I recently attended the D23 Expo in Anaheim, CA. It was pure chaos but so much fun. This was my first time attending and so I didn’t know what to expect really. I did, however, watch a couple of videos and read a few “things to know before you go” blog posts prior to attending, but you really don’t know what to expect unless you go and experience it for yourself. If you don’t know what D23 is…the “D” stands for Disney and the “23” stands for 1923, the year Walt Disney founded his company. The D23 Expo happens every two years.
Here is a recap of some of the highlights from the D23 Expo as told from this first-time attendee.
Souvenir reusable bags
Long lines waiting to get inside
Exhibit floor opens
- Disney and Pixar Animation Studios are working on 8 new films.
- There is going to be a Star Wards 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
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 were around and some notable Disney people like Stan Lee and stars like Mandy Moore helped Marshall the crew. It was fun!
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”
This exhibit was unique as each day they had kits that they were putting together for a different non profit. 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 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.
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 musical. 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 rad. So well thought out. They had artist demonstrations like how they created Moana, drawing Wall-E, etc… They also had 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
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*
This was EVERYTHING. 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. Jodi 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. It was pretty rad!!
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. 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”
This celebration was fantastic!
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:
- The Lion King will return to our homes in a Digital and Blu-ray as part of the Disney Signature Series
- 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. Be sure to follow me on Instagram for even more! 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! I’ll be sharing more photos from all of that on my Instagram account!
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! Excited for D23 Expo 2019!