2017 D23 Expo: The Ultimate Disney Fan Event | Recap

Posted in All Things Disney

The D23 Expo is a Disney fan convention that happens every two years. I recently attended and wanted to share a recap of some of the exciting highlights! 

Souvenir reusable bags for SWAG (Stuff We All Get)

Long lines waiting to get inside

Exhibit floor opens 


Exciting Announcements

  • Disney and Pixar Animation Studios are working on 8 new films
  • There is going to be a StarWars Land at Disneyland and Hollywood Studios (WDW) in 2019 (named: Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
  • A Star Wars themed hotel is coming to Walt Disney World in Florida
  • Pixar Pier will replace Paradise Pier at California Adventure 
  • Toy Story Land is coming to Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World 
  • The Disney Cruise Line has three new ships 
  • Paint the Night parade will be returning but coming to California Adventure
  • Cars Land will turn spooky for Halloween this year 
  • Magic Kingdom Park is getting a new theatre for, live entertainment, on Main Street USA
  • Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railroad is coming to Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World. It will replace the Great Movie Ride 
  • There is going to be a “Minnie Van Service” at Walt Disney World (similar to uber) 
  • The Ratatouille attraction from Disneyland Paris is coming to the France exhibit at Epcot 
  • The live-action Aladdin will feature Will Smith as the Genie
  • The Disney Skyliner will connect all Walt Disney World Parks & Resorts
  • A new “Tron” attraction is coming to the Magic Kingdom  
  • There will be a “Pixar Fest” in 2018 for a limited time. This will be all things pixar including the Pixar Play parade, fireworks and more

Exhibit Highlights 

The Ultimate Fan Street Party
Twice a day, there was a street party on Mickey Avenue (right through the whole exhibit) where there was dancing and singing. Mickey and Friends rode through and some notable Disney people like Stan Lee and stars like Mandy Moore helped Marshall the crew. 


Disney Legends 30th Anniversary Award Exhibit 

The 2017 inductees are: 

  • Carrie Fisher (Film)
  • Clyde Geronimi (Animation) 
  • Whoopi Goldberg (Film & Television) 
  • Manuel Gonzales (Publishing) 
  • Mark Hamill (Film)
  • Wayne Jackson (Imagineering)
  • Jack Kirby (Publishing) 
  • Stan Lee (Studio & Publishing) 
  • Garry Marshall (Film & Television) 
  • Julie Taymor (Theatre) 
  • Oprah Winfrey (Film) 

Honda’s one-of-a-kind pink polka dot 2018 Odyssey – “Minnie Van” 


Disney Citizenship
Each day they had kits that they were putting together for a different nonprofit. As attendees, we got to help create those kits. I stopped by on day one when they were making adventure kits. 

The front of the Disney Citizenship booth 

Chalkboard for attendees to write inspiring messages

“Did You Know” facts on Mickey’s while waiting in line to put kits together


A Pirate’s Life for Me: Disney’s Rascals, Scoundrels and Really Bad Eggs
This 12,000 square ft exhibit showcased artwork, costumes, props and set pieces from the Pirate films, old sketches, vehicles from attractions, Audio-animatronics and so much more. It was breathtaking. Pirates of the Caribbean is one of my all time favorites. The ride, the music, the adventure. I love it all. So this was very special to see. 

12,000-square-foot exhibit on the Expo show floor

Costumes from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales film  


The Lion King
The Broadway Musical, “The Lion King” shared actual masks from the show. Attendees also got to experience a 360 virtual reality experience where we got to step into the opening number of the show, “Circle of Life.” It was from the actors point of view. We were onstage! It was rad. 

Masks from the Broadway Musical 


Pixar (just EVERYTHING).
The pixar booth was just insane. So well thought out. They had artist demonstrations, autograph signings from directors, animators and filmmakers, giveaways (they gave away the Pixar balls), and interactive displays. 

Disney & Pixar Animation Cars 3 characters on display 

Wreck It Ralph and Vanellope 


The Fashion 

Beautiful gowns from iconic films like Beauty & The Beast and Cinderella

The Muppets Collection coming this August 

Disney inspired accessories available in select stores 

Minnie’s high fashion collection 

Sneak peek of a few pieces from Lularoe’s Disney collection 

Ashley Eckstein shares new Disney-inspired styles from HerUniverse coming soon 


I attended these sessions…

The Power of the Princess – *No photography/video allowed*
The voices of some of the most iconic Disney princesses took the stage to answer questions about making the films they lent their voices to.

The panel included:

  • Auli’i Cravalho (Voice of Moana)
  • Anika Noni Rose (Voice of Tiana)
  • Paige O’Hara (Voice of Belle)
  • Jodi Benson (Voice of Ariel)

Moderators Kira Lehtomaki and Amy Smeed, both animators for Walt Disney Animation Studios, asked each princess a variety of questions. I especially loved the one about how each princess heard about the role and how they found out that they got the part. It was crazy to hear that some of them went through crazy long audition processes and time frames before they found out.

