What do you get when you cross 20,000 Disney Fans and The Anaheim Convention Center? A whole lot of lines that’s what! In all seriousness though, The Bi-Annual D23 Expo took place July 14th-17th in Anaheim where it has been held every other year since 2009. Johanna and I have been in attendance every expo except 2015. From its (not so) humble beginnings, it has grown into almost Comic-Con proportions. (And rumor has it, they were trying to compete with this year’s San Diego Comic-Con by moving up the date from August to July…just one week before the Mecca of all cons.)
This year’s D23 Expo began like most do. Check into the hotel as early as possible on Thursday, try to get a good night’s sleep, wake up before sunrise, and get into line before too many others attempt the same. While waiting to get in, we were delighted to run into some Disney Challenge family members, such as Marie and Donald Beckermann, Nikki Llido (who had been camping out the night before), Frank Pepito, and of course our long-lost Event Crew Member Jeremiah Good. The expo kicked off Friday morning with the ever popular and very inspiring Disney Legends Ceremony hosted by the Chairman and CEO of Disney, Bob Iger. This year’s inductees included such Disney notables as Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill. Seeing these stars, or the family members of those who are no longer with us, getting choked up over receiving such a distinguished recognition from their beloved Disney makes this particular seminar unlike any other. Not wanting to lose momentum, we exited that panel, took a very quick look at the epic showroom floor, made a mental note of what we HAD to come back and see later, and jumped back in line for the next Hall D23 Panel: Disney Animation and Pixar Studios. This panel, hosted by none other than John Lasseter himself, gave us an inside look at some of the most anticipated and even some yet to be named animated shorts and features coming down the Disney pipeline. Clips from Olaf’s Frozen Adventure and The Incredibles 2 were met with thunderous applause, especially when celebrities like Josh Gad, Kristen Bell, and Samuel Jackson showed up. But the real kicker was when a clip from the upcoming Wreck-It Ralph 2: Ralph Breaks the Internet was shown. The unfinished clip featured Vanellope meeting all of the Disney Princesses, who it turns out were all voiced by the original actresses for this incredible reunion. Then, in true D23 Expo fashion, almost a dozen current and past Disney Princess Voice Actresses graced the stage, each one introducing the next to a standing ovation.
Saturday, however, is the day the expo gets REALLY busy. Probably the most anticipated panel would be the Disney Studios Live Action Film seminar. The line for this event was completely filled by 4:30am. Johanna and I missed the cut-off by about an hour, and we were bummed we couldn’t get in to see it. Clips and trailers for upcoming movies such as A Wrinkle In Time, Mary Poppins Returns, The Lion King Live Action, Star Wars VIII, and of course The Avengers Infinity Wars Part I were shown. This unbelievable spectacle could only be topped by the gaggle of celebrities from the aforementioned movies coming out on stage. Later that afternoon, we were able to get some pretty good seats for the final Hall D23 panel of the day and the one Johanna and I most wanted to see: Disney Parks and Resorts. This hour and a half panel was a Disney Nerd’s glimpse of paradise, as they unveiled their plans for such amazing new experiences such as Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge, Pixar Pier, Avengers Land, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, Ratatouille at Epcot, Tron Light Cycle Coaster at the Magic Kingdom, as well as some new vacation destinations like the new Disney Vacation Club property coming to Florida, three new Disney Cruise Line ships being constructed, and the ultimate rumor confirmation…An All Inclusive Star Wars Themed Resort. (Unlike ANYTHING Disney or anyone else has ever done!) As if that weren’t enough, they unveiled the opening of the new “Fantasmic!” debuting on Monday. The big surprise to most in attendance was that they were going to do four special sneak peak previews on Saturday and Sunday, and everyone who attended that panel was to receive a Fast Pass to go see the show. (Blog about that coming next!)
On Sunday, we decided to sleep in late (till 9am)! When we finally ventured down to the Convention Center, the line to get inside was wrapped around the entire building. Johanna and I decided this would be the best day to debut our newest cosplay…Hipster Mickey and Minnie! What we did not anticipate was the hour+ long line in the sun before we got to the much-needed air-conditioned showroom floor. (Hey, when you’re wearing a morph suit under several layers of clothes plus hats and gloves, it gets toasty real fast!) We wandered around the expo floor and even ran into Disney Challenge Family Members Don Todd, Kimberly Vuoso, along with Jeremiah Good and The Beckermann’s (again…but this time, with Ariel!) Our costumes lasted until about 2pm, when the need to use our phones again outweighed the compliments we were getting from those who “got the joke.” We took a short break, ate lunch, and wandered back into the expo (no line this time) to finish up some shopping, see a few exhibits that we had missed the past two days, and just take it all in one last time. It was an amazing, albeit exhausting, weekend. I’m sure in 2019, we’ll have forgotten all about the pain in our feet and buy tickets for another fanatic weekend of all things Disney.
~Written by Dave Mancini – Event Crew Member