Studios we see a period style gas station, lots of LA style architecture and Sid Cahuenga’s. We now know when and where we are. Then the entrance music, filled with great and recognizable movie themes like Gone with the Wind, Lawrence of Arabia and Ben Hur, tell us that this is a place for and about the movies.

So, I will miss old Hollywood as Galaxy’s Edge takes storytelling to new levels. I’m hoping it does feel like we’ve entered into the movie throughout the Land, instead of limiting theming to an attraction as has been the historical Imagineering approach. The Studio’s park is in transition from giving us a chance to see how movies were and are made to putting us on the set. I think the original concept was great and I will miss that peek behind the cameras. But, I believe that the direction that Pandora and now Galaxy’s Edge takes is completely in line with the kind of “plussing” that Walt would surely have taken advantage of, had he been able. Hang on. We’re making the jump to light speed!

Hyperspace_falcon

D23 Expo 2017 Magical Afterglow

D23-Expo-Balloons-1I’ve spent the last week trying to absorb my D23 Expo experience and write a narrative for the three days I attended. There’s quite a lot to cover. And, it’s possible, that by now, you’ve started to hear many positive and negative reviews of the Expo. I’ll continue to work  on a blow by blow account, which may be useful for future Expo goers. But, when I’ve sat and thought about the Event, what comes to mind, more than anything else is the people I encountered. So, for now, I’d like to focus on some positives related to guests, cast members and presenters, who I think made my time at the Expo gratifying and pleasurable.

d23 2017 crowd

In my last post, D23 Expo 2017 Pre-Event Excitement, I talked about the Expo as an opportunity to be amongst all kinds of Disney fans. Some are there to buy limited edition or just released items. Some want to get autographs, selfies or see famous people. Others want to be “first” to know about movie, TV or theme park news. Unfortunately, many things I’ve read about the Expo, pre or post events, often start with the lines. I would say, if there’s one thing we Disney people know how to do, it’s wait on lines and follow instructions. On a Park queue, everyone is focused on their group – where they’ve been and where they are going. They have little interest in their line buddies. At the Expo, I usually waited 3+ hours seated or standing the whole time with the same people, waiting for morning entry into the Convention Center. The difference is, we all knew why we’re there, so the ice was already broken.  It was easy to strike up a conversation, usually started with “Where are you from?” or “Is this your first Expo?”. From there things either went to “What panels are you trying to see?” or “What are you here to buy that you can’t get anywhere else?” or “Whose autograph/picture are you hoping to score?” From all around, people would just jump into the conversation with their thoughts or questions. Even though we are all uncomfortable sitting on the hot concrete or rubbery legged from standing, everyone was upbeat, excited and just plain thrilled to be so close to getting inside (There are others who are much further back in an endless, snaking line. But I’m focused on the group that was unbothered to wake up around 5am to even get close to the front of the line). Then, even after waiting that long, the Disney crowd was still able to follow instructions that allowed us to all get inside, efficiently and without pushing, shoving or other chaos. Each time a group moved forward toward the Center doors a cheer would go up, followed by a groan as we were held at the next line checkpoint. It was truly a group happening, like a concert in Central Park.

Disney has gotten very good at Park crowd control. And the queues for panels or store entry were handled in the same organized manner. But the Expo morning entry is a different kind of animal. So, I’d like to say Thank You to the brave, hard working Cast Members who, not only,  maintained a cheery disposition in the face of repetitive questions (Is this the line to get in? Is there a VIP line just for me? What if I don’t have a ticket already? Is the (fill in the blank) panel already filled? Where’s the end of the line?, etc.) They repeated their pleas to “stay in line”, “have your bag open for inspection”, “keep the line moving” (when it did) “please don’t cut the line corners as you snake around” and “You’re almost there”. No one should underestimate the effect that positive energy can have on a large, tired, uncomfortable crowd of people to keep things from getting out of hand. Then, once things got moving, instructions were simple and consequences for rule breaking were made clear. It may just be me, but all these intangibles make me feel good about doing my part to make things run smoothly and efficiently so I can get to the fun.

