Today, we have a guest blog from Craig Barton, author of Confessions of a DisNerd. Enjoy his take on the D23 expo!
I recently experienced my first D23 Expo. When I initially purchased my 3 day ticket last year, I had grand hopes in covering the Expo in detail. However, as time grew nearer, I changed my plans a bit. Having never experienced the Expo and having the opportunity to go with friends, I decided I wanted to experience everything as the fan that I am. This meant seeing panels and presentations I wanted to see, but maybe missing out on a few things that might be happening at the same time. After all, I do pride myself on being a fan first and foremost! So with this decision made, I made the journey to Anaheim to experience, have fun, and hopefully not be overwhelmed. (Note: My friends here at Disney Darlings did a great job of covering the Expo. Where I was able, I’ve provided links to their news coverage for those looking for more detailed reports.) With that being said, here’s this nerd’s report and opinions from the 2015 D23 Expo.
The signs certainly looked welcoming enough! However, the lines were daunting that first morning. There was definitely miscommunication between Disney, Expo staff, and Anaheim Convention Center Staff. Many were told one line was for the Disney Legends ceremony as well as gold and silver D23 members (who were allowed entry to the show floor an hour before general admission), while a second line was for general admission entry. However, many found out there was actually a separate line for the Legends; it depends on who you asked. Although I am a gold-level D23 member, I chose to stand in the general admission with a friend who was not. The first morning’s entry line was, in all honesty, a mess. Gold and silver members kept piling into that line, well past 10 AM, with a line wrapping around the convention center.
Any frustrations that may have come from that line, however, dissipated as I entered the show floor to encounter a world of Disney wonder. With no real game plan for the first morning, we wandered the floor, visiting vendors, and checking out a few displays, such as John Lassetter’s studio shirts, the famed Pizza Planet Truck, and much more!
As one learns quickly when attending the Expo, decisions must be made as to which panels are “must sees,” and which may have to be skipped over, as one simply cannot do everything the Expo has to offer. Thus, my friends and I made the decision to attend the “Imagineering 60 Years of Disneyland” panel hosted by documentarian Leslie Iwerks, leaving no room to attend the Disney/Pixar Animation presentation (For Disney Darlings’ coverage of the animation presentation, click here). The Imagineering panel was a great choice for me, as I got to hear former and current Imagineers such as Charita Carter, Kevin Rafferty, Kim Irvine, Tony Baxter, Marty Sklar, and one of my personal heroes, Richard Sherman discuss the world of Imagineering, driven by Walt and his ideals, even long after he had passed. It was also a great look at Iwerks’ upcoming 2016 documentary, “The Imagineering Story.”
Day two of the Expo presented more tough decisions and more lines, but on a more organized level, I felt. However, to attend the “Worlds, Galaxies and Universes: Life Action at The Walt Disney Studios” presentation, an early lineup was necessary. My cohorts and I joined the line at 5:30 am (for a 10:30 am presentation), and were some of the last to receive wristbands for entry, while others who arrived later waited in the standby line. (Side note: Many waiting in the standby line received entry to the presentation: Hall D23 held 7500 people.)
Of course, it was a magnificent presentation, complete with movie trailers, sizzle reels and celebrity appearances. I will admit, the ten year old in me leapt out of my seat when Harrison Ford took the stage with the freshman cast of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Unfortunately, cameras were sealed in plastic bags as photography and video were prohibited. Of course, there was also a tiny announcement about a Star Wars land coming to Disney Parks in the future that shook things up quite a bit. All of these elements made this a highly entertaining presentation to be at – well worth camping out for! (Disney Darlings once again, has provided more information on the Star Wars land coverage here.)
Perhaps the biggest show floor highlight for me was “Walt Disney Archives Presents – Disneyland: The Exhibit.” Given the geekery of many Disney fans, I’m surprised they weren’t handing out bibs at the exhibit entrance to catch the collective drool as we all walked past various pieces of history from Disneyland’s first 60 years. Below are just a few highlights from the amazing exhibit:
I realize I’m leaving out a lot of other things that I happened to see at the Expo. From time with friends, to meeting some amazing people, to other panels and presentations, there is just so much to talk about from this amazing weekend! However, for space constraints (I know, I’ve already kept you reading this long!), I wanted to take the last portion of this post to address a bit of what you may have been reading on the internet from other blogs and sites.
First off, you will find many complaining the Expo was horribly disorganized. Now, as I stated at the outset, the lines on opening day were confusing and frustrating. I’ll agree to that. But that was really my only issue with organization all weekend long. I camped out for major presentations, attended a panel with stage pass, and a few Walt Disney Archive panels with no pass required. In fact, those panels were surprisingly not full, and contained some of the best history lessons of the weekend. If I have one regret from the Expo (besides not being able to see The Originals: Disney on Broadway concert), it would be not attending more of these Archive panels and presentations. “Sounds Delightful! An Illustrated Audio Adventure with Stacia Martin” was a true highlight for this Disney Vinyl collecting nut, as Stacia played us some great vinyl tracks while leading us through Disneyland and the 60th anniversary of the Mickey Mouse Club (Another panel I regretfully missed!).
I do believe many of the complaints of organization stemmed from the shopping experiences on the Expo show floor. While I did manage to get into the Dream Store with relative ease, most of the the items I wanted to purchase were sold out by Friday afternoon. As for the Disney Store line, I didn’t hear of anyone spending less than three hours in line for limited edition merchandise, so I didn’t even bother.
Which brings me to my second point. I believe for some, the Expo was pretty much a shopping event. And if that was the case, that was absolutely fine for them, but the long lines and agitation that came with them could make for a pretty crazy show floor at times, not to mention hordes of collectors and re-sellers camping out for the Expo floor every morning. The mood among many seemed to stem from these lines and lack of availability of merchandise. I don’t know what can really be done about this other than perhaps a separate building for the major retail stores (not individual vendors), but it made me a little sad. See, for me, what made the Expo so enjoyable was the celebration of Disney: like-minded fans, Disney celebrities, amazing exhibits and shows. Sure, there was some merchandise I would have liked to get – the Expo themed Mickey ears come to mind – but, overall, that’s not why I was there. My weekend was made by spending time with my friends, seeing all I could see, and having amazing experiences that will last a lifetime.
And would I do it again? In a heartbeat. I might do a couple things different, but overall, I would say it’s a great experience I wouldn’t miss for the world.
Craig Barton is the author of Confessions of a DisNerd and the newly formed Writing Outside the Lines. The opinions expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Disney Darlings or its staff.