Jodi (Ariel) had been let go from the Broadway musical “Smile” and auditioned for Ariel and out of nearly 800 tapes was picked along with a fellow cast member of “Smile.” She didn’t find out that she got the part of Ariel until nearly two years after that. It was Paige’s birthday, her now husband proposed to her and she found out she got the role of Belle all in the same week.

Some of the princesses went on to share their experiences working with Animation directors, Ron Clements and John Musker and animator Mark Henn. Mark Henn ended up being in the crowd! He shared a few pencil tests from The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and The Princess and the Frog. 

We also got to see some behind the scenes clips of all 4 princesses in the booth singing their most iconic songs from their films. It definitely gave me the chills and I shed a few tears. We also got to see the Wreck It Ralph sneak peek clip featuring all the original Disney princesses voices. They are reprising their role in the most hilarious scene!


Celebrating 50 Years of Little Golden Books
We have a select few of these golden books for our daughter. I remember having a rather large collection growing up. They were (and still are) fantastic books that create the same magic as Disney movies right at your fingertips. It was awesome to hear from some of the artists and editors about why they loved working on the books, what their favorites are and what went in to illustrating them. 


“Maps of the Disney Parks: Charting 60 Years from California to Shanghai
This was a unique session where we got to explore the history of disneyland through the book that includes maps of the parks and more. It was really cool getting to see some maps that weren’t in the book. We also got to see some original sketches of maps, and then the final versions. 

The panel included: 

  • Vanessa Hunt – Imagineer 
  • Jeff Kurtti 
  • Matt McKim 
  • Marty Sklar – Disney legend & Imagineering Ambassador 

Here are some facts about the maps of Disneyland: 

  • The original Disneyland map was done in pencil on translucent paper so that prints could be made 
  • The original Disneyland map is so intricate that there are many times where they’ve found new things they haven’t seen on there before like Walt’s initials 
  • Walt wanted people to have a souvenir and remember their trip to Disneyland so they created fun maps 
  •  The 35th-anniversary map was a fold out where you fold it and you can see the map yesterday and today. It was a way to reference what was coming and what had been 
  • Vanessa’s team consists of only 3 people (Whoah!)


I shared a lot of this session on my instastories because this was just too fun and entertaining, I needed to share it immediately. The host, Jim Babcock of Disney Consumer Products, was hilarious. The judges were: Yvette Nicole Brown (Actress), Ashley Eckstein (Actress and Fashion Designer), and Kara Saun (Costume Designer for Descendants 2). 

The contest featured fans who designed their own Disney-inspired costume and were judged on artistry and showmanship. There were 5 categories and one overall winner with a grand prize of $2,300 at stake. 

“Once Upon a Time” category contestants 

Winner of each category waiting for the announcement of the overall winner  

Photo: DisneyD23 – Winners: Te Fiti and Te Ka from Moana 


Pirates of the Caribbean: 50 Years of Swashbuckling Adventures in Disney Parks – *No photography/video allowed
The panel included:  

  • Marty Sklar (Disney Legend & Imagineering Ambassador)
  • Orlando Ferrante (Disney Legend and Retired Imagineering Executive)
  • Tony Baxter (Disney Legend & Imagineering Creative Consultant)
  • Kim Irvine (Art DIrector, Disneyland Park)
  • Luc Maynard (Creative Executive, Shanghai Disney Resort)
  • Nancy Seruto (Creative Development Executive, Walt Disney Imagineering)

It began with each panelist discussing their involvement with the attraction, how it came to be and their favorite memory of their first time riding the attraction. Kim spoke of memories where she would notice things missing from her home to find out that her mother took it to help create models for Imagineering. 

Luc and Nancy discussed the Pirates excursion at the Shanghai Resort. They mentioned that the audience there mainly knew of Pirates from the movies (more than the attraction itself) and so they wanted to leverage off of what that audience knows. It was a brand new place meaning brand new adventures all while leveraging brand new technology. We also got to see a clip of what the Pirates attraction looks like in Shanghai! 


Celebration of an Animated Classic: “The Lion King”
The panel included: 

  • Tony Bancroft – Supervising Animator, “Pumbaa”
  • Don Hahn – Film Producer
  • Rob Minkoff – Co-Director
  • Jim Cummings – Voice Actor
  • Ernie Sabella – Voice of “Pumbaa”

We got to hear stories about working on the film. We also got to see behind the scene clips of creating storyboards, music and making decisions for the film. Here are some fun facts that were shared:

  • The Lion King was released 23 years ago 
  • To this day it’s the highest grossing hand-drawn (with a pencil) animated film of all time
  • They had a hard time getting animators to work on The Lion King because the Head of Disney Studios thought Pocahontas would do better 
  • The Lion King was originally called “King of the Jungle” 
  • “Circle of Life” was originally a pop tune. Elton John wasn’t happy about that and it was quickly changed to a ballad 
  • Ernie Sabella (Pumbaa) and Nathan Lane (Timon) auditioned for the Lion King while doing “Guys and Dolls” on Broadway 