end of queue sign blowup

Signs like this could be seen everywhere

On the whole, I found all Cast Members to be polite, upbeat and helpful. No, they didn’t always have the best or most accurate information. Yes, I did, get different answers from different Cast Members a few times. But, I don’t think that the individuals were always to blame. It’s not as if they were all wearing walkie talkies getting the most up to date news flashes. During my time waiting on various lines, I took an informal poll of the line monitors, whose job it was to hold up signs reading “Start of Queue”, “End of Queue” and “Queue Break”. Since I was sure that the postings were not full time jobs, I started asking what they usually do for the Disney Company. Most worked at Disneyland. I met tram drivers, tram announcers, gate ticket takers and even food preparers. So, in defense of the Cast Members, it’s not as if they are used to doing that job, or for that matter, any of the jobs at the Expo all the time. The Expo is only held every two years. So, it’s possible that training is not as thorough as it might be ordinarily. And, there appeared to be changes happening all the time. Most of the time, if someone didn’t have an answer, they were honest and said so. Most of the Cast Members I spoke to admitted that they would have been happier doing their regular job, instead of holding a sign for hours at a time. I watched another queue monitor very actively and enthusiastically, protect a line from potential queue jumpers. Even the daily, small parade the snaked through the show floor was full of the same Cast enthusiasm and professionalism as any I’ve seen in the Parks.

 

 

I was not successful in getting into any of the big announcement sessions like Movies and Theme Parks. But, I was prepared for that possibility and still managed to attend 8 panel discussions over the 3 days of the Expo. Without exception, all the speakers and panel members, not all of whom are professional presenters, were entertaining and engaging. Many that stood out for me were presented by the Disney Archives group, including:

d23 expo archives logo

Bill Cotter, TV Historian and author, gave us a behind the scenes look at the Zorro TV series, including behind the scenes pictures, casting accounts, and stories about the program’s promotions in Disneyland. He also emphasized, that unlike other TV shows of the day, Walt insisted on spending extra money and effort, to insure that the stories, sets and costumes were historically accurate. After Bill’s presentation, I now think the series doesn’t get its due as part of the Disney cannon.

Steve Merritt and Legendary Imagineeer Tony Baxter took us through history of the Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough from its Walt inspired idea to promote the soon to be released movie, all the way to the current re-incarnation of the original attraction. There were with blueprints, photographs and amazing stories of the design, engineering, execution, abandonment and recreation of the attraction.

Hans Perk, Animation Historian, took us for a virtual tour of the Disney Hyperion studios, allowing us to see where many iconic photos of Walt and Co. were taken during some of the studio’s most important and creative period from 1926 to 1940. I’ve read a lot about the studio. “Seeing” it as the odd configuration of buildings, put together to meet the growing demands of Walt’s imagination, allowed me to get a sense of the tremendous that he fueled with his energy and enthusiasm.

Fun, laughter and excitement was all around the Expo panel rooms and show floor. I saw people showing off their newly acquired treasures, sharing stories of surprises, even some disappointments. I and others shared our food with those who didn’t plan as well, graciously saved spaces in line for bathroom runs and even offered to sell. without markup, an extra limited edition item to someone who was less fortunate.

Some Expo surprises:

A daily parade on the show floor, complete with celebrities like Mark Hamil and Stan Lee.

Free cold brewed ice coffee with nifty Disney designs

A picture in the D23 lounge area which included my wife and I, taken during the NYC ,Gold Member, Behind the Scenes Event. We’re in the middle of the back row.

A free Gold Member gift

gold member gift

The Lion King 360° VR Experience let me virtually experience the Broadway musical from onstage. I could all around, in the wings, out in to the audience and into the flies as the opening scene at Pride Rock unfolded.

And, finally, admidst the thousands of people on the show floor, I ran into two people that I know from my NYC Disney fan group. And I got the chance to meet some Facebook friends for the first time.

There’s so much more to tell about my Expo experience. After something like the Expo, I usually find that I’ve taken photos of all the wrong things and missed other opportunities to capture the moments. I’ll post some of my photos here, anyway. Yes, there are things that I thought could have been done that might have made the Expo even better. But for now, I think I’m satisfied to share the things that made the Event so much fun for me. I’m sure I’ll be able to feed off the memories for some time. Hopefully the magical glow will last until the next time.

me at expo

 

D23 Expo 2017 Pre-Event Excitement

expo_Banner_2017According to the LA Times, there will be about 60,000 people attending the D23 Expo this year. It’s anybody’s guess how many tickets were sold for this years event at the Anaheim Convention Center. I’m happy to say, for the second time, I will be one of the thousands. You may have heard or read about waiting on lines, the crowds and that it’s impossible to get all the sessions you’d like to attend. I can’t speak for the other 59,999 Disney addicted souls, but I would rather accentuate the positive.

