Disclaimer: Disney invited me to California on an all-expenses paid trip, in exchange for my coverage of events, which included D23 Expo, where Disney news and updates were announced and surprises revealed. As always, all opinions are my own.
When I first received the pixie-dusted email inviting me to this ultimate Disney fan event as media with unprecedented access, my jaw hit the floor. But in reality, I didn’t know what I was in for.
Why is D23 Expo considered to be the ultimate disney experience?
I was about to find out…and one thing was certain, I would get little sleep, be fueled by coffee, and would be surrounded by my “tribe”.
Surely these people, the biggest Disney fans ever, would identify with me. No one would stare if I sang “Be Our Guest” at the top of my lungs. No one would give it a second thought if I wore my Mickey ears all weekend long (I did)! And certainly no one would mind if I stood in line for photo opps, even though I didn’t have a certain little girl of mine by my side. 🙂
Now, before I get into all the celebrity sightings (squee!), there’s one thing above all that makes D23 Expo the ultimate Disney experience…
On Thursday afternoon I walked the short path from our hotel, The Anaheim Marriott, to the Anaheim Convention Center.
I was not prepared for what I saw.
There were lines already formed. People already camped out, staking out their spot in a line…a line that would not move until the next morning.
Now, shocking as it was, I now KNOW exactly why these Disney fans were willing to camp out. They wanted to witness first-hand the magic that happens inside certain Disney panels. Like the panel about Marvel, Lucasfilm, and Live Action updates or the Disney Parks and Resorts panel! (And if you haven’t read all the big surprises and news, click on those now – so much excitement)
Having now been inside those rooms when big announcements were made, I see that camping out has its’ rewards! I don’t blame them one bit. Totally worth it!
If you thought the crowds outside the convention center were big, imagine just how crowded it was inside.
There was so much to do and see, and I loved bumping into some of the biggest Disney superfans around, wearing incredibly intricate costumes.
Here’s just a sample of who I ran into…
Anyone spot Johnny Depp? Or should I say Jack Sparrow?
This Disney fan was incredibly believable (and I loved the Mickey ears Jack wore)!
My favorite for most creative was this couple who paired up as the Pixar ball and Luxo Jr!
Heading back to the hotel, I even ran into some of our favorite Disney princesses.
Looks like they even need coffee to get through the day. Who knew?
This year marked the 30th anniversary of the Disney Legends Awards and it was the first big panel I walked into. Overwhelming and incredible.
What is a Disney Legend you ask? Well, Disney Legends are gifted animators, Imagineers, songwriters, actors, and business leaders having made a significant impact on the Disney legacy. They are chosen by a selection committee and you will know many of them by name.
On October 16, 1998, the new Disney Legends Plaza was dedicated at The Walt Disney Studios to commemorate the 75th anniversary of The Walt Disney Company. You will find the handprints of Disney Legends in this plaza, somewhere I’ve been fortunate to visit many times.
Fun Fact: The first Disney Legend was Fred MacMurray (The Shaggy Dog).
Here is Oprah Winfrey, preparing her plaque to be on display at Legends Plaza.
The Disney Legends Awards Ceremony was hosted by Bob Iger, Disney Chairman and CEO and would feature all Disney Legends previously announced and one very special surprise!
SURPRISE – Whoopie Goldberg was a last minute surprise Disney Legend!
Though many Disney Legends were alive and in the room to receive their award, many, like Legend Gary Marshall (The Princess Diaries), had passed away and their families took the stage to receive.
Fun Fact: Special Disney Legend, animator Ruthie Tompson, was in the room and celebrating her 107th birthday.
With each award given, goosebumps were had, tears were shed. Each Legend had something in common, though they were so very different in life and in skill. What they had…a commitment to their art, a passion for their work, and a love for Disney.
- Oprah Winfrey found Disney to be the best place to “let me be me”.
- Garry Marshall’s family shared that he loved a good bench at Disney Parks. He always said Walt appreciated a good bench. Ideas came to him there!
- Jack Kirby remembered; Dancing With The Stars cast performs.
- Bob Iger shared there is a twinkle in Stan Lee’s eye, every single day!
- And Stan Lee, who recently lost his wife, moved us all to tears…
— Finding Debra (@FindingDebra2) July 14, 2017
- Disney Legend Clyde Geronimi (animator…Lady and the Tramp) remembered by his children
- Dapper Dans and Dancing With The Stars cast teamed up for a Haunted Mansion inspired performance!
- 37 years as a Disney Imagineer! Wayne Jackson (think Haunted Mansion, PiratesOTC, Tokyo Disneyland)!
- Whoopi Goldberg sharing how Disney made her feel as a child, that you were welcome, no matter who you were.
- The cast of The Lion King (musical) performed in honor ofJulie Taymor, Director of The Lion King musical
- Mark Hamill remembering how Walt Disney inspired him to dream.
- Carrie Fisher remembered as a true original.
Before the expo opened one morning, we had the opportunity to meet with a representative from the Walt Disney Archives to visit the “A Pirates Life For Me” exhibit.