To complete the celebration, they surprised the audience with Whoopi Goldberg who played Shenzi in the film. She came out and joined the other panelists and shared her favorite memories. The celebration didn’t end there. There were two more surprises: 

  1. The Lion King will return to our homes in a Digital and Blu-ray as part of the Disney Signature Series 
  2. Carmen Twillie, the original singer of the “Circle of Life” written by Elton John and Tim Rice, came out to perform the song and brought hundreds of Disney fans in gold choir attire as well as dancers in animal costumes. It was AMAZING!!! 

This is just a little recap of what happened at the D23Expo. There were Disney artists drawing characters for people, a latte artist creating amazing Disney-inspired art on lattes, a pancake artist making Disney-inspired art on pancakes, amazing costumes, shopping, photo opportunities, and more! 

The D23 Expo was definitely a fun experience. I’m so happy that I got to go and see all the amazing things, hear some cool stories about the films that I’ve grown up to love and love today. It was also rad to see behind the scene art, clips and things that didn’t make it into some of these movies!

I’m definitely excited for D23 Expo 2019! 

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  • Reply Ayanna @ 21FlavorsofSplendor

    How fun!! My daughters love everything Disney, so I may have to check this out in the future to make sure I stay in the know.

    July 28, 2017 at 1:18 pm
  • Reply Cynthia

    I had such a blast reading it – could almost imagine myself there. This is something I’d love to attend sometime in the future (I think I’d just go crazy tbh was already feeling it just from your sharing and photos). Such a detailed post too!

    July 28, 2017 at 10:28 am
  • Reply Michelle Woodhill

    Great blog Brit! AND OMG you gotta go to Shanghai. That pirates ride is like nothing I’ve ever seen. Pretty incredible!

    July 24, 2017 at 10:47 am
  • Reply Liz

    This looks like so much fun! I love Disney and I would love to attend this event one year! Love all the pictures you took!

    July 22, 2017 at 11:16 am
  • Reply Jordyn

    I’m a huge disney fan.. and thats an understatement! I love all the pictures! I Hope I can see this in person some day

    July 21, 2017 at 11:20 am
    • Reply bmcharnley

      Yes. That’s awesome. 2019! 😉

      July 21, 2017 at 11:32 am
  • Reply Sharon

    What a fun event! I had no idea that this expo existed. I am so jealous you got to witness that Princess Panel! How cool is that! So excited to see the new things coming to Walt Disney World. My family lives in Orlando so I’ll most likely get to see those changes come through since we visit Disney all the time.

    July 21, 2017 at 1:48 am
    • Reply bmcharnley

      That’s so awesome! I can’t wait to hear all about them when they actually happen! We’ll be there in August for the first time. I’m excited to try the Minnie Van! 🙂

      July 21, 2017 at 11:31 am
  • Reply Victoria with one sharp mama

    I didn’t know this even existed. Apparently I’m not as big of a Disney fan as I thought I was. This is like one of the coolest things I’ve seen all day. I am putting this on my bucket list to go to. I have already pinned it on Pinterest so I can keep my excitement going about this kind of event in another two years. Thank you so much for sharing this, this just made my day. I don’t think you have any idea. We are throwing my daughter a Minnie Mouse first birthday in November 😃😃💗💗

    July 20, 2017 at 3:24 pm
    • Reply bmcharnley

      I didn’t know it existed either! I was scrolling through Twitter and saw a link and then ordered my tickets right then and there. You will definitely need to experience it if you love Disney. It was so much fun! Aweeee….I love MInnie Mouse! Enjoy the birthday!!

      July 20, 2017 at 3:55 pm
  • Reply rochelle

    What an incredible event! We want to take our first trip to Disney so bad…glad there is even more in store for us!

    July 18, 2017 at 7:56 pm
    • Reply bmcharnley

      Yes! All kinds of things to do and see…and so much more in the coming years.

      July 20, 2017 at 3:53 pm
  • Reply Harmony, Momma To Go

    wow I have never heard of this but its so cool to hear what is coming at Disney. Id like to get on a Disney Cruise this fall/winter!!!!

    July 18, 2017 at 6:37 pm
    • Reply bmcharnley

      Yes! That’s one thing I definitely want to do as well!

      July 20, 2017 at 3:51 pm
  • Reply Whit

    Thanks for sharing! We’re going next spring!

    July 18, 2017 at 4:47 pm
  • Reply Lisa

    Looks like so much fun! I’m excited about all the new changes

    July 18, 2017 at 3:07 pm
    • Reply bmcharnley

      It was amazing. Definitely an experience. The changes are going to be so awesome. I love that Disney always likes to try new things.

      July 20, 2017 at 3:38 pm

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