For me, the Expo represents an amazing gathering of people who can’t get enough Disney. Strange as it may seem, with all of the thousands of Disney fans who might live in or around where I live, I have found it difficult to connect with fellow Disneyites. I recently found a group of people who love all things Disney as much as I do. But for years, the only time I could surround myself with Disney fans, without making a spectacle of myself, was to go to a Disney movie. (See my post What’s with you and the Disney Thing? for some thoughts on my connection to Disney) The D23 Expo offers people like me an amazing opportunity to let the Disney Company do something for me as a fan, make me feel important and be surrounded by like minded people.

disney-twenty-three_SP09_Cover

2009 Premiere Magazine Issue

Over the years, Disney has done small things to acknowledge their fans, who, by the way, give them the funds to keep creating. Magazines, the old Magic Kingdom Club and probably some other things I’ve forgotten or didn’t know about. I don’t live near either of the 2 U.S. theme parks or the Disney Studios, so attending special events like premiere’s, screenings or tours is very difficult. I was always looking for something more. Maybe even a thank you for the money I have spent and the time I have loyally and happily invested in Disney related movies, trips and merchandise over the years. So, when Bob Iger announced the D23 fan club in 2009 I signed up. If nothing else, at least I’d get a magazine for my membership money. As I expected, early on, the events were mostly in and around Anaheim. But, the quarterly magazine has consistently exceeded my expectations. The articles are interesting and varied, the pictures are excellent the overall feel of the publication is very classy. And they always include a little keepsake surprise with the issues. So, I kept renewing. I’m glad I did.

Fast forward to 2012 when the Disney Archives announced the “FANniversary”  celebration, with NYC as one of the cities they would visit. I grabbed my tickets, hoped for something more than marketing for the fanniversary 2012latest Disney films and tried to manage my expectations. The event exceeded those expectations. Not only was the event well organized, but there were keepsakes for everyone and the presentations by the Disney Archivists were interesting, full of surprises and included pictures and video that I had not seen before, covering movies, television, theme parks and more, all related to Disney Celebrations. I left the theater feeling more than satisfied with my annual membership.

The FANniversary was followed by an anniversary screening of Peter Pan on the big screen in NYC. Then in 2014 there was a second FANniversary tour. This time it celebrated many Disney anniversaries, including:

  • The 1964-65 Worlds Fair – 50 years
  • Donald Duck – 80 years
  • Disney’s MGM Studios (yes they referred to it that way for the celebration!) – 25 years
  • Mary Poppins – 50 years
  • The Muppet Movie, Muppets Take Manhattan, and Muppet Babies – 35, 30 and 30 years
  • Marvel – 75 years
  • Sleeping Beauty – 55 years
  • The Little Mermaid – 25 years
  • The Incredibles – 10 years
  • Toy Story 2 – 15 years
  • The Lion King – 20 years
  • The “E” Ticket – 55 years
  • The Haunted Mansion – 45 years
  • The Tower of Terror – 20 years
  • The Adventurer’s Club – 25 years
  • Splash Mountain – 25 years
  • Big Thunder Mountain – 35 years

This time the event was held in a much larger theater, which speaks to the popularity of the event, and included a photo opportunity to see and stand near two pieces of Disney History. I can’t find my photos, but they were Mary Poppins’ hat and a Duckster statuette.

Once again, a lot of care was taken in organizing the afternoon and a good time was had by all who attended.  Now we’ve moved onto 2015 and I’m really starting to feel the love from Disney. So, I put some nickels, dimes and hundred dollar bills together (remember I live near NYC) and bought a ticket to my first D23 Expo.  As I get on the plane to LAX, I’m alternately excited and terrified. I had been reading some stories about camping out, long lines, and some attendees turned away from sessions that had filled up. This was a picture of the convention center the day before the Expo began.

d12 convention center 2015

The size of the signs correctly foreshadowed the size and scope of the convention. But, that day it looked peaceful.

