This post is about a month late, but I don’t really care. I’ve been busy!
In early August I went to the third D23 Expo. Held every other year, this is the world’s largest convention of Disney fans (and believe me, I AM a Disney fan!). The first expo was in August of 2009, about a year after the first issue of the exclusive access magazine came out.
I remember being in Disneyland and seeing ads everywhere saying, “Have you seen it? Have you heard it? D23! Become a member now!” We asked a cast member about it, who told showed us the huge, informative quarterly magazine. The issue I saw had a first look at the upcoming Alice in Wonderland film. An avid Tim Burton and Johnny Depp fan, reading that article was my ONLY motivation!
So I was a D23 charter member. I got to read my Alice in Wonderland article and read about other exciting things…a land based off Cars, a new water show in California Adventure, a New Fantasyland, Disney buying Marvel, a new movie about Rapunzel, a princess and a frog, a new Pirates film, a Muppet movie, and much much more that have since become just another everyday part of Disney history.
The first expo– I wanted to go desperately. but I was young and couldn’t get there on my own. I tried to win tickets, but to no avail. Oh well. That was the year Johnny Depp made a surprise visit.
…and that was the day I had a mini-stroke. I was inconsolable. I was crushed. Apparently, not many people went to the D23 Expo the first year, as it was very much a novelty. But with CEO Dick Cook involved, the Expo was an event of epic proportions. Celebrity after celebrity arrived, Johnny Depp the highlight of the event. The first expo was SO GOOD, a spike in D23 members occurred.
It was no doubt that another D23 Expo was to come, but in two years instead of annually. But then a horrible thing happened; Dick Cook was ousted, replaced by Bob Iger. Celebrities, including Johnny Depp, were furious. It was hard to stimulate the celebrity pool for the second Expo. The only exciting celebrity appearances were found in the Disney Legends ceremony, where the living voices of the Disney Princesses were honored, and the fact that Disney had bought Marvel. Sadly, only 60% of The Avengers showed up to the party, Robert Downey Jr. spoke for what totaled 90 seconds, and that was it. Because of the success of the first Expo and the anticipation for the second, the Anaheim Convention Center was flooded with about 40,000 people, creating havoc the Expo was unprepared for. Generally speaking, thousands of Disney fans went home disappointed.
I also did not attend the second Expo, but heard some bad buzz about it. Then August 2012 came along. Tickets went on-sale for the 2013 Expo. By this time, I was 6 years older and now had a job. I used my paycheck and member discount to buy a ticket for myself, no matter the cost. My family came along with me and we planned our time.
Planning for the Expo is a daunting task. “No lining up before 5 am”…wait…does that mean there are people camped out on the side streets until 5 am? Yes. Yes that is EXACTLY what that means. “There are only 4,000 Arena seats, but we’ve added a 2,000 seat overflow theater this year.” Wait…if 40,000 people came last year…doesn’t that mean that 34,000 people will not be able to see the Arena shows? Aren’t arena show the best shows in the place? Yes. Yes they are. Those are the shows where the most surprise celebrities arrive to talk about the Animated and Live Action upcoming Disney films. Oh. My. GOD! “Be prepared to stand in line for hours for anything and everything.” Wait what? “There’s a new thing called a Stage pass which acts as a Fast Pass for other stage shows…but they sell out if you stand in line for anything else but that, you will not get to see anything at all.” What? Wait hold on… “There’s a silent auction, but you need to pay to bid.” Wait- “You need to check all electronics before going in.” Stop hold on- “If you go to one Arena show, the line will already be too long for you by the time the next one comes around.” STOP!
See what I mean? I was so stressed leading up to this trip, especially arriving in Anaheim at 12:30 at night and driving past the Convention Center and seeing a line of about 100 squatters on a sidestreet, waiting for 5 am.
I went to bed that night, disheartened. I knew I couldn’t see the things I wanted to see. But we got up at 5 am and walked down to the Convention Center nonetheless. We first were in the wrong line (Note: If you want an arena show, DON’T GO DOWN WEST CONVENTION! Go down Katella!!!). Once we got to the right line, we were a far ways back, but we seemed to have gotten in. One of the best pieces of advice that I received from other blogs was to meet the people you were in line next to. We ended up meeting two friends who lived in LA who we ended up spending most of the Expo with. We saved spots for them, they saved spots for us. They had gone to the other Expos and gave us helpful tips. I also met a man who works in television in LA and talked business with me! You never know who you might meet at an Expo!