This exhibit was available to all expo attendees, but I loved getting such detailed information from someone so knowledgeable, and without the crowd.
The 12,000 square foot exhibit was impressive and one could not miss the 23-foot tall model of The Black Pearl!
Yes, Pirates of the Caribbean fans drooled over this exhibit, which featured Disney’s treasured pirates (both friend and foe) from film, television, and Disney Parks attractions.
Costumes, original props, photographs, toys, and more were on display for all to see, some for the very first time.
If I haven’t gotten you singing “Yo-Ho, Yo-Ho, A Pirates Life For Me” yet, I haven’t done my job!
Though amazed by so many of the items contained within the exhibit, it was perhaps this one that stood out among them all.
This was a memo dated 1955.
You can clearly see Walt Disney’s stamp of approval.
Documents like this bring history alive to me.
Walt Disney Archives also presented the fashion of several Disney movie icons.
I spotted Cinderella’s (live action movie) infamous blue ball gown and Belle’s yellow dress from this year’s hit, Beauty and the Beast, worn by Emma Watson.
Of course, who could forget Maleficent’s costume and horns? I only hope we’ll be seeing this again someday soon (no announcements on this made during the panels though).
Disney Photo Opps
What can I say? I’m a sucker for a great Disney photo opp. And I’m apparently not the only one.
I can’t wait to see our favorite snowman in this year’s Olaf’s Frozen Adventure! News about this (and a live performance) was made during the New Disney Movies panel!
There was a big announcement made during the Marvel, Lucasfilm, and Live Action panel. The new Star Wars lands in the Disney Parks would be called Galaxy’s Edge, and shortly thereafter the sign at the expo was changed.
You see, there was a full model of what will be Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge at D23. To walk through the exhibit and realize I can be there in 2 years – remarkable!
If there’s one thing I know, it’s that Disney movies go hand in hand with Disney music.
You can’t help but hum a tune when thinking of Beauty and the Beast or The Lion King. Music helps tell a story. That’s why music is an incredibly big part of D23 Expo.
In one panel you might have heard Susan Egan singing “I Won’t Say (I’m In Love)” from Hercules. In another panel that I was in, you would stand in awe as the cast of The Lion King walked on stage and live performances were had.
And on Friday, you would have seen released for the first time (during the expo of course), Walt Disney Records The Legacy Collection Robin Hood. This is a 2-disc set and includes songs and score (including previously unreleased demos and bonus tracks performed by Louis Prima). With a 20-page booklet included, this is a treasure, one I’m happy to own. Grab one here!
And then there were Disney stars like Jordan Fisher. You would find the Teen Beach 2 star (who also happens to have a Moana song under his belt with Lin-Manuel Miranda), riding in the parade or signing autographs in the Disney Music Emporium.
He wasn’t the only one. From Mandy Moore to the cast of Descendants 2, the crowd was going wild!
For any Disney music fan (or any music fan for that matter), the highlight of the weekend was a special concert from Alan Menken himself.
A special introduction from Flynn (Tangled), aka Zachary Levi, started off the concert perfectly.
If you know Disney animated movies, you know Alan Menken. From Aladdin’s “A Whole New World” to The Little Mermaid’s “Under the Sea”, Menken has touched our hearts with his music.
FUN FACT: Menken composed for Captain America too. He’s part of the Marvel universe!
I settled in for what would be almost 2 hours of pure Disney enjoyment.
Menken played his songs (and we all sang), and he shared so much of his personal life. No concert of his could go on without a mention of his musical partner, Howard Ashman, who died 6 months before Beauty and the Beast hit theaters. Menken talked about moving forward when the stakes are high but your confidence is down. You see, Menken had to finish Aladdin without his genius collaborator Ashman. “A Whole New World” came out of that.
Menken’s first Disney opportunity had a little mermaid in it. So it was fitting that during his encore, Menken would release BREAKING NEWS! He spilled the beans that The Little Mermaid Live Action film was in the works, and he was working on it with Lin-Manuel Miranda! The crowd went wild…we hadn’t been told this in the Marvel, Lucasfilm, and Live Action panel.
It was a beautiful afternoon, one I’ll never forget.
I talked about being fueled by coffee!
Even the hotel had Disney coffee (though they didn’t spell frappuccino correctly)!
D23 Expo was an incredible experience, one that you should make part of your Disney bucket list! Usually held every 2 years in Anaheim, CA, though no formal announcement has been made, yet, I’d start planning! Maybe I’ll see you there!
Want to join D23?
It’s the Official Disney Fan Club – it’s Free! While there are Gold and Gold Family levels, general membership is free to all.
So if you are a Disney fan, sign up now!
Stay tuned for more as I bring you more from this incredible Disney bucket list event. Posted so far:
- Disney Parks and Resorts Big Announcements
- New Disney movies – Disney, Pixar, Disneytoon Animation
- Disney, Marvel, Lucasfilm Live Action
- DuckTales – Your Complete Guide
- I’m Going to D23 Expo – I’m in Disney costume for this!
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