I’m having difficulty remembering, but I think I arrived at the convention center the next morning at around 7am. My first impression was that things were a little disorganized as far as where to go, and the lines to check in were ridiculously long. After several hours in the heat, I was inside and found my way to another line to wait for the Legends presentation.

expo 2015 pano

This isn’t going to be a review of the 2015 Expo, so, I’d like to say that overall, I left after the 3 days, feeling:

  • That I had more than gotten my money’s worth . Between the sessions and the show floor, it was a first class event. So much to see and so many things to do.
  • Like an insider. Many of the sessions included new announcements for movies, theme parks and more. Sessions for movies and parks required everyone to seal their phones in a bag while monitors watched the crowd. Very secret.

coming soon expo 2015

  • Totally appreciated by the Disney Company. They pulled out all the stops. There were so many surprises, including top movie and theme park “Stars”, including Harrison Ford, Sir Ben Kingsley, Johnny Depp (once as Captain Jack Sparrow), Chris Evans, Richard Sherman, Marty Sklar and Rolly Crump, to name just a few. And the three days included many unique experiences, including: Showings of the Silly Symphonies with live orchestral  accompaniment and commentary by Leonard Maltin. A live concert of Disney Broadway songs featuring James Monroe Iglehart (original Broadway Genie).  Imagineering trivia and secrets.And  I took advantage of the Charter Members lounge, which was like a quiet oasis amidst the general noise of the conventions.

Silly symph concert

  • Overwhelmed by the exhibits on the show floor, including the Pandora sneak peak, Disney Archives display of original Disneyland artifacts, Star Wars costumes, Shanghai Disney preview and even John Lasseters Hawaiian shirts, plus vendors and shopping.

lasseter hawaiin

  • Thoroughly exhausted, since I spent all day at the Expo and then went to Disneyland for a few hours each night. Whew. And I was looking forward to the next Expo.

Yes, I waited on some lines, but I never felt like it wasn’t worth it in the end. No, I did not get to every session I wanted to, but I’ve never been to any conference or convention, for business or pleasure, where I was able to accomplish that. Yes, there was a lot of walking, but that made up for not getting in my usual exercise time. No. I didn’t get very much of the special Expo merchandise, but I that wasn’t why I attended. Yes, I was tired, but I will still take advantage of the discounted Disneyland tickets again this year.

Last year, I was able to attend the 25th anniversary showing of Beauty and the Beast at  Lincoln Center. Not only did we get to see the movie on a big screen, but there was a panel discussion with Angela Lansbury, Paige O’Hara, Robby Benson, Richard White and producer Don Hahn. We were treated to a mini concert by Alan Menken and then cane a complete surprised. Ms. Lansbury came out and sang Beauty and the Beast accompanied by Mr. Menken.

This year I had the unique opportunity to attend a D23 Gold member event in NYC, which celebrated the 20th anniversary of Disney re-opening the historic Amsterdam Theater in NYC. You can read the full account of this amazing day in my post Report on D23’s “Behind the Scenes” NYC Event.

So, here we are, less than a week away from Expo 2017. Certainly, knowledge is power, I’m less nervous about what to expect. But, since it seems that Disney is always tinkering with things, I expect that there will be differences in how things work this year. Again, I’m managing my expectations for what sessions I would like to attend. Now that the full schedule is out, there are many things I’d like to see and experience. Many of them overlap or happen at the same time.

I hope that my second Expo is as fun and fulfilling as the first. I will try to attend some of the large sessions for Parks and movies and some of the reunion/celebration sessions for Lion King, Zorro and Hercules. I also would like to get to the sessions celebrating some of the Disney magic makers from the past like the Ink and Paint women, Disney product legacy, and the virtual visit to Hyperion Studio.

I hope all of you that have taken advantage of D23 are enjoying your membership as much as I am. I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that it would be nice if the profitable Disney organization would not charge extra for tickets to all these events. But, I do understand that everything costs money. And I wouldn’t want them to skimp on the quality of the events. Even though many activities take place in Anaheim, the Disney Company is making a real effort to reach out to fans in many ways. Certainly, mounting an event as ambitious as the Expo every two years involves hundreds of people and very complicated logistics. If they were to ask me, I would encourage them to do more in the future and keep me and the rest of my Disney fan community feeling appreciated.

 

 

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