At the Expo, there were your hardcore con jumpers. These are those people who are wearing every piece of Convention Memorabilia they own. These are your Comic-Con, Vid Con, World Con Junkies that run to every collector’s booth collecting exclusive items, even stuff the Expo is giving out for free, just to say they have it or just to go home and immediately sell it on eBay for at least double the price. But the people I love are your first timers, who are going just to see what it’s all about. Or those nostalgic Disney fans. There’s a difference there too. There are the obnoxious Disney fans, who know every lyric to every Disney song ever written, who have been to every park everywhere, who explode in a Disney fact every four minutes. But the people I appreciate are the people that Walt made his movies and his park for. These are the ones who are still enchanted by the magic and mystique of it all, the ones who can’t get through Pocahontas’s dramatic choral swell at the end of the film without breaking out in sobs, where every time they visit a Disney park they feel at home, and no matter how many times they visit, every time stands alone as a special moment in time.
This year’s Expo seems to have made up lost ground from the previous one. I cannot be sorry I went. I got to see all of the major Arena shows, and I learned it CAN be done! The entirety of Saturday was spent in line, then in the Arena, back in line, Arena, line again, then finishing the night -you guessed it- in the Arena! The only downside to this is that you cannot see any other show after an Arena show, because by that time all the stage passes will be gone.
In the first Arena show, the Animation announcements, hosted by John Lasseter, I got to see announcements for upcoming films. The show ran over two hours longer than it was supposed to! Pixar went first, with Bill Hader there for the majority of the presentation, with a special performance by John Ratzenburger and a full band. The Good Dinosaur, Inside Out, and Finding Dory were discussed, some even with exlusive clips. Next came Disneytoons, the one that everyone couldn’t care less about, but ended up being very cool! Dane Cook came out to talk about Planes. Then- believe it or not, the Neverland Fairies was the event that took the house down. The director brought out one actress who voices a new fairy, and then paused before bringing out…TOM HIDDLESON. Loki himself! The place went nuts! He is to play a young cabin boy who becomes CAPTAIN HOOK! Then came Disney Animation themselves. An exlcusive short was shown called Get a Horse! and more upcoming projects were announced, including Zootopia, and the soon-to-be released Frozen. Josh Gad (my hero!!) came out and showed us his song from the movie. Kristin Bell arrived and spoke about the movie as well. And then the highlight of the show- Idina Menzel performed Let it Go from the film LIVE. Snow started to fall. I was in tears. What a way to kick off the Expo!
The live action films were just as exciting. Since Frozen is the next Disney picture and they saved it until last the day before, I was anticipating Saving Mr. Banks to be the finale for this show. My hopes were high, since I knew League member Colin Farrell was in Malibu, that he would be at the Expo. The performance began with a Star Wars announcement…or lack thereof. To stop a riot from breaking out, they announced Thor 2, Captain America 2, and The Avengers 2. Chris Evans, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman came out, introduced by Tom Hiddleson again. He playfully teased, “Since this is a family friendly environment, I will not make you kneel. That’s just wrong,” making a reference to his take over of Hall H as Loki at Comic Con. Then we got to see the very same clip the Comic Con-ners got to see of Thor 2..the HAND!! Then came the other live action films, including announcements about Tommorrowland with a secret and mysterious box that could spell out conspiracy for the Disney company if it is in fact real and not an element of pure fiction. This might be a good time to mention that the writer of Lost is writing this film… Into the Woods was discussed, making Johnny Depp’s casting set in stone and not just rumor. Maleficent! Angelina Jolie arrived, speaking about the movie, which I now cannot WAIT to see! We got to see an exclusive clip, which revealed District 9’s Sharlto Copley as King Stefan, who could possibly we a love interest for Maleficent (oh please oh please oh please…). Then Saving Mr. Banks…I was correct about it being the finale but was incorrect about Colin Farrell. He was a no-show. But we did get Jason Schwartzman and BJ Novak who are playing the Sherman Brothers! The finale was them at the piano with the last living Sherman brother, Richard, who Jason plays. Performers with kites came out as “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” was sung amidst an explosion of confetti.
We came out and immediately entered the Arena once again to see the Disney Legends Ceremony. Billy Crystal, Glen Keane, John Goodman were among the honorees, as well as an award given to Steve Jobs, accepted by John Lasseter, which left the entire Arena sobbing along with him.
Next came the performance of a lifetime…Alan Menken and Richard Sherman performing their music for Disney onstage together. Magical. I have highlights on my YouTube channel jjjinfinitarisus. One of the most heartwarming and heartbreaking moments was when BJ Novak and Jason Schwartzman came out together again to sing with Richard Sherman. Richard said joyfully, “I was here for the first show today with these young guys, and I said they should stay for the show tonight, but they said they had to go. But they stayed! What a lovely surprise!” The following day was the panel of Imagineers, and I got to see some of the last people who worked with Walt, X Atencio among them. I feel so incredibly lucky and blessed to have gone. I cannot tell you how amazing the entire process was.
After the Menken Sherman concert, we nabbed tickets to Disneyland and a reservation at the Blue Bayou restaurant, at a waterside table. As we sat down, all of us ended up in tears. It was easily one of the best experiences of my life. I highly recommend going. I WILL be at the 2015 Expo! That much is